‘The Terrible Meek’

Selwyn ends his meditations on the theme of Paul’s magnificent obsession by reflecting further on the text we looked at yesterday: ‘ … we are weak in Christ, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you’ (2 Corinthians 13:4).

I thought this part of Selwyn’s conclusion was especially good: “There is nothing as ‘terrible’ as a person who is wholly surrendered to God and who will surrender to nothing else. When that person is called upon to confront sin or deal with injustice. he or she will be caught up in that same stream of power that brought Jesus out from that garden grave.”

It’s a challenging statment don’t you agree – because, many today – would rather not confront sin; because they think confrontation is not ‘loving’?

What’s your view, fellow Corinthians?    🙂

Our weakness – His strength

As we reach the end of this issue – Selwyn looks at the last mention of the phrase ‘in Christ’, to be found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians – it’s s reflective passage, you can feel Paul’s emotion in these words – a final heart-felt plea, for the Corinthians to seek perfection and to be of one mind, in Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:1-14 (NIV): “… This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, Jesus was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in Christ, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, good-by.

Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

I really liked this bit from Selwyn’s conclusion: “Those who are being called upon at this moment to confront sin, should take heart from Paul’s words here. But understand what it means to be weak in Christ. To surrender all your rights to Another might appear to be a sign of weakness, but that kind of weakness is the weakness Jesus displayed when he submitted all His rights, even to death on the cross, knowing that the seeming weakness provided God with an opportunity to reveal His divine strength.”

In a certain way, the Western world – is a larger version of Corinth – the sort of issues they were facing as described in Paul’s letters – are the sort of issues being faced by people living in the major western nations. Today, Christians are finding that sin is being re-defined by the popular culture, and very few people are aiming for spiritual perfection by seeking God’s divine power to transform themselves into the likeness of Jesus.

In addition, there are signs that the Christian body of believers is breaking apart and groups are heading in all sorts of different directions. Unity – being of one mind, in Jesus; is now harder to identify in the various Christian communities. 

It’s time to recognise our weakness – and to gather closer to our Lord’s divine strength.

What do you think?

As those in Christ

Selwyn now look at another ‘in Christ’ verse – and, I think it’s an interesting one. The verse follows, with a few other verses to provide the context.

2 Corinthians 19-21 (NIV): “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”

It’s a good point Selwyn makes: “To Paul, it was evident that to be in Christ meant speaking in Christ – that is, speaking with Christ’s emphasis and spirit. … The point he wanted to press home was that everything he had said to them he had said with a consciousness of God’s presence.

Perhaps this is a good example for us to follow? Would, what you say and do – be different – if you were conscious of God standing next to you? Maybe, before we open our mouths or do anything – we switch on – our awareness of His presence; because, in a spiritual sense – He is truly standing next to us.

Any comments?

When God says ‘No’

I think the main statement to be found in today’s study, is: “Three times Paul asked God to deliver him, but each time the answer was ‘No’ (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). It’s not easy when God says ‘No’  to a persistent prayer for deliverance, but His ‘Nos’ always follow a wise and benevolent purpose.”

Likewise, Job in his story of suffering, pleaded with God to provide him with an answer – to the question, which at some time or other, all of us ask – ‘Why – is this happening to me?‘ Job did not receive a direct answer to his question – and, most of the time, neither will we – receive an answer.

It’s comes down to trust in God’s goodness – that whenever bad things happen to us – God will turn those events into something good and the experience will often strengthen our faith. The ‘sharp’ messenger sent by Satan to torment Paul was turned into a humbling experience which strengthened his dependence on God – and, to what extent that helped Paul to focus his ministry – we, can only guess!

What are your views?

What was Paul’s thorn

Selwyn looks at the following verses of Scripture, and asks: What was Paul’s thorn?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV): “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It really doesn’t matter – what the thorn was – the main point is – that it was ‘a messenger of Satan – sent to torment Paul’.

Of greater importance is God’s response  to Paul’s persistent prayer: God’s grace overcomes anything which Satan may send to torment us.

I think it’s important to be aware that as we work in God’s harvest field – we will need to face the possibility of getting thorns in our hands (or sides). It’s Satan’s attempt to slow us down – to discourage us – to get us to focus on our own situation and to tempt us to take our eyes off of the task which God has has allocated to us.

As with Paul, we need to appeal to God for assistance; and then; to have confidence in His grace – that in our weakness His strength will support us and His love will overcome any painful obstacles –  our trust, will enable Him to heal any wounds.

What do you think?

A proper humility

Today, Selwyn mentions one of Paul’s spiritual experiences, 2 Corinthians 12:2 (NIV): “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.‘ It’s thought that Paul uses the third person ‘I know a man’, as a reference to himself, out of humility.

I think that many of us have had spiritual experiences – it’s only natural given the indwelling of God’s Spirit.

The issue, I think, which Selwyn is drawing our attention to – is that these experiences do not point to our spiritual standing but rather highlight God’s great love. They are humbling experiences.

Some may have read my history, I don’t talk about the details unless someone asks me. Yet, on such occasions I do provide a response because I see it as someone whose life has been saved – turning and pointing to his Saviour and crying out, in all humility – ‘He saved me!’

I think it’s giving glory to God – it’s an example of His saving grace – and, I’ll never be silent about His love.

Everyone accountable

I agree with Selwyn (with some clarifications) when he says: “We must not let others control our behaviour (if it’s not their anointed right to do so), although we must be open to their (mature and Christian) correction.”

He expands this statement, further on: “We are to follow Paul’s instruction and do what is right not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the eyes of (mature, Christian) men and women. (2 Corinthians 8:21). And to take pains  to do what is right means that we should do things with studied enthusiasm, with care and concern, even though this sometimes requires hard work.”

I think it’s an area where we need to tread with some care – there are many instances in the Old Testament where the lone voice of a prophet spoke out against the tide of popular opinion.  In particular, Jeremiah comes to mind –  his prophetic words were, in general, not well received by his audience.

The important point is that Jesus loves us so much – that if we lose our way and go off track then we can have a faithful Shepherd who will always search for us and lead us back to the one, true way. We are not orphans – we don’t have to always depend on our own skills to monitor our accountability – nor, the skills of others in this area. God will work through circumstances or other people, to reach out to us and show us the error of our ways when we do head down the wrong track.

In summary; if we constantly seek God’s help, we can depend on His love to assist us in the most perfect way – never doubt that …