“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.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:4 –
What does it mean that the unbelieving have had their minds blinded? Well, a few verses earlier, Paul used this same language to describe the Israelites in Moses’ day, and even the Jews up to this present day. In 2Cor 3:12-16 he says, “[We] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Note the parallel between hardened minds and a veiled heart. Both are communicating the same reality as verse 4: the essence of spiritual death is spiritual blindness—refusing what is most precious because you are blind to its value. What it means for someone to be dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:4), is that the eyes of their heart have been blinded so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
Scripture frequently speaks of light as a metaphor for spiritual life, and darkness as a metaphor for spiritual death and unbelief (John 12:46; 1Pet 2:9; Eph 5:8; Acts 26:18). And not only this, but there is also a consistent parallel between spiritual sight and spiritual life (1Jn 3:6; John 6:40; Heb 11:27).
And so when Paul says that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, he is saying that those who do not believe are spiritually dead. The nature of spiritual death is spiritual blindness. To be dead in trespasses and sins is to be unable to see the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Picture with me this most miserable tragedy. Everybody in the world—whether they know it or not—stands guilty before a holy God. All have sinned and thus fall short of the perfection of His glorious standard of righteousness. And so they are incapable of doing the very thing for which they were created: namely, enjoying a relationship with and communion with their glorious Creator. They are doomed to waste their lives.
But in magnificent grace and love, God sends Christ to live the perfect life that they should have lived, but could never live; and to die the horrifying, eternal death that they should have died, so that the penalty they owed would be paid by a substitute; such that if they simply abandon any claim of self-righteousness and trust entirely in Christ alone for their righteousness before God, they can have the restored relationship with their glorious Creator that He designed them to have—that He designed to be the most satisfying, enjoyable, thrilling endeavor in which we ever engaged!
And so you go and you tell these people this most awesome news in the world—the greatest news that anyone could ever conceive of!—and they go, “Ehh. I mean, that’s really awesome for you. I mean it! It’s great for you. It’s just not for me.”
That is the miserable nature of spiritual death. People can look directly at the glory of Christ—whether they be rulers of the Jews in the Ancient Near East witnessing miracles, or 21st century Americans reading their Bibles—and they can be entirely unaffected. Jesus looks foolish. Or He looks like a mythical, psychological crutch made up for weak people. Or He’s just boring. Because unless we’re born again—unless God shines in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:6)—our minds remain blind, and we can’t see Christ for who He is.
The Implications for Christian Ministry
Dear friends, this is the world’s problem. This is what the Church has been left on earth to solve. At the root, the world’s problem is not that they have bad marriages or broken personal relationships. It’s not that they don’t feel comfortable and relaxed in church. It’s not that Christians don’t like the same music they listen to, don’t dress the same way, or don’t use the same language. It’s not that they are failing to experience “kingdom-like” conditions in their lives. It’s not even that they don’t have enough evidence of the truthfulness of the claims of Christianity. And it’s certainly not that they’re not living their best life now and don’t have a 7-bedroom house with a 3-car garage!
The world’s problem is that they are blind to glory.
And so that means the mission of the Church is to solve that problem. Whatever the Church sees fit to involve herself in, it must be controlled by the purpose of eradicating the world’s blindness to the glory of Jesus Christ. If we are engaging in some program, some ministry, some strategy that is not working to solve this problem, we must dispense with it. The Church is not about fixing the world’s relationships, making the world feel entertained or comfortable or accepted, or improving the quality of this life while neglecting the quality of life that will be theirs in eternity. Perhaps those are effects, or consequences, of the Gospel. But the Church is tasked with being instrumental in the opening of blind eyes, so that those who lie in the power of the evil one might come to treasure the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul gets into how we do that in verse 5. That’s for next time.