This phrase from II Corinthians 4:7 demonstrates that the preciousness of gospel comes from the gospel itself not from the vehicle; i.e. Paul and other messengers. It also shows that the “light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” is carried by sinful, weak and fallible human beings.
The reality of God’s glory is always, using another of Paul’s phrases “seen through glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12) even by the messengers sent by God. Therefore the transmission of the gospel of God, according to a document from the Faith and Order Commission, “takes place within the ambiguities of human history and the challenges of daily Christian life.” Our witness to Christ is a deeply ambiguous and difficult task.
As you will know I have just been in Vienna at a conference of CEEAMS. We spent a lot of time discussing the complexities of the Central and Eastern European context 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, for Christians in that region, the context is terribly confused and at times baffling. It is said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. I would make a corollary saying that those who do learn from the mistakes of history are likely to make new ones!
All of this means that the task of witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a task of interpretation; it is essentially a hermeneutical task. How do we interpret the gospel for this time and for this place? How do I know I am not giving a gospel that is more influenced by my culture than the gospel itself? What does the context “speak back” to the gospel?
In the next few posts I will be reflecting on some of these issues.
An interesting document to read is A Treasure in Earthen Vessels