There was a time when I was naïve enough to believe that any problem within the Church could be resolved by simply preaching and teaching what the Bible had to say about the issue. After all, I am speaking about the Church here; and those individuals who make up the Church believe that the Bible is the word of God. Perhaps in the most simple and purest way; it makes sense to assume that if a problem exists among those who believe the Bible is the word of God, then they must not know what the Bible says about the problem. However, once these individuals know what the Bible says; their belief that the Bible is the word of God would compel them to put the scriptures into practice and thus resolve the problem. Wouldn’t that be nice! Maybe saying I was “naïve” is a bit of an understatement.
The truth is, an Evangelist can stand in the pulpit every single week and deliver a crystal clear and powerful message that is relevant and specific to the spiritual needs of the listeners without ever getting a response. I recall a time (in those naïve years) that I had specifically written a sermon for one individual. I remember putting a lot of preparation into making sure that the message could not be mistaken. I chose my words carefully, I presented the scriptures clearly, and I preached boldly with honesty and sincerity. When the sermon was over, I remember waiting anxiously in the back to speak to this man. I had never been so sure that a message hit the mark. The man walked over to shake my hand and he said, “Boy, you really got ‘em this week! I don’t know how they could have missed it!” Yet, this man absolutely missed it!
How is it that an individual can clearly hear and understand the Gospel, but fail to respond to it? How is it possible that a lost person can hear and understand the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and yet remain lost? The more that I work with the Church, the more Bible studies I have with the lost; the more that I am convinced that there is more to preaching and evangelizing than appealing to someone’s knowledge and reasoning.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says,
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Bible tells us that the devil is working hard to blind people’s minds. What is it that the devil does not want them to see? The scripture says that it’s the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. I am firmly convinced that if we can understand what the devil is doing here and how he is doing it; then we can be much more effective with the Gospel in people’s lives. First off, we need to recognize that the devil cannot blind someone or keep someone from seeing the Gospel through the scriptures. This is one of the benefits of the Lord speaking to us through the scriptures. The scriptures are available to everyone, and the scriptures say the same thing to everyone. The message cannot be hidden or twisted if we look into the Word of God for ourselves to see it.
Secondly, we need to realize that the devil cannot keep an individual from understanding the scriptures. This seems to be most often where scholars take 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. The assumption is that because the devil is blinding the minds of the unbelieving; the lost are incapable of understanding a single word of scripture. Make no mistake of it; this is 100% Calvinism, and it’s 100% wrong. If the lost are incapable of understanding scripture; then one must be saved first in order to believe or have faith. Many today also claim that the scriptures cannot be understood unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to them. Again, this is Calvinism; and this is false. One receives the Holy Spirit when they receive the word, repent, and are immersed (Acts 2:37-41). God’s plea in Isaiah 1:18 is, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” Notice that God is talking to people whose sins are as scarlet; and he says Come now, and let us reason together. The lost can understand and reason with the scriptures; that is how the lost come to faith (Romans 10:17); and are persuaded to obey the Lord’s terms of pardon (1 Peter 1:22-25). Since the devil is not capable of preventing the lost to read or understand the scriptures; what exactly is the devil doing when he blinds the minds of men?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 about those things which God has prepared for those who love Him. Verse 11 says that only the Spirit of God knows such things. In verse 10 Paul says, For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; and verse 13 says, which things we also speak. Paul is telling us that these things were revealed to him by the Spirit; and they have been communicated to us and written down for our instruction by the Apostles. He then says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. So here; even though the things of God have been revealed through the scriptures, the natural man will not accept them. Paul uses the greek word ginōskō when he says “and he cannot understand them”; which means to know by experience. The problem with the natural man is not that he cannot see the scripture; nor perceive the information. The problem with the natural man is that he cannot properly appraise the things of God. He is so consumed by the world that he does not assign any value to spiritual things; and therefore they are foolishness in his mind.
The devil is blinding the minds of men that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. The devil cannot keep men from seeing the gospel; he cannot stop the Church from proclaiming it, but how effective is the gospel to a person who does not think that it is important? The devil is working hard to keep men so distracted and caught up in the fleeting things of this world that they won’t see the value or give priority to the spiritual things. 2 Timothy 1:10 says, …(Christ Jesus) abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Christ abolished death and offered life and immortality to those would follow Him; that is the light of the gospel. This is so important that a Christian will completely rearrange their life based on those facts. The devil endeavors to blind the world from seeing the effectiveness and the power of that message so that they will not respond to it when they hear it. He is accomplishing this by trying to turn the tables on what is really valuable and important. He is using smoke and mirrors to give the appearance that the things of this world are worth more than the Spiritual things of God. This is why false doctrine is so easily accepted today; not because of Biblical ignorance, but many consider the ease of false teaching to be more important than the truth of God’s word. This is why Christians will forsake the assembly and the Lord’s Supper in order to pick up some extra overtime at work. This is why parents will make sure that their children have the best education and every opportunity to advance in extracurricular activities; while they make no spiritual provisions for their children’s salvation. This is why someone can see exactly what the scriptures say; and choose to ignore it because their spouse, parent, or grandparent told them something different. I could go on; but the point is that ignorance or understanding is rarely the problem. Most often, the problem is that people fail to see the value of what the Bible says.
Consider the rich young ruler who came to Jesus in Luke 18:18-23. The man asked Jesus what was necessary that he might inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell everything he possessed and distribute it to the poor; and come follow him. The Bible says in verse 23, But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. The Greek word used here for “heard” means to “understand, perceive what was announced”. The rich young ruler apparently heard and understood what Jesus had told him. He makes no arguments about it and he does not seem to disagree. Yet, the rich young ruler walks away without doing the very thing that he knows and understands to be necessary. The rich young ruler was too blinded by earthly wealth to see the value of a heavenly treasure. He put following Christ on one end of the scale and his wealth on the other; and he determined that his wealth was more valuable.
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). We need to take courage that we are not helpless against the devil’s scheming. Notice that the scripture uses the word “might” in regard to what the devil is capable of doing. “Might” is the best the devil can hope for. We need to persuade men; and we need to appeal not only to their knowledge and reasoning; but also to their priorities. We have to keep our focus on the things above. We need to be diligent to stay in the assembly, to keep studying the Word of God, and we need to keep praying and never give up. These things will serve to be our “reality check” so that we do not lose sight of the value of following Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.