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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: 45

Comment by Ellis Hein on 8thMo. 13, 2017 at 2:04

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 8thMo. 14, 2017 at 1:39

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.

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 8thMo. 23, 2017 at 0:28

I'm not a scholar, either, Dan, though I used to like to be one, but like Jacob, I was fake. My background didn't support being a scholar, though I've always been a thinker. That even was fake until I came to Christ; even so, I spent a lot of years in the wilderness before crossing to the Promised Land. When I say there are only two voices we hear, it's not my thinking that got me to that knowledge.

You wrote a beautiful witness. Beautiful isn't an appropriate adjective for a man, so let me substitute powerful. But I am still a woman and beautiful is powerful, albeit in a different way. Jesus is both beautiful and powerful in grace. He favored you in that he gave you an ear to hear.

I'm blessed in that I didn't know any religion prior to coming to God's pure religion--Quaker religion. George Fox is the only pastor I've known. I say this because I took George Fox at his word when I first read him. So in that regard I didn't have to clear any potential influencing clutter. When I finally crossed into the kingdom and realized any rebuke I experienced was Jesus teaching me, the pedal accelerated. More is given to me than I can ever imagine or express. But I will express something he gave me only recently.

I'm aging, my body is changing. We all know the changing happens but we can't know exactly how that changing will be. My mind doesn't function as well as it used even a year ago. Words won't come quickly in conversation, which makes me reticent to talk with people. The spelling of many words frustrates me because I can't recall them visually or phonetically. I feared Alzheimer so had a test (about the 4th hour I asked if the test was once in a lifetime, as it was so exhausting and frustrating). They told me no, I didn't have Alzheimer, but a cardio-vascular problem could be the source of my issues. Then two weeks ago my left index finger became inflamed and hurting. When the inflammation quieted I saw a ball-like bulging of that knuckle when I clenched my fist (at least I can still clench it). Both my grandmothers had arthritis but my maternal grandmother had rheumatoid. Oh, my goodness, will my hands be curled and ugly like hers, I wondered?

In my anxiety I went to the only one I knew could comfort me. I prayed what I didn't want to have happen, but I also prayed that whatever infirmities I had to face I would face them gladly knowing that he would give me the strength to do so. He let me see whatever the body looked like didn't matter, whatever other people thought of me didn't matter. Only he and his love  for me mattered. Because corruption of the body he said is part of the fall. But don't be concerned about the corruption. Don't try to prevent it. If you try to maintain your body you'll lose it and yourself.

With joy and tears he brought me to comfort and peace. I think often of what he said about corruption being part of the fall. It's nothing new. One can read and read it or hear it multiple times, but until the Lord opens it to one, it holds no sway.

I think you and I are in union with Christ and the gifts he gives us are without measure.

Comment by Dan Davenport on 11thMo. 27, 2017 at 2:13

After I wrote this post, the Lord brought this short epistle of George Fox wrote to my attention:

Works of George Fox, Vol 1, pp 238 and 239. {1655}

…I wrote also a short epistle to Friends, as an encouragement to them in their several exercises.

MY DEAR FRIENDS,

In the power of the everlasting God which comprehends the power of darkness and all temptations, and that which comes out of it, in this power of God dwell.  This will bring and keep you to the word in the beginning; it will keep you up to the life, to feed thereupon, in which you are over the power of darkness, and in which you will feel dominion and life.  And that will let you see before the tempter was and over him, into which the tempter cannot come; for the power and truth he is out of.  Therefore in that life dwell, in which you will know dominion.  Let your faith be in the power over the weakness and temptations; look not at them; but in the light and power of God, look at the Lord’s strength, which will be made perfect in your weakest state.  So in all temptations look at the grace of God to bring your salvation, which is your teacher to teach you; for when you look or hearken to the temptations, you go from your teacher, the grace of God; and so are darkened in going from that teacher which should bring your salvation, the grace of God, which is sufficient in all temptations to lead out of them and to keep over them. 

                                                                                                                                                                                    G.F.

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