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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 6

Verse 6. For God, who commanded, etc. The design of this verse seems to be, to give a reason why Paul and his fellow-apostles did not preach themselves, but Jesus Christ the Lord, 2 Co 4:5. That reason was, that their minds had been so illuminated by that God who had commanded the light to shine out of darkness, that they had discerned the glory of the Divine perfections shining in and through the Redeemer, and they therefore gave themselves to the work of making him known among men. The doctrines which they preached they had not derived from men in any form. They had not been elaborated by human reasoning or science, nor had they been imparted by tradition. They had been communicated directly by the Source of all light—the true God—who had shined into the hearts that were once benighted by sin. Having been thus illuminated, they had felt themselves bound to go and make known to others the truths which God had imparted to them.

Who commanded the light, etc. Ge 1:3. God caused it to shine by his simple command. He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." The fact that it was produced by his saying so is referred to here by Paul, by his use of the phrase, (o eipwn,) "Who saying," or speaking the light to shine from darkness. The passage in Genesis is adduced by Longinus as a striking instance of the sublime.

Hath shined in our hearts. Marg., "Is he who hath." This is more in accordance with the Greek; and the sense is, "The God who at the creation bade the light to shine out of darkness, is he who has shined into our hearts; or it is the same God who has. illuminated us, who commanded the light to shine at the creation." Light is everywhere in the Bible the emblem of knowledge, purity, and truth; as darkness is the emblem of ignorance, error, sin, and wretchedness. See Barnes "Joh 1:4, See Barnes "Joh 1:5".

And the sense here is, that God had removed this ignorance, and poured a flood of light and truth on their minds. This passage teaches, therefore, the following important truths in regard to Christians—since it is as applicable to all Christians as it was to the apostles:

(1.) That the mind is by nature ignorant and benighted—to an extent which may be properly compared with the darkness which prevailed before God commanded the light to shine. Indeed, the darkness which prevailed before the light was formed, was a most striking emblem of the darkness which exists in the mind of man before it is enlightened by revelation, and by the Holy Spirit. For

(a.) in all minds by nature there is deep ignorance of God, of his law and his requirements; and

(b.) this is often greatly deepened by the course of life which men lead; by their education; or by their indulgence in sin, and by their plans of life; and especially by the indulgence of evil passions. The tendency of man, if left to himself, is to plunge into deeper darkness, and to involve his mind more entirely in the obscurity of moral midnight. "Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," Joh 3:19.

(2.) This verse teaches the fact, that the minds of Christians are illuminated. They are enabled to see things as they are. This fact is often taught in the Scriptures. See 1 Jo 2:20; 1 Co 2:12-15. They have different views of things from their fellow-men, and different from what they once had. They perceive a beauty in religion which others do not see, and a glory in truth, and in the Saviour, and in the promises of the gospel, which they did not see before they were converted. This does not mean

(a.) that they are superior in their powers of understanding to other men —for the reverse is often the fact; nor

(b.) that the effect of religion is at once to enlarge their own intellectual powers, and make them different from what they were before in this respect. But it means that they have clear and consistent views; they look at things as they are; they perceive a beauty in religion and in the service of God which they did not before. They see a beauty in the Bible, and in the doctrines of the Bible, which they did not before, and which sinners do not see. The temperate man will see a beauty in temperance, and in an argument for temperance, which the drunkard will not; the benevolent man will see a beauty in benevolence, which the churl will not; and so of honesty, truth, and chastity. And especially will a man who is reformed from intemperance, impurity, dishonesty, and avarice, see a beauty in a virtuous life which he did not before see. There is indeed no immediate and direct enlargement of the intellect; but there is an effect on the heart which produces an appropriate and indirect effect on the understanding. It is at the same time true, that the practice of virtue, that a pure heart, and that the cultivation of piety, all tend to regulate, strengthen, and expand the intellect; as the ways of vice, and the indulgence of evil passions and propensities tend to enfeeble, paralyze, darken, and ruin the understanding; so that, other things being equal, the man of most decided virtue, and most calm and elevated piety, will be the man of the clearest and best regulated mind. His powers will be the most assiduously, carefully, and conscientiously cultivated, and he will feel himself bound to make the most of them. The influence of piety in giving light to the mind is often strikingly manifested among unlettered and ignorant Christians. It often happens, as a matter of fact, that they have by far clearer and more just and elevated views of truth than men of the most mighty intellects, and most highly cultivated by science and adorned with learning, but who have no piety; and a practical acquaintance with their own hearts, and a practical experience of the power of religion in the days of temptation and trial, is a better enlightener of the mind on the subject of religion than all the learning of the schools.

(3.) This verse teaches that it is the same God who enlightens the mind of the Christian, that commanded the light at first to shine, he is the Source of all light. He formed the light in the natural world; he gives all light and truth on all subjects to the understanding; and he imparts all correct views of truth to the heart. Light is not originated by man; and man, on the subject of religion, no more creates the light which beams upon his benighted mind, than he created the light of the sun when it first shed its beams over the darkened earth. "All truth is from the sempiternal source of light divine;" and it is no more the work of man to enlighten the mind, and dissipate the darkness from the soul of a benighted sinner, than it was of man to scatter the darkness that brooded over the creation, or than he can now turn the shades of midnight to noonday. All this work lies beyond the proper province of man; and is all to be traced to the agency of God—the great Fountain of light.

(4.) It is taught here that it is the same power that gives light to the mind of the Christian, which at first commanded the light to shine out of darkness. It requires the exertion of the same Omnipotence; and the change is often as remarkable and surprising. Nothing can be conceived to be more grand than the first creation of light—when by axe word the whole solar system was in a blaze. And nothing in the moral world is more grand than when by a word God commands the light to beam on the soul of a benighted sinner. Night is at once changed to day; and all things are seen in a blaze of glory. The works of God appear different; the word of God appears different; and a new aspect of beauty is diffused over all things. If it be asked IN WHAT WAY God thus imparts light to the mind, we may reply:

(1.) By his written and preached word. All spiritual and saving light to the minds of men has come through his revealed truth. Nor does the Spirit of God now give or reveal any light to the mind which is not to be found in the word of God, and which not imparted through that medium.

(2.) God makes use of providential dealings to give light to the minds of men. They are then, by sickness, disappointment, and pain, made to see the folly and vanity of the things of this world, and to see the necessity of a better portion.

(3.) It is done especially and mainly by the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is directly by his agency that the heart becomes affected, and the mind enlightened. It is his province in the world to prepare the heart to receive the truth; to dispose the mind to attend to it; to remove the obstructions which existed to its clear perception; to enable the mind clearly to see the beauty of truth, and of the plan of salvation through a Redeemer. And whatever may be the means which may be used, it is still true that it is only by the Spirit of God that men are ever brought to see the truth clearly and brightly. The same Spirit that inspired the prophets and apostles also illuminates the minds of men now, removes the darkness from their minds, and enables them clearly to discover the truth as it is in Jesus. See Barnes "1 Co 2:10, and 1 Co 2:11-15.

To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. This shows the object, or the effect of enlightening the mind. It is that Christians may behold the Divine glory. The meaning is, that it is for the purpose of enlightening and instructing them concerning the knowledge of the glory of God.—Bloomfield. Doddridge renders it, "The lustre of the knowledge of God's glory." Tindal, "To give the light of the knowledge of the glorious God." The sense is, that the purpose of his shining into their hearts was to give light, (prov fwtismon,) i.e., unto the enlightening; and the purpose of that light was to acquaint them with the knowledge of the Divine glory.

In the face of Jesus Christ. That is, that they might obtain the knowledge of the Divine glory as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ; or as it is reflected on the face, or the person of the Redeemer. There is undoubted allusion here to what is said of Moses (2 Co 3:13) when the Divine glory was reflected on his face, and produced such a splendour and magnificence that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look upon it. The sense here is, that in the face or the person of Jesus Christ the glory of God shone clearly, and the Divinity appeared without a vail. The Divine perfections, as it were, illuminated him, as the face of Moses was illuminated; or they shone forth through him, and were seen in him. The word rendered "face" here, (proswpon,) may mean either face or person. See Barnes "2 Co 2:10".

The sense is not materially affected, whichever translation is preferred. It is, that the Divine perfections shone in and through the Redeemer. This refers doubtless to the following truths:

(1.) That the glory of the Divine nature is seen in him, since he is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," Heb 1:3. And it is in and through him that the glory of the Divine perfections are made known.

(2.) That the glory of the Divine attributes is made known through him, since it is through him that the work of creation was accomplished, (Joh 1:3; Col 1:16;) and it is by him that the mercy and goodness of God have been manifested to men.

(3.) That the glory of the Divine moral character is seen through him, since when on earth he manifested the embodied Divine perfections; he showed what God is when incarnate; he lived as became the incarnate God—he was as pure and holy in human nature as God is in the heavens. And there is not, that we know of, one of the Divine attributes or perfections which has not at some period, or in some form, been evinced by Jesus Christ. If it be the prerogative of God to be eternal, he was eternal, Isa 9:6; Re 1:8,18.

If it be the prerogative of God to be the Creator, he was also the Creator, (Joh 1:3;) if to be omniscient, he, was omniscient, (Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22;) if to be omnipresent, he is omnipresent, (Mt 18:20;) if to be almighty, he was almighty, (Isa 9:6;) if to raise the dead, to give life, he did it, (Joh 5:21; 11:43,44; ) if to still waves and tempests, he did it, (Mr 4:39;) if to be full of benevolence, to be perfectly holy, to be without a moral stain or spot, then all this is found in Jesus Christ. And as the wax bears the perfect image of the seal—perfect not only in the outline, and in the general resemblance, but in the filling up, in all the lines, and features, and letters on the seal—so it is with the Redeemer. There is not one of the Divine perfections which has not the counterpart in him; and if the glory of the Divine character is seen at all, it will be seen in and through him.

{a} "commanded the light" Ge 1:3 {1} "hath shined" "Is he who hath"

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