But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (CSB).
The Reformation is now five hundred years old, but we are thinking about its continuing significance in our time. We can only live in the time in which the Sovereign God has placed us. For us today, that means in the twenty-first century. Yet, we still face the continuing problems of humanity intent on suppressing the knowledge of God in the face of Christ.
The glory of the gospel is hidden to minds blinded by Satan (4:3-4). Although the glory of God is clearly revealed in this new covenant age, many do not see this glory. Why? At this point in our time, many are very eager to blame the church. “If the church were ________, then people would come.” And so they run off on a wild hunt to find something to attract the young, the hip, the influential, the wealthy, or the whatever. Paul avoids such traps and points his readers to the real reason. The problem is not in the message, but it is in the people apart from Jesus Christ.
Those who fail to see this glory are perishing. This fact should gain our attention! They are in the process of perishing right now. Ruin has seized them, and they are in danger of eternal destruction. We ought to understand the nature of their problem. It seems the longer that you walk with the Lord; it can be easy to forget how you used to think. What do the perishing see when they hear the gospel? They hear a message that is contrary to their world and life view. As Paul earlier wrote, to the Greeks the gospel is foolishness and to the Jews it is a stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). The gospel offends everyone who desperately wants a message that says, “you are not that bad, you can help solve your problems, and you only need to know and follow a series of steps in our program.”
Those who fail to see this glory have their minds blinded. The agent of this blinding is Satan, who is here called the god of this age (cf. John 12:31). The term “this age” in the New Testament Scriptures refers to the present course of evil, so “god” in this context does not refer to the true God. The true God is the King of the ages (1 Timothy 1:17). Though under the ultimate rule of the living God, Satan can cause all sorts of evil. The evil one can destroy the flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5), masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), snatch away the gospel message (Mark 4:15), empower his servants to work miraculous signs (2 Thessalonians 2:9), give thorns in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), tempt (1 Corinthians 7:5), scheme (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), trap (2 Timothy 2:26), and oppose the spread of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
The consequence of this blinding is that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. As Rolfe Barnard, a preacher down south of another generation, said, “Satan puts all his eggs in one basket.” This is all he needs to do to keep people from turning to Christ. “Don’t let them see the glory of Christ.” You must understand that Satan does not care if we talk about people’s “needs”, such as having a better family or education or job or community. He is quite happy to let us exchange the gospel of Christ for a message of personal success or politics or morality or improving the family or social justice. But he does not want them to know that Christ is the image of God. Why? Once you see that Christ is the image of God, then you are confronted with the Mighty Creator who rules over all and to whom all people are responsible, yet amazingly this real living God did not use his Godhead for his own advantage but humbled himself, died on the cross to save sinners like you and me, and then rose again, victorious over death, and ascended to heaven to reign over all as Lord forever. To Christ personal success is the cross, politics is the rule of God, morality is transformation into godliness, improving the family is joining God’s family, and social justice is each one denying oneself for the good of others. These things do not sell well to the proud.
When you tell others the good news to people, remember that you speak to people that have been spiritually blinded. Yet there is real hope, because we follow the Messiah, who is able to give sight to the blind. He does this by the Holy Spirit as we proclaim the gospel.
Grace and peace, David