2 CORINTHIANS 4
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The present world and all that goes to make it up so fills the orb of their vision that they cannot see beyond it, or through it. They are unable to realise that the "world passeth away," and that in the midst of its shifting scenes, a will of God has been announced, the doing of which will secure for the doer this wonderful effect that he will "abide for ever." Their vision is too contracted. They cannot see things in their true light. We were once in the same position. It is for us, while having compassion for them and trying to turn them from darkness to light, to take care that they do not draw us back into the old position. As Paul expresses it-
"We are not of the night nor of the darkness, let us watch and be sober."
Our watchfulness was to be directed to this very point.
"Beware lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."
The world even in its most cultivated and enticing aspects, is alienated from God. The gospel has caused us to be friends of God. It has therefore called us to a position in which there is considerable present inconvenience; for a man cannot be the friend of the world and the friend of God at the same time. Christ has said it, and the nature of things preclude it. A man who truly knows God requires no arguing on this point. A man who truly knows God yields Him a constant loving reverence; and how can this mix with the mind that prevails in the world, the most predominant feature of which is the absence of reverence?
Bro Roberts - THAT GOD SHALL BE SANCTIFIED
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
No one should ever be the same again, once God has shined into their hearts the light of His glory. All bitterness and selfishness should be melted away. All smallness and pettiness and interest in present things should disappear.
For what else can be compared with the shining of God's own glory into a man's heart, relating him to a splendid and eternal order of things, and starting forces in motion within him that will lead him upward and upward until he stands in immortal and resplendent glory, clothed with the Divine nature?
Paul grasped the overwhelming reality of these things, and lived every moment of his life completely saturated with this spiritual atmosphere. Little wonder, then, that he could say, quite simply and unaffectedly, even amid a life of almost unparalleled suffering and tribulation (v. 17):
"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
"Though our outward man perish," he says (v. 16), "yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
The outlook of Paul is always refreshingly exalted and spiritual. The great majority are so much more concerned about the welfare, comfort and appearance of the perishing outward man; but Paul had clearer vision, and he calls to all down through the ages into whose hearts the all-sufficient glory of God has shined (v. 18)—
"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Let us endeavor to live wholly in this wholesome, spiritual atmosphere with Paul, viewing all things from the eternal viewpoint and keeping the cleansing glory of God shining into our hearts. There are eternal things—things that the natural eye sees not—glorious, endless things that are offered to us freely. Paul says in v. 15—
"All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
"All things are for your sakes . . .All things are yours . . .the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come—all are yours, and ye are Christ's,and Christ is God's."
Why, then, with this priceless glory of God streaming freely into our hearts, should we sit down among the ashes and seek after empty, earthy things?
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.35
The Perfect Man, the Image of God
Paul is particularly comparing the unveiled and eternal Glory in the face of Christ with the veiled and fading glory of the face of Moses, on which the Israelites feared to look. But there is more in this reference to the face of Jesus than that. The contrast is deep. Israel feared because they did not have love. Love and Fear are opposites.
Herein is bound up all the inspiring and transforming personal attraction of Divine Love-the face of Jesus Christ-through which shone all the spiritual characteristics of the Beauty of Holiness. And herein lies the secret of the power he gives men to become Sons of God, which is: the maintaining before the eye of faith of the vision of the Glory of the face of Christ-seeing him looking with love upon us; exchanging glances of inexpressible understanding and affection with him.
Here is the power that overcomes the world. In Peter's dark hour, when in confused panic he denied his Master, Jesus turned and looked upon him (Lk. 22:61). The glance was enough to re-awaken all his fear-forgotten love and loyalty, and he 'went out and wept bitterly.' And we hear no more of fear or betrayal from Peter, but, immediately after Jesus' ascension, a fearless standing up to the authorities, and thereafter a faithful, lifelong service, even unto suffering and death.
But Paul immediately adds, in this marvellous message of Glory-
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7).
The issue must be clear. The utter earthiness of the vessel must be fully recognized before the divine transforming Love can be poured into it to fill it with the radiant Glory of the Light of the Word. It must be clear that the Glory is of God alone. There must be no self-glorifying confusion of the vessel with the Glory that fills it.
Bro Growcott - Let their be light
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
The vessel exists solely to contain and display the treasure. The vessel has no value or glory or purpose in itself. The vessel is intentionally made valueless and weak. It was essential that Paul should be weak and poor and despised and buffeted, as was his Master before him. This was necessary to his value to God, and his fellowship with Christ, and so he "gloried in his infirmities," perceiving the Divine wisdom behind them.
No one was swayed by Paul's oratory; no one was attracted by his wealth; no one was awed by his position or worldly ability. To the natural man he carried not a spark of influence or authority. He was, as he said (1 Cor. 4:13)—
"As the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things."
Purposely, in the wisdom of God, he possessed nothing to attract the natural man. But to those few among men who discerned real and spiritual values, this insignificant wanderer on the Roman highways brought a treasure of eternal and inestimable worth.
Bro Growcott - 4. 35
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Are we tempted to despair?
The exaltation to which we are going on is for ever, therefore the trial is longer. It is no accident, it is of divine appointment, though it may appear all so human. Let us endure; there will be a bright opening to the darkness by-and-by. The trouble is good. It humbles us and proves us.
It is easy to believe God in the light, will we trust Him in the darkness? This is the question which is settled to God's glory and our honour if we continue steadfast unto the end. Faith tried in this way will "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing at the appearing of Christ." It is truly a privilege to be tried. We do not always see it in present weakness. We shall see it when the process is finished, and when we stand accepted and comforted in the presence of Christ.
We ask why is he in this state? Because of the course he is pursuing in preaching Christ, "wherein," he says-
"I suffer trouble as an evil doer even unto bonds"(2 Tim. 2:9).
The trouble is so keen that he says-
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
Why doesn't he stop the preaching that is bringing such unwelcome consequences? He tells us in the chapter read-v.13, -
"We believe and therefore speak."
Paul then, is convinced of the truth of what he declares. What is it that he declares? That-
"Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20).
And now, Paul, why do you believe this? His answer in brief is this: On the testimony of many witnesses and on the evidence of my own senses. He refers to the testimony of the witnesses thus:
"He was seen many days (after his crucifixion, that is) of them that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people" (Acts 13:31)
and again thus:
"He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve, after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:5-7).
To the evidence of his own senses he thus refers:
"He was seen of me also" (v. 8).
"Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1).
"At midday, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun . . . I could not see for the glory of the light" (Acts 26:13; 22:11).
It was, therefore, not without very good reasons that Paul persevered in the course that led to the troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down state described in this chapter. It was a case of seeing with the eyes and handling with the hands on the part of many righteous witnesses. On such an impregnable foundation as this does the faith of Christ's resurrection stand.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
This is the impressive and encouraging contrast that Paul draws between present suffering and future glory. The passage (2 Cor. 4: 17,18) in which he draws this contrast is considered by many to be the most beautiful utterance in all his writings. Will any say that it is not? Let us commit the passage to memory, and frequently feed on it.
Not only does Paul emphasise the incomparable greatness of the coming glory, but points out that suffering is the divine path to it. Is not this also encouraging? But let us note that suffering is effectual in working out glory only in the case of those who absorbingly keep the glory in view.
The apostle's words are:
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
What follows, if we keep not the glory in view? Why, wretchedness and despair. Apart from hope, suffering is killing. In proof of this the experience of many men, in and out of the Christadelphian body, might be related. Whilst under a cloud of affliction, how many brethren have given way-become despondent and desperate-through losing sight of the promised reward.
As for unbelievers, their view of suffering is proverbial. "There is nothing in all creation," said one of this unfortunate class, "so demoralising as suffering." "Suffering," said another, "thrusts you down, degrades you, brings you to impotence, abjectness and despair."
These expressions of opinion enforce the truth of Paul's teaching. "The sorrow of the world," said this great teacher, "worketh death" (2 Cor. 7:10). What is the lesson? It is this, if we would successfully endure suffering, and extract good from it, we must keep the joy of eternal life in view-and thus follow Christ (Heb. 12:2) and Moses (Heb. 11:26) and Paul (Phil. 3:13).1
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Aug 1906
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
We all know that life in the Truth is a battle.
I do not mean a battle with errors in others, but with unbelief in ourselves; by unbelief I do not mean an unbelief that we would affirm or own to, but the latent unbelief that belongs by nature to the unenlightened human brain on every subject - the passive feeling that belongs to ignorance.
We are all ignorant at the start-ignorant of everything. Knowledge comes slowly from without. It has to be "sought for" as the Scriptures represent: and when found, it won't stay unless we take means to retain it. Human memory is weak, and soon forgets, - especially with regard to the class of things that constitute the Truth.
They are all things "not seen," whether past, present or future; and some of them are things for which we have not much natural liking and therefore forgetfulness and consequent unbelief becomes very easy, unless we are on our guard.
We have constantly to remind ourselves that the truth of a thing does not depend upon our seeing it - whether past, present or future. Have we seen the ancient Britons? Have we seen the Czar of Russia? Have we seen the men of the next generation? Yet who doubts the reality of these "things not seen?"
There are different kinds of "things not seen"- different kinds of truth - some unimportant - some important. It is with the latter we have to do. It is the latter we desire to bring to mind. It is the latter which will enable us to overcome the mere bias of native ignorance, and walk as children of light.
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
This faith lays hold of things - is persuaded of things that we cannot see, but which are true. It does so by means God has given us for the purpose. We need to avail ourselves of these means in the amplest measure, or faith is liable to wither and die. We need strengthening in the fight or we may be overcome instead of overcoming.
The meetings are for this purpose. The meetings bring the readings and the readings bring the things, the conviction of which imparts the power that overcomes.
Things Not Seen Are Eternal
Get out of this world into God's world. Take everything worthwhile with you, and get rid of all the rest. Don't have any ties or possessions here: they divide the interest, and dilute the attention. God's world is the real, eternal world. This world is a passing, meaningless, animal world.
There is nothing about it real, lasting, or satisfying. It's made up merely of dull, repetitious games, which grow increasingly boring as we grow older: travel games, getting-things games, seeing-things games, beating-a-little-ball games, pride games, dressing-up games, collecting-things games, "nice" home games, "nice" car games. What a weariness at last!
God's world is an increasingly interesting and satisfying world. It has to do with working toward perfection and permanence, beauty and joy that does not fade. God's world is ever brighter, ever stronger. This world is a gradual running down and wearing out until at last it is a cold and endless night.
See it as it really is -- and leave it all behind
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
Do we not see the need for the table?
Week by week, we are reminded by these silent emblems, that though we have never seen him, there has appeared on earth a Great One, in whom are bound up the destinies of the world; that his wonderful life and death had relation to mankind of every age; that Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead, is the only name given under heaven whereby we may be saved; that he is the centre around which all permanent mundane development will take place; that he is the head under which the economy of human affairs will ultimately be established; that his gospel is the only joyful sound there is for human ears: that his precepts are the only truly profitable rule of life: that his cause on earth is the only one worthy of espousal by those who have aspirations beyond the lot of mortal experience.
This is powerful knowledge. These are great facts, in reference to which our memories require to be continually refreshed. They are facts despised by our contemporaries of the respectable school who glorify a knowledge of the classical past, that is, the Pagan past; the past of the Greeks and the Romans: the past of superstition and beggarly philosophy, but who pour contempt on the Jewish past which is the only past of any lasting individual consequence.
We must accept the reproach connected with our preference for the Jewish view of history It is the only gold in the rubbish of the past. It is the gold of the sanctuary-the pearl of great price, though cast out as worthless...There is a history to be known and cherished...
...if we trust to the merely natural man,-that is, to what we are hearing and seeing from one week's end to another, we shall not be able to realise that history, and consequently will not be affected by it, but be like the hundreds and thousands around us whose actions are shaped exclusively by present expediency and comfort. Like them, we shall act from the force of the impressions made on the mind by simply what we see, and we know that "the things that are seen are temporal," while the things that are not (now seen, but which God has promised, are eternal.
The history of Jesus is, with the world, fast passing away into the region of fable; with us, it is the most real and important history on record-a thing to be dwelt on continually, fed by the incessant reading of the word that we may be thoroughly influenced by it in all our thoughts, schemes, and motives.
...The present seems the only reality, while in fact, it is the most unreal of the three [past, present and future]. It is, in a high sense, nothing at all. This is apparent when we go back 500 years. Where are the men that were alive then? They were in their day as full of zest as we, as full of projects, as engrossed with cares, business and domestic, as full of thoughts and loves and hatreds, as the present busy generation: where are they now?
...So the men that were great and important in this day, are now literally nobody; their affairs are not; their love and their hatred, are now perished. Now, this is the lot of all living-speaking, of course, apart from the coming of the Lord, which we hope will soon put a different face upon the scene, so far as those are concerned whose names are inscribed on a roll that no lapse of time can make old, that is, the book of the Eternal Memory.
If you put in the coming of the Lord, the argument as to the unreality of the present is all the stronger; but speaking apart from that event, the entire disappearance of us and our affairs from the place now knowing us, is the upshot awaiting us. It is only a question of time, and very short time, for the longer one lives, the faster does time seem to fly.
The present is transient-a mere flitting view-as transient in relation to eternity as the prismatic colours that dance in the spray of the waterfall, when the sun shines upon it. It is very important to remember this. It is for want of thinking about it, that people allow themselves to be entrapped into petty ways of acting.
If they would take a wide view with their mental eye, they would have their minds cast in a nobler mould; and they would not make the mistake of expending their energies on objects which perish with time. They would respond to the prayer of Moses,
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
The Christadelphian May, 1870