Notes of Readings: 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 5
IT is weakness that brings out the perfection of the position reached by this Epistle, and what it closes with. Weakness is really our blessing. We find it in Christ, who was perfect because He reached absolute weakness. There was no will with Him-not merely poverty. Power connects itself with weakness; and Paul, who knew it to be true in Christ, says I must not miss it. It is life that, in its own energy and power, brings the flesh down to weakness-like the sinew in Jacob that shrank. It not only takes weakness when it comes, but it seeks it out (ch. 11:29).
When the Holy Ghost came down we find men filled with the Holy Ghost. Here it is "a man in Christ,"-an advance upon a believer. You cannot find the character of Christ without what produces it, otherwise, it will only be improved men. Are we clear that we do not come before God upon the ground of conduct or character? If I have done with myself, I learn Christ's work and character. God says, I am good, even if you are ever so evil-that is grace. Man's wickedness cannot weary or put God where He has no resources to show Himself. The conduct and character of a Christian must be Christ, from whom he receives his life; and Christ is the source, measure, and pattern of it. God has not two men before Him, though we often have. He speaks to me as a man in Christ. What are we at His coming? "Like Him." If God has not given me now what will produce that likeness, I have no standard. We are taken out of the flesh at the cross-out of the world, John 17-out of time as sitting in the heavenlies, in Ephesians.
Christ came to earth to reveal the Father and about my sins. He is gone to heaven to occupy Himself about my weakness (infirmities). What produces the sympathy of Christ is the infirmity of one of His members down here, and the feeling and sympathy in Him gives me the succor I need. Ver. 9 gives us two things to put ourselves in connection with-the sources of our supply-" my grace" and " my power." I am either proving my infirmity too great, or else His grace sufficient. To be occupied with weakness is to become weaker; let me measure my weakness by His strength. Flesh never had such an opportunity of getting hold of great things as now that grace has brought them to us in Christ; hence the need of weakness. Faith lives upon a difficulty; difficulties are either bread for faith, or else they eat us up. If you can connect yourself with the ability of God to bring you in, you will find a giant only food for you. For instance, Caleb, " Are they not bread for us I" he says, and he got the upper springs and the nether springs. If we take counsel with our own hearts, we shall never do anything but go back into Egypt. But if I see what the heart of God is, and what He is leading to, we would not be anywhere else than with Him. Most of us are so cowardly, there is no fear of exaltation. In the very place where Christ was making Himself nothing, the disciples were disputing who should be greatest. If Christ is not first, then self will be. The flesh never goes along with Christ; it is fallen flesh, and cannot. It is nature at its best in Gethsemane, and love at its highest desiring to connect the disciples with Him in watching. We do not see the end of amiable flesh, because we do not see where it broke down.
Satan (v. 7) is made tributary to this life of Christ. A man in Christ receives a thorn from Satan, so that the flesh should not be puffed up. There is the sentence of death at the outset of the Epistle, and at the end we reach weakness, living by the power of God. It is death to life here. Letting God do all His will with you, to show His power and the grace of Christ. The weaker the vessel, there is non-resistance, and then God can show His power. Power, as with Jonah, can sink a man where will is at work; but here it is a man laying hold of power to sink himself.
It is weakness here become a new source of pleasure and profit, because found to be the occasion for the power of God and the grace of Christ. It is remarkable that an Epistle that begun with "tribulation " should conclude with "pleasure" (v. 10, ch. 13:9)-two extremes-and yet the first step was but the way to the last; because, after all, it was to be associated with Christ. God has done all on His part, and then you find in the Epistle links with Christ, with whom it begins and ends, in what He is, in a love that finds its delight in spending itself " the more abundantly." It is a new way of reaching joyfulness-a man worn out by nothing, but wearing out everything—his body, all, down to death. There was no such thing as loss; it was all gain, even the messenger of Satan.
If he had been bent on displaying apostolic power, it would have been to their destruction; but what He aimed at was their edification (v. 19, ch. 13:10). This must be in self-sacrifice. That is where we all lose power in ministry to others. They do not see in us self-sacrificing love. But we see it in Christ; that is, where we can even take shelter; still, we have a sight to look for in ourselves. What was dear to the Apostle? It was the self-sacrificing love of Christ, which would not accept refusal or disappointment, but was bent on its object. The less He was loved the more He loved. " They all forsook him and fled," was the close of the Lord's ministry on earth; and He reveals Himself to them again more fully, in resurrection, as if nothing had happened: Go and tell that very Peter 1
If things are wrong, the effect will be in the case of the servant whom the Lord uses-he will not be as they (v. 20). If the evil continues, there is one that will be humbled (v. 21)-there was not the least self in him. He could not connect Christ with " whisperings," etc. If I am lower than another, I shall not differ; and if I find it difficult to be lower than another, it is because I do not look at Christ. If we look at Christ, we drop into our place at once. How low we should be if we always looked at Him!
" Whisperings," etc., separate hearts: the flesh allowed to act in this way goes on to worse. Still the Apostle does all he can to carry them on with him, wishing their perfection (chap. 13:9). It is the flesh and the world that will damage us. The flesh alone will not do it: it must have the world to feed it. It was this drew forth the Apostle's tears in Phil. 3. If we are to be preserved, it must be this power of life associating us with Christ.