Secondly, he was certain that ministry was a mercy. He says, we have this ministry as we received mercy. That is to say, he never lost sight of the fact that this was an overwhelming mercy to allow him to preach this message. He's known as the church's first martyr, Stephen. Acts 7 tells us that after being mocked, beaten, and stoned, he cried out, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. So with his last breath, he didn't curse his killers or call out for revenge. He glorified Christ.
Now you may never have to face that kind of persecution, but like Stephen, you live in a culture filled with people and institutions and leaders that hate you. How can you prepare yourself for the suffering that will come because of your faith in Christ? Today's lesson on Grace to You can help answer that. So join John MacArthur now as he continues his compelling new series that's airing for the first time. We call it The World vs. the Kingdom of God.
Join John now as he begins the lesson. As we come to the revelation of God and His Word, we are drawn back to 2 Corinthians chapter 4, 2 Corinthians chapter 4. We have been talking about the fact that there are two kingdoms in the world. There are two rulers in the world. There's the kingdom of light ruled by Christ who rules by the power of His Spirit through His church by indwelling believers. And there is the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan who, by his demons and human agents and by the influence that he has on the human heart, rules the world that is passing away. Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world. The kingdom of this world is evil and headed for hell. However, Jesus said, my kingdom is present in this world. It is the kingdom of righteousness, and the folks who are in that kingdom are headed for heaven.
That's the simple way to look at the world around you. The kingdom of darkness manifest by sin, kingdom of light manifest by righteousness. The kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan and all who are outside of Christ are in the kingdom of darkness, and they follow their father, the devil who is a liar and a murderer. The kingdom of righteousness manifest in the church, the true church. The King is Christ, and He indwells every true believer. Why did the Lord leave us in the world?
We have been looking at that. It's an obvious matter. All who are in the kingdom of light are commissioned to shine the light of the gospel into the darkness so that the Lord can redeem His elect people. Now as you look at 2 Corinthians 4, this becomes clear to us. If you look at verse 3, the apostle says, if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In whose case, the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. I just want to focus on that incredible statement, the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. The light is just that. That defines the light that we shine into the darkness it is the light of the gospel, the good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. It says it again down in verse 6, the One who has shone in our hearts has done so to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. The light is the gospel of Christ. Christ is the very incarnation and image of God. That's why we're here, and that's why He says in verse 5, we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.
So for us to shine the light means the light of the gospel, the good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Acts 4, 12 says there's no salvation in any other. Romans 10, 17 says they can't be saved unless they hear the message concerning Christ. Unlike the preachers that Jeremiah addressed who preached the deceptions of their own mind, who speak a vision from their own imagination, we do not preach ourselves, we preach Christ. Now necessarily when you're preaching Christ, you're calling sinners to repent. It is necessary if they are to receive the good news that they hear the bad news.
They don't want that. They love the darkness rather than the light. They cherish their sins. They flaunt their sins to one degree or another. Even Jesus said in John 7, 7, you hate Me because I tell you your deeds are evil. That is what generates the hostility and the hate, because first of all, the dominating human sin is pride.
People want to defend their goodness, their nobility. And when you unmask the wretchedness of their hearts, they're usually angry. In the flesh they're angry, and apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, they will remain angry. In the face of opposition then, the question is, in the face of hostility and in the face of persecution, how do we remain bold in proclaiming Christ, which means confronting sin?
Well, Paul answers that in this text, as we saw last time. You'll notice in verse 1 he says at the end of the verse, we do not lose heart. And then down in verse 16 he says it again, therefore we do not lose heart. So he sort of brackets the revelation here with this idea that he doesn't lose heart. He doesn't defect. He doesn't give up. He doesn't give in. He doesn't demonstrate cowardly flight.
He doesn't give in to evil. He could actually come to the end of his life and did, and he said, I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith. I have finished the course. Henceforth there's laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord shall give to me, but not to me only, but to all who love His appearing. All of us would want to come to the end of life and say, I fought the good fight, right? I kept the faith. I finished the course.
How do you do that? Realizing that the confrontation of sinners is going to result in hostility, Jesus said, as I've pointed out, if they hate you, don't be surprised. If they hated Me, they're going to hate you. And they hated Him to the point that they actually executed Him in spite of all the good, good that had never been seen in the history of humanity and never will be seen again until Jesus comes.
They killed Him anyway because He confronted their evil. So you have to recognize that that's a reality and it cannot be avoided. If you avoid it, you are defecting. If you avoid the confrontation with sin, you are defecting. Now it is to be done with love and graciousness, mercy.
The very kindness of God is extended in salvation to the sinner, and we have to bring that message in that same fashion. Now what kept Paul locked down on his spiritual responsibility no matter how much persecution he received, and how do you have that kind of courage? It comes from convictions.
It comes from down inside related to the things that you believe that are non-negotiable. And we've been looking at those, but I just want to remind you of the first one. The first thing that was a conviction, a certainty in Paul's mind, was he was certain about the superiority of the new covenant in verse 1, since we have this ministry. What ministry is he talking about?
The one he just described in chapter 3. You go back to chapter 3 and you look, for example, at verse 7. He describes the old covenant, the law, as the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones. It had glory so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face fading as it was. If there was glory in the law, which only condemned, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. So he is saying the new covenant in Christ has far more glory than the old covenant law. He had no, and this is important, he had no hesitation regarding the truth of the gospel.
That's where everything starts. That's why we make such an issue out of you understanding the gospel. You must understand it.
You must believe it. You must understand its superiority and its absolute uniqueness and excellence. Paul had certainty about the superiority of the new covenant. From personal experience, he was passionate about making sure sinners heard the good news. Secondly, he was certain that ministry was a mercy. He says, we have this ministry as we received mercy.
That is to say, he never lost sight of the fact that this was an overwhelming mercy to allow him to preach this message. This is not something that you earn by your education. This is not something that you earn by your erudition.
This isn't something you earn because you have a gift for speaking. Any of us who has ever been given the privilege of proclaiming the gospel knows it is a mercy. We preach a far better message than we can live. But we also understand that if God couldn't use flawed people, He couldn't use anybody because we're all flawed. Paul never got over the mercy of putting him into the ministry.
The third certainty in his life that we looked at last time was he was certain of the need for a pure heart, and that's what he says in verse 2. We've renounced the things hidden because of shame. There's no secret life. There's no hidden life.
There's nothing to be discovered. Some men's sins follow after them, Paul says. Paul had no fear of that, no fear of that, no fear of a post-mortem episode where the truth would come out because he had no hidden life of shame. He said his conscience was clear and he was winning the spiritual battle on the inside, and if you want to be useful to the Lord, you need to be a clean vessel. And we saw fourthly that he was certain of the duty to accurately preach the Word. He says, not walking in craftiness or deceptiveness, or adulterating the Word of God, but rather by the manifestation of truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Not walking in craftiness or adulterating the Word, that's the negative, but by manifestation of the truth, that's the positive. He was commending himself even to the unbelievers and in the sight of God.
That brings us to a fifth point. Paul was certain that salvation is the sovereign work of God. Immediately in verse 3 he says, and this is so helpful to us because we're asking the question, so we have a pure life, so we're faithful in handling the Word of God, proclaiming the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Why don't we have results?
Why don't we get the results we want? Paul immediately says that even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, to the category of people who by nature are perishing, those who are perishing. To them, he says in 1 Corinthians 1 18, the gospel is foolishness. It is not understandable, 1 Corinthians 2 14, the natural man understands not the things of God there, foolishness to him. It's incomprehensible because the people in the category of the perishing, those who are on their way to hell, are by definition dead in trespasses and sins.
They have no mechanism to respond to the truth. Further, not only are they perishing, but the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. The very category of perishing is a consistency or a state of blindness. But he adds a kind of double blindness, a satanic kind of blindness so people can't see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. So this is the resistance we have. They resist us because they're offended. They resist us because they're bound in death. They resist us because they're satanically blinded.
Romans 11 8 says, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not. They can't see. The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, they can't comprehend. They are stone blind.
How can the dead sinner, the blind sinner believe? For God said, he's looking back to Genesis 1 3, let there be light. Light shall shine out of darkness.
That's creative. God spoke light into existence in creation. And the one who said, light shall shine out of darkness is the one who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. How do you come to a correct understanding of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ?
Because God does a creative miracle. God shines in our hearts. Light shall shine out of darkness. Creation is the light of Christ shining in the darkened heart.
It's a creative act. That's why 2 Corinthians 5 17 says, if any man be in Christ, he is a new what? Creature. You have been created. You're a new creation. What role does the sinner have? The sinner's role is to believe, to repent and believe. Can an unaided sinner repent? No. That's why Paul says God has to grant repentance. Can an unaided sinner believe?
No. That's why you're saved by grace, and that not of yourselves. Even the faith is a gift of God. God gives you the gift of repentance and faith because He wills to give you life. So what are all these people doing trying to come up with mechanisms that are going to save people?
There's only one way that people will ever be redeemed and taken out of their death and darkness, and that is by a sovereign, creative miracle of God which produces in them repentance and faith at the hearing of the gospel. So what do we do? We preach, not ourselves. We preach Jesus Christ as Lord.
At least I can move on to one other point. Number six, we're just slaves. He ends verse 6 by saying, we are doulos... or rather verse 5, we are doulos, we are slaves for Jesus' sake. We're nothing more than that. We're slaves who have been given the responsibility to deliver the truth. God does the saving. And that introduces us to the next conviction.
This is conviction number six. Paul was certain about his own insignificance. He was certain about his own insignificance. And the contrast is just extreme. He's been talking about the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, this grand phrase about deity, eternal glory. Then he says in verse 7, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, clay pots.
This is a startling contrast. The shining glory of the majesty of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. This is pure, heavenly, holy glory. He is fully aware of the unparalleled glory of God shining in the face of Christ and in the gospel. He's also fully aware of this, that He has no glory, that He is a frail, weak, common clay pot. That's what that means. This is the stark reality that you have to embrace.
You have to be certain of this. Christ is everything, and you are nothing. You're not the reason anyone is redeemed. It is a priceless treasure in a cheap clay pot. Paul is acknowledging he's nothing.
He's not defending himself as some great evangelist, some great preacher, some great teacher. He's saying, I'm just a clay pot. I have this treasure, this new covenant gospel of glory in ostraconos, a clay pot.
Cheap, common, breakable, replaceable, valueless, and ugly. It's a clay pot. You use them to put a plant in. You fill them with dirt. But in ancient times, clay pots were used to bury valuables, put your valuables in a clay pot, dig a hole, and put it there. They were also used to remove the household waste. They were the garbage. They were the receptacles of the sewage of the house.
Very, very graphic language. The same word is used in 2 Timothy 2.20, there are vessels unto honor and there are vessels unto dishonor. This vessel has no intrinsic value. They accused Paul of being weak. They said his speech is contemptible, his personality is unimpressive, and he agreed. He's a clay pot. The point of this is that the power of the glorious gospel is not the product of human genius or technique.
It's not the container. It's the glory of the truth, right? We're just weak, common, plain, fragile, breakable, dishonorable garbage buckets. But this amazing thing, our weakness does not prove fatal to the gospel cause because the power doesn't depend on us. It doesn't depend on us.
It depends completely on God. Go back to verse 7. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, clay pots, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
The weaker the pot, the more powerful the gospel. Paul was faithful to the end because he didn't overestimate himself so that he thought himself to deserve better than he got. He knew his ministry was a mercy. He was concerned about the purity of his heart. He was concerned about the accuracy of his teaching and preaching. He knew the results depended on God, and he knew he was just a clay pot.
Those are the convictions that sustained him to the end where he could say, I have fought the good fight, kept the faith, finished the course. Christ-bound prayer. Father, we come again asking that You would do a work in our hearts, that You would bring us before the shining, blazing light of the glory of the gospel of Christ. We may see not just His glory as the image of God, but the glory of His grace, a glory that embraces His glory as the image of God would have burned us to its cinders.
Even Moses couldn't look at the glory of God without disintegrating. But we can look at Christ and at the glory of His grace, because in that grace is forgiveness and access and a covering of righteousness. We want to be the people that You desire us to be. That's our only heart's desire. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. Our current series is looking at the world versus the kingdom of God. And John, as you closed the message today, you ran down a list of convictions that we need to have about the gospel. And you said, Christians have a duty to proclaim the good news of Christ accurately. That's kind of been the theme of your ministry.
It's something you stress in almost every book you write. How important is it to get the gospel right? Well, it should be obvious that if Satan is a deceiver, the point at which you would want to deceive people would not be anything other than the point at which salvation takes place, right? So Satan is always going to attack the gospel. I think you're naïve if you think that Satan is trying to use his formidable powers to make the world worse.
No, he's already got the whole world lying in his lap. What he's trying to do with his deceptive powers is make the church ineffective. And how do you do that? You do that by undermining the gospel. You can oversimplify the gospel so there's no gospel at all.
You can eliminate sin so that there's no real understanding of salvation. You can confuse faith and think faith is a human gift that you pull up from down deep inside of you because it's hidden somewhere when in fact it's a gift from God. There are so many ways to corrupt the gospel.
You can be wrong about understanding the death of Christ, the significance of his death and or resurrection. Consequently, all of those elements of the gospel are always attacked. So whenever you write a book that engages the gospel, you're always going to be having to clarify the aspects of the gospel that are essential for salvation.
I've said this through the years. There's not enough gospel in some presentations to save anybody. There's not even enough gospel to make them know they're lost. And so we're always, always refining our understanding of the gospel.
It's not complicated, but it has to be accurate. And to help you with that, I want to mention the book that I mentioned a couple of days ago, Nothing But the Truth. Nothing But the Truth is a subtitle upholding the gospel in a doubting age. This will equip you for effective evangelism, how to witness, why you can trust the Bible, how to pray for the lost.
This is why you're in the world. Being an effective witness doesn't demand great speaking ability or a big vocabulary, even a theological vocabulary. It does demand that you understand the central truths of the gospel. Nothing But the Truth is available, affordably priced for anyone who asks.
You can order one today. Yes, and friend, an often overlooked aspect of evangelism that this book covers is your attitude. How do you give the gospel in the right spirit? John's book Nothing But the Truth has answers you need.
Order your copy today. Call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. Evangelism can be one of the hardest aspects of the Christian life, but you can communicate the gospel accurately and without fear.
John's book Nothing But the Truth shows you how. To pick up a copy for yourself or to give to a friend, call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. And if you enjoyed today's lesson, know that you can help us produce these broadcasts and bring solid Bible teaching to spiritually hungry listeners near and far. Your tax-deductible gift translates into verse-by-verse teaching in your community and others like it throughout most of the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking world. To help connect God's people with biblical truth right where they are, send your donation to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Or call us at 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Keep in mind, Grace To You television airs this Sunday on DirecTV channel 378, or check your local listings. And be here next week when John continues his new study, called The World versus the Kingdom of God, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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