For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
Two launchpads for meditation. The first launchpad marvels over the image of illuminated hearts. Paul’s connection back to Genesis 1 blows my mind.
The start of the Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
The earth was formless and empty. It was a dark wasteland, incapable of sustaining life. But in the Genesis 1 creation account, God brings order to the chaos and creates an environment where life can flourish. Speaking light into the darkness is a foundational step in bringing life to an empty earth.
In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul describes what God has done in his heart and the hearts of his ministry associates in terms of what God did in creation. Prior to knowing Jesus, Paul’s heart was in darkness. But similar to how God’s light dispelled physical darkness during creation, God’s light dispels the spiritual darkness of an unbelieving heart that does not know God.
God’s light shining in our hearts reveals to us the “light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”. When God illuminates our dark, spiritually blind hearts, we can see God in His glory, specifically in the face of Christ. To see Jesus is to see the Father, as Jesus himself says in John 14:9.
So, God’s light shining in our hearts, removes the spiritual darkness that prevented us from seeing Jesus. And the connection to Genesis 1 is amazing. God’s light shining in creation helped to establish life while God’s light shining in our hearts gives us new life as a new creation. Or as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
The second launchpad for meditation considers the context of this verse. Given the epic-ness of this verse, it is tempting to focus only on this verse. But to understand Scripture is to understand Scripture in context. So, by understanding the context of 2 Corinthians and the immediate context of this verse, the meaning of this verse will become more clear.
A key aspect of 2 Corinthians is the legitimacy of Paul’s preaching as an apostle. Those in Corinth had come to see Paul as a lowly person and an unimpressive public speaker in comparison to more eloquent, self-aggrandizing speakers. Those in Corinth viewed Paul as not honorable enough to be a true leader in the Jesus movement.
This general context of 2 Corinthians connects with the more specific context of chapter 4. As a way of gaining honor for themselves, other preachers had come to Corinth twisting Scripture to appeal to their growing audiences. These false preachers gloried more in themselves than in the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Lord.
The contrast between Paul and the false preachers can be seen in verse 5, where Paul writes: “For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” The false preachers focused on themselves as a way of gaining honor. But Paul focuses on proclaiming Jesus, and rather than puffing himself up, Paul humbly takes the role of a servant.
But why does Paul forsake his own honor by proclaiming Jesus instead of gaining honor for himself like the false preachers do? The answer is in verse 6: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
Despite a loss to his honor, Paul preaches Jesus Christ as Lord because God’s light has removed the spiritual darkness in Paul’s heart. Since he is no longer in darkness, Paul can now see the “light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”. And Paul’s own glory pails in comparison, so it only makes since for Paul to make much of Christ instead of trying to make much of himself.
In context, 2 Corinthians 4:6 becomes an encouragement to proclaim the gospel rather than ourselves. If we experience God’s light shining in our hearts so that we can see His glory through knowing Jesus, rather than glorying in ourselves, it only makes sense to glory in Jesus Christ as Lord.