The Glorious Light of the Savior’s Epiphany
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” —II Corinthians 4:6
A good teaching method is the use of opposites: truth and error, contentment and covetousness, love and hate, heaven and hell, believer and unbeliever, light and darkness. The last-mentioned pair of opposites is used in the above-quoted verse.
Holy Scripture’s opening verses refer to darkness and light: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5). Darkness covered the earth all the time at the beginning. But God changed that when He said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” God, through His words, “commanded the light to shine out of darkness” (II Corinthians 4:6a). The fact that the Apostle Paul used the example of what God did on the first day of creation in talking about the enlightenment of hearts brings home to us the truth that what is recorded in Genesis 1 is most certainly accurate. If God’s work of creation is doubted and disputed, then God’s work of enlightenment must also be doubted and disputed. They both stand as indisputable declarations of truth (John 17:17).
“God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as the earth was all dark before God said, “Let there be light,” so our hearts were all dark before God shined in them with “the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:4). Why were our hearts all dark before God brought about our enlightenment? Scripture gives us the answer when it tells us that all people are, by nature, from their conception and birth, in complete spiritual darkness because of sin, especially because of their inherited sin. This is so evident when the Word of God tells us that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19-20). The apostle told the Ephesian believers: “Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). In his first epistle, the Apostle Peter said to his fellow believers: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God, which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (2:9-10). The Apostle Paul was sent by God to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). This is spelled out so clearly in Luke 1, where Zacharias announced that the Savior “hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (vv. 78-79). It is vital for us to remember and not forget the past, what we were before our enlightenment, that we were blind in our hearts and eyes (Ephesians 4:18; I John 2:11), and, consequently, were members of Satan’s kingdom and, therefore, in “the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13).
BUT “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This was and continues to be God’s work alone through the message of His Word of grace and mercy, the “glorious Gospel of Christ” (v. 4). It is this Gospel message (I Peter 1:25), this “Word of God” (I Peter 1:23), which has produced and continues to produce in this world the instantaneous, divine work of regeneration, “being born again” (I Peter 1:23), and the on-going, divine work of preservation, keeping the enlightened children of God in the saving faith in the Savior, in His perfect, finished work of obeying the Law of God (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:4-5), and in His perfect, finished sacrifice and ransom to God for all sins and all sinners (John 19:30; I Peter 3:18; I Timothy 2:5-6; II Corinthians 5:19, 21). Therefore, every child of God ought to join the Apostle Paul in repeatedly and gratefully confessing: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:10). Christians are Christians only because of the undeserved and unearned love of God in Christ Jesus, and not because of anything which they have thought, said, done, or decided in their lives. People are indeed enlightened, but no one, not even one person, has ever enlightened himself or helped in any way to bring about his enlightenment. Enlightenment is a totally passive experience. These last two sentences are a paraphrase from A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Dr. E. W. A. Koehler, page 124. An unenlightened person cannot make a decision to come to Christ and be enlightened or born again. Decision theology is a farce, a lie, a seduction of precious souls. The testimony of Jesus to his enlightened children settles the matter once and for all time: “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16). This testimony of the Savior is echoed by the apostle in his words to his fellow saints: “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Oh, what thanks, praise, honor, worship, and blessing we ought to shower on our God and Savior for His marvelous and miraculous work of enlightenment and illumination!
This enlightenment and illumination came from that changeless Person, Christ Jesus, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures (Hebrews 13:8), and that changeless message of His redemption for all (Galatians 3:13; I Peter 1:18-19; II Peter 2:1), which declares to all that they have been “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the Justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law” (Romans 3:24-28). How true and comforting are the words of II Corinthians 4:6 for every enlightened child of God: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” We do not deserve such great mercies and such priceless truth from our God because of our own merit and worthiness, but have been granted them only on account of the work of our Substitute and Servant, Christ Jesus (Genesis 32:10; Lamentations 3:22-23).
Now what? “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” (Romans 6:1-2a). Let us beseech the Holy Ghost to imprint on our hearts and minds the words of Jesus in John 8: “I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (v. 12). And this light of spiritual and eternal life in Christ Jesus will again and again lead the followers of the Savior to declare: “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that if One died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. …Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:14-15, 17).
—R. J. L.