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Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

Did the Apostle Paul believe Jesus was the Prophet-like-Moses? And does it matter? Post 10, II Corinthians 12

Power perfected in Weakness.

II Corinthians 12:9a.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you because my power is perfected in weakness.” (NIV)

These blog posts have never “risen” to the level of scholarship; though I hoped what was written might at least be orderly.  It was my intention after following Paul through the accounts in Acts to address his epistles in chronological order in which they were written (as best discerned by scholarship or tradition).  This plan has not borne much fruit and the posts have been scanty.  Lately, it came to me to jump in the middle at least as regards this passage.

This account in Corinthians has long been a treasured portion of Scripture for me.  I was born with albinism (legal blindness) and some extra curvature in my back.  These often seemed unsurmountable strikes against me for anything like a “normal” life.  Activities which many take for granted were not available to me.  I was often lonely and frustrated.  I often felt sorry for myself, miserable in fact.

When I was a freshman at George Fox College (now University), I came across this passage in the midst of a deepening depression.  The words jumped off the page and I knew they were for me, a lifeline when I was drowning.  I had read them before; I had been reading the New Testament through repeatedly, but suddenly there was Life there I hadn’t seen before.  But what did it mean?  Paul talks about being caught up to the third heaven.  I had some insights come after my experience of hearing Jesus speak to me in the summer of 1975, but I certainly couldn’t claim lofty visions or revelations.  And what I regarded as my “thorns in the flesh” predated any openings.  Yet, I knew it was a lifeline and I have found it still there and still sure in years since.

If Paul was speaking of a theology of grace as many of his interpreters will have us believe, how did that help him and how would it help me?  Roughly, the theology of grace I was taught can be summed thus:  Jesus died for us as an atoning sacrifice so God would no longer count our sins against us.  The theology as taught often did not include anything about freedom from those sins and what strength was to be found in this weakness?

II Corinthians 12:10b-11:  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  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.  (NIV)

I can’t speak for others, but I found this theology of grace lacked the Power Paul describes.  It sustained hope for a while but without the Power to face difficulties, let alone the rest of his formidable list, it was difficult to delight in them.

In the years since I first heard Lewis Benson speak about “who Christ is and how He saves men” and especially in these years I have wrestled with the two questions in the blog title, I have come to believe Paul meant something else when he used “Grace” in this passage than many of the “Church’s” teachers have led us to think.  Here I point back again to Post 8 http://nffquaker.org/profiles/blogs/did-the-apostle-paul-believe-je...

I have not come across any reference in George Fox’s writings to this particular passage of Scripture (although Margaret Fell used it in her doctrinal work, “On Women Speaking”).  But, it rings similar to this passage from the Journal:   Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory.  For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let [i.e., hinder] it? and this I knew experimentally.  (Fox Works Vol 1, p 60, 61)

The Grace given to Followers of the Way is this:  The Way teaches and empowers them and says, “This is the Way, walk in It!”

I admit I still struggle at times to rise to Paul’s “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” But I do know that when I am weak and know it because I am shown it by Jesus, I am strong beyond expectation and reckoning in what really matters.

Here I stop to invite dialog with my Friends.

 

Views: 13

Comment by Ellis Hein on Firstday

Dan, It has been a while since I looked in the dictionary at the back of Strong's Concordance. But as I recall grace is defined as "Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life [of the recipient]." This is a very different concept than what you reported above. Fox's summation of the Gospel, "Christ has come to teach his people himself," is grace in action. This puts a very different outlook on "My grace is sufficient for you." I do not know where the teachers you refer to came up with their concept of a theology of grace, but it has nothing to do with the definition of the word we translate as "grace."

Comment by Dan Davenport on Secondday

Ellis, when I was in college, some of my friends used to refer to the teaching i described as "cheap grace", i.e. not costing the recipient much.  But even that criticism was from a basis of understanding that grace was a gift that overlays our condition rather than transforming it.  We ought to try to be just and righteous, but "you know, nobody's perfect!"  

This better understanding of Grace is about being led to a better place, being taught how to live differently and helped to do so.  As you have written elsewhere, the Prophet we are to hear in all things is full of Grace and Truth.

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