This is a beautiful chapter that gives us ample hope in a broken world – and in broken bodies. We have the treasure of the gospel of Jesus Christ in “jars of clay.” Our bodies are fragile things. They waste away.
But God’s power is “surpassing.” And so Paul could say, with the other apostles, that every time things got difficult and seemingly unbearable, God’s power sustained him. In fact, it was as if the apostles were carrying around death itself, living the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ, in order to bring life to any who would listen.
And yet, some would not listen. It’s likely Paul was addressing his opponents in Corinth – a group of teachers who seemed to be arguing that all Christians needed to adhere to the Old Testament Law – that there was no freedom in Christ without bondage to the Law.
Paul said he and the other apostles did not distort the gospel. They were very open and transparent in their teaching. They had no bad motives. They simply had the ministry of the gospel by the mercy of God and were seeking a hearing wherever they could find one. There was good news in Jesus Christ – news of life and light, and all of this by grace.
But to some, this gospel was “veiled.” Paul wrote the “god of this world” had blinded some people to the good news. They could not see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Satan exists in this world. The disciple John would later write, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). From the time of Adam and Eve and the first sin until now, Satan is the ruler of this fallen world. It is a dark place.
But Jesus has come into the world as light. “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).
But some cannot see the light. There are some, Paul wrote, who are “perishing.” It is not a happy thought. Why can’t these people see the light?
Paul gives us a glimpse of Satan’s strategy: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.”
One of the crowning marks of humanity is the human mind. We can think about the magnificent achievements of the human mind.
I threw out a CD rack recently. It was several feet long. At one time, it would have held dozens of CDs. It no longer is necessary. The smartphone in my pocket can hold a hundred times more music that that CD rack ever could.
The human mind seems to be able to stretch itself and grow, coming up with new creations at every turn. The mind is a great holder of thoughts about things big and small, from the mundane to the majestic. The mind is the ultimate solver of problems.
And Satan, according to the apostle Paul, chose the mind as the way into the life of a human. When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, he did so through their minds. The serpent reasoned them into eating the forbidden fruit. By the time they took that first bite, their minds had been blinded.
Paul said this tactic still was at work in Corinth and elsewhere in the ancient world. And we know it is at work today. Some simply cannot see the gospel for what it is. For some, it is too simple. For others, it is too complex. No matter how we try to convince them, it can seem like we can get nowhere.
Part of entering the kingdom of God means our minds undergo a transformation – out of the blindness of the world and into true vision. We read in Romans 12 what Paul said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Only that kind of transformation and renewal can enable us to discern the will of God.
It seems to me the core of our job as Christians is to submit – to be transformed. This is something God does. We submit to him as he opens our eyes, as he turns our eyes to the great light that has dawned.