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2 Corinthians 2:1417; 3:45, 18; 4:12, 56, 1618comment (0)

April 8, 2010

By Mark DeVine

Related Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:1417; 3:45, 18; 4:12, 56, 1618

Bible Studies for Life
Associate professor of divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

The Right Stuff
2 Corinthians 2:14–17; 3:4–5, 18; 4:1–2, 5–6, 16–18

Whether we know it or like it, it has pleased almighty God to use us — yes, you and me — to accomplish His eternal purposes on this earth. Already in the apostle Paul’s first letter to the believers at Corinth, we learned that each of us fits into God’s plan for the Church like the members of a body set in inextricable and mutual interdependence. In his second letter, Paul, with Corinthian believers questioning his apostolic credentials, defended himself and, in so doing, offered a lesson for every follower of Jesus Christ, namely that God does, in fact, use the likes of us to achieve His holy purposes in this world.

Only the Lowly Need Apply
Paul knew and we must know that none of us are competent for such an exalted calling as each of us has received. But not only does our insufficiency in ourselves not disqualify us for gospel ministry but it also paradoxically fits perfectly for such a task. That God displays His glory in “clay pots” such as us only ensures that “this extraordinary power” to serve as the instruments of divine activity is “from God and not from us.” That God prefers to use the broken, humble and weak to advance His saving agenda in this world marks no change in His usual way of doing things.

He chose the childless Abraham and made of him who was not a nation a great nation, His chosen people through whom all the peoples of the world would be blessed. God did not choose the older, more accomplished, ostensibly more deserving and competent of Jesse’s sons to serve as king but the youngest son, David, the lowly shepherd boy not even deemed worthy of consideration by his earthly father but picked out especially by his heavenly Father.
And now you and I like David and Paul, by virtue of our having been made partakers of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, have been chosen for gospel ministry, not on account of anything we bring to the table but because of the One to whom we belong and His decision to accomplish His purposes through us.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
“In this world, you will have trouble.” These prophetic words of Jesus were meant to prepare His followers just as He was poised to wade into the teeth of that great trouble for which He came to this earth, trouble without which none of us could ever hope to be rescued from eternal trouble. None of us are called to do what Jesus did, and none of us are qualified to follow Him to the cross. Only the One who was fully human and fully divine and without sin could take the punishment for sin upon Himself and bring us sinners back into right relationship with the God against whom we have rebelled. And He has done so. Our task is not to die for sinners but rather to bear witness to the One who has died and risen.

But if we do this, if we fulfill our task of bearing witness to the One who died for us all, then we will face persecution and may even have to give our lives for the One who gave His life for us. More followers of Jesus Christ are doing just that around the globe today than at any time in history.

God does not utterly shield us from such trouble, but He does set a limit to it so that we can say with Paul, “We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

When we do this, when we yield up our bodies, indeed our whole selves, our very lives in gospel ministry, we give life to others. But we are willing to do so not least because we know “that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” Through such suffering witness and love, “grace, extended through more and more people, causes thanksgiving to overflow to God’s glory.” This is exactly what we partakers of the gospel long to see happen.    

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