3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world 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. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
“Your having a laugh aren’t you, you believe in the devil!” This was said to me in a previous work place setting, the conclusion was, I lost my reputation and credibility to have an informed conversation, yep, I was viewed as odd!
Having said that, if we are more concerned about being true to the Word of God than saving our reputation, then verses 3-4 will bring us great encouragement and perspective.
What makes these verses so incredible is that they portray unbelievers as being in the grip of a god with power and in bondage to and blinded by none other than Satan himself. This is incredible because the one thing on which most non-Christians pride themselves is their perceived freedom, their opinions and their enlightened perspective on life.
The Apostle Paul would beg to differ,
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience Ephesians 2:2
This does not mean that all unbelievers are demon possessed, but it refers to Satan’s supernatural activity by which he exerts a negative influence over the lives of those who reject Jesus.
Let’s push this a little further.
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20
The point is that everyone is ‘in’ someone! Everyone is therefore either ‘of God’ or ‘in the evil one,’ there is no third category.
This should shatter the illusion of neutrality, the idea that so called ‘good’ people who are not Christians are neither for God nor for Satan, are neither in God’s kingdom nor in Satan’s. The fact is that all people, young or old, male or female, belong to one of two kingdoms; the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness. If one is not “in Christ” one is “in the power of the evil one,” even if there is no visible, sensible awareness of being in the devil’s grip, thus serving Satan whether one is conscious of it or not.
A flawed argument exists which suggests that widespread unbelief and deliberate rejection of the gospel invalidates the gospel’s claim to save. Some have also argued that a rejection of the gospel puts a shadow on the gospel’s power and glory. In summary both arguments state, If it’s that good, why do people reject it? However, the glory of the Good News does not guarantee its acceptance.
“The blindness of unbelievers,” said Calvin, “in no way detracts from the clearness of the gospel, for the sun is no less resplendent because the blind do not perceive its light.”
Many pointed out to Paul and subsequently rejected his apostolic calling, his boldness and sincerity in preaching the cross of Christ by saying it was a stumbling block and foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The reason for this veiling wasn’t some failure in Paul’s character or gifting, or an inherent defect in the gospel itself but rather two forces that are at work; the unbelief of those who are perishing and Satan’s activity in blinding them, and both are strong.
The problem isn’t that they don’t understand what the gospel means, as if it were illogical or incoherent. Nor does Paul mean that they lacked the necessary faculties of mind and will to embrace Christ in faith. Their refusal to believe is due to an opposition to both God and the gospel. They find nothing in him, or it, attractive or appealing or worthwhile. Their treasure is the world and they see nothing in Christ crucified that would lead them to believe he is worthy of their affection and devotion. Wow!
The “unbelievers” (vs 4) whom Paul describes are not simply lacking faith in Christ, they are actively antagonistic toward him. Their hearts seethe with hostility (see Romans 3:10-18).
It isn’t the case that they are indifferent or disinterested or that they want to believe in Christ but Satan intervenes and prevents it. They are already refusing to believe, choosing to put their hope and trust in anything other than Jesus. Satan doesn’t blind the minds of otherwise “good” people, compelling them against their will to become unbelievers. Rather he blinds or aggravates their existing hardness of heart.
On the other hand, people are not blinded because they choose to renounce the gospel, rather, they choose to renounce the gospel because they are blind. And they are not blind because they choose to be so, but because Satan has made them so.
Paul says that those in whom Satan is operative and on whom blindness is inflicted are already in unbelief. Satan’s role is to compound the hopelessness of the unbeliever by aggravating and intensifying a resistance to the truth that is already growing in their souls.
What they do not see is the light that comes or flows from the gospel that embodies or contains the glory of Christ Jesus. Think about the nature of poor eyesight and how this can be used to understand why people cannot see the glory of God in the gospel.
Some suffer physically from short-sightedness or long-sightedness. So some suffer in the same way spiritually because they cannot see beyond themselves and their own selfishness or in the case of long-sightedness can only see things far off and have great and lofty opinions never looking at their own heart.
Still others suffer physically from presbyopia or inelasticity of the lens that comes from old age. So some suffer in the same way spiritually because they have grown old looking at the gospel and with the passing of time they have just become hardened to it, they have heard it all before.
Is there, then, no hope for a lost and dying world? YES, there is! But it requires an act of sovereign, saving mercy in which the God who spoke light into the primeval darkness (Genesis 1) yet again shines His light into the hearts of men and women to give them “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Satan is active and powerful in his efforts to blind those who know not Christ. But God’s gracious work through His Spirit is more powerful still. Our prayer for unsaved friends and family must be that God would sovereignty dispel the darkness of unbelief and shine the light of truth into their hardened and spiritually lifeless souls, giving them a taste for the sweetness of the saving mercies of Christ and an eye for his incomparable beauty.