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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

The Divine Paradox    "Life out of Death" (11)

2 Corinthians 4:10, 11  (NKJV)

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

Introduction

Paul is in the midst of explaining the very dynamic of the apostolic life and ministry. So often God's ways appear to be conundrums, veritable contradictions to our human ways of thinking.  But Isaiah said it well: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways ,and My thoughts that your thoughts"  (Isaiah 55: 8,9).

The main principle of the dynamic is that we have this treasure, the very glory of God, as seen in the unveiled face of Jesus and reflected in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4.6,7). Then Paul makes the astounding statement that this treasure is housed in earthen clay pots, fragile and non starters

No doubt Gideon's unlikely triumph over the Midianites is the background of this comparison  (Judges 7: 1-25). The burning torch thrust into the clay pot, the sound of the trumpet, the clay pot serves is purpose. It breaks, to the surprise of the enemy, the shout of triumph:"the Sword of the LORD and of Gideon; the enemy flees and God alone is glorified. But Gideon shares in a humble way in God's his triumph.

Paul now describes the apostolic life--the true Christian life--as a series of body blows sufficient to render us "toast.  "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). Paul without hesitation goes on to describe this resiliency so divine in the very same sentence. There is no break or pause  "always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (10).

It is well to notice the repetition of words; in fact, this verse is repeated almost verbatim in the next verse. Surely Paul is telling us something of utmost importance. He begins with always which we saw earlier: "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" (2:14).This carrying the body of Jesus must be standard procedure, something to be expected.

The word body, our frail body and his resurrected body are set in sharp contrast. Our resources are not enough ever. Another contrast stands out clearly: the dying of the Lord Jesus, the life of Jesus. There is significance in the names of Jesus that are choosen. In his dying he dies as the LORD, Kurios, sufficient to pay for our sins (Romans 3: 21-26) and cancel out the control of our sin nature (Romans 6:1-6). It is interesting that the second name given is the life of Jesus, his life as lived in our humanity and to whom the Spirit of the Lord will always witness to his life lived out in us.

There is, therefore, an interaction profound and mystical in the union of Christ and the believer. There is a cause and effect relationship. This dynamic is operative and available to the believer on the simple condition of faith. Witness 4: 13: "But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,' we also believe and therefore speak."

Almost as if to underline the importance of this relational dynamic, Paul repeats: "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" (4:12). You cannot but see the repetition of the core elements of the victorious Christian life. "Unless a grain of wheat falls in the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12; 24).

Again Paul illustrates the principle that it is out of death that life springs. It is seen in the very nature of life: agriculture, in child birth and seasons of the year, etc.  God has woven into his creation that very principle of his Son's death that alone leads to life and life more abundant.

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) is the author of "He Giveth More Grace." Let me share briefly her story. Annie at age two lost her mother while she was giving birth to her sister. Her father allowed the adoption of the two sisters by the Flints because he had an incurable disease and shortly died thereafter. Annie was saved as an adolescent in a Methodist revival.  After a year of Normal School, she taught for three more but her arthritis crippled her. She soon lost her two adopted parents.

She had a gift for poetry and while now an invalid lived off the meager return of her writings. For the last 37 years of her life she became increasingly helpless and unable to turnover in bed without severe pain. Her last years were marked by the gentleness as seen in her poems. Evidently her earthen clay  was broken but the face of Jesus shone clearly in her life and writing. The Cross was woven deeply in her years of suffering and life sprang up in others.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;

To added affliction, He addeth His mercy;

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father's full giving has only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,

Our God ever yearns His resources to share;

Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;

The Father both thee and they load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,

 He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

She added to the poem: "And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Annie Johnson Flint lived out in physical suffering, as did Paul, the wonder of always carrying the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest. What a challenge to you and me!

Yours in the Message of the cross,

Gordon Johnson

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