How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost
But now am found,
But now I see.
In the previous post, we saw Paul responding with faith to the discouraging gossip being spread about him in Corinth. Despite accusations of falseness and ulterior motives, Paul didn’t lose heart. Instead of giving up, he reminded himself of the mercy by which he was commissioned as an apostle in the first place.
He responds to another implied accusation with the same memory of God’s mercy:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 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 Cor 4:3-4, NRSV)
“Even if our gospel is veiled.” I imagine the whisperings in Corinth: If Paul’s ministry really is from God, if he’s honestly preaching the whole of God’s truth and not just working for his own advantage, shouldn’t he be more successful? Especially with the Jews, his own people? I mean, look how popular these other preachers are…
As we’ve seen in previous posts, the Corinthians seemed to have some skewed notion of apostolic success that didn’t involve the ambiguities of a life of trial and suffering. Paul has been working to change that understanding by being transparent about his own hardships, pointing back to the cross, and giving all credit for his endurance to God.
Yes, he admits, even if we preach the word clearly, sometimes it’s as if there’s a veil over the gospel. But as he’s already insisted in chapter 3, that veil has to do with the people’s habits of heart and mind. Thus, if the gospel is veiled to some, it’s because Satan, “the god of this world,” has blinded them, so much so that they can’t even see the brilliant light of glory of God in the gospel of the Messiah who reflects his image.
This isn’t smugness on Paul’s part, as if he were saying, “Sure, some people don’t get it when I preach. But that’s because they’re full of the devil.” Rather, one can hear the echo of Paul’s own conversion experience in these words. A darkened mind, spiritual blindness? I’ve been there. I was so sure of myself, so filled with self-righteous zeal, persecuting the church, persecuting its false Messiah. And then by God’s mercy, that very Messiah, the risen and exalted Jesus, appeared to me in the brilliance of God’s glory and struck me blind. Now I know the truth, and am its grateful servant. Thanks be to God: I once was lost, but now am found; I was blind, but now, I see.
Whatever the struggles of the Christian life, faithfulness will keep coming back to being amazed by grace.