2 Corinthians 4:6

Nature is a parable by means of which the Creator and Lord of all is ever teaching us concerning himself and his will. All the vast forces and sublime objects of nature have their spiritual analogues. So is it, as appears from this passage, with light, which typifies the truth, the gospel of God. We learn -

I. WHENCE THE LIGHT COMES. Physical light comes from the sun, and the sun was kindled by the Creator. He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." So all intellectual and moral light is from the Father of lights. He is light, and in him is no darkness. "He clotheth himself with light as with a garment." Our souls find their full enlightenment and satisfaction in the revelation of his mind, which is as the rising of the sun upon our benighted nature.

II. WHAT THE LIGHT IS. In the apostle's view this is "the knowledge of the glory of God." If this be so, God is not the Unknown, the Unknowable. The glory of the Eternal is not so much in his power and wisdom as in his moral attributes, his holiness, and love. The revelation of the Divine character is as light to his intelligent creation. It is welcome, cheering, illuminating, reviving.

III. WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES. "In the face of Jesus Christ." In our Lord's resurrection this light shone visibly from his face, as it had done on the occasion of his transfiguration. But really and spiritually it is always streaming forth; for Christ is himself the "Emanation of his Father's glory." Behold his face when teaching: the light of Divine knowledge is upon it. When pitying and healing the sufferer, the light of Divine compassion and love is there. When patiently enduring insult, upon it rests the lustre of majestic sweetness. When dying on the cross, the light of sacrificial victory is kindled on the features. When uttering his royal commands from heaven's throne, "his countenance is as the sun shineth in his strength."

IV. WHITHER THE LIGHT PENETRATES. "Into your hearts," says the apostle. As the sunbeams only awaken the sensation of light when they fall upon a receptive and sensitive eye, so the revelation of God's character implies a receptive and responsive heart. Though light ever shines from Christ, multitudes have no benefit or enjoyment from it. When the heart turns like the sunflower to the light, then the day dawns within, and the whole spiritual nature comes to bask in the light of God.

V. WHY THE LIGHT SHINES. In answer to this may be summed up the whole spiritual purpose and significance of the Christian revelation.

1. That we may perceive it. It is, alas! possible to hide from the light at noonday. But those who welcome the heavenly light rejoice in it, are guided by it, and know its power to inspire hope eternal.

2. That we may walk in it. "Walk ye in the light of the Lord;" "Walk in the light while ye have the light." For God's truth is profitable to all men, having the faculty of directing those who will be led by it into paths of wisdom, peace, and life.

3. That we may reflect it. The light of God is not absorbed by the soul that receives it. It is shed upon those who are around. Christians are "the light of the world" - are "light bearers," through whose agency the earth is to be filled with the radiance of spiritual and immortal noon. - T.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.

1. A position of humble servitude. "We preach... ourselves as your servants (lit., bondservants)." He cannot preach Christ effectively who has not first learned the spirit of Christ — the spirit of complete self-sacrifice and self-abasement. He Himself, though Lord of all, took upon Himself the form of a servant. The service of the servants of God means the dedication of the inner man. The fetters of Christ are upon his heart.

2. But, on the other hand, the position of the Christian minister, as here indicated, is one of noble independence. "Your servants for Jesus' sake (lit., on behalf of Jesus)." To the preacher the exhortation comes with special force, "One is your Master, even Christ." And this complete independence of the Christian minister is absolutely essential to the faithful discharge of his duties. He is not set to please men. For only in liberty can he be strong, and only in bondage to Christ can he be free.


1. Observe the uncompromising exclusiveness of this theme. It is a theme which must never be relinquished, or even temporarily lost sight of. Nothing else must ever be allowed to take its place. The subject-matter of the message is not morality; it is neither duty nor dogma, but Christ Jesus the Lord.

2. But although this theme is exclusive it is by no means narrow. I ask you to note its infinite comprehensiveness. It is not morality, yet it is all morality. It is not duty, yet it includes every duty. It is not dogma, yet it comprises the entire circle of Divine doctrine. In Christ there is the fulness of manhood, as welt as the fulness of the Godhead; and out of His fulness may we all receive encouragement and helpfulness in every circumstance of life.


(J. Pollock.)

I. THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF THE APOSTLE'S MINISTRY — Christ Jesus the Lord. Wherever he went he preached nothing else. There are some who say that there is a certain style of preaching for the poor and unlearned, and a different style for the cultivated. But Paul preached the same gospel in Athens and Jerusalem. He preached Jesus as the Christ — the Messiah predicted in the O.T., and typified by the ceremonies of the Mosaic economy. He preached Jesus as the Messiah whom the world at that time felt convinced that they needed. He preached Him also as the Prophet and the Priest, and the King of His Church. He preached Him further in the dignity of His person, and in the combination of two natures represented in one person. He preached Christ in the grandeur of His miracles, in His wondrous atonement, in all the purity and power of His righteousness. He preached Him as the Lord of the conscience. We preach Him, then, as the Lord in every sense of the term — the Lord over the body as well as the soul. The Lord over our conscience, over our property, of our hopes, of our love and desires; the Lord of our future, and the Lord of our confidence here. Our Lord in times of prosperity and in times of trial, in times of joy, and when on a sick-bed; in the dying moment, at the day of judgment, and in eternity.

II. His MODE. Paul regarded himself as the servant of the Church. The minister of religion should give to the Church, first of all, the entire of his time and ability, and should be with his people in times of trial, and especially in times of affliction. The minister has to do many things that other men will not do, and perhaps are not called upon to do. Let us look at —

III. HIS MOTIVE. I am Christ's ambassador, and for His sake I will be your servant.

(H. Allon, D. D.)


1. It is not that regular self-love that induces ministers to zeal and faithfulness in the discharge of their sacred trust, from the consideration of future rewards and punishments.

2. This disclaiming ourselves does not imply a total disregard to our reputation and character among men, for on this the success of our ministry, and consequently the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, may in some measure depend.But, positively, the selfishness here disclaimed is, in general, that which stands in direct opposition to the honour of God and the interest of Jesus Christ, which sets up self in the place of God in our estimation, affections, intentions, and pursuits.

1. Then ministers may be said to preach themselves when the matter of their public preaching is such as tends rather to promote self-honour and self-interest than the honour of God and the interest of Jesus Christ.

2. This selfishness respects the form as well as the matter of our preaching — i.e., the governing principle from which we act in our public ministry, and the ultimate end we have in view. And this is doubtless the principal thing here intended; for, be the matter of our preaching ever so good, yet self may be the root of it all, and the object of our principal aim.

II. TO CONSIDER SOME OF THE OPERATIONS OF THIS CORRUPT PRINCIPLE IN THOSE PARTICULAR INSTANCES THAT TEND TO DISCOVER ITS REIGNING DOMINION. A faithful discharge of this important trust requires more self-denial than any employment under the sun, yet there are many things in the sacred office that may be alluring baits to men of corrupt minds. A life of study, and an opportunity to furnish the mind with the various improvements of human science, may be an inducement to those who have a turn for speculation, and would be willing to shine in literature, from mere selfish principles, to undertake the ministry. And as these undertake the sacred employment for themselves, and not for God, so they will ever "preach themselves, and not Christ Jesus the Lord." And, when self has done its work in their study, and made their sermon, it will attend them even to the pulpit, and there it will form their very countenance and gesture, and modulate their voice, and animate their delivery. And when the sermon is ended self goes home with the preacher, and makes him much more solicitous to know whether he is applauded than whether he has prevailed for the conversion of souls. Sometimes this selfish disposition will work up envious thoughts against all those who they imagine stand in their light, or, by out-shining them, eclipse their glory, and hinder the progress of their idolised reputation.

III. WHAT IT IS TO PREACH CHRIST. "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." As it respects the matter, it includes in general the whole sum of gospel doctrine relating to man's salvation by Jesus Christ — the original contrivance, the meritorious imputation, and actual application of it, through His blood and spirit. But particularly —

1. To preach Christ is to hold Him forth, not merely as a lawgiver, to be obeyed, but chiefly as a law-fulfiller, to be believed in for pardon, righteousness, and everlasting life.

2. To preach Christ is to exhibit to view His infinite Divine fulness and the freeness of His unbounded grace, His almighty power to save, and His willingness to exert that power.

3. To preach Christ is to make Him the grand centre of all the variety of subjects we enter upon in the whole credenda and agenda of religion. As to the formal manner, it implies that we aim at the honour of Christ and the advancement of His interest. Let me now endeavour to improve this subject by an inference or two from each of the principal foregoing heads, and then conclude with a particular application.And —

1. If ministers are not to preach or to seek themselves in the execution of the sacred office, then none can ever discharge this important trust acceptably in the sight of God who are under the reigning dominion of mercenary and selfish principles.

2. If the business of gospel ministers be to preach Christ, hence see the honour and dignity of their office. Let us guard against that fear of man which selfishness would prompt us to. If the reigning dominion of selfishness is inconsistent with a ministerial, it is equally inconsistent with a truly Christian, character.

(D. Bestwick, M. A.)

I. THAT TO PREACH CHRIST JESUS THE LORD IS THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC AND PROPER EMPLOYMENT OF A GOSPEL MINISTER. It may be affirmed that something concerning Christ hath been the principal subject of every revelation that came from God, downward from the original promise made to our first parents (Acts 10:43; 1 Peter 1:10). And if Christ was an object of such importance to those who lived before His manifestation in the flesh, it cannot surprise us to find that they who could testify that He was come, and had finished the work that was given Him to do, should in all their writings and discourses dwell upon Him as their constant theme. But what are we to understand by preaching Christ?

1. It plainly imports that we make Christ the principal subject of our sermons.

2. To preach Christ Jesus the Lord is to handle every other subject of discourse in such a way as to keep Christ continually in the eye of our hearers. We must acknowledge Him as the author of the truths we deliver, and improve them so as to lead men to Him. The apostles introduced upon all occasions the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, both into their discourses and epistles, and never failed to press the duties they enjoined by those regards which are due to Christ Himself. Thus humility and self-denial are recommended by the lowliness and patience of Christ. Husbands are charged to love their wives, "as Christ loved His Church."

3. To preach Christ Jesus the Lord is to make the advancement of His kingdom and the salvation of men the sole aim of our preaching.

II. THAT PREACHING CHRIST IS THE PROPER BUSINESS AND THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF A GOSPEL MINISTER. Can anything be more reasonable than that they who profess to derive their authority from Christ should make Him the principal subject of their sermons, and recommend Him to the esteem and love of their hearers? But what I would chiefly observe is that preaching Christ Jesus the Lord is the great means which God hath appointed for the conversion of sinners; and therefore it is not only highly reasonable, but absolutely necessary.

(R. Walker.)

I. WHAT WE DO NOT PREACH. "Ourselves."

1. This practice is prevalent, and ought to be censured. Men preach themselves when they preach —

(1)Only to promote their own interest.

(2)Only to display their own talents.

(3)Only to maintain some particular system, regardless of the glory of Christ and the salvation of souls.

2. This practice is not apostolical, and should be avoided.(1) Was emolument their object? "Silver and gold," said they, "we have none."(2) Did they seek the applause of men? They were content to be "esteemed as the filth of the earth," etc.(3) Were they ambitious to display their own talents? "We came to you, not with excellency of speech," etc.(4) Had they a system of their own to establish — any human institutions to contend for? No. "We determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

3. This practice is ruinous, and ought to be condemned. It is, indeed, to defeat the very design of the gospel, and entails eternal ruin on those who persist in it.

II. WHAT WE DO PREACH. "Christ Jesus the Lord." How wide the extreme! From an object the most contemptible we turn to one the most dignified.

1. What is implied in preaching Christ Jesus the Lord?(1) That His person and work be the principal subject of our preaching. It is not enough that we speak of Him occasionally. He must be the Alpha and the Omega. In every science there are first and general principles to which every teacher of that science constantly refers; and the first principles of the science which is to make men wise unto salvation are found in the scheme of redemption.(2) That His glory must be the aim and the end of our preaching. Our own glory is to be placed quite out of the question; nor must we seek to please men, "for," saith the apostle, "if I seek to please men I should not be the servant of Christ." His own glory is the great end which God has in view in all His works. It is impossible it should be otherwise. What is the great end of all the works of creation? "For Thy glory they were and are created." What is His great object in the government of the world? That He may direct everything to the grand consummation of that day in which the whole scheme of His moral government shall be accomplished. But what is the glory of creation and providence compared with that which shines in the great work of redemption? Hence —

2. The absolute necessity of thus preaching Christ in order to attain the great object of our ministry.(1) It is the only object for which it has been appointed. Suppose, instead of setting up the brazen serpent, Moses had elevated a figure of himself, not many only, but all the people, would have perished.(2) Its peculiar adaptation to all the purposes of our ministry proves the necessity of preaching Christ Jesus the Lord.(a) Do we attempt to awaken the sinner, to arouse the careless? Shall we have recourse to moral suasion? Shall we exhibit the enormities of vice and the beauties of virtue, or the punishment due to the one and the rewards promised to the other? Alas! the moral history of the world is but a uniform record of the inefficacy of these efforts. But he who is insensible to every other attraction, and resists every other impression, is often affected by aa exhibition of the Cross.(b) By what means shall we administer consolation to the wounded spirit? Palliatives may be easily found. Hence the complaint, "They have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly." But has the arrow of conviction pierced the conscience? What can effect a cure but the balm in Gilead, applied by the hand of the Physician there?(c) Do we seek to promote the edification, the holiness, the comfort of believers? These objects will be attained only as we preach "Christ Jesus the Lord." That knowledge which is unto salvation is the knowledge of Him (John 17:3). Your holiness consists in conformity to His image. Comfort can only be given by Him who is the consolation of Israel.(3) It is to secure the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, without which our ministry must be altogether ineffectual. Success depends upon His influence. "He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." Conclusion: We are taught from this subject —

1. The intrinsic value of the Christian ministry is to be estimated by the degree of attention it pays to the Redeemer, and the place which it assigns to Him, in the discharge of its functions. Rank, intellectual endowment, literary attainment, graces of oratory, are only subservient to the nobler pursuits of the Christian minister.

2. As it is the duty of ministers to preach Christ Jesus the Lord, it is equally the duty of those who hear to receive Him. Without this, the most eminent ministry will be in vain.

3. Are you willing to receive Him? He is willing to receive you. "He waiteth to be gracious."

4. Have you received Him? Remember your obligations, and seek to glorify Him.

5. The certain perdition of all who reject Christ.

(J. Hunt.)

1. "We preach." Preaching is a peculiar function. No other religion but Christianity has preaching in it. It is not discussion or mere explanation; it is the proclamation of gospel truth in such a way that the lives of men may be made Christian. The Christian preacher must never wear a muzzle. He must pray for boldness, and his hearers must above all ask God to give him this gift. The surgeon needs a firm hand to perform an operation; the captain needs a clear utterance to keep the vessel's head well to the storm.

2. "We preach not ourselves." Preachers may have some influence, but it is absolutely of no worth if it glorifies the man. People soon tire of a prophet whose prophecy is only about himself or in his own name. If he gain influence, it is through his service.

3. Is tie, then, to be a kind of spiritual servant of all work? No; he is your servant for Jesus' sake. An ambassador is a servant that waits in a foreign court; but it is to do the will of the monarch who sent him. Now, what is the substance of the message which a Christian preacher has to bring? "Christ Jesus as Lord." We preach —

I. THE DIVINE PERSONALITY IN CHRIST. Man's greatest need is to see God. All Biblical history is a series of pathways leading to God. And if this be so the Bible was leading through the O.T. to Christ. All the history of God's dealings with men sums itself up in Christ as Lord. If all men need to see God, the proof that Christ is God will be this that men do actually see God when Christ is preached to them. The real proofs of Christ's Divinity are in the spiritual experiences of men who love Christ.

1. Christ legislates as God. When men hear Him they feel He speaks with authority. The world knows in its heart that it would be a Godlike world if it would but listen to Jesus.

2. He judges like God. He divides man from man, nation from nation, Church from Church, with unerring vision.

3. He loves like God. If He loves only Peter and James and John, what thanks has He, for these love Him in return? But when He loves Judas, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, and the poor dying thief, then men feel that a new manifestation of Divine love has come to them.

II. THE DIVINE PROPITIATION THROUGH CHRIST. When Paul first went to Corinth he made a special resolution — "to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." And there are people in all our large cities who need such a treatment as this to-day, because Christ crucified meets their central want. It is not that they do not want good books, music, politics, houses, etc., but the want that towers over all is that they want a Saviour. If man is morally diseased he needs a remedy, and that remedy is in Christ, who was crucified on the Cross for our sins. The word "propitiation" refers to Christ's death, whereby God's mercy is brought to us as sinners. But "mercy" is a very humbling word. Yet, when conviction has been brought home to us that we are guilty, it is the one word out of God's rich vocabulary that we most of all need. "Mercy" is a twofold word.

1. It is a cry. You are labouring under one fell complaint, and you must cry for help. The prisoner has had a fair trial, and his guilt has been brought home to him. You are that prisoner.

2. It is an offer. The sick man need not die, for the Good Physician has come; the prisoner need not suffer, for Christ has borne the burden and curse of his sin.

III. THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY IN CHRIST. "Christ Jesus as Lord." We are apt to let this idea slip out of our conceptions of evangelical religion. As soon as we have apprehended Christ as Saviour, we suppose sometimes that the work is done, whereas it is but just begun. Christ is Saviour in order that He may be King. If Christ does not rule men He has failed in the purpose that called Him here. Christ is Lord of man; Lord of the woman; Lord of the child; Lord of the home, determining its expenditure, its giving, its habits, its prayers, and its purposes; Lord of the Church; Lord of the state, decreeing justice to all, bringing law into harmony with Divine teaching; Lord of the world, driving back the darkness, destroying false religion, bringing in the true, making earth like heaven. That lordship of Christ will not let us put on our religion and put it off like our Sunday clothes. It calls upon Christians to be the subjects of Christ everywhere — to obey Christ in business, in the home, in politics, in reading, in talking, in amusements, in social life, in crying, in laughing, in giving, in dying. There is a majesty about this name that men have not yet felt.

(S. Pearson, M. A.)

For Jesus
1. A melting argument. Of all the arguments that address the emotional nature of man, none can have such force as that which addresses him by the love of God — "For Jesus' sake."

2. A winning argument. It does not repel the soul; it draws it. It does not compel it unwillingly; it is an argument of love that wins a willing mind. Are you a man or woman of taste? If you will own the truth, that Jesus is the author of all the beauties that salute your senses, not only as the Creator, "without whom was not anything made that was made," but as the Redeemer, without whose sacrifice the human race would not have any more blessings than the fallen angels had, then all the separate beauties of art and nature will be so many alluring voices to win you to Jesus. Are you a man or woman of intellectual acquirement? Go through the round of human studies. Revel in all the glories of the visible creation and of mind, and while you are doing it rise to the dignity of the fact that the master mind of your Creator — Redeemer — was the glorious model in which all these magnificent things were east, and how will you be allured to give yourself up to the worship and service of your blessed Master!

3. A commanding argument. Oh, there is that in the offices of our Redeemer, as governor of the nations and judge of the race, that invests the argument of our text with a commanding power which nothing can equal!

4. A comforting argument. "For Jesus' sake" has brought the sublimest joys that earth ever witnessed, even amid the deepest distresses that earth ever endured.

5. An ennobling argument.

6. An all-embracing argument.

7. A comprehensive argument. It appeals to us to forsake all sin. "For Jesus' sake" let us put away all sin. It appeals to us to perform all duty.

(N. D. Williamson.)

For God, who commanded the light to shine, hath shined in our hearts
There are two lights in the soul. There is —

1. The "light of nature." This consists of those moral intuitions which heaven implanted within us at first. These intuitions are good enough for angels, did for Adam before he fell, but now, through sin, they are so blunt and dim that the soul is in moral darkness.

2. The light of the gospel. This comes because the light of nature is all but gone out, and this is the light to which the text refers.

I. IT EMANATES FROM THE HIGHEST SOURCE. "God." The reference is to Genesis 1:3. It reminds us —

1. Of antecedent darkness. The state of the soul before this light enters it is analogous to the state of the earth before God kindled the lights of the firmament.

2. Of almighty sovereignty. "Let light be, and light was." The luminaries of the firmament were kindled by the free, uncontrolled, almighty power of God. So it is with real spiritual light. It comes because God wills it.

II. IT REVEALS THE GRANDEST SUBJECT. "The knowledge of the glory of God." Gospel light entering the soul makes God visible as the eternal reality and the fountain of being, and the source of all blessedness. Where this gospel light is not the soul either ignores or denies Him, or at most speculates about Him, and at best has now and then flitting visions.

III. IT STREAMS THROUGH THE SUBLIMEST MEDIUM. "In the face of Jesus Christ." In the person of Christ the glory of God shone clearly, and the divinity appeared without a veil. This light coming through Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, is —

1. True light. He is the truth.

2. Softened light. The soul could not stand the light coming directly from the infinite source — it is too dazzling.

3. Quickening light. It falls on the soul like the sunbeam on the seed quickening into life.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. When God viewed the earth it was formless and void, "and darkness was upon the face of the deep." So, when He comes to the soul, He sees it full of disorder and ignorance.(1) It is hard to determine at what period idolatry commenced. But there were "lords many and gods many." As the object of worship was misunderstood, so the service rendered Him was no longer a reasonable service. Even human blood streamed upon their altars.(2) Some acknowledge this to be a just statement of the 'heathen world, but will not allow it as regards nations blessed with the gospel. But are men secure from error and delusion in a land of vision? Do we not often see their ignorance in their views of the evil of sin and of the way of salvation — in their subjection to the world and their disaffection to God? The rays of the sun may shine around a man, while yet, because of his blindness, he may grope in darkness at noonday. We may be delivered from gross idolatry, and yet indulge in a more relined species of it, and which is equally destructive to the soul. Many make "gold their hope, and fine gold their confidence."

2. But this knowledge, of which we are destitute, is indispensable. "For the soul to be without knowledge," says Solomon, "it is not good"; it is like the body without the eye, or the earth without the sun. The devil maintains his empire by error, but God maintains His cause by truth. One reigns in a kingdom of darkness, the other in a kingdom of light. All God's operations in His people are begun and carried on in the illumination of the mind. Repentance, faith, patience, courage, love, result from, and are influenced by, just views of things, which supply what we call motives.

II. ITS MEDIUM "The face of Jesus Christ" (John 1:18); He declared Him, not only by the doctrines He taught, but by the work to which He was appointed, and by His temper, His life, His character. If we would know what God is, we must learn of Him "who went about doing good," and who said to Philip, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Hence He is called "the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory," etc.

1. Much of God is indeed displayed in the works of nature.

2. It is in Christ that we see the glory of God without being dazzled to death by the effulgence. There it is approachable, inviting. There we have the only discovery of Him that could meet our case.

III. ITS RESIDENCE — the heart. We may perish not only by ignorance, but by knowledge. The head may be clear while the heart is cold. The knowledge of which the apostle speaks is distinguishable from mere opinion and speculation; it has to do with the heart. It affects it —

1. In a way of godly sorrow. There is a "broken heart" which "God will not despise," and here it is produced. "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced," etc.

2. In a way of desire. The man longs to appropriate what he discovers. It is called "hungering and thirsting after righteousness."

3. In a way of complacency. The believer not only submits, but acquiesces. His necessity is his choice.

4. In a way of gratitude. We love Him because He first loved us, and cannot but ask, What shall we render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards us?

IV. ITS AUTHOR — God Himself. When Peter had made a good confession, our Lord said to him, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." The same may be said of every enlightened sinner. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant." The nature, efficacy, blessedness of this knowledge prove it to be of a Divine original. And to this every believer readily subscribes.

(W. Jay.)

To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ
Note —

I. THE SUBJECT OF THAT KNOWLEDGE in which Paul delighted — God. A most needful knowledge. For a man not to know his Maker is deplorable. The proper study of mankind is God. Paul does not mean the knowledge of the existence or character of God; he had known that from the O.T. before his conversion. He meant that now he knew God in a clearer and surer way, for he had seen Him in the person of Christ. He had also received the knowledge of "the glory of God." He had seen that glory in creation and in the law; but now, beyond all else, he had come to perceive it in the face, or person, of Jesus Christ, and this had won his soul. Consider this glory in the face of Jesus Christ —

1. Historically. In every incident of His life God is seen.(1) At Bethlehem I perceive a choice glory, for God despises the pomp which little minds esteem so highly. The glory of God in Christ asks no aid from the splendour of courts and palaces. Yet mark how the Magi and the shepherds hasten to salute the new-born King.(2) In the temple. What wisdom there was in that Child! "The foolishness of God is wiser than men."(3) In the carpenter's shop. See there how God can wait! We should have hastened to begin our life-work long before.(4) In His public ministry. Behold, while He feeds five thousand, the glory of God in the commissariat of the universe. See Him cast out devils, and learn the Divine power over evil. Hear Him raise the dead, and reverence the Divine prerogative to kill and to make alive. Hear how He speaks and infallibly reveals the truth, and you will perceive the God of knowledge to whom the wise-hearted owe their instruction. When He receives sinners, what is this but the Lord God, merciful and gracious?(5) But never did the love of God reveal itself so clearly as when He laid down His life; nor did the justice of God ever flame forth as when He would suffer rather than sin should go unpunished and the law be dishonoured.(6) In His resurrection He spoiled principalities and powers, led death captive, and rifled the tomb.(7) In His ascension His Godhead was conspicuous, for He again put on the glory which He had with the Father or ever the world was.(8) In heaven they never conceive of Jesus apart from the Divine glory which perpetually surrounds Him.(9) The glory of God will most abundantly be seen in the second advent.

2. By way of observation. In the material universe the reverent mind perceives enough of the glory of God to constrain worship, and yet after a while it pines for more. Even when your thought sweeps round the stars, and circumnavigates space, you feel that even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. In Christ, however, you have a mirror equal to the reflection of the eternal face, for "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." He is the image of God. In the person of Jesus we see the glory of God —(1) In the veiling of His splendour. The Lord is not eager to display Himself. "Verily thou art a God that hidest Thyself." God's glory in the field of creation is as a light shaded to suit the human eye, and in the face of Christ it is so. How softly breaks the Divine glory through His human life! When Moses' face shone the people could not look thereon, but when Jesus came from His transfiguration the people ran to Him and saluted Him. In Him we see God to the full, but the Deity so mildly beams through the medium of human flesh that mortal man may look and live.(2) In the wondrous blending of the attributes, behold His mercy, for He dies for sinners; but see His justice, for He sits as judge of quick and dead. Observe His immutability, for He is the same yesterday, to-day. and for ever; and see His power, for His voice shakes not only earth, but also heaven. See how infinite is His love, for He espouses His chosen; but how terrible His wrath, for He consumes His adversaries.(3) In the outgoing of His great heart; for He is altogether unselfish and unsparingly communicative. We may conceive a period when the Eternal dwelt alone. He must have been inconceivably blessed; but He was not content to enjoy perfect bliss alone. He began to create, and probably formed innumerable beings long before this world came into existence; and He did this that He might multiply beings capable of happiness. This is His glory, and is it not to be seen most evidently in Christ, who "saved others, Himself He could not save"? Neither in life nor in death did Christ live within Himself; He lived for His people, and died for them.(4) There are two things I have noticed in the glory of God. I have stood upon a lofty hill and looked abroad upon the landscape —(a) I have felt the outflow of Deity. Even as the sun pours himself over all things, so does God; and in the hum of an insect, as well as in the crash of a thunderbolt, we hear a voice saying, "God is here." Is not this the feeling of the heart in the presence of Christ? Is not He to us the everybody, the one only person of His age? I cannot think of Caesar or Rome, or all the myriads that dwell on the earth, as being anything more than small figures in the background of the picture when Jesus is before me.(b) I also have felt the indrawing of all things towards God as steps to His throne, and every tree and hill has seemed to return to Him from whom it came. Is it not just so in the life of Christ? "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me."

3. By way of experience. Have you ever heard Christ's doctrine in your soul? If so, you have felt it to be Divine. Has your heart heard the voice of Christ speaking peace and pardon through the blood? If so, you have known Him to be Lord of all. There are times when the elevating influence of the presence of Christ has put His Godhead beyond the possibility of question.

II. THE NATURE OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. How, and in what respects, do we know the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

1. By faith. Upon the testimony of the Word we believe that God is in Christ. The Lord hath said, "This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him" (1 John 5:20).

2. By consideration and meditation. The more carefully we pay attention to the four evangelists the more is our understanding persuaded that no mere man stands before us.

3. By inward consciousness. We have come into contact with Christ, and have known, therefore, that He is God. We love Him, and we also love God, and we perceive that these two are one. It is by the heart that we know God and Christ, and as our affections are purified we become sensible of God's presence in Christ.

4. Moreover, as we look at our Lord we begin to grow like Him. Our beholding Him has purified the eye which has gazed on His purity. The light of the sun blinds us, but the light of Jesus strengthens the eye.


1. Why did not everybody see the glory of God in Christ when He was here? Answer: It mattereth not how brightly the sun shineth among blind men. Now, the human heart is blind, and, moreover, there is a god of this world, the prince of darkness, who confirms the natural darkness of the human mind. He blinds men's minds with error, ignorance, or pride. As only the pure iii heart can see God, we, being impure in heart, could not see God in Christ What, then, hath happened to us? That same God who said, "Light be," and light was, hath shined into our hearts.

2. Do you see the glory of God in Christ? Then let that sight be an evidence to you of your salvation. When our Lord asked, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And our Lord replied, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but My Father which is in heaven." "No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost." "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."

IV. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. Some expositors make the verse run thus: "God... hath shined in our hearts, that we might give out again the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Never is a gleam of light given to any man to hide away. Only think of a person, when his room is full of sunlight, saying to his servant, "Close the shutters, and let us keep this precious light to ourselves," So, when a child of God gets the light from Christ's face, he must not say, "I shall keep this to myself," for that would shut it out. No; you have the light that you may reflect it. If you have learned the truth, make it plain to others. Let Jesus manifest Himself in His own light; do not cast a light on Him, or attempt to show the sun with a candle. Do not aim at converting men to your views, but let the light shine for itself and work its own way. Scatter your light in all unselfishness. Wish to shine, not that others may say "How bright he is!" but that they, getting the light, may rejoice in the source from which it came to you and to them.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"The light of the knowledge of the glory of God." A question arises as to the meaning of this expression. The knowledge of God is here metaphorically represented to be light. Now, as light, in Scripture language, is an emblem of purity, and as the glory of God is just the manifestation of the Divine character and attributes, the meaning of the whole expression, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God," will be the correct knowledge; viewed in reference to ourselves, the correct and clear apprehension of the Divine character and attributes. This, the text tells us, is obtained in the face of Jesus Christ.


1. And here I would observe, this knowledge is gloriously manifested in the person of Christ. It is true that the whole universe manifests forth the glory of God. In all that He does He shows Himself to be inconceivably wise and good and great and excellent. "The heavens declare the glory of God." But how vastly are these views of the Divine character strengthened, extended, and intensified by contemplating the glorious person of Jesus! Why, the gospel narratives furnish a convincing proof of their truth and inspiration merely from the fact of the moral grandeur with which they invest the person of Jesus.

2. I observe, further, that the knowledge of God is gloriously manifested in the doctrine of Christ. There is, so to speak, a heartfelt harmony between the person of Christ and the doctrines which He taught. The manifold excellences which encircle the former find their appropriate expression in the sublime benevolence which forms the very essence of the latter.

3. I observe, finally, that the knowledge of God is gloriously manifested in the work of Christ. The work of Christ is the foundation of the doctrines which He taught. Moreover, the benevolence of this work is equalled by the vastness of its aims. Where can the knowledge of God be more gloriously manifested than in the work of the incarnate Son? Here we see God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, seeing He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin.


1. And here I remark that it operates on the heart first in the way of illumination — it makes the heart acquainted with itself. To make the heart acquainted with itself is no easy task. Indeed, the difficulties to be encountered in a work of this kind are, to a merely human power, entirely insurmountable, for the heart has no desire to be acquainted with itself, but, instead of this, the most sensitive aversion to everything like self-knowledge. But this is not all. It invariably resorts to those shifts and expedients which serve to make the light little better than darkness. How often do we find, when examining ourselves, that our hearts interpose to exhibit everything through a false and flattering medium. And there is no difficulty in accounting for this. Knowledge, which is external to ourselves, flatters our vanity, raises us in the eyes of our neighbours, and adds to our importance in the world. But a severe and searching inquiry into the state of our own hearts wounds our pride and lowers us in our own esteem. Now, it is upon this dark, deceitful heart that the knowledge of God operates. It may be asked, What effect does this revelation to him of the state of his heart have upon the sinner? The sinner trembles as he sees the sentence of condemnation which his conscience, now thoroughly aroused, writes on the scroll of his spiritual vision as in characters of fire; and, however self-satisfied he might formerly have been, now that he sees himself in the light of Divine truth, he readily confesses with Job, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I say unto Thee?"

2. I remark, further, this knowledge operates upon the heart in the way of purification. "The man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." Every follower of Christ must strive to be like Him — like Him in benevolence and benignity of character; like Him in purity and elevation of soul; like Him in thought, feeling, and action; like Him in all those qualities which constitute His true and proper humanity — "till he come through the unity of the faith to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fulness of Christ Jesus."

III. Consider THIS KNOWLEDGE IN RELATION TO ITS AUTHOR — "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,"

1. Now, in a certain sense God is the author of all things in relation to us. He made us, and not we ourselves. Our circumstances in life, our natural endowments, our means of instruction and improvement, and, as a consequence, our position in and influence upon the world, fall out according to the wise and beneficent arrangements of His providence. But while, in relation to these matters, God may be said to act by natural established laws, in certain other things in relation to us He acts by a direct creative act of His almighty power. It is "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," who shines in our hearts. In this descriptive appellation of God the apostle refers to the grandest exhibition of almighty power the universe ever beheld.

2. Further, the Divine authorship of this knowledge is apparent from its nature. You cannot more surely trace a ray of light to its source in the sun than you can trace the moral lineaments of that Being who is holy, wise, just, and good, in the revelation which He has given of Himself in Jesus Christ. The Divine authorship of any work is held to be proved when the means by which it is brought about are, humanly speaking, inadequate to the ends in view. Where are these conditions more amply fulfilled than in the revelation which God has given of Himself in Christ Jesus? Why, the work to be done is confessedly the most difficult in the world.

3. Finally, the Divine authorship of this knowledge is apparent by the blessedness its possession brings. This blessedness is altogether of a singular kind. It is singular as to its origin. It is not produced by the most fortunate collusion of outward circumstances, neither is it affected by the discontinuance of these. The world cannot give it, and the world cannot take it away. I would call upon all of you to remember that by nature we are all ignorant of the knowledge referred to in the text. God's willingness to impart the knowledge of Himself, and the preciousness of this knowledge. Note the apostle's language here. He does not state it as a thing that may be, or a thing that will be, but he states it as a thing that has actually occurred God hath shined in our hearts.

(J. Imrie, M. A.)

1. In order to the perception of God's material creation, two things are indispensable — the presence of light and the possession of an eye as the perceiving power or medium. So, in order to the knowledge of the highest spiritual truth, there must be a revelation and an appropriate organ or state of the soul. "Spiritual things" are "spiritually discerned."

2. But reference is not merely to the receiving, but also to the imparting, of light. See preceding verses and chap.

3. "If we appear to be the speakers, it is nevertheless Christ, who works by us, and who inwardly enlightens us, in order that we should enlighten others." Nor need we confine the design of such enlightenment to apostles or ministers. Every Christian is to be a "light-giver in the world." Observe —


1. The real and direct expression of God. In nature we have the indirect — in the ancient modes of revelation the typical — expressions of God, in Christ the direct and true.

2. The Divine excellences embodied in a living person. The attributes of God, considered abstractly, have little influence compared with that exerted by their personal embodiment in Jesus Christ.

3. The expression of the Divine perfections in their human form — perfections which, from their very glory and exaltation, we regard as beyond our imitation. In Christ, however, we see holiness, not merely in conjunction with infinite power, but in human circumstances, contending with human weakness and difficulties. And then His love — how human, tender, touching! He reveals the heart of God.

4. The perfect blending of all God's attributes in beautiful harmony. In other revelations of God you have the divided, and sometimes distorted, beam; here, in the face of Christ, shines the pure and perfect light.


1. The appropriate state of soul is specially a heart preparation. "In our hearts." Unlike other truths, which need to be understood in order to be loved, religious truths require to be loved in order to be known. How can the carnal mind, at enmity with God, perceive the beauty of holiness, or the narrow, selfish heart realise a love which is as wide as the world, which stoops from the highest glory to the deepest abasement, and gives itself forth unto death that others might have eternal life? The heart must be opened, purged, clear, to receive the light of the knowledge of Christ.

2. Such preparation is a great and Divine work. No mere resolutions or arguments can accomplish the new creation in the soul. Gently and almost unconsciously are men often led to behold the glory of God in Christ, as the eyelids unclose beneath the brightening beams of morning.


1. The fact of our having received light enables us to impart it; and the more we receive, the more shall we be able to give.

2. This fact also renders it a most solemn duty, incumbent on all who have received the truth, to impart it to others.

3. And should we not, too, by dwelling on the glory of God in Christ, be inspired with motives sufficiently strong to bear us through all the difficulties attending the endeavour to diffuse the truth?

(B. Dale, M. A.)

1. How much is contained in the face of Jesus Christ? Everything — the glory of God, for Christ is the Son of God; all that pertains to ideal humanity, for Christ is true man; the history of everything pertaining to redemption is written there.

2. The Bible is a photographic album. It is full of faces taken from God's camera. Chief among these is the face of Jesus. It is a remarkable thing that nowhere have we any clue to Christ's physical identity. We have no portrait of His person, nor have we any authentic description of it. Coins and statues reveal the features of some contemporaries of Jesus, and history gives pen-pictures of Socrates, etc.; but of Him, the one historic personage of whose form and face the whole world most desires some knowledge, there is not a trace in the Bible.

3. Why this absence of Christ in marble or on canvas? Why this silence of inspired biographers? I believe it was from God. God sets Christ forth as man, and not as any particular man, so that He may not be localised.

4. We are satisfied with this way of presenting the face of Jesus Christ. While we do not have His features, we have His mind, His moral qualities, His spiritual nature. After all, is it not the aim of true art to set forth these qualities? A true artist is not satisfied with putting mere physical beauty upon the canvas. Let us turn the pages of the Bible album and look into some of the faces of Jesus Christ. There is —

I. THE HEROIC FACE (Luke 9:41).

1. That face turned Jerusalem-ward is a mirror. He kept His face fronting awful realities. That fixed face ought to move our souls, and react in our fidelity to Him and His cause.

2. Do not undervalue His heroism as seen in this face. He did not find it easy to walk to Jerusalem. The shrinking of His sensitive humanity stood in the way. The words imply a desperate conflict, and victory won only by means of it.

3. This heroic face helps to set forth the fierceness of the battle of Calvary, which He won as our champion.

II. THE FACE BRUISED BY HUMAN CONTEMPT AND INTOLERANCE. This picture is a revelation of the patience of Jesus. He was keenly sensitive, and yet He bore all this indignity without a murmur.

III. THE FACE IN THE DUST (Matthew 26:39). Gethsemane was to the prostrate form Calvary before its time. Gethsemane means simply Christ shrinking from sin.

IV. THE FACE AWFULLY MARRED (Isaiah 53.). This is the face of Christ when sin and suffering have completed their work. The hand of time takes the human face and works into it every experience through which the man passes, just as the sculptor works his thoughts into a piece of marble. His earthly career was enough to mar any face, and especially a face which belonged to a nature so exquisitely constructed.

V. THE TRANSFIGURED FACE. This revelation is better than the face of God in nature. When we look into the face of history the different attributes of God seem to clash; but in the life of Jesus all the attributes of God are brought into play, and they work together in perfect harmony.

VI. THE FACE IN THE WHITE THRONE. We can only recognise the fact that this face is there.

VII. THE FLASHING FACE AMID THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS (Revelation 1.). In the face buried in the dust we saw a reflection of the dark past; in the flashing face amid the golden candlesticks we see a reflection of the glorious future. Conclusion:

1. Our treatment of the face of Jesus Christ is an index of our character. Among our privileges is access to the face of Jesus Christ. If we avail ourselves of this privilege we indicate a familiarity with Christ, and a knowledge of Christ, and a desire and a love toward Christ. We indicate that we are born from above and are the sons of God.

2. The face of Christ affords an inexhaustible and soul-satisfying study. Looking forward to his awakening from the grave, the Hebrew poet sings, "As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." The highest prayer which Christ found it possible to pray for us was, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory."

(D. Gregg.)

Let us consider this as —

I. GRANDLY TYPICAL. Of what? Of the family of Mary? No. Of the tribe of Judah from which He sprang? No. Of the Jewish race? Nay, for He was less a Jew than a man. The appellation by which He designates Himself about sixty-six times is "Son of Man," as if the blood of the whole human race was in His veins.

1. His face had no distinct, narrow, national type. Grecian, Roman, Syrian, Jew, ever bore the distinctive features of their age and nation. Not so with Christ. The whole world can claim kindred here and have the claim allowed. In His heart there is room for all; in His atoning blood there is merit for all.

2. His face typified the ideal man. He was "fairer than the children of men," the perfect type of moral and spiritual excellency. Our best aspirations can never go beyond the infinite heights of holiness upon which He trod. The face of man is an index to his character. Place a light within a marble vase, and it becomes translucent. Let holy principles dwell within a man, and they will give an expression to the face. But on no human face yet were all excellences ever expressed. One has patience, another generosity, another gentleness, another boldness. But from the countenance of Jesus there beamed forth every ray from a full-orbed and complete character. His heart was bold as a lion's, yet gentle as a lamb's.

II. TOUCHINGLY HISTORICAL. It doubtless laughed in infancy upon a mother's breast. To behold it sages travelled far, and lowly shepherds bowed before it with reverence and awe. When Simeon beheld it, he said, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." In the temple doctors gazed upon His face with wonder. From before it devils fled in fear, while poor sufferers sought it, finding it to be like a rising sun with healing in its beams. Often and often during the night-watches was it upturned for hours in prayer. Three times at least was it bedewed with tears. The fiendish mob spat in it and smote it, which indignity He bore with Godlike fortitude (Isaiah 1:6; Isaiah 53:4). On the Mount "His face did shine as the sun," but on the Cross unutterable anguish found dread expression there. And yet, to hearts instructed as to the cause of this grief, that fair face was never more lovely than when ploughed with furrows and stained with blood. A mother, young and beautiful, once dashed into the flames of a burning chamber, and thus saved her child; but to her dying day she bore in charred cheeks the effects of that awful moment. But who shall say her face, to husband and child at least, was not more beautiful than before? In rescuing us the face of Jesus became more marred than that of any man, and to those who know His love His face of sorrow is resplendent with the glory of God. Yet that face is very different now (Revelation 1.). It is the light of heaven, and all who trust and follow Him shall see it. Underneath the thin veil which covered the Athenian Jove, the worshippers could see the sharp outline of his countenance and some of his more prominent features. But on the festive days, when he was uncovered, and the sun shone upon that magnificent statue, women fell down fainting, and strong men were overcome; hence the proverb that was circulated through Greece... Unhappy is the man that has not seen the Athenian Jove." Whatever veil of flesh or sense hides from us the face of our Well-Beloved, the day is coming when it shall be taken away, and as we gaze we shall feel, "Unhappy they who have not seen Thy face." And yet, under one aspect or another, all must see it; "for every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him."

III. INSTRUCTIVELY BEAUTIFUL. "The glory of God" was the specific name for the Shekinah, and by it we understand the pouring out from Himself of the perfectness and beauty of His own character. The glory of God may be said to bear a similar relation to "the Father of lights" as the rays of the sun bear to the great orb of day. By "the face of Jesus" we need not necessarily understand His countenance, for in Scripture the face is often taken to mean the person (Exodus 33:14). The text means that the perfections of the Divine nature were in the person of Jesus. Never had these been manifested so clearly, so fully, as now. Notwithstanding the wonderful disclosures of the Deity under the old dispensation, Jehovah was still a God that did hide Himself. But all the fulness of the Godhead was in Christ. In Christ we have —

1. Deity sweetly conspicuous. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." The Divine indignation against sin, the Divine love for humanity, the gentleness, patience, and mercy of God are more fully revealed to us in Christ than in all other revelations combined.

2. Deity sweetly attractive. The glory of God as seen in nature and providence often repels by its awful majesty. But in Jesus we see His glory in a human face — a face so gentle that children might well be attracted to it, and the most timid natures feel safe in its presence.

(W. Williams.).

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