Very early in the history of the Christian church there was a trend toward secret knowledge, which appears to be something that the church members in Corinth struggled with, too. The Apostle Paul states “we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word” (vs. 2). In fact, Christians go about the proclamation of the gospel message through “the public announcement of the truth” (vs. 2b).
The very fact that some people don’t recognize the light does not mean that the truth isn’t being proclaimed in a visible or public manner. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory” (vs. 4).
One of the startling aspects of God’s revelation is that God’s truth openly confronts and challenges sin. Interestingly enough, one of the major themes in Ellen G. White’s Testimonies for the Church is that as human beings we become blind to sin. As a result, a prominent point that Mrs. White makes over and over again is to remind people, “If you can only see yourselves from the standpoint of heaven” (see Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 39, as one of many examples). The danger is one of accepting reason as the only authority. Ultimately the test of truth is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ. This news should be and must be proclaimed openly and visibly to the world.
A college professor at the end of the semester surveyed the class to see in their reading whether they felt Jesus was outgoing or withdrawn. Over 90% of the students viewed Jesus as having the same personality as they did. They were reading themselves into His life. As Christians we must never make ourselves the norm for our Christian experience.
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul connects this thought about God’s “light” with the analogy of “treasure in clay pots” that speaks to the “awesome power” of God (vs. 7). What we believe makes a difference, and it impacts every aspect of our lives including our bodies. The treasure of the gospel message (“clay pots”) is held within Paul’s weak body. Yet though Paul and his associates contain no earthly splendor, their bodies contain the “light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory” (vs. 4).
From verses 13 to 18 Paul quotes from the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures referring to Psalm 116 and 115, in which Jesus is the speaker giving priority, not to reason, but to the Scriptures. In doing so, Paul and his associates have the same spirit of making Scripture the guide of the lives and of their hope in the resurrection.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies