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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  


Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2014/2015

 

Study Theme: Ready: Ministering Life to Those in Crisis

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this study is on people facing long-term health issues who may wrestle with questions about God’s response to their suffering. We can encourage those people and each other by reminding us all of God’s presence and grace.

 

Jan. 18

Ready When Injustice Prevails

 

Jan. 25

Ready to Help the Poor

X

Feb. 1

Ready When Sickness Comes to Stay

 

Feb. 8

Ready When Sex Destroys

 

Feb. 15

Ready When Homosexuality Devastates

 

Feb. 22

Ready When Pornography Controls

LIFE IMPACT:

God’s grace is sufficient—even in times of sickness.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

Renewed for Eternity (2 Cor. 16-18)

Grace That Is Sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7b-9a)

Strength To Endure (2 Cor. 12:9b-10)

OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:  2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10

 Second Corinthians contains some of Paul’s deepest theological insight, reveals more about Paul personally, and presents his strongest declaration of his apostolic credentials and the validity of his ministry than is found in his other letters.  Second Corinthians 4:16-18 describes the face of the afflictions he faced.  Physically, he might have been wasting away, but his inner life was gaining new strength from God that was preparing him for an incomparable glory.  In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul described a life experience in which the Lord, through a “thorn in the flesh.” As Paul called it, taught him that in his weaknesses he could know the sufficiency of the Lord’s grace and the ability of His power. Paul stressed whatever difficulty one endured would only be momentary when measured against the promise of eternity with Christ.

INTRODUCTION:

Thanks to medical advances, many illnesses that used to lead to death no longer do.  Instead, the person lives, often with non-stop medications or treatments.  When a person is first diagnosed with an illness or disease, people are great at offering support.  However, for the chronic sufferer, that help and support often diminishes as time progresses.  We can help others follow the example of Paul in how they view and live with their long-term health issues.  We have all prayed for people who are suffering long-term illnesses only to watch them waste away.  Yet they continue on.  How do they do it?  They do it by relying on God’s power to keep on, keeping on!  The apostle Paul offered his own example of this in our focal passage for this week. 

Introduction is adapted from the following source:

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

I.

Renewed For Eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

16 Therefore we do not give up.  Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.   When you’re sick, what helps you feel better?

2.   To what did Paul reaffirm his commitment (v. 16a)?

3.   What conclusion does the word “therefore” in verse 16 sum up?  (See 2 Cor. 4:7-15.)

4.   How would you summarize Paul’s point in 2 Cor. 4:7-15?

5.   What contrasts are found in these verses?

6.   How do you think each encouraged Paul to continue in faithful service in the face of his physical challenges?

7.   What does Paul’s focus on the term “temporary” mean to you when it comes to suffering?

8.   How would you contrast the outer person with the inner person (v. 16)?

9.   How is the outer person being destroyed in our world today (v. 16b)?

10.   How does God renew the inner person of a believer today (v. 16b)?

11.   How is He renewing your inner person?

12.   In what surprising ways did Paul describe the affliction that the Corinthians were experiencing (vv. 17-18)?

13.   What does verse 17 mean to you?

14.   How can trials end up producing glory (v. 17)?

15.   How have you see sicknesses result in bringing glory to God?

16.   Why do you think some people facing long-term health issues may wrestle with questions about God’s response to their illness when they continue to linger without seeing any immediate improvement in answer to their prayers?

17.   How would you describe the meaning of verse 18 to a non-believer? a new believer?

18.   How does focusing on the eternal help you endure the temporary?

19.   What are some ways God provides believers with the ability to endure the temporary?

20.   What emotions do you experience when you think about a new body that will never break down?

 

Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 4:16-18:

1.  We should not grow discouraged in our physical suffering.

2.  We should allow God to build the inner person even while the outer person is wasting away.

3.  We need to focus not on the temporary nature of suffering but on the eternal nature of God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.

4.  We should have a passion to build the inner person as well as to strengthen the outer person.

 

II.

Grace That Is Sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7b-9a)

7b Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself.  8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me.  9a But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

1.   According to verse 7b, what was God’s purpose of giving Paul a thorn in the flesh?

2.   The fact that Paul, mentioned twice why the thorn was given to him, tells you that he may have been subject to what?

3.   What do you think Paul meant by calling his thorn a messenger of Satan (v. 7b)?

4.   How did Paul’s thorn in the flesh become a messenger of Satan (v. 7b)?

5.   How do you think Satan could use this for his purpose (v. 7b)?

6.   How do you think Satan uses the physical maladies of believers today to his advantage?

7.   How did Paul respond his physical malady  (v. 8)?

8.   What does verse 8 tell us about praying for God to relieve us of any physical malady from which we may suffer?

9.   Do you think verse 8 is telling us to cease praying after 3 times if God does not relieve us of our malady?

10.   How can we reconcile verse 8 with Paul’s urging in 1 Thessalonians 5:7?

11.   How am I to know when/if God has answered my prayers for deliverance from my physical malady?

12.   Jesus prayed (Matt. 26:38-46) God’s will took priority over His, so how are we to know God’s will for us in the midst of our suffering?

13.   What assurance did the Lord give Paul as he dealt with this thorn (v. 9a)?

14.   How would you define God’s grace (v. 9a)?  (See Digging Deeper.)

15.   What do you think makes God’s grace sufficient—even in times of sickness?

16.   How is God’s grace . . . sufficient for the trials that we endure in this lifetime (v. 9a)?

17.   Do you have a thorn in your flesh?

18.   If so, has it helped you grow in your faith?  If so, how do you think it has helped you to grow?

 

Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 12:7b-9a:

1.  God can use trials to keep us humbly focused on Him.

2.  Asking God to remove trials is a good practice, but we must do so submitted to His will

3.  God sometimes uses us in spite of our weaknesses.  Sometimes He uses us because of our weaknesses.

 

III.

Strength To Endure (2 Cor. 12:9b-10)

9b Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.  10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1.   According to verse 9b, for what reasons did Paul say he would rather boast?

2.   How would you explain what Paul meant by boasting more about his weaknesses, Christ’s power would reside in him?

3.   Do you think 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 has an application here?  Why, or why not?

4.   Why do you think Paul boasted in those things rather than in his successes (v. 10)?

5.   Which of the items on Paul’s list of weaknesses have you experienced?

6.   How can a person be weak and strong at the same time (v. 10)? (Does verse 9a provide the answer?)

7.   How do you think God’s grace has proven itself sufficient in the midst of affection?

8.   When your prayer isn’t answered as you hoped, how do you handle it?

9.   What do you do, where do you go, or to what or where do you turn?

10.   Do you ever feel abandoned by God when this kind of thing happens to you?

11.   What are some things we should considering doing to keep from feeling abandoned by God in our afflictions?

12.   When sickness comes to stay, what can we do to express God’s love without seeming insincere?

13.   What does ministering to those dealing with long-term sickness require of us?

 

Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 12:9b-10:

1.  Sometimes we suffer because of things we do and sometimes we suffer because of things others do.

2.  Sometimes we suffer only because we live in a fallen world.

3.  God’s power is perfected in us when we embrace the things He allows into our lives.

4.  The more we humble ourselves, the more others can see Christ in us.

 

CONCLUSION:

The apostle affirmed the value of his afflictions—whatever they were—because he saw them as conduits of God’s all-sufficient power.  What he received from the Lord was not unique to him but is available to all of us as well in our times of weaknesses, infirmities, and disabilities—whether emotional, physical, or spiritual.  None of us aspire to suffer in any form.  But when we do, we can find that God will provide us with at least three things: (1) spiritual renewal that is greater than the adversity; (2) His grace that is sufficient for the moment; and (3) His strength that enables us to endure through it all. 

So when adversity comes your way, how do you deal with it?  What do you ask of God?  Which Paul do you consider yourself: the Paul that asked God to relieve him of his thorn?  Or the Paul who relied on the strength of God’s grace in his time of weakness?  On a scale of 1 (the first Paul) or 10 (the second Paul), which Paul do you consider you to be?  If you want to become more like the second Paul, ask God to help you become more reliant on His grace to see you through your times of weakness so that He may be glorified before a lost and dying world.  He will help you shine for His glory in your weakness!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE:  2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10:

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10

4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.


12:7.b  there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  9 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. 10 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.  (KJV)

New International Version: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7-10

4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


12:7. To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  9 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.  10 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.  (KJV)

New Living Translation: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10

4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are£ being renewed every day.  17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.


12:7b So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.   (KJV)

 

Lesson Outline — “Ready When Sickness Comes to Stay” — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10

I.

II.

III.

Renewed For Eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

Grace That Is Sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7b-9a)

Strength To Endure (2 Cor. 12:9b-10)

 

COMMENTARY:

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The College Press NIV Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The College Press NIV Commentary – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7b-10:

Driven by Unseen, Eternal Reward (4:16-18)

4:16.  Therefore we do not lose heart.

With “therefore” plus the repetition of what he said in 4:1, Paul signals that he will summarize and conclude this section of his defense which comprises chapter four. Once again he denies that the physical and emotional toll he endures for the gospel limits in any way his aggressiveness to travel anywhere the Lord leads him to proclaim its unassailable truth. Note comments on 4:1 regarding “lose heart” as referring to action and not attitude.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Paul focuses separate attention on the physical dimension of a person as opposed to the spiritual. For the Christian, and particularly for an apostle like himself, Paul sees these two dimensions moving in opposite directions. One is deteriorating while the other, even now, is growing toward its full eschatological potential.

Paul does not view the human body in itself as evil and the soul as good as many Greeks did in his day. This is clear from Romans 7. He also indicates this by the language he uses here. The word “outwardly” actually translates two words in Greek, “outer person.” “Person” is the presumed referent of “inner,” as well. These are not separate and competing entities but simply two aspects of every human being.

Quite rightly, Paul sees the physical dimension in a process of decay, especially in light of what he says in 4:7-12, as indeed it is from the moment of birth. This is the case even more so for an apostle like Paul whose body continues to accumulate the marks of physical abuse. In the spiritual dimension, or the inward man, Paul believes the clock, as opposed to winding down, is still in the process of winding up. Indeed, he likely views physical suffering as contributing toward spiritual strength, as James 1:2-4 notes as well.

The word “wasting away” is translated very suitably by the NIV. While the word can refer to something being destroyed immediately, as in Rev 11:18, it can also describe a more gradual process of destruction as in Luke 12:33 with moths destroying clothing.

4:17.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Paul’s inclusion of his own current accumulation of difficulties in the adjective “light” is only possible in comparison to the unweighable weight of spiritual vitality he is developing. This is precisely what he wishes the Corinthians to perceive. No amount or intensity of personal trouble in the human sphere can ever be measured over against the eternal value of serving the gospel of Christ faithfully, whether applied to Paul himself or anyone else. This weighty “glory” is not viewed by Paul as merely a prize at the end of the race, strictly eschatological. Rather, it has already begun to accumulate, like sacks of gold around our spiritual waist. The verb “are achieving” is present tense indicating what is being accomplished right now.

The word the NIV renders as merely “far” is much more heavily stressed than that word alone indicates. The Greek involves the same word, “excess” placed in two separate prepositional phrases side by side, roughly “from excess to excess.” This is Paul’s attempt to emphasize that the “weight” of glory is beyond calculation.

4:18.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.

Paul switches his language, associating the visible with the outward person and invisible with the inward. This is true enough, but the language of this verse has broader possibilities than what he said earlier in a way that helps set up what he will say about the Christian’s immortal existence in 5:1-5.

Realizing that eternal glory is being accumulated even as his body suffers pain from preaching the gospel motivates Paul and other determined believers to focus on what is really important in life, the spiritual dimension. This dimension is not really invisible; it’s just not visible to those without the spiritual eyesight to see it.

The word “fix our eyes,” as the NIV translation correctly shows, has more to do with concentration and evaluation than simply gazing out over some expanse. In fact, one noun which is a cognate of this word refers to a watchtower and another refers to certain gods as personal guardians to their adherents. Correctly tuned Christians evaluate the visible to recognize the “invisible,” spiritual dimension occurring around them and in them. Those who remain deadened to the spiritual only see the visible, physical aspects of life.

For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Paul now relates what is visible to a limited dimension of time and what is invisible to a dimension in which time is limitless. As he already alluded in 4:17, eternity does not merely begin when contemporary history ends. Rather, the eternal coexists side by side with the world we see around us now. A person taps her toe into that eternal, spiritual dimension when she becomes a Christian. Gradually, the realization of that spiritual world dominates what the Christian does in the visible, physical world because it becomes readily apparent that the spiritual and eternal is what is real, true, and forever.

Paul wants his Corinthian readers to realize that evaluating truth simply on the basis of physical appearance is foolish. Paul’s opponents may be flashy. They may register observable signs of success in healthy bodies, fine clothes, and cultured speech. Does the visible equate with the eternal? Based on what Paul has just said, doesn’t his battered body and tenacious, outspoken message suggest the eternal truthfulness of his message and ministry?


An Irremovable Thorn Remains (12:7-10)

12:7.  To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,

Most translations (except the more recent NLT) which create a new paragraph at this point make the break here as the NIV does. However, most interpreters observe the artificialness of this since 12:7 begins with the Greek word “and.” This is then followed by “surpassingly great revelations.” In the Greek, “to keep me from being conceited” is the clause which precedes the thorn in the flesh clause and does not begin this verse (see NASB).

This means that “because of these surpassing revelations” is a second reason why Paul refrains from boasting, added to his point in 12:6 that his conduct in itself is sufficient for someone who is unprejudiced to recognize his apostolic calling. Paul also fears that detailing his rapture experience might cause undue pride in himself and perhaps even undue adulation from those in Corinth who seem to be prone to forming personality cults.

This is the last of five times Paul uses the adjective translated as “surpassingly great” in 2 Corinthians, the others being 2 Cor 1:8; 4:7; and 4:17 (twice). The word focuses on “excess,” whether referring to overshooting a mark, crossing over a mountain, or overachievement of any sort. Paul gets as close as he will ever get to boasting about his rapture experience when he sets it apart from those revelations of his rivals. Yet, his point is that its very extraordinariness is cause for his concern in specifically recounting it. He does not trust his own human nature any more than he does the Corinthians’.

Thus, with “to keep me from becoming conceited,” Paul recognizes his own sinful frailty. In Greek, this phrase is preceded by a strong “therefore,” which shows he has made this deduction regarding the purpose for his “thorn in the flesh.” God has recognized the necessity of keeping Paul humble in the face of his accomplishments and his visions. Self-pride and arrogance are not compatible with genuine apostolic service. No doubt, Paul views the constancy of this thorn as an ever-present message from God against self-pride.

there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

Paul’s statements about this “thorn” might seem contradictory. On the one hand, the passive verb “was given” most certainly is a divine passive, meaning God is the presumed subject of the action. On the other hand, he links the thorn to the activity of Satan. To reconcile this, it is helpful to consider Job 2:1-10 as a model illustrating the relationship between God and Satan. God holds complete authority and power over the world he has created. Yet, God allows Satan a measure of autonomy within God’s rule, particularly to offer people an alternative to trusting God and following his will.

Paul himself is not averse to handing believers over to Satan as a legitimate and sometimes necessary Christian rehabilitation scheme (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20). That God in a sense has done this with the “thorn” as a continual monitoring system is not much different.

What exactly Paul’s thorn was is much debated. The word “thorn” itself, only used here in all the NT, refers to anything pointed, from a tiny splinter or fishhook, to a large stake used to impale a person as a form of execution. It is generally agreed that Paul’s use of “thorn” is figurative, to refer to some form of continuing or recurring aggravation and perceived hindrance to his gospel mission. In what sense it is figurative is more at issue. The oldest view, mostly discounted today, is that Paul was tortured by his sinful nature, perhaps in the form of sexual temptation. His most revealing expression of this recurring problem would be in Romans 7. This interpretation would mean taking “flesh” in the carnal sense, which seems unjustified here.

The most widespread view of Paul’s thorn is that it is a physical ailment of some sort. Common suggestions include epilepsy, a chronic eye disorder, a speech impediment, migraine headaches, malaria, and leprosy. The attempt in each of these suggestions is to come up with a problem which would be continually a part of Paul’s life but which could flare up on occasion seriously enough to put him in bed or prevent him from ministering. His three prayer requests to remove this physical problem, mentioned in 12:8, might have occurred during three particularly bad episodes. The idea that Satan can inflict torment through disease within God’s allowance has precedent in Job.

The view receiving the most amount of attention recently holds that Paul’s thorn is relational, involving other people. In view are the Judaizers who have dogged Paul’s trail in Galatia and probably in Corinth but possibly others who have opposed the true gospel of grace in the places Paul has preached. The attraction is that the thorn then serves as a culminating ironic twist in Paul’s litany of difficulties. His life as an apostle has had its share of trouble, but the most troublesome of all are people like his rivals in Corinth whose presence and boastfulness has forced him to construct his “foolish” list. Further attraction to this view is that the word “thorn” is used in Num 33:55 and Ezek 28:24 to refer to Israel’s enemies and that it makes the “messengers of Satan” designation more appropriately apply to people.

However, the most recurring criticism of the view involves Paul’s prayer to remove it and his decision to live with it. Would it be consistent with Paul’s theology of suffering servanthood, so eloquently broadcast in this very context as well as elsewhere in 2 Corinthians, for Paul to request its removal? Has he decided just to live with opposition? If he has, most of what he has said in the last few chapters, would seem to belie this acceptance of the thorn as from the Lord.

It seems best then, to view Paul’s thorn as some disease or ailment which affects him physically. Any firm decision on precisely what kind of physical problem it was goes beyond anything that can be known with certainty.

12:8.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

Paul acknowledges his intense desire to be rid of the “thorn.” He also acknowledges that only one person could remove it. Thus, he admits he prayed to the Lord for relief. Out of 109 uses in the NT, this is the only time the verb “pleaded” is employed to refer to petitionary prayer. Paul seems to want to convey an earnest intensity about his petitions. At first, he must have believed that the thorn’s detraction from his ability to conduct his apostolic mission would put it within the Lord’s will to remove it.

Apparently, only after the third time did he begin to realize that it had a crucial purpose from the Lord, that is, to help him keep his head screwed on straight, to prevent him from ever thinking about boasting about himself or believing that anything was accomplished in his ministry apart from the power of the Lord. Thus, his “thorn” has kept him from becoming like his arrogant rivals in Corinth and explains why competing with them is so heart-wrenching for Paul.

Since both God and Christ are referred to as “Lord” in the NT, at times determining which is presumed in a certain context is difficult. Here, the English reader may be surprised to learn that it is reasonably certain Lord refers to Christ. It is rare that prayer is offered to Christ; normally it is through Christ (Eph 2:18). Yet, it does occur (Acts 1:24; 7:59). Perhaps, this explains Paul’s use of “pleaded” instead of a more usual word. At any rate, in the Greek text of this verse an article “the” occurs before “Lord” and for Paul the use of this article signals that he means Christ. He does not use the article before Lord if he refers to God. Also, “Christ’s power” in 12:9 refers back to the person who answered Paul’s petition, which further dictates that this is the one to whom his prayer was addressed.

If there is any particular significance to making his request exactly three times, it is not known. It is true that Jesus petitions for God to remove the cup of the cross from him in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:35-42). However, this is more likely coincidental. Jews practiced prayer three times a day, according to Ps 55:16-17 and Dan 6:10. Three petitions for healing to Greek deities is not unknown. Three attempts may simply mean that Paul was reasonably determined but that he was also open to learn God’s true will and once he learned it, to accept it.

12:9.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Although he could have heard this message as a result of all three petitions, most likely Christ spoke to Paul in this way after the third or there would have been no need for continued prayer on this matter. This personal message from Christ to Paul quite rightly is seen to have wider dimensions than simply Paul’s thorn. It really stands as the theme over Paul’s nonboastful boasting list which began in 11:22. Beyond even that, it could well stand as the signature motto for all of 2 Corinthians and for that matter over Paul’s entire apostolic life. Paul implies that once he heard and came to terms with the meaning of this motto, he fully understood what his life was all about and could move forward with confidence. What Christ says to Paul goes beyond application only to himself, extending to all those who desire to serve Christ.

The verb “is sufficient,” only used here in 2 Corinthians, is a term associated with strength, describing someone who is strong enough to do something. In this text and elsewhere in the NT, the idea is to be strong enough not to need any further help or assistance. First Timothy 6:8 describes being “content” with food and clothes and Heb 13:5 being “content” with whatever one already has. This word signals that Paul very much has in mind the physical and social difficulties involved in being an apostle which he has listed since 11:22.

The “grace” of Christ includes not just Christ’s acceptance of Paul in terms of salvation but also the grace involved in Paul’s apostolic missionary service. At that level, grace includes the very practical supplying of provisions and protection from natural and cultural forces which might otherwise destroy Paul’s work. Grace has ramifications toward enabling Paul to accept his “thorn” without further complaining.

In the NT “power” is usually connected to God’s total, exhaustive power (2 Cor 4:7). God’s power can be manifested through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5) and in and through Christ, not only in the resurrection (1 Cor 6:14), and in his authority over all other entities (Eph 1:21), but also in his working through his representatives (Rom 9:17; 1 Cor 5:4). The latter would seem to be the emphasis here. Paul has already emphasized in 2 Cor 3:4-5 that any confidence he has as an apostle comes “through Christ before God.”

The verb “is perfected” is fairly common in the NT but is only used here in 2 Corinthians. It refers to bringing something to completion. If it involves taxes, as in Rom 13:6, it means to pay them. If it involves laws, it means to keep them (Luke 2:39). If it involves prophecies, it means for them to be fulfilled (Luke 18:31). If it involves a person’s life, it means for it to be finished, or the person to die (John 19:20). If it involves a person’s mission or purpose, as here, it means to complete it. The paradox in this passage is that two missions are involved, Paul’s and Christ’s, which are in a symbiotic relationship. Perfection, or 100% completion only occurs when one party, Paul, supplies “weakness,” and the other party, Christ, supplies “power.”

Is the power of Christ in Paul or any believer something which is always present but only becomes activated whenever the need for Christ’s power is admitted, or is the power of Christ absent until a particular weakness requires it? Since the resurrection power of Christ already fills the believer through the gift of the Holy Spirit, it would seem that drawing upon his strength to achieve Christ’s mission for our lives seems consistent. However, there is a point worth acknowledging that the power of Christ is not observable in our lives except in counterpoint to our weaknesses, no matter whether it is residual in our lives or not.

Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

Paul now uses the verb “boast” for the last of thirteen times since 11:12. Initializing this clause with “therefore” signals that Paul intends this to be his conclusion about all the “boasting” that has gone on since that point. From a worldly point of view, it hasn’t been boasting at all. He has listed embarrassing revelations of weakness. Paul now explains in as direct terms as possible why he has done this. It is a result of the direction he received from the Christ which he has incorporated into his life. He will embrace the paradox and celebrate the troubles in his life as platforms for Christ to show his greatness.

Paul’s use of “weaknesses” three times in 12:9-10 accentuates further that it primarily is the physical hardships involved in his apostolic service that he has in mind. The Greek word often refers to deficiencies of the body such as sickness, disease, or handicaps (Luke 5:15; 8:2; 13:11; John 5:5). Certainly, emotional and spiritual scars can come from physical difficulties, and Paul probably includes these as well. However, it is easy for the modern, English reader to jump too quickly to think of feelings of inadequacy when the word “weakness” is read and not connect “weakness” to the context of hardships.

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Paul’s statement regarding his purpose for boasting in his weaknesses presumes that “Christ’s power” would not remain under other circumstances. Among those must be worldly self-boasting like his rivals have done. He knows in order to keep Christ’s power active in his life he must recognize his own inadequacies and thereby his constant dependence on Christ for any measure of success in his mission.

The verb Paul has chosen, “rest,” means to “take up one’s abode,” or “dwell.” Although only used here in all the NT and rare even outside the NT, it is noted that related words are employed in the Septuagint to describe the abiding of God’s Shekinah glory in the tabernacle and temple of Israel (Exod 25:8; Ezek 37:27; 2 Cor 6:16). Paul certainly does not elaborate on the possible connection. However, the presence of God within believers via the Holy Spirit is a vital aspect of the new covenant’s superiority to the old covenant in the NT.

12:10.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

Essentially, in this verse Paul rephrases for the sake of emphasis what he said in 12:9. It is because of Christ, that his power might remain the dominant force in Paul’s life, that he boasts in weaknesses. What he says should not be construed to mean that Paul’s weaknesses are to Christ’s personal benefit in any way. Paul may imply some identification with Christ’s own voluntary weakness on the cross. However, Paul’s weaknesses do not increase Christ’s strength, though they do enhance and enable the accomplishment of Paul’s mission, which is also Christ’s: to spread the gospel to the nations.

Paul is no masochist. His “delight” is not in receiving pain. Rather, it is in knowing that Christ embraces his pain and turns it into a positive resource for advancing the gospel mission. He turns this “negative” inside out to produce a purposeful gain. In this way, Christ defies the standards of the world and replaces them with God’s standards of power in humility, victory in sacrifice, strength in weakness.

Paul’s list of four general categories of troubles following the headliner of “weakness” does not appear to be an attempt on his part to carefully summarize the list of troubles drawn out in 11:22-33. Rather, it seems offhanded, consisting of four more or less synonymous generalizations.

The first one, “insults,” usually refers to more vile treatment than the NIV translation implies. Violence and assault are part of this word’s nomenclature, not just words. The second word, “hardships” also leans toward bodily violence, torture, and suffering. The third word, “persecutions” is often used of hunters tracking their prey, so Paul may have in mind the Judaizers who dog his trail.

The fourth word, “difficulties” envisages someone getting into a tight spot, stuck or impeded by rugged terrain.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As a fitting conclusion, Paul boils down what he has learned about weakness into a compact proverb. The simplification boosts the paradox involved. Yet, one should not conclude that Paul in self-contradiction is saying weakness is strength. Rather, he means what Christ told him in 12:9: weakness and trouble in the lives of believers are opportunities for Christ to manifest his strength in their lives. In this way, nonbelievers are drawn to the power of Christ they see displayed and are hindered from idolizing Christ’s servants. Also, Christ’s servants are prevented from getting big heads and accepting honor which Christ alone deserves.

SOURCE: The College Press NIV Commentary: 2 Corinthians; by William R. Baker; Copyright © 1999, College Press Publishing Co. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.

 

Believer's Bible Commentary: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7-10:

The Christian minister is upheld by hope.  2 Corinthians, 4:16-18

4:16.  Paul had been explaining his willingness to undergo all kinds of suffering and danger because he had before him the certain hope of resurrection. Therefore he did not lose heart. Although on the one hand, the process of physical decay was going on constantly, yet on the other hand there was a spiritual renewal which enabled him to go on in spite of every adverse circumstance.

The fact that the outward man is perishing needs little explanation or comment. It is all too evident in our bodies! But Paul is here rejoicing in the fact that God sends daily supplies of power for Christian service. Thus it is true, as Michelangelo said, "The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows."

Ironside comments:

We are told that our material bodies are completely changed every seven years... Yet we have a consciousness of being the same persons. Our personality is unchanged from year to year, and so with regard to the greater change as yet to come. The same life is in the butterfly that was in the grub.

4:17.  After reading the terrible afflictions which the Apostle Paul endured, it may seem hard for us to understand how he could speak of them as light affliction. In one sense, they were not at all light. They were bitter and cruel.

But the explanation lies in the comparison which Paul makes. The afflictions viewed by themselves might be ever so heavy, but when compared with the eternal weight of glory that lies ahead, then they are light. Also the light affliction is but for a moment, whereas the glory is eternal. The lessons we learn through afflictions in this world will yield richest fruit for us in the world to come.

Moorehead observes: "A little joy enters into us while we are in the world; we shall enter into joy when there. A few drops here; a whole ocean there."

There is a pyramid in this verse which, as F. E. Marsh has pointed out, does not tire the weary climber but brings unspeakable rest and comfort to his soul.

Glory

Weight of glory

Eternal weight of glory

Exceeding and eternal weight of glory

More exceeding and eternal weight of glory

Far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory

4:18.   In this verse look does not merely describe human vision; rather it conveys the idea of regarding a thing as important. As far as the things which are seen are concerned, they are not the goal of one's existence. Here they refer primarily to the hardships, trials, and sufferings which Paul endured. These were incidental to his ministry; the great object of his ministry was what is not seen. This might include the glory of Christ, the blessing of one's fellow men, and the reward that awaits the faithful servant of Christ at the Judgment Seat.

Jowett comments:

To be able to see the first is sight; to be able to see the second is insight. The first mode of vision is natural, the second mode is spiritual. The primary organ in the first discernment is intellect; the primary organ in the second discernment is faith.... All through the Scriptures this contrast between sight and insight is being continually presented to us, and everywhere we are taught to measure the meagerness and stinginess of the one, and set it over the fullness and expansiveness of the other.[25]


The thorn in the flesh.  2 Corinthians, 12:7-10:                 

12:7.  This whole section is a most accurate description of the life of a servant of Christ. It has its moments of deep humiliation, such as the event at Damascus. Then it has its mountain top experiences, such as Paul's exhilarating revelation. But normally after a servant of the Lord has enjoyed one of these experiences, the Lord allows him to suffer some thorn in the flesh. That is what we have here.

We learn many priceless lessons from this verse. First, it is proof that even divine revelations of the Lord do not correct the flesh in us. Even after the apostle had listened to the language of Paradise, he still had the old nature, and was in danger of falling into the snare of pride. As R. J. Reid has said:

"A man in Christ" is safe in the presence of God as he listens to the untranslatable things spoken in paradise, but he needs "a thorn in the flesh" upon his return to earth, for the flesh in him would boast of his paradise experience.

What was Paul's thorn in the flesh? All we can say for sure is that it was some bodily trial which God allowed to come into his life. No doubt the Lord purposely failed to specify exactly what the thorn was so that tried and tested saints down through the years might feel a closer kinship with the apostle as they suffer. Perhaps it was some form of eye disease, perhaps an earache, perhaps malaria, perhaps migraine headaches, perhaps something connected with Paul's speech. Moorehead states: "The precise nature of it has been concealed perhaps that all afflicted ones may be encouraged and helped by Paul's unnamed yet painful experience." Our trials may be very different from Paul's, but they should produce the same exercise and fruits.

The apostle describes the thorn in the flesh as a messenger of Satan to buffet him. In one sense it represented an effort on Satan's part to hinder Paul in the work of the Lord. But God is greater than Satan, and He used the thorn to further the work of the Lord by keeping Paul humble. Successful service for Christ depends on a weak servant. The weaker he is, the more the power of Christ accompanies his preaching.

12:8.  Three times Paul pleaded with the Lord that the thorn in the flesh might depart from him.

12:9.  Paul's prayer was answered, but not in the way he had hoped. In effect, God said to Paul, "I will not remove the thorn, but I will do something better: I will give you grace to bear it. And just remember, Paul, that although I have not given you what you asked for, yet I am giving you what you need most deeply. You want my power and strength to accompany your preaching, don't you? Well, the best way to have that happen is for you to be kept in a place of weakness."

This was God's repeated answer to Paul's thrice repeated prayer. And it continues to be God's answer to his suffering people throughout the world. Better than the removal of trials and sufferings is the companionship of the Son of God in them, and the assurance of His strength and enabling grace.

Notice that God says, My grace IS sufficient for you. We don't have to ask Him to make His grace sufficient. It already IS!

The apostle is completely satisfied with the Lord's answer, so he says, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

When the Lord explained the wisdom of His actions, Paul said in effect that that was the only way he would want it to be. So instead of complaining and grumbling about the thorn, he would rather boast in his infirmities. He would get down on his knees and thank the Lord for them. He would gladly endure them if only the power of Christ might rest upon him. J. Oswald Sanders puts it well:

The world's philosophy is, "What can't be cured must be endured." But Paul radiantly testifies, "What can't be cured can be enjoyed. I enjoy weakness, sufferings, privations, and difficulties." So wonderful did he prove God's grace to be, that he even welcomed fresh occasions of drawing upon its fullness. "I gladly glory... I even enjoy"—my thorn."

Emma Piechynska, the wife of a Polish nobleman, led a long life of frustration and disappointment. Yet her biographer paid a remarkable tribute to her triumphant faith: "She made magnificent bouquets out of the refusals of God!"

12:10.  Naturally speaking, it is quite impossible for us to take pleasure in the type of experiences listed here. But the key to the understanding of the verse is found in the expression, for Christ's sake. We should be willing to endure in His cause, and in the furtherance of His gospel, things which we would not ordinarily endure for ourselves or for the sake of some loved one.

It is when we are conscious of our own weakness and nothingness that we most depend on the power of God. And it is when we are thus cast on Him in complete dependence that His power is manifested to us, and we are truly strong.

William Wilberforce, who led the fight to abolish slavery in the British Empire, was physically weak and frail, but he had deep faith in God. Boswell said of him, "I saw what seemed to me a shrimp become a whale."

In this verse Paul is obeying the word of the Lord in Matthew 5:11, 12. He is rejoicing when men reviled and persecuted him.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7-10:

4:16.  These glorious facts gave Paul sufficient reason not to faint or lose heart. True, the difficulties encountered in his ministry wore his physical strength away. He knew well his outward man was decaying. At the same time, though, his inward man was renewed day by day.

The apostle realized what all aging believers know. They too find comfort in the fact that both decay and renewal go on at the same time within their being. They receive the answer to the prayer of the Psalmist, "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth" (Psalm 71:9).

4:17.  The Spirit within Paul brought him to the conclusion that his relatively insignificant affliction which brought distress because of the pressure of outward circumstances actually worked for his good. As something which was momentary, it brought about for him a far more exceeding, literally "excess to excess"), beyond all measure or comparison, weight or fullness of glory. That glory would be eternal and would never fade away. To the Romans he wrote, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

4:18.  One of the things which kept Paul true to his calling was holding the proper perspective in life. He did not look (skopeō, "to gaze upon," in contrast to blepō, "to see") or concentrate his attention upon the things which are seen. He had but little interest in the things of this world. Any who accused the apostle of being a materialist would be very wrong.

Instead, the apostle fixed his gaze on the things which are not seen. His reason was the things which are seen are transitory, lasting only for time, while the things which are not seen are eternal. Elisha's servant with his physical eyes saw only their city surrounded with horses and chariots of the enemy army that had come to arrest the prophet. The man of God prayed, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see" (2 Kings 6:17). As the servant viewed the unseen, he discovered God had placed horses and chariots of fire all around the prophet to protect him. The reality of the unseen world contained a greater army for Elisha than the seen world held against him.


12:7. In Paul's life the Lord allowed events to combat pride. His eternal plan allows "that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:29). With visions and revelations, there was a danger pride might raise its ugly head. To prevent this God permitted a thorn to come and remain in Paul's flesh. To stick a thorn in the foot is a most painful experience. Not to remove it to relieve the suffering is ordinarily unthinkable.

Many have speculated about Paul's thorn. One guess is it was some illness of the eyes because he wrote the Galatians with large letters and they were willing to give him their eyes if they could (Galatians 6:11; 4:15). Some liberals say the thorn was epilepsy and that his conversion experience on the road to Damascus was among his many seizures! This is unthinkable. Others think his problem was one of chronic attacks of malarial fever.

Paul said a messenger of Satan brought the thorn. The spirit buffeted (beat, struck as with the fist) and tortured him. The devil continuously slapped the apostle on the face, as the present subjunctive tense of the verb shows. Thus Paul followed the story of his most blessed experience in life (verses 2-4) with that of his deepest humiliation.

12:8.  Little wonder, then, Paul talked to the Lord earnestly about removing such a thorn. He besought (intreated, implored, urgently appealed to) God three times for relief.

Even Jesus had three seasons of prayer for assistance in Gethsemane (Mark 14:35-41). Elijah petitioned for rain seven times before water fell from the sky (1 Kings 18:42-44). Daniel had to remain before the Lord for 21 days before his answer came (Daniel 10:12-14).

12:9.  God's answer to Paul's prayer did not remove the thorn. The Lord sometimes gives a negative response to the most earnest petition. Instead it gave him assurance God would provide sufficient grace and divine strength to sustain him regardless of his trials. As the apostle himself declared in 1 Corinthians 10:13, with every temptation the Lord always provides a way of escape making it possible to bear up under the difficulty.

More wonderfully, though, God's power reaches its perfection through human weakness. As the smallest of light shines most brightly in the darkest of nights, the Lord reveals His strength most completely in the face of man's helplessness. As someone has said, Christians are somewhat like tea; their real strength does not show until they are in hot water.

Having learned the lesson Jesus taught him through the thorn, Paul experienced an attitude change. He came to the place where he could gladly glory in his weakness. He knew it was necessary for him to realize his helplessness in order for the power of Christ to rest upon him and become an overshadowing tent to cover him.

Hughes has warned against misusing the apostle's words here in following "the errors of a later ascetic theology which encouraged men to think that by means of self-inflicted bodily sufferings and indignities they could accumulate forgiveness of post-baptismal sins and justifying merit before God. That was a joyless theology of insecurity; whereas Paul's theology is one of unclouded joy and impregnable security..." (The New London Commentary, p. 452). He concluded Paul's thorn was not self-induced but given.

12:10.  The apostle declared again he delighted in and cheerfully accepted the fact of his human weakness. Then he revealed more of what the thorn involved. It included suffering reproaches (shame, insults, mistreatment) at the hands of his enemies. At times it brought necessities (privations and hardships). Periods of distress (difficulty, anguish) came with it.

Understandably, then, the apostle sought relief from such constant pressures. However, the lesson he learned by carrying a heavy burden was priceless. He came to know man's extremities are God's opportunities. As long as his suffering was for Christ's sake, he rested in the assurance that when circumstances pressed him to helplessness he would then, and only then, experience the help of the Lord. To say "when I am weak, then am I strong" sounds contradictory, but the paradox expresses a truth more valuable than gold.

Of course, not all suffering in the lives of Christians qualifies for such blessings as followed Paul's. As Peter warned, "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters" (1 Peter 4:15).

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

DIGGING DEEPER:

Grace—Paul used the word grace (12:9) in the greetings of his letters (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 1:3).  The basic idea of this term was something that was freely given.  Paul most often anchored that in the things given by God through the cross of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:21).  Everything God gave to us in the cross is encompassed in the word grace.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Grace: Grace (12:9) is unmerited favor; God’s compulsion to grant His goodwill or to show His lovingkindness even though it is not deserved.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Grace—Undeserved acceptance and love received from another, especially the characteristic attitude of God in providing salvation for sinners. For Christians, the word “grace” is virtually synonymous with the gospel of God’s gift of unmerited salvation in Jesus Christ. To express this, the New Testament writers used the Greek word charis, which had a long previous history in secular Greek. Related to the word for joy or pleasure, charis originally referred to something delightful or attractive in a person, something which brought pleasure to others. From this it came to have the idea of a favor or kindness done to another or of a gift which brought pleasure to another. Viewed from the standpoint of the recipient, it was used to refer to the thankfulness felt for a gift or favor. These meanings also appear in the biblical use of charis, but only in the New Testament does it come to have the familiar sense which “grace” bears for Christians.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

Sufficient—The Greek word for sufficient (12:9) literally means “adequate,” “sufficient,” or “enough.”  Two examples illustrate the meaning of this word, in the parable of the ten virgins, the prepared virgins said to the unprepared ones, “No, there won’t be enough vor us and for you? (Matt. 25:9).  Their supply was inadequate.  When Jesus asked Philip about buying bread for the 5,000, the disciple answered, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little” (John 6:7).  That which is sufficient is enough!

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Sufficient: At its root, the Greek word rendered sufficient (12:9) captures the idea of raising a barrier to ward off something.  Having done so, a person could believe he possessed unfailing strength to face whatever he raised the barrier against.  By extension, the word came to mean “to have enough; to be content; to be satisfied.”

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Perfected—The Greek word rendered perfected (12:9) described the progress of something toward a goal or directed end.  It conveyed the idea of completion, maturity, or wholeness.  An example of this occurs in 1 John 4:18, where we read, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.”  The kind of love that is from God is complete, whole, and mature.  It is perfect. 

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Made perfect:  Made perfect (12:9) does not refer to moral perfection or flawlessness but means “to finish, complete, accomplish, or to bring to its end.”  The verb tense in this verse indicates the Lord’s strength is “brought to fulfillment, to completion, or is accomplishing its intended end or purpose” in the midst of human weakness.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

 

The god of This World

Paul’s Portrait of Satan in 2 Corinthians

By Bennie R. Crockett, Jr.

Bennie R. Crockett, Jr., is professor of religion and philosophy and is co-director of the Center for Study of the Life and Work of William Carey at William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

S

atan has the Distinct dishonor of being the enemy of the Son of God, and of daring to oppose and tempt Him (Matt. 4:1-11; 16:23; Mark 1:13; 8:33).  Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, through Satan’s evil influence, Judas willingly betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and Pharisees (John 13:27; 18:1-5).  Often referred to as “the Devil,”1 Satan schemes against God’s people with evil methods and traps (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 3;7; 2 Tim. 2:26).  Because of Satan, creation itself appears under bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:22).

Outside of Paul’s letters, the New Testament uses the name “Satan” over 20 times.2  In his letters, Paul referred to Satan by name 10 times.  With several other titles, Paul described Satan as the Devil (Eph. 4:27), the evil one (6:16), the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), Belial (6:15), a disguised angel of light (11:14), prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5).

Paul knew the power Satan had over nonbelievers.  When Paul was under arrest in Jerusalem and in his self-defense before King Agrippa, Paul said the risen Lord Jesus challenged him to serve and witness in a new way.  Jesus appointed Paul to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles “that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18, HCSB).

The Enemy’s Work

In 1—2 Corinthians, Paul’s references to Satan’s activities fall into four categories: deceiving, tempting, being subject to the larger purpose of God’s will, and maintaining an evil identity.  First, Satan’s basic deceptive nature appears in 2 Corinthians 2:11, where Paul warned the Corinthians that Satan could take advantage or outwit them when they fail in their duty to forgive a divisive fellow Christian.3  Likewise, Paul captured Satan’s basic deceptive character when he wrote that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).  Satan’s disguise was so effective that some Corinthians agreed with Satan’s unrighteousness, deceptively disguising themselves as Christ’s apostles (v. 13) and opposing Paul’s ministry as an unskilled speaker (v. 6).

Second, Satan’s longstanding role as a tempter appears in the context of Paul’s discussion of sexual relations in marriage (1 Cor. 7:5).  Paul advised spouses not to deprive their spouses sexually lest Satan would tempt them toward infidelity through their lack of self-control (see v. 2).  Yet, Paul affirmed that no temptation is too strong for God’s faithfulness to provide the believer a way of escape (10:13).  Despite his ability to tempt, Satan’s power is not absolute, for God, in His power and grace, limits Satan’s power over believers.

Third, in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul referred to Satan as functioning as an instrument within God’s larger knowledge and grace (see Job 1—2).  Without explaining how God works in difficult and painful situations, Paul affirmed that God’s sovereignty is able to transform Satan’s destructive power into a redemptive conclusion (see 1 Tim. 1:20; Rom. 8:28,38).  For Paul, the only positive characteristic of Satan’s work is God’s ability to transform the enemy’s deception, temptation, and evil into good that ultimately glorifies Him.

Fourth, Paul offered his most noteworthy images of Satan’s evil nature and influence with the two phrases “god of this world” and “Belial” (2 Cor. 4:4; 6:15).  In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul discussed his ministry and gospel message as shining light into pagan darkness.  However, through the power of the “god of this world,” darkness enveloped those who rejected the gospel, which caused them to perish (see Acts 26:18).

Related to Satan’s evil nature, Paul’s most piercing remark occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:15 where he referred to Satan as “Belial,” a transliterated Hebrew word which meant “worthless” or “wicked,”4  “What fellowship does light have with darkness?  What agreement does Christ have with Belial?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15, HCSB)—no sharper division between Christ and his believers versus Satan and his evil maneuverings exists in all of Paul’s letters.

The Believers’ Understanding

How the Corinthians understood Paul’s references to Satan is a complicated issue because of the puzzling social makeup of the city and the church, Corinth was a cosmopolitan and polytheistic Roman colony, the capital of Achaia, which in 44 BC Julius Caesar had reestablished and populated with Roman freedmen and army veterans.5  Because of its strategic location near the sea, Corinth was a wealthy city.6

Polytheistic in Paul’s day, Corinthians celebrated the Isthmian athletic games with invocations to Poseidon, and worshipped in various pagan temples to Apollo, Asclepius, Aphrodite, and Octavia (Caesar Augustus’s sister).7  Prior to becoming Christians, some Corinthian believers practiced idol worship (1 Cor. 12:2), and Paul accused pagans of worshiping demons (i.e., pagan gods) by eating food offered to idols (10:20).

According to Acts 18:4, Paul reasoned with both Jews and Greeks on each Sabbath in the Jewish synagogue.  Crispus, the ruler of the Corinthian synagogue, and all the people in his house became believers in Jesus.  Also, Titius Justus (a Gentile worshiping in the synagogue) and other gentile Corinthians believed in Jesus (Acts 18:7-8).  Subsequently, some Jews beat Sosthenes, the succeeding ruler of the synagogue, in the presence of the Roman tribunal (v. 17).  Possibly, this was the same Sosthenes, a believer and colleague of Paul, who joined him in writing 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:1). 

Into this mixed social context of converted pagans and Jewish Christians at Corinth, Paul referred to the enemy as “Satan,” “Belial,” “disguised angel of light,” and “god of this world.”  For Jews, both “Satan” and “Belial” deceived people and opposed God, and, yet, was subjected to God’s sovereignty.  Persons living in Paul’s day would have understood the implication of Satan being referred to as “Belial.”  First-century Jews in the Qumran Community said that wicked people followed the ways of Belial and eventually would be condemned to everlasting fire.8

Some Greeks at Corinth may have understood “this world” within the context of Greek philosophy’s (i.e., Plato) negative appraisal of the material world.9  The influence of Plato’s philosophy on Greco-Roman religions came to fruition in the growing gnostic religious systems of the first, second, and third centuries AD.  Pagan Corinthians influenced by gnostic ideology could have understood “the god of this age” possibly as the present evil world created by an evil god.10 

Paul’s phrase the “god of this world” relates the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) which is passing away (1 Cor. 2:6; 7:31) to that which one must not be conformed (Rom. 12:2).  The Corinthians—whether Jewish Christian or converted pagans—understood that the rulers of this age (1 Cor. 2:6,8) exemplified opposition to God through their crucifixion of Jesus.11  The god of this world’s opposition to Paul and the gospel message coalesced with unbelieving and blinded minds (2 Cor. 4:4).  Such a negative consequence betrays the reality that believers have the privilege of housing “this treasure in earthen vessels” (v. 7, KJV).

The Inherent Contradictions

Paul likened the weakness of the body with the evils of this world’s god, while he likened the strength of the inner self to that which is unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:4,16,18; 5:1).  For those who think they are wise in this world, that supposed wisdom is sheer foolishness (1 Cor. 3:18-19), for the form of this world is passing away (7:31).

Although this world and its god(s) display eternally destructive circumstances, consequences, ideas, and behaviors, “the transcendent power belongs to God . . . so we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:7,16, RSV).                                                                                                            Bi

1.  Matt. 4:1,5,8,11; 13:39; 25:41; Luke 4:2,3,6; 8:12; John 6:70; 8:44; 13:2; Acts 10:38; 13:10; Eph. 4:27; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:6,7; 2 Tim. 2:26; Heb. 2:14; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 3:8,10; Jude 9; Rev. 2:10; 12:9,12; 20:2,10.

2.  Matt. 4:10; 12:26; 16:23; Mark 1:13; 3:23,26; 4:15; 8:33; Luke 10:18; 11:18; 13:16; 22:3,31; John 13:27; Acts 5:3; 26:18; Rev. 2:9,13,24; 3:9; 12:9; 20:2,7.

3.  Matt. 6:14-15, HCSB.

4.  In the KJV, “Belial” appears several times in the Old Testament.  Contemporary translations translate the Hebrew word with terms such as “wicked man,” “worthless man,” “perverted men,” “base fellow,” or “wicked woman.”

5.  Strabo, Geography, 8.6.23, in Hamilton and Falconer, The Geography of Strabo, 3 vols. (London: Bohn, 1856), 2:65.

6.  Strabo, Geography 8.6.20, in Hamilton and Falconer, 2:60.

7.  Poseidon ruled as god of the sea; Apollo, god of the sun, oracles, music, and the eintellect; Asclepius, god of healing; Aphrodite, legendary for temple prostitutes; and Octavia, the focal point of the Emperor cult.

8.  “The Community Rule,” 1QS II, 5-9, in Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), 99.

9.  Plato, The Republic, 509-513, in Great Books of the Western World, ed. in chief Hutchins, trans. Jowett, vol. 7 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 386-88.

10. Irenaeus, Irenaeus Against Heresies in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Roberts and Donaldson, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 1:5:2; pg. 322.

11. Dominated by “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), “this age” is “the dominion of darkness” (Col. 1:13).

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2010.

 

GRACE

By Jerry M. Windsor

Jerry M. Windsor is associate professor of preaching, The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Florida.

THERE WERE TWO TIMES in my life when I should have been fired from my job and was not.  One was when I worked in the display advertising department of a large daily newspaper.  In the rush of meeting a daily deadline, I switched the newspaper advertisements of the two largest grocery competitors in town.  The mistake never went to press, but had it not been for a sharp proofreader, my major error could have caused great harm to our newspaper and the grocery store accounts.

My other serious misdeed was when I worked at a bakery.  Due to a mix-up on my part, other employees had to cover for me and the whole department suffered because of my mistake.

In both cases my supervisors talked with me, corrected me, and retained me.  I deserved to be fired both times, but my supervisors saved me.

The apostle Paul knew something about favors granted for no logical reason.  In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul spoke of the grace of God that is foundational to God’s redemptive plan for people.  A helpful insight about Ephesians is that it probably was a general letter intended for all the churches of the Roman province of Asia.  The oldest documents of this letter do not have “in Ephesus” in 1:1, indicating that the letter was a general and circular letter for all the churches and not just the church in Ephesus.  A. T. Robertson pointed out in his Word Pictures in the New Testament that perhaps the original copy had no place name in 1:1 but only a plank space.1 Therefore, we gladly and legitimately place the name of our own church in that space as we realize these great truths are valid for us today also.

Ephesians is a theological treatise, a practical letter, and a devotional writing.  The theme of Ephesians is that God is working out His great plan of redemption by calling men and women to Christ and thereby forming a redeemed society.  The redeemed are God’s heritage, God’s building, God’s body, and God’s elect.

God has blessed us (Eph. 1:3).  God has chosen us (v. 4).  The Lord God has predestinated us (v. 5) and by grace has made us acceptable (v. 6) to Himself.  He has redeemed us in Christ Jesus (v. 7) and has forgiven us of our sins (v. 7).  He has made His will known to us (v. 11) and sealed us to Himself (vv.13-14).

Paul could not help but burst out into a praise prayer of intercession for the church (vv. 15-19) as believers came under the authority of the resurrected Christ.  The sweep of God’s grace included Jews and Gentiles, heaven and earth, past and present, and ages to come (vv. 20-23).  The church is filled with the spirit of Christ under the headship, authority, and lordship of Christ.

We are all saved by grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone.  There are not three plans of salvation.  The Old Testament, New Testament, and present testimony of God’s Spirit is that grace and faith are given and received in Christ Jesus.

The word grace is a foundational word in this first chapter of Ephesians.  Paul stated that it is a glorious grace (v. 6), a great grace (v. 7), and a given grace (v. 8).  The word charis is the New Testament word for “grace” in this first chapter and it means “divine favor and mercy.”  Grace is especially associated with freeness and spontaneity.  The term is in contrast to works and debt.

W. E. Vine pointed out in his dictionary of biblical words that in Ephesians 1:6, grace is freely given; not earned, but received as one who has been unexpectedly bestowed or given a favor.2

Grace is not easily understood.  We live in a tradition and a culture where we feel we have to “earn” all rewards and favors.  Our society teaches us that work brings rewards and effort and energy are paid off by perks, salaries, and bonuses.

Farmers could teach us a lesson.  They plant one grain of corn, and it brings forth a stalk that may have five ears of corn and 700 grains of corn per ear.  The one grain is multiplied by the gifts of good soil, sunshine, and rain.  God’s grace brings multiplied fruit even after human efforts have been laid by.

Paul felt God’s grace in a personal way.  He wanted the readers of his letter to experience the joy of knowing Christ as Savior (v. 6-8) and Lord in all of life.  God’s grace was given in election (vv. 1-6), salvation (vv.7-10), calling (vv. 11-14), and lordship (vv. 15-23).  This was a comprehensive plan from before creation (v. 4) throughout all of eternity (v. 21).

In 1989 I heard Colonel Nimrod McNair speak at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee, Florida.  He stated that many things had happened to him in life, and he felt he needed to wear a sign around his neck and said, “I am under consturuction.”3

Grace does not leave us alone.  In the salutation of Ephesians Paul gave us the Father’s voice (vv. 1-2).  Paul then told us the Father’s choice (vv. 3-6).  Next, Paul wrote of the Father’s plan (vv. 7-10), then the Father’s mind (vv. 11-14), and His ministry (vv. 15-23).  God is actively working on our behalf.  He works through the redemptive ministry of the Lord Jesus and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.  This is done on the basis of divine choice and not human merit.  Grace works freely, profoundly, and absolutely.

Thomas A. Dorsey wrote the hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”  He and gospel singer Willie Mac Ford Smith sang and recorded a lesser known but very moving gospel song entitled “Jesus Dropped the Charges.”  This is what grace is all about.  It is sin denounced and Christ uplifted.  Paul knew the glory of that kind of grace and prayed that all believers might experience it in Christ.

Grace must always precede peace (v. 2).  We cannot know God’s peace until we have personally experienced God’s grace.  Paul had come to know God through Jesus, and he wanted to share with everyone the great blessings that God’s grace brings.

Paul then went into a litany of spiritual rewards that come from God’s favor and grace.  There is the work of God the Father, “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6, NIV).  There is the work of the Son, “for the praise of his glory” (v. 12, NIV), and the work of the Spirit, “to the praise of his glory” (v. 14, NIV).  This is not the Trinity in theory, but the Trinity in action.

God chose to act before the creation of the world.  All is to the praise of His glory.4

There are at least nine spiritual blessings that come to each of us in Jesus (vv. 3-14).  We do not earn these blessings any more than we earn Christmas gifts or birthday gifts, but these are given by Christ to all believers.  By His grace He has blesses us (v. 3).  By His grace He has chosen us (v. 4).  He has also predestinated us (v. 5) and made us acceptable (v. 6).  The Lord Jesus has redeemed us (v. 7), forgiven us (v. 7), and made His will known to us (v. 9).  Our Lord has given us an inheritance (vv. 11, 14) and has sealed us in the Holy Spirit *v. 13).5

The gifts or blessings of God’s grace are contrary to our laws of logic and reason.  We have difficulty accepting God’s grace because we know we are unacceptable.  No amount of self-analysis or self-esteem seminars can get us over the hump of feeling as if we have sinned, fallen short, and failed.  We throw away broken things because we lack the time, interest, skill, and desire to fox them.  We discard broken things but God collects broken people.  Paul saw that only grace could bring the miracles of election, redemption, and eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Grace is unmerited.  By its definition the New Testament word for “grace” means “undeserved.”  No one has earned God’s grace.  B. F. Westcoff stated that Paul never used charis to speak of human grace.6

Grace is unmotivated.  No one and no thing prompted God to choose us.  Christ chose us in the redemptive plan of God before the foundation of the earth.  God’s plan and not man’s actions motivated the work of the cross.

Grace is unmatched.  There is nothing like it.  Paul challenged the Christians in Ephesus and other churches to live differently and be different because God’s grace is sufficient to save and bring peace in a hurting society.

Grace is unmoved.  Grace is not temporary.  Grace is not capricious.  Grace is not transient.  Grace is stable and sure.

Paul wrote Ephesians from some kind of imprisonment or confinement.  Yet in the Lord Jesus, he experienced grace and peace that passes all understanding.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Bi

1. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1931), 4:514-515.

2. W. E. Vine, Merrill R. Unger, William White, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), 277.

3. Nimrod McNair, Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, April 13, 1989, The Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

4. William W. Adams, Class notes. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

5. E. Y. Mullins, Studies in Ephesians (Nashville: Convention Press, 1993), 25-41.

6. Brook Foss Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1979 reprint), 10.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2002.

 

GLORY The Meaning

By Jerry M. Windsor

Jerry M. Windsor is Associate Professor of Preaching, Florida Baptist Theological College, Graceville, Florida.

F

IVE TIMES IN MY LIFE I have experienced God’s glory.

·   On June 28, 1956, at Shocco Springs Baptist Assembly near Talladega, Alabama, I felt God call me to preach as a 16-year-old boy.

·   In the winter of 1956 I was invited to preach a Saturday night youth rally at Oneonta, Alabama, and numerous teenagers made decisions for Christ.  The glory of God came down.

·   As a first-year student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary I was reading The Diary of Hudson Taylor, and the glory of the Lord overwhelmed me.

·   In my first pastorate I was faced with a problem that could not be avoided, and the glory of God came upon me at a crisis time and assured me that “everything was going to be all right.”

·   Years later I was faced with a number of crucial vocational choices.  I came before the Lord asking for uprity of heart and wisdom in decision making.  The Lord told me plainly but not vocally that I was to pay off a personal debt, return a book that I had borrowed, and make a donation of an artifact to one of our Baptist seminaries.  Upon doing this, I had that peace that passes all understanding and the certain glory of God’s mighty presence and power.

God’s glory is the mighty, weighty presence of God upon our lives in an overpowering, dynamic way.  It may be a theophany of physical or spiritual occurrence.  It may be visual (as Moses saw the burning bush), vocal (as Paul heard the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus), or visceral (as Jonah had an internal urge and compulsion to go to Nineveh).  But however it comes, it is a mind-changing, heart-moving, powerful encounter with Almighty God.

According to Young’s Analytical Concordance two primary words are translated “glory” in the King James Version.1 The most prominent word for “glory” in the Old Testament is Kabod [kah BODH], and the most used word in the New Testament translated “glory” is doxa [DOX ah].

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word Kabod denotes weight, substance (Gen. 45:13; Ps. 49:16), and honor that true worth commands.2 The word may refer to weight as a burden (Ex. 18:18; Ps. 38:4), or it could also mean weight as importance or consideration.  This may refer to God’s glory or the glory of man.

In the Old Testament the  Bible speaks clearly of glory as related to men.  Glory is seen in riches (Ps. 49:16; Isa. 61:6), in the Assyrian army (Isa. 8:7), in the trees of Lebanon (Isa. 60:13), in reputation (Job 29:20; Ps. 4:2), and in spiritual condition (Ps. 8:5).  Glory in the lives of men includes the external as well as the internal qualities that come to man at the point of creation.3 At no time is this glory seen as a person-made disposition only.  There is certainly earthly glory that speaks of wealth, pride, and prestige (Job 19:9; Isa. 10:3; Hos. 9:11), but it would be impossible to say all the weighty honor came only by the hand of man.

This glory is not so much what something or someone might bestow upon God, but rather the quality of weight, honor, and importance that is already present in God.  We only recognize it.  We only declare it.  It is already there.4

As Kabod is the Hebrew word in the Old Testament that most often is translated “glory,” the New Testament counterpart is doxa.  In early Greek in Homer and Herodotus the word doxa expressed expectation, judgment, and opinion.  Only later did the word come to mean prestige, honor, splendor, and radiance.5

The Holman Bible Dictionary suggested that in the New Testament doxa is pointing to God’s glory.6 Thayer in his lexicon stated that the context will show how one may give glory to God and cited New Testament examples.

One may give or ascribe glory to God by expressing gratitude for a benefit received from God (Luke 17:18).  Thayer stated that other ways to give glory to God include trusting God’s promises (Rom. 4:20), celebrating His praises (Rev. 4:9-11; 11:13; 14:7; 19:7), rendering due honor to His majesty (Acts 12:23), and acknowledging that God knows all things and showing that you believe it by the confessions that you make (John 9:24).7

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul used tradition, emotion, logic, common sense, and Scripture to show he was an authentic apostle and messenger of Jesus Christ.  Paul boldly yet humbly charted the way for all ministers as he shared his motivation for service.  Paul had respect for all men but feared only God.  He cogently laid out the role of a minister with its frustrations and rewards.

Traditionally a minister uses references and resources.  Paul did not disavow that practice but claimed the emotional argument that his best references were the changed lives of the Corinthian Christians (3:1-5).  Logically a ministry that is built on the resurrected Christ is superior to any manufactured document.  G. R. Beasley-Murray in his commentary writings on this passage stated that the Lord always effectively uses preachers who know their own weaknesses, stay near the cross, and throw themselves upon the mercy and work of the Holy Spirit.8

Moses needed to wear a veil, but in Jesus Christ that veil is removed for all who turn to the Lord in faith, repentance and obedience (3:16).  We can see God’s glory in Christ Jesus.  We can see God’s glory as we read of Him in Scripture, as we serve others, and they serve us.  We feel that imprint of many personalities on our lives, and likewise we leave influences and impressions on others.  But greater still is that eternal impact of the Lord Jesus in every believer’s life.  This confrontation with God’s grace causes each of Christ’s followers to grow in His likeness.  Paul saw that freedom, light, service, and growth were available for each one in Christ.  There is no fading away and this is no temporary condition.

The Holy Spirit assisted Paul and will assist every believer in reflecting Jesus Christ.  Mirrors in those days were made of flat pieces of cast metal or bronze and had to be continuously polished to properly reflect the desired image.  The indwelling Holy Spirit gives vigorous cleaning to every Christian who permits it and desires to reflect Jesus Christ.  No sin, no action, or habit need be hidden.  God’s Holy spirit polished the life of every believer that we might reflect Jesus Christ more accurately (3:18).

Paul honored Christ because he knew Christ’s glory was God’s glory.  If you want to see God, look at Jesus.  The glory of Christ is the focal point of the universe.  Jesus Christ is the primary object of all creation, adoration, and worship (4:1-6).

Some people made personal and professional charges against Paul.  Yet in all his experiences Paul desired to honor Christ.  Pain, suffering, persecution, stress, and conflict were endured (4:9-11), but God’s glory was always his focal point.

From his conversion on the road to Damascus until his death, Paul believed that experiencing God’s weighty might and presence was to leave one humble and transformed.  Giving his life as an expression of the glory of God was Paul’s aim and every born-again believer’s duty.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bi

1.  Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1969), 399-400.

2.  J. M. Furness, Vital Words of the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 43.

3.  George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 2:401-403.

4.  See “Glory” in Holman Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Trent C. Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 557.

5.  Furness, Vital Words, 43-44.

6.  Butler, Holman,557.

7.  Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1905), 155.

8.  G. R. Beasley-Murray, 2 Corinthians  vol. 11 of The Broadman Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Clifton J. Allen (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 21.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1999.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (02/01/15)  Whose mother does Paul send a greeting as being a mother to him, also? (NIV) Answer next week:

The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (01/25/15)   A two-part question: In Ephesus, (1) where and (2) for how long, did the Apostle Paul minister? Answer: (1) Where? The school of Tyrannus (2) how long? Two years. Acts 19:9-10.