58. II Corinthians 13: “Hope in Weakness”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 1/21/2016
(edited November 2020)
Verse 1: “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
From all I can tell, Corinth was the Apostle Paul’s “problem child” church. Instead of teacher and friend, they compelled Paul to become sort of a spiritual investigator at this church. For their ultimate good and for the good the entire Church, Paul had to confront the sin of fornication and related issues and fallout at Corinth. Just as the Apostle Peter had had to confront unrighteousness and deception with Ananias and Sapphira soon after the Day of Pentecost, now Paul had to make sure the Corinthians understood that freedom in Christ does not include “working around” His Holy Spirit.
In every era, including ours, God will not be mocked. That doesn’t change! But not all the Corinthians respected that fact, or maybe they just didn’t care. Listen to Paul, now, speaking as their spiritual cop:
Verse 2: “I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:”
Instead of dealing with their sins, following God’s will and repenting, some at Corinth began to challenge Paul’s abilities and question his authority to lead them. In modern terms, we might say they wanted to shoot the messenger. Paul continues:
Verse 3: “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.”
You see, to defend himself, Paul reminds them that the message he brings is from Christ. The same Christ Who is living in all of them, if they believe.
Verse 4: “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.”
Paul knew that human weakness, illness, or tribulations, these things don’t have to shut down our ministries. Christ experienced all of them and in higher doses any of us will. But, you see, the Corinthians needed to know also that the Power which Jesus experienced at His Resurrection was at work in Paul’s ministry at Corinth! And, I want to say to you, that power is also at work inside all of us who believe in Christ today!
Back in II Corinthians chapter 12 Paul went to great lengths to defend himself to them because of a weakness he had due to some illness. They actually resented him for being ill:
II Cor 12:7-10
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto 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 me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
If weakness was part of Christ’s experience on the Earth, why should Paul be ashamed of his weakness? Years later Paul would expound on this point, speaking of Christ, in his New Testament Letter to the Hebrews:
“As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
Now Paul is going to remind them just how essential it is to understand that God’s power does not depend on the strength of any of us:
Verse 5: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
The Corinthians had been criticizing Paul, now he’s turning it around. Hey Corinth, Paul says, strength is killing your church. Your strength, the strength of human wisdom, the strength of human desire, the forces of anger, and sin are holding you back. What Corinth needed most, and what the Church needs most today is not more strength but more of the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit is a far better strength than I could ever come up with on my own. And the quickest way I’ve found to get there is through submission to God and, quite often, though it pains me a little to say it, through human weakness.
Whenever anybody questions or teases me about why I attend church regularly I always say that I don’t go there because I’m strong, I go because I know I am not strong. If human strength were the key to perfect faith in God, don’t you think old King Solomon would have achieved it long before any of us? For the longest time he had perfect wisdom, perfect wealth, perfect health, and fame. That’s just about every human strength I can think of, in a worldly sense. He had it all, but if you really want to learn the limits of human strength when it comes to faith in the Lord, review I Kings chapter 11 sometime (we studied that back in September) and you’ll see how King Solomon wound up, spiritually. It’s a real an eye-opener!
All those blessings and strengths just did not work out. And, you know what, all those things wouldn’t guarantee any of us a right relationship with God either.
The Corinthians had accused Paul of being too weak to be an effective leader. Paul is about to remind them that before Almighty God, we’re all weak. Weakness before Him is nothing to be ashamed of and actually it can be a source of hope! Paul knew he didn’t have the strength to lead this unruly congregation back to the narrow path, but he had a blessed hope that the Lord’s strength was all they really needed:
Verse 6-14: “But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”
By accepting the reality of his weaknesses, and not having to strive to clench blessings for himself, Paul was able to put the best interests of the Corinthians ahead of his own. That’s a leader!
Since we have time tonight, I want to show you one more example of a New Testament preacher Who believed that we could, through faith, live victoriously even in weakness when necessary. This is taken from what is sometimes called Our Lord’s “Sermon on the Plain.”
Luke 6: 20-28
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
Do you get from these words of Jesus that He was promising all of us strength and blessings all of time? Of course, He wasn’t. Not in this world. My problem is that sometimes I still try to live as if my strength is all that matters and that somehow, He owes me that strength. He doesn’t. Let’s pray:
“Lord, forgive me for leaning on human strength and demanding 24-hour blessings from you day in and day out. Help me and help all of us to rely, more and more, on Your strength alone, working in and through us . . .”