By Nicole McCleod
God’s promise of sufficient grace and power… in our weakness
Please open in your Bible to 2 Corinthians 12:7 -10
We are all familiar with the well-known hymn, “Amazing Grace , how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”… but are all of you familiar with the story of its writer John Newton? In 1725 John was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was 7. At age 11 he joined his father at sea, where he began a “licentious and tumultuous” sailing life… including a public flogging for attempting to desert the Royal Navy, and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he became the captain of his own slave ship. God brought about his conversion through a near drowning in a terrible storm, his reading of Thomas a Kempis “Imitation of Christ” and the piety of his dear friend Mary Catlett who later became his wife. Finally, in 1754 he gave up the slave trade, and in association with William Wilberforce became an abolitionist. When he came under the influence of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, he began to study for the ministry and was ordained and served the church of England from 1764-1780.
If God’s amazing grace is sufficient to save and transform a man like John Newton, (and a man like the Apostle Paul) … surely His grace is sufficient to save and transform each of us who have gathered here today in His Name. God’s Grace is amazing, it changes everything and God’s grace changes us.
To set the context for the promise we have before us today, we’ll begin at chapter 12 vs. 7 in the middle of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.
2 Cor. 12:7-10 (ESV) “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
verse 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited –
Paul had truly received amazing visions and revelations from the Lord, including (see vs 1-6) an experience in heaven where he saw and heard things too amazing to speak of …… but to keep him humble, and keep him from exalting himself – or others also exalting him unduly… “ So to keep me from becoming conceited” – “a thorn was given me in the flesh”
“Was given” is a term used 3 times in the NT to denote a favor from God – a gift…from God…The thorn was given to Paul from God to keep him humble … “thorn” describes a sharpened beam of wood used like a tent stake to drive in the ground or is a sharpened wooden shaft used to impale someone - a messenger “from Satan” to harass or buffet him – literally pound him with fists…as they did to Jesus after his arrest. This caused him pain and suffering and really, we don’t even know the half of it, but God knows the whole of it. And whatever battels and pains we are suffering today, our closest friends don’t even know the half, but God knows the whole. At the end of this verse 7… Paul repeats this again… it’s purpose… to keep me from becoming conceited. God had a purpose in it. These amazing visions, revelations and experiences the Lord had given to Paul were something he could have boasted in to those who were trying to discredit his ministry in Corinth…but the thorn did its job, and he boasted instead of his weaknesses As Spurgeon said Anything is a blessing which makes us pray... … and as we always need to keep in mind…God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
God can allow suffering for a purpose in our lives... and it is humbling – and humility is truly a Christian virtue. God can allow humbling to draw us to Himself. What did the suffering and humbling of this thorn bring Paul to do? It brought him to “pleading prayer” at the Throne of Grace…
2 Cor 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
Paul went to the Lord and prayed that it should leave him! He mentions pleading 3 times, which brings to mind the Lord Jesus, who also pleaded in prayer 3 times for the cup to pass… both were denied their specific requests, and both were given God’s grace.
Where do we go with our troubles? We go to the very same throne of Grace Paul went to, to the very same God of grace and mercy Paul went to, to the very same Lord Jesus who wore the crown of thorns pressed into His brow – to the one who knows the pain of thorns, the buffeting with fists – the “weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties”. We go to the great High priest Jesus, who was tempted in every way like us yet without sin, to the compassionate one, to our advocate upon the throne, to the lamb that was slain…to the God of Heavens Armies, to our Great Deliverer? We go to God in pleading prayer like Paul, to find grace and mercy in our time of need.
Heb. 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Suffering at any level is so hard to understand. It is such a fallen world, everything in it is fallen, and even those of us who are redeemed still have that fallen humanness and we need His grace daily.
Verse 9 , we have Christ’s answer to Paul’s prayer. His Word and His promise spoken, 9 But he (Jesus) 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
A.) “He said” is a perfect tense verb which means it is a standing answer put permanently in place. So another way to say it is “He has said – once for all”
My Grace The source of this grace is Christ – “My grace” … “My power”…it is of divine origin and is of divine substance. Jesus is described in John 1 as being “ full of grace and truth”. 7 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Grace – Charis – God’s unmerited favor. (Love and favor and power)
This is one of the most used theological terms in the New Testament. It’s a generous benefit given, a favor bestowed to someone who could never earn it, who deserves judgment. Its undeserved generosity from God. ... GRACE “Gods riches at Christ’s expense.”
Eph. 2:8-9For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Pastor George recently preached on Grace and Mercy saying, “Grace is not getting what we deserve, and Mercy is not getting what we do deserve”.
One commentator wrote this:
“Grace is a force. It is a power that transforms us, that awakens us from sleep, that gives us life, that can move us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. It is the power that saves us, keeps us, enables us, sanctifies us, and it is the power that one day will glorify us. It is a divine force that God pours out into the lives of His people at all points to grant them all that they need to be all that He desires.”
In 1986 when I finally heard the gospel, recognized my lost and hell bound condition and first opened my heart to Christ, I prayed to receive Christ and His gift of salvation., God’s saving grace began its work immediately, not only in forgiving all my sins, and giving me peace with God - but also it gave me new passions and desires I had never had – like to read the Bible, to go to church and Bible study to learn how to live to please God – it was a 180 change and slowly my life began to change as I grew in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and what he wanted for my life. The amazing grace of God was teaching “my heart to fear… and grace my fears relieved.”
Titus 2:11-13 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Grace teaches us and changes us, and helps us live holy lives and go towards maturity in the faith.
Another commentator wrote this about grace: “Our whole Christian life – from new birth to glory is lived by the grace in which we stand. We are given grace to repent of sin; we’re given grace to believe God’s truth, grace to be saved. We are given grace to understand the Word of God. We’re given grace to wisely apply the Word of God. We’re given grace to overcome sin. We’re given grace to defeat temptation. We’re given grace to endure suffering, disappointment, pain. We’re given grace to obey the Lord and forgive our offenders. We’re given grace to serve Him. We’re given grace to use our spiritual gifts which are gifts of grace.”
Praise the Lord for His truly amazing grace and all it does in our lives!
God is gracious and as His children we are to be gracious also. To love God and others we need His grace to be daily at work in and through us. If and when we run out of grace for the people God has put in our lives to love, we can ask for more grace and He will supply our need. This Paul calls “the surpassing grace of God” (2 Cor 9:4) at work in you.” It’s an amazing gift force power of God which can supply our lack of graciousness, for His glory. As the writer of Hebrews said: " It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace" Heb. 13:9.
My Grace Is – it is in the present IS sufficient for you, which means that we don't have to ask Him to make His grace sufficient. It already IS!
Sufficient – and this the emphasis. Would you like to see how this promise reads in the original language? It actually follows a pattern: a “chiastic pattern”.
A is sufficient
B for you
C my grace
C my power
B in weakness
A is perfected
How wonderful that Jesus' first words in the Greek sentence are " Is sufficient", which places emphasis on our supply of His grace, a truth which gives us encouragement – grammar is fun!
Sufficient: “Arkeo” means enough - leading to satisfaction. It’s in the present tense - the divine gift of grace is continually present and sufficient – “a very present help in time of trouble” (ps. 46:1) … It is an “All Sufficient, Supernatural Source of Strength”.
My grace is sufficient For you - Yes for you. Jesus spoke using the present tense, so when we read it, and see those red letters, we hear the Lord speak it to us personally and take it to heart. His Grace sufficient for our past – our present - and for all our future needs is good news.
2 Cor 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you” – “all grace” means stretching across all categories. The following is from a devotion that was written in the 1800s
“It has been spoken of as “
an elastic promise”
The word "sufficient" may not sound very great, but it
according to a man's necessity.
A Christian's need may be great today — and the word "sufficient" reaches it.
It may be ten times as great tomorrow — but the word "sufficient" reaches it still.
The grace is still sufficient for the greater need — as for the lesser.
…I have in myself no power to endure affliction, and left to myself I shall assuredly rebel against the rod, and murmur against the gracious Hand that holds it
— then the Lord draws near by the Spirit, and gives a joy and a peace that nothing can destroy!”
The second part of this promise is also vs. 9 : “for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
For " introduces Paul's explanation of why the grace of Christ is all sufficient.
My Power : Dunamis - Christ’s power.
All of Paul's suffering and hard work for the gospel, his missionary trips and founding of churches while suffering persecution for Christ’s sake…and all the letters he wrote would be useless apart from God's divine enabling power in his life. "How was it possible for one man to accomplish so much?" Day by day, even moment by moment Christ's Holy Spirit was at work within Paul bestowing power and sufficient grace to accomplish God's work through him.
Is “made perfect” In weakness…
The idea is …that the Christian who is in a weak state, the Lord's power comes into more perfect activity. This verb does not say that we achieve perfection in this life! Rather the idea is that the power of Christ is made complete or fulfilled when the weak person depends on Him.
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
(Stephen Curtis Chapman)
What was Paul’s response to God’s Amazing promise of grace and power?
2 Cor 12:9b Therefore (Paul wrote) I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
rest upon or May dwell in me – Literally tabernacle upon me. …so that the power of Christ may pitch a tent over me." It means that God's power may come down on me and rest in me. The apostle John describes Jesus, Who came down from heaven and “ tabernacled” among His people (John 1:14). Like the picture of God descending from heaven and dwelling in the tabernacle among the people of Israel. The cloud covered the “tent” of meeting, and the Shekinah glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34)… God dwelling among his people
A beautiful quote: “Christ "pitches His tent" with His people in their weaknesses, -with the weak and the unknown, the suffering shut-in, the anonymous pastor and missionary, the godly, quiet servants in the home and the marketplace."
Paul concludes with 2 Cor 12:10 “ For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
“For the sake of Christ” – this is a phrase to stop and think hard about. Paul “for the sake of Christ… chose to be content and accept by God’s grace the troubles that came to him…This reminds of Philippians 4:12 where Paul wrote... 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Can you look back on times of trials and struggles in your own Christian life. How did you ever make it through? You look back and you say, “It was by God’s grace, His mercy, His loving-kindness, His presence never leaving me, God’s sustaining grace is sufficient for me.
Do you sometimes feel weak and down on yourself? As you think about this promise, can you make a decision that you will not get focused inward on your weaknesses… and fail to see them as great opportunities for God. Instead may you look to Christ and receive God’s grace strength, and power.
I will close with the words of this hymn:
He giveth more grace
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure, His pow'r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
May this study whet your appetite for further study on the grace of God. I suggest you spend time reflecting on the verses which teach about this wonderful subject. May we all keep our minds fixed on Christ and His glorious promises to us all. Thank you.