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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

The Resiliency of a life united to Christ at the Cross (10)

2 Corinthians 4: 7-11   (NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Edinburg, TX

Introduction

We pick up the thread of Paul's dissertation on the Motives, the Manner and the Ministry that began with God's shining the light of the Gospel in personal salvation.  Paul could never ever forget the road to Damascus (2 Corinthians 4:1, 5). That second spiritual creation plus the ministry of the Spirit would forever forestall discouragement and fainting (4: 1).  A transformed life had now repudiated all hidden evil within (4:2) and could now herald Christ's sufficiency and our being servants to those whom we are called to serve (4:5). Our lives are now such that if the Gospel is hidden, it is the work of a defeated foe (4: 3, 4). What a heritage is ours in union with the crucified!

A Divine Paradox Redounds to the Greater Glory of God   2 Corinthians 4.6, 7

Paul has framed the Christian life in apostolic terms that leave us breathless! From the very first chapter he reminds the Corinthians of what happened in Asia. "For I do  not want you to be ignorant brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead" (1:8, 9).

That sentence of death is really the theme of the epistle. In the midst of the impossible, our death to self, the old man, was God's effective answer that issued in deliverance and victory.  This is the first echo of Romans 6: 6 that will resound throughout the epistle: "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin."

Paul follows upon with the next battle: "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach . . . I had no rest in my spirit . . . Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:12, 14) Triumph in the face of fears and uncertainty.  There follows the glorious ministry of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3 with the confidence of : "Therefore, since we have this ministry -- the Holy Spirit of the New Covenant -- as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart" (4:1)

With these encounters of life out of death, victory out of apparent defeat fresh in his mind, Paul exults in the creative wonder of God having shined in the darkness of our heart and spoke light in place of darkness. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who shone  in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (4:6), a veritable second creation and it comes in the "unveiled" face of Jesus Christ, Paul picks up the theme of Moses' "veiled" face and our supreme advantage, our "unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (3:18).

Our Inestimable Treasure in Clay Pots   2 Corinthians 2:7

We come now to the climax of infinite worth--the very glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ--placed in common ordinary clay pots, bodies subject to all the pressures that Paul in ministry felt so deeply. In our weakness God has confounded the wise by placing the inestimable treasure of the glory of God in the face of his son in us.  And that glory is reflected in us! Could anything be more wonderful or unlikely?

Paul returns to his constant theme "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ. . ." (Galatians 2:20)."For me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears . . ." (Colossians 3:3, 4).

What is God's unquestionable wisdom? "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (4:7).  No one could ever presume or assume that we were a factor in the wonders of his grace.

Divine Resiliency in Frail Vessels  --  the Registered Trade Mark of God's Grace and Power

Webster's Dictionary defines resiliency as: "of a body: capable of resuming its shape, position after being subjected to stress; of human conduct: capable of recovering rapidly from emotional shock." Here is where it is: no I but Christ. Paul lived it and challenges us to find Christ to be our sufficiency.

The four divine conundrums follow in rapid fire sequence: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken struck down, but not destroyed" (4:8.9).  Phillip E, Hughes shares these apt descriptions from others scholars: "at a loss, but not at a loss that matters (Tasker); "in despondency, yet not in despair" (Plummer); "Put to it, but not utterly put out" (Denney). He adds: "Confused but not confounded."[1] I might add mine, not original; "knocked down, but not knocked out!"

Such resiliency is not human nor to be expected. It can only be divine. You and I just don't have that capability to survive the blows of Gospel militancy.  Paul exhorted Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12). But the answer is crystal clear and it comes in the next verse: "always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (4:10, 11).

In order to enter more deeply into the meaning of these two almost identical verses, we return to Gideon and his three hundred (Judges 7:1-25). From 32,000 to 22,000  to 300. They were no valiant, as is said sometimes but rather obedient to orders.  God's assessment was: "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying. "My own hand has saved me" (7:2).

What was God's strategy--never ours--"Look at me (Joshua - Jesus) and do likewise . . . When I blow the trumpet . . . say: 'The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.  Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers'" (Judges 7:18, 20)  The breaking of the pitchers allowed the light to shine forth and the combination of God's deliverance, the shout of triumph and, above all else, the breaking of the pitchers brought victory that could only be ascribed to God's glory.

The lessons of our breaking at the Cross and faith and obedience still bring the resiliency of the Spirit into your life and mine. In that way the glory remains his and never ours.  In this way we carry about the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal bodies: God's divine strategy.

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

Gordon Johnson



[1] Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids; Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.1962), p.138.

www.kneillfoster.com/Johnson/ for other exegetical studies in both languages