The next point that Paul makes flows logically out of everything that has been said thus far: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
Paul answers the obvious question: “If it is not my affair to interfere with the impact that God’s glory has on people, what about those who do not see the glory and who do not respond? Am I not to go out my way to try and convince them? Surely I cannot just leave them?” His answer could well have been predicted. People who are lost and perishing are so not because they have not had the gospel explained in a fantastic enough way, but because the veil prohibiting them from seeing the glory has not been removed. “It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away” (3:14), Paul reminds us.
Outside of Christ, the minds of unbelievers are blinded by the god of this age. Even religious people, such as the Jews, suffer from this curse: “Even today, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But when anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (3:15). The solution for spiritual blindness, then, is to turn to Christ the Lord. It can never be anything else. Where this has not happened, no amount of manipulation can remove the veil. To try and do create artificial sight by using all kinds of manipulative tactics, thinking that we are assisting God, is carnal and foolish.
We have already referred to the next verse, but it is fitting to do so once again after having said the above: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Clearly this is the choice facing the preacher of God’s word. Either he can preach Christ, or himself. Preaching Christ involves pointing people to Christ, and it happens where the preacher understands that Christ alone can remove the veil. When a preacher is misled to think he himself can remove the veil, his preaching will not be Christ-focused, but self-focused. The party who is thus seen as the revealing agent of God’s light and glory will of necessity receive the prominent place in the preaching. When we understand that Christ alone can remove the veil, we shall never be tempted to preach ourselves.
Perhaps the best example of such preaching is to be found in the life and ministry of John the Baptist, a man who was born to point people to Christ. His life and reason for being was defined by one powerful sentence: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The next day he saw Jesus passing by and he repeated the words: “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35). His ministry was the same as the ministry of every minister of the New Covenant. He pointed Christ out to the people, he prepared the way for the Lord. As the veil began to be removed, John purposefully began to phase himself into the background: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30), he said. Ministers and Christian leaders would do well to look in the mirror from time to time and say out loud with the prophet: “I am not the Christ but am send ahead of him.” (John 3:27).
Indeed, preparing the way for Christ is what the New Covenant ministry is all about. We do not preach ourselves, we preach Christ.