The Deity, in these three persons God, all present in heaven, with the unfolding of God Almighty’s, the Lord of Hosts’ plan fully accomplished; by the Christ in his part having been fully executed; and through the Holy Spirit having been incomparably confirmed and annotated; do now continuously dwell.
For God who said, “Let light to shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not of us. (2 Co. 4: 6 – 7) (ESV)
I suggest that here the HCSB, ESV, and many other modern versions give a very literal phrasing …we have this treasure in jars of clay and this leads us to miss the apostle’s point by a country mile.
The apostles and disciples weren’t packing copies of the scriptures away in clay jars like the Qumran community – saving it all up for another day. They weren’t scribes and monks. They were instead issuing the proclamations with haste – they went everywhere teaching the Word. They were not out collecting for a library or set to build a cloistered repository and hideaway on some mountain top. Somebody else did that.
The Gospel had been published out to the four corners of the globe before the end of the first century Anno Domini. The apostles and the rank and file were busy sending out the Good News. There was no stopping them. The point is that the apostle is noting that God had caused the light to shine into hearts, as opposed to how God had favored the people previously.
The Israelites (or anyone else), pretty well had to have been born into God’s favor, to be have been led there through the Law. In a few cases, people were outside of the Law but managed to seek the favor of God independently. But, the overwhelming majority was amenable to the observations and obligations of the Law of Moses. They dealt through the priests, out of their familial and national heritage in the Law of Moses. Only a relative few came from outside and of their own volition and obedience. So, access to the path was limited and conditional. While now God has through the Son of God and by his personal sacrifice, completely turned salvation, through the disposition of the gospel of salvation directly over to mankind, those being the earthen vessels which the KJV and NKJV correctly offers in their translation of the words in this verse.
The light resides in our hearts. Not indirectly, for it is the picture of the face of Christ illuminating us. It has proceeded directly from the throne of God. It came from God and has now been turned over to man. And in every sense it is superior to the first covenant, in the obligations it places upon mankind.
Additionally, I would suggest that with the phrase, in his face, the apostle refers to the Oriental sense of acknowledgement and authority – that Jesus grants the direct approval of the Deity. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Hagar and Moses were the only two persons mentioned in the Old or New Testaments who had directly witnessed God and had lived to tell about it. To look directly upon God is fatal. And so they perceived his presence indirectly; while his face was turned away. Approval was granted but literally not as if face to face. In kind, the Law of Moses was a reflection of the true light, for it was also indirect in its receipt and application. But now the light is in full view, for God enlightens us as if face to face. All is known that needs be known, through the person of the Son of God, Immanuel. As his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.
We therefore have complete access. And we receive light and glory in His presence. There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. There is no earthly priest, no earthly council. Nothing remains hidden and no one stands between you and God except the advocate: Jesus, the Son of God.
The plan was of God, the sacrifice was of God, with salvation directly through God; but it was in quick time turned over to mortals, as a finished and complete package, with all of those who boldly cleared the path now in heaven with Christ, whom they behold face to face, as we also hope to do someday.
Now the continuing work of salvation has also been given over to us, and it is in our hands and completely up to us for its disposition and continuation. Christ came in the form of man – an earthen vessel. The apostles were chosen to carry the gospel first – as human repositories of the truth. And the next of those earthen or clay vessels, all who follow, each have open access to the Gospel and to the Light of God, given with the full authority and acknowledgement of God Almighty, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, nothing more is necessary but our compliance and obedience.