Grace & Peace

GRACE AND PEACE BE MULTIPLIED TO YOU IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND OF JESUS OUR LORD 2 PETER 1:2

Thursday, June 1, 2017

God's Righteousness, not Self-Righteousness - by Conformity to His Death




The Apostle Paul knew he was crucified with Christ. He knew this had taken place for him (when he was born again and baptized into the body of Christ-ref. I Cor. 12:13), as it did for all of us who were born again, at the moment of our salvation. He also knew that he had died to sin, died to the law and had crucified the flesh (died to the flesh) at the moment of salvation. He knew that reckoning it so was key to his thought life or mindset and to rely on what had already been attained for him by the work of the cross (Christ's sufferings). By reckoning this so-daily-(Paul said, I die daily) he was being made conformable unto Christ's death in his mind (thought life); he was conforming his thought life to the truth of what took place when he was crucified with Christ.

Please join me in this study as we delve into God's word.

9 and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; " Phil. 3:9-10 AMP


"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Gal. 2:19-21 KJV

Righteousness simply means right-standing with God, and to be righteous is to be in right relationship with God.The Old Covenant Hebrews believed that to be in right relationship or right-standing with God they had to keep all of the law. The law God gave through Moses found in Deuteronomy stated, "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." Deut. 6:25

In Leviticus, it says, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord."  Lev. 18:5  KJV

But, the Old Covenant Hebrews, or Israelites, were wrong in their belief that they could keep all the law and therefore maintain their righteousness. Fortunately, God also gave them the Levitical priesthood and a system of sacrifices, which brought a measure of mercy to their lives. The animal sacrifices done in faith under the Old Covenant were a covering for sin, but they foreshadowed or looked forward, to the day when Christ would shed His blood on the cross; Jesus being the completely sufficient sacrifice for sin. So now, those who by faith appropriate the proper covering; Christ's shed blood, are acceptable before God, found completely justified and righteous (see Rom. 5:16-17). Christ's blood is not only a covering, but it completely washes us clean; whereas the animal sacrifices done in faith, had to be repeated again and again, and offered only a temporal covering for sin.  Once again, as Paul states, "And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:" Phil. 3:9 KJV

We are to recognize that as born-again New Covenant believers, we have received an imputed righteousness (right-standing with God) the moment we became born-again.  Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. (ref. Rom. 4:11, 24-25 NIV) This is all made possible because of Jesus' perfect obedience. (ref. Rom.5:16-19, 10:4) The Old Covenant Israelites agreement to keep the law,  and their relationship with God was a conditional agreement or covenant.

As found in the book of Exodus (19:7-8) "And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord." KJV This was a self-righteous statement or a statement of pride and we find in the very next chapter, God gave them the law. Now upon knowing this, many ask, Why did God give the law to the ancient Israelites if he knew they couldn't keep it?

The Apostle Paul explains in his epistle to the Galatians, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (3:22-27)

The law acted as a schoolmaster and directed us toward Christ. It did this by creating or being such a high standard (it demanded perfection). This is a standard that God's holiness required to be accepted or in right-standing with God and found righteous, if one wished or believed he could meet it by his own merit or effort. Right-standing and relationship with God, indeed their very spiritual life for the Israelite, under the Old Covenant, was contingent upon this conditional agreement they entered into with God. This high standard (indeed impossible standard) was meant to drive one to despair (lose any hope of keeping it) and thus see their need for a Savior. 

The Apostle Paul also explained in the 3rd chapter of Romans that the law was given for yet another reason. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (3:19 KJV)

Once again, the standard of the law is perfection (by your own merit or human effort) if you want to try and keep it apart from faith in Christ. Just look at the Ten Commandments and realize the only man or person who has ever walked the earth and kept them all is Jesus. Jesus is fully man and fully God. So all humanity would need a Savior. That's why in Galatians, it states, "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:4-6 KJV)

Now you might be saying, that 's all fine, but I'm not an Old Testament Hebrew or Israelite, born under the law. Well, think about this, you have standards you live by, and place on others and others place on you, that if not met, judgment comes. That's all a law system can do is judge and condemn. Now we do need societal laws and order (structure) in our households, etc. or society wouldn't function properly. But make no mistake about it, the world operates in large part under a law system which is conditional-opposite of the unconditional love of God. 

Scripture tells us, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him!" Rom. 5:6-9 NIV

So, once again, the ancient Hebrews were given the law because of their prideful attitude and fallen mankind today is under the law for the same reason. We find in the gospels, whenever someone would come to Jesus and ask "What must I do to be saved?" thinking they could merit their own salvation, Jesus would give them the law. But, if someone came to Jesus and knew that by their own merit they were unworthy of salvation, but looked to Jesus, they found grace. (ref. Luke 18:18-25, 19:1-10, I Pet. 5:5-6, Jam. 4:6)

So now, with all this said, we go back to the opening scripture reference, in which Paul said, "and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;" Phil. 3:9-10 KJV  Paul concluded Phil 3:10 by saying "being made conformable unto His death." Is this something we must do? And if so, how do we do it? 

Well, the good news is, if you are born-again, then you've already done it. The Apostle Paul writes, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, (I Cor. 12:13a KJV) But you may be saying, I'm born again, but I don't remember that happening. That's why the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 6:3, Don't you know?  3"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." Rom. 6:3-7 NIV

The Apostle Paul states, "We died to sin: how can we live in it any longer?" Rom. 6:2b NIV (Once you were dead in sin, dead in Adam [spiritually dead]. Now, as a born-again Christian, you are alive in righteousness, alive in Christ, and spiritually alive. (ref. Eph. 2:1) Therefore, it's impossible to be dead in sin and alive in Christ at the same time.

Now let me ask you. How many of you remember dying? You did when you became born-again. You died to your old self, the flesh, and you became spiritually born-again. Now let me ask you...Can a dead man sin? Can a dead man have guilt? So now, we are dead to sin and alive to God. You are dead indeed to what?   Sin.    Are you worried about your sin problem? You shouldn't be. It's been done away with.  The Apostle Paul said, If you have the Spirit, you're not under the law, because you don't need the law if you've already been made righteous, so we don't need a law system to make ourselves righteous. This is what happened to us when we became born-again. My spirit man, the real me, has been made righteous.

Paul's epistle to the Colossians explains it this way...
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Col. 2:11-14 KJV   Verse 12 of Colossians 2 gives the proper order; we were first buried with him, then raised with him, through faith of the operation of God. This is why the Apostle Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

That's the power of the gospel. I'm not who I used to be and neither are you, if you're born-again. You have a new identity. We are now worthy because of what Christ has done. This is all made possible because of the New Covenant... an unconditional covenant.

The Apostle Paul said this about the power of the gospel; 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed in a way that awakens more faith]. As it is written and forever remains written, "The just and upright shall live by faith." Rom. 1:16-17 AMP

The Expanded Version states it this way: 16 [For] I am not ashamed of the Good News [Gospel], because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes--to save the Jews first, and then to save Gentiles [the Greeks; here meaning anyone who is not Jewish; contrast v.14] 17 The Good News [Gospel] shows how God makes people right with himself [or God's righteous character; the righteousness of/from God] that it begins and ends with faith [or that advances from one believing person to the next; or that begins with God's faithfulness and results in people's faith; from faith to faith]. As the scripture says, "But those who are right with God will live by faith [or those made righteous through faith will live (eternally)] Rom. 1:16-17

God said, "10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Heb. 8:10-12 KJV

This is God's work of restoration spoken of by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians:  18 But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].
19 It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor)." II Cor. 5:18-19 AMPC

Jesus also said in Mark's gospel, "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (1:15, KJV)

In the last chapter of Luke's gospel, Jesus (being risen from the dead) said to His disciples, "..that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:47

The definition of the word 'remission' goes as follows: 1. the act of remitting, or the state of being remitted. 2. pardon, as of sins or a crime. 3. release from a debt, penalty, or obligation.

Repentance simply means to turn and go in the other direction. I like to put it this way; remember, before you were born again, you were on a fast track heading down the highway of life. You were trying to earn your way to heaven by your effort and performance. Then you heard the truth of the gospel, the message that said it wasn't your performance, but what Christ did on the cross that offered you His unconditional pardon, and you accepted His offer. He took your sin and gave you His righteousness. You accepted His sacrificial atonement. You repented, which means you changed the direction of your thinking; you went in the other direction. Now, you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, all because of Jesus.

Before you were born-again, you, in effect, were saying you could gain a righteousness on your own, with your own effort and performance. Then you heard the gospel of grace and you learned of a righteousness apart from works, all because of what Jesus did. You changed direction in your thinking and put your faith in God and not in yourself. This was true repentance and you received an imputed righteousness, which is the righteousness of God; a free gift. This is what happened to you, if you became a born-again Christian.

Now, why is it so important to know and remember that we have (past tense), the moment we became born-again, died to sin, died to the law and crucified the flesh? (ref. Gal. 5:24, Rom. 6:6,11, 7:4-6, II Pet. 1:9, I Cor. 12:13)  As stated in Galatians, "and they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (5:24) (ref. I Cor. 6:11)

The Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans, "For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death." (7:5 KJV) But, once again, we died to sin and we died to the law. The Apostle Paul also said, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ;" Rom. 7:4a  And he (Paul) also said, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." Rom. 8:9a KJV That's us as born-again believers!

So, once again, why is it important to know and remember that we have (past tense, the moment we became born-again) died to sin, died to the law and crucified the flesh? Well, as the Apostle Peter states in his second epistle, "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was (past tense) purged of his old sins. II Pet. 1:9 KJV  And as found in Hebrews, "For then would they not have ceased to be offered? (this speaks of sacrifices for sins) Because that the worshipers once purged should have no more conscience of sins." Heb. 12:2 KJV

God tells us through Paul's message to the Romans that "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (3:20 NIV) With the Israelites, under the Old Covenant of law, if they did good...they got good. If they did bad...they got bad. Scripture tells us that through the law we become conscious of sin. The word 'conscious' means: con [with] - science [knowledge]. So, these people living under the law were knowledgeable about their sin. It could be said, they were sin-conscious and with that came the fear of punishment. (ref. Heb. 2:15) This mentality affected the Hebrew people in the wilderness. It affected them once they crossed over into the Promised Land, and it affects people today, if they allow themselves to be put under the law.

So, we should focus or remember that we have (past tense) died and have been planted together in the likeness of his death, and we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection. (ref. Rom. 6:5) Now don't dig yourself up in your thinking. We are secure in our salvation because it is a righteousness apart from the law (human effort or performance). This is why the Apostle Paul said I die daily. (ref. I Cor. 15:31) He (Paul) would not allow himself to dig himself up in his thinking. He knew he was crucified with Christ and reckoned it so. We don't want to be like a farmer who had planted seed and in his impatience runs out and digs up the seed, thinking it is not doing anything. Patiently rest in your God-given righteousness, looking at the work of the cross and not yourself-or your behavior. If you think this way, eventually your behavior will line up with your thinking, which is putting the horse before the cart, instead of putting the cart before the horse.

The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (8:24-25 KJV) For as Paul wrote in Galatians, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." (5:5 KJV)

The Apostle Paul knew that once, before he was born again, he was dead in the flesh and not alive in the Spirit. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (2:3 KJV) It's worth reading this passage in the NIV version also. "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (continue reading Eph. 2:4-9 on your own.)

But, the Apostle Paul received the unconditional love of God, (ref. Rom 5:8) and knew what the Apostle John meant when he wrote, "There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God's judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God's love]. I John 4:18 AMP The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." I Thes. 5:9 KJV  James writes in his epistle, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." (1:20 KJV)

Now all this brings a proper understanding to the first chapter of John's first epistle. (ref. I John 1:7-10) When you came to Christ, you confessed you were a sinner in need of a Savior. (Once again, if someone is prideful and thinks he can save himself by his own merit, or believes that they are without sin-why would they need a Savior?) But we (who are born-again) did confess that we were sinners, in need of a Savior. And God who is faithful and just, forgave us ALL our sin. He is faithful because it is His nature and character and he was just to forgive us our sins because the wrath that was against mankind's sin was placed squarely and entirely on Jesus at the cross. It was exhausted on Him, as He bore our penalty and punishment. As born-again believers, He has cleansed us from ALL unrighteousness, as he took our sin and gave us His (imputed) righteousness. (ref. Rom. 3:26, 4:24, I Cor. 6:11)

Now, we can boldly do as instructed in Romans 6:13, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." KJV (For we are not unrighteous, but righteous). This is what the Apostle Paul meant, in large part, when he wrote in Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." KJV

Now, the only way we can yield our members as instruments of righteousness and present our bodies a living sacrifice is by knowing that as born-again believers, we too, have been crucified with Christ, and have died to sin, for as the Apostle Peter wrote, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." You have to know you died to sin, by dying to the law and to the flesh, to live unto righteousness. The Apostle John reminded us, "I write unto you little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." I John 2:12 KJV

"And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Eph. 4:32

Col. 3:13 says, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."

This is why the Apostle Paul could say, 'I'm crucified with Christ, but yet I live.'
When he was crucified with Christ, he died to sin, he died to the law, and he died to the flesh--all at the moment he was born-again and baptized into the body of Christ.

This is why it's important to understand that at the new birth, we are baptized into Christ's body; water baptism is symbolic of what took place at the new birth. (Heb. 6:2 refers to plural baptisms) Our death to sin, the law and our flesh all took place at the new birth.

As Paul penned in the book of Romans, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." (10:3-4 KJV)

I leave you with these scriptures for further thought and meditation.

Luke 15:7 NIV
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Matthew 9:13 KJV
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2:17 KJV
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I Timothy 1:9 KJV
9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

Hebrews 7:12 KJV
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

I Cor. 15:56 KJV
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

Galatians 3:12 KJV
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Examining Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

"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."

Paul's account of his "thorn in the flesh" is found in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12:7-10. The Apostle Paul writes this second letter to the church in Corinth from Macedonia, while on his way to Corinth in approximately 55 AD. Even for the Apostle Paul speaking into the church at Corinth in these formative years met with those who would at times oppose his authority, leaving Paul feeling led to qualify himself or validate God's calling on his life.

Paul, in a sense, builds a case for his ministry by contrasting the true signs of apostleship found in his ministry against certain false apostles who were preaching a false gospel in an attempt to lead people astray. Paul writes of the signs and wonders which accompany the true gospel as he teaches it and also the persecution which can arise for preaching this same gospel. In so doing, Paul lays the groundwork that must be understood to truly see the teaching of Paul's "thorn in the flesh" in it's proper context.

What's brought out by the Apostle Paul earlier in this epistle and climaxes in this account is a proper understanding of what suffering is for a Christian, and what it is not, what grace is and how it empowers us, where our faith should be focused, and how we stand in our authority, the way we are to wage war as a Christian and what it is to be a true servant of righteousness. (ref. 2 Cor. 11:15)

Paul's effort to defend his ministry and expose these false apostles and their untrue claims, or boasting, is really the lead in to the account of Paul's "thorn in the flesh." The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor. 11:16 "I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting.  vs 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. vs 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. vs 21b What anyone else dares to boast about - I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast about.

Paul then proceeds to list his Hebraic heritage, as well as his vast servitude for Christ and his many accomplishments and sufferings in his missionary endeavors as he served the Lord. He speaks of his heavenly vision and then recounts his "thorn in the flesh."

Note: The words boast and glory are often used interchangeably between the NIV and the KJV translations of chapters 11 & 12 of 2 Corinthians.

Although Paul chose to use this method to validate his ministry in the eyes of the Corinthians, he begins to, in essence, explain why his hope or faith is not tied into any of his accomplishments or merit gained by his pedigree or performance. It is with this foreknowledge that this account takes on it's real meaning and intended value to us as Christians and allows it to be applied to our lives.

Beginning with verse 7 of 2 Cor. 12, we read, "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." The Apostle Paul is letting the readers know that he had "opened a door" for the enemy to come in and harass him or buffet him. The reason he states for this happening is, "lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations" which he had received from God. The Apostle Paul was at this point in a quandary as to how to shut the door he had opened to the enemy. Verse 8 tells us he thought God could do it for him. "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." Verse 9a gives us God's response, "And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

Here in God's response lies the answer to Paul's problem, and ours, anytime we are in a quandary or our hope falters; grappling for a solution to an unmet need. God's answer of grace being sufficient for Paul is also his answer for us. In fact, as we examine these definitions, we will see exactly why.

Definition of Grace
a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

Definition of Unmerited
not adequately earned or deserved: not merited

Definition of Pride
: the quality or state of being proud: such as
a: inordinate self-esteem: conceit
b: a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
c: delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship <parental pride>

Definition of Boast
1 : a statement expressing excessive pride in oneself: the act or an instance of boasting (see 2 boast: brag
2 :a cause for pride

Definition of Infirmity
1 a: the quality or state of being infirm
   b: the condition of being feeble: frailty
2 : disease, malady
3: a personal failing: foible <one of the besetting infirmities of living creatures is egotism>--

(taken from the merriam-webster.com online dictionary)

Definition of Infirmity
1 a physical weakness or disability
2 a defect of personality or character
3 an infirm condition; feebleness

(taken from The New Webster's Concise Dictionary of the English Language, 2003 ed.)

Note: the word "infirmity" and the word "weakness" are often used interchangeably between the NIV and the KJV translations in chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Corinthians.

We can see that boasting and pride are the opposites of grace and unmerited favor. Grace is at the heart of New Testament teaching and contradicts pride. This is why Paul writes, in ch. 5:12 of 2 Cor., "We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart." Shortly after this verse, Paul explains the "grace of God" and how this is the message we as New Testament believers should be promoting. This is found in 2 Cor. 5:16-20, which says, "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." He then concludes, stating, that God made Jesus who had no sin to "be sin" for us so that "in him" we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

Righteousness means by definition that we are in "right-standing" with God. This is a right-standing apart from our works or performance. (ref. Rom. 3:21-22) Understanding this, we can see that the Apostle Paul had "opened a door" and allowed the enemy access by being prideful of all the great revelations God had given him. Paul, too, was on a learning curve as a Christian at some point in his life concerning this issue and chose this time to give the account of his "thorn in the flesh."

Pride is the opposite of faith, because pride points to your accomplishments and takes your eyes off of Jesus, (our true faith-object.) The remainder of verse 9, in 2 Cor. chapter 12 tells us the Apostle Paul got his eyes off of himself and back on Jesus as he states "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities (weaknesses) that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The Apostle Paul in making this statement is reiterating what he says in his epistle to the Philippians, found in ch. 3, verses 8-10, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" Paul's reference to suffering in the previous verse harmonizes with the beginning of Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians where the Apostle Paul states, "for just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Cor. 1:5 NIV

A study of the word "suffer" in scripture shows us that at times it is used in reference to permitting something, such as found in Jesus' words when he said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 19:14 KJV  The significance of this is found as we examine why the Apostle Paul used the term "thorn in my flesh." This phrase is taken from several locations in the Old Testament; (Num. 33:55, Josh. 23:13, Judg. 2:3) In Numbers 33:55 it says, "But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell." God states that he had given the land as an inheritance for the Israelites to possess it and they were to go in and dispossess the inhabitants of the land.  (ref. Num. 33:53) The inhabitants of the land that they were to drive out were squatters. God had given them (Israelites) the land and God said failure to drive them out would cause these squatters to be pricks in theirs eyes and thorns in their sides, and vex them in the land where they would dwell.  In other words, these Israelites permitted this to happen to them in some cases, and in these areas where this was allowed to happen, they did not receive their inheritance. (ref. Deut. 4 38, Judg. 3:1-6)

When the Apostle Paul was prideful concerning the revelations God had given him, he was failing to utilize the empowerment that could "shut the door" to the enemy. In the book of James we find "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Jam. 4:7 NIV  We also find in Peter's first epistle "and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Pet. 5:5b-6)

God's grace, or unmerited favor, was the only way for Paul to "shut the door" on the enemy and drive him out, but to do so he had to give up any vain imagination that he was special in God's eyes, because of his own merit. (ref. 2 Cor. 10:5) This is how we wage warfare in the spiritual realm (unseen world). When the Apostle Paul was obedient to do this, he took revenge on the enemy. (ref. 2 Cor. 10:6) It's obvious to me that this is what Paul did and found the victory because he closes out his account of the "thorn in his flesh" by saying, "therefore I take pleasure in infirmities (weaknesses), in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."  2 Cor. 12:10 KJV

Speculation as to what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was has arisen from such scriptures as found in Gal. 4:13-15. Here Paul says, "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh, ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me." Another scripture is found in Gal. 6:11 and reads as follows: "Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand." Once again, this is speculation as to what the Apostle Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was - and as stated earlier the word weakness and the word infirmity are used interchangeably in this account.

When the Apostle Paul got back under grace, he "shut the door" to the enemy and kicked the squatter off his land (satan from Paul's body). Sickness is a part of the curse that Christ has redeemed us from (ref. Gal. 3:13) and healing and restoration are our inheritance to be claimed in the atonement. It's our right-and satan and his crew of demons have no right to it. So, any infirmity (weakness) that the Apostle Paul said he would boast in or glory in, was just to say he would never be proud looking to his accomplishments, etc, but that he would take strength, looking to Jesus and what Jesus would do even in Paul's weakness.

The Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle, "But, and if, ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye:" 1 Pet. 3:14a

Now, not many people open a door by being prideful over the abundance of the revelations given to them as did the Apostle Paul. But pride can come in-in many different ways and can cause us to think we are worthy in God's eyes because of our own merit. Receive God's unconditional love daily and you will be able to give it out to others as well as "shut the door" on the enemy, and by doing so you will be a true servant of righteousness. (ref. 2 Cor. 11:15)

The Apostle Paul provided an answer to the Corinthians for the false apostles who were boasting as the world does, as once again he stated, "For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance (what is seen), and not in heart." Let this be your answer as well.  God bless.