Sufficient Grace

In the last chapter we used a simple key to the bible's interpretation to determine what Paul's thorn in the flesh was, that if scripture doesn't interpret itself in the verse or in the context, it will always interpret itself where it has been used before. We're now going to use another simple key to the bible's interpretation to shed even more light on these same verses, namely, that all scripture must be in harmony. If there are many clear verses on a subject and one apparently contradictory verse, we don't ignore the many clear verses and pull that one contradictory verse out of the context of the bible.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
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.

Until now my understanding of these verses has been that Paul complained about all the beatings he was getting and God told him to shut up, smile and put up with it. That makes no sense. How is smiling your way through the kind of stuff Paul endured being more than a conqueror? When reading these verses, we must keep the clarity of the context of the bible in mind. There are plenty of clear verses scattered around the word that we just can't ignore here.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 60:12
Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

Psalm 91:13,15
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

Romans 8:31
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:37
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 4:4
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Either we are more than conquerors or we are not. Either greater is he that is in us or he isn't. Either we can tread on lions and adders and trample the dragon under our feet or we can't. Either the word is true or it isn't.

2 Corinthians 12:9
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.

This verse cannot possibly contradict the rest of the bible, so let's take a closer look at it. First of all, what is grace? Ephesians teaches us that we were saved, made whole by grace.

Ephesians 2:1-8
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Among whom also we all had our conversation [manner of life] 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.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

God tells us twice in these verses that we were saved, made whole, by grace. The Christ in us is a gift of God which we receive at the time of the new birth. So what is this grace we've all received? It's that gift of holy spirit, the Christ in us. That's what God was referring to when he told Paul his grace was sufficient for him. It is the gift of holy spirit that makes us sufficient. God's answer to Paul was that he was already sufficient, he already had the answer within him. That spirit within us makes us sufficient. The key to seeing it is energising the power of Christ so that it rests on us.

2 Corinthians 12:9
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.

The best way to illustrate what I'm trying to say here is to track Paul's life through the book of Acts. We first meet Paul at Stephen's murder. The witnesses laying down their clothes at Saul's feet was most likely a cultural custom recognising Saul as the man in charge of the murder squad who had Stephen stoned.

Acts 7:58
And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

In the very next chapter, we see Paul going house to house, breaking down doors, and dragging believers off to prison.

Acts 8:3
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling [dragging] men and women committed them to prison.

Soon afterwards, Paul headed off to Damascus with violence and murder on his mind.

Acts 9:1,2
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Paul himself tells us later in Acts that he put men and women to death while they were in prison.

Acts 22:4
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Paul was a religious dragon, a man who actively sought open doors to torture and kill God's children. He was an extremely violent man.

While outside the city gates of Damascus, Paul was almost killed by a lightning strike. Jesus Christ himself personally intervened and had a few words with him. After he was born again, Paul began to establish home churches all over Asia Minor, and it wasn't long before persecution against him turned violent.

Act 14:19,20
And there came thither certain Jews [Judeans] from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 16:22-24
And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Paul records much of this in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:24,25
Of the Jews [Judeans] five times received I forty stripes save one [39 lashes with a whip].

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

Now this is where things become interesting. In Acts 19:22, it records that Paul stayed in Asia for a season. It was during this period of time that Paul wrote the epistles of 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

Acts 19:22,23
So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.

Less than a year later, while he was in the Corinth area for three months, he wrote the epistle to the Romans.

Acts 20:2,3
And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece [the Corinth area],

And there abode three months. And when the Jews [Judeans] laid wait for him [to kill him], as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.

Verse 3 records that Paul left the Corinth area and travelled through Macedonia. It was while he was in Macedonia, in the Philippi area, that he wrote 2 Corinthians.

So everything recorded in 2 Corinthians occurred before Acts 20 verse 3. Up to that point in time, Paul had been stoned, whipped with 39 lashes five times, and beaten with heavy wooden sticks three times. He had also been shipwrecked three times.

Knowing when 2 Corinthians was written helps us to piece this all together. For example, the shipwreck in Acts 27, while Paul was on his way to Rome, can't possibly be one of the three shipwrecks mentioned here in 2 Corinthians, as that shipwreck hadn't yet happened when he wrote it.

While Paul was travelling through Macedonia and was in the Philippi area, he wrote 2 Corinthians, and in it he tells us he had endured some serious beatings. Three times he had pleaded for a solution, and here is what he was told.

2 Corinthians 12:8,9
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.

Was this God telling Paul to shut up, smile and put up with it, or was this God giving him the answer he had besought him three times for? If you just stop to think about the context of the bible as a whole, it's obvious that God was giving Paul the answers to his prayers. But did it work?

Before we get into that, consider that up until this point, Paul was obviously not making Christ his sufficiency and that the power of Christ was not resting on him. How do I know? Well, why would Paul have to be told grace was sufficient for him if it already was? Paul was not living in the sufficiency of God's grace, the power of Christ was not resting on him.

Paul was on his way to Jerusalem when he wrote 2 Corinthians. Did God want Paul to go to Jerusalem? No, and Paul knew it, but he was still going to Jerusalem. We're not superconquerors when we do things our way, are we? No, we're superconquerors when we do things God's way. Paul was even told he would be imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem, but he still went. So whose fault was it that he was beaten and imprisoned in Jerusalem? God's? No, it was Pauls own fault for being disobedient. However, it was at this point in his life that Paul changed. He had besought the Lord three times, and he had been given his answer. It just took a little while to sink in.

When the mob in Jerusalem tried to kill Paul, he was rescued by the Romans. The point is, he wasn't killed, he was rescued. In fact, he wasn't even hurt, because he could walk and speak to the crowds. It was around this time that Paul recognised that he had to make grace his sufficiency, that he needed to let the power of Christ rest on him.

After he was rescued by the Romans in Jerusalem, a riot ensued, and he was taken into the castle. To get information, the officer in charge, the chief captain commanded Paul to be whipped. Was he whipped? Let's find out.

Acts 22:24-29
The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.

And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.

Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

See, Paul did not get whipped. He was given his answer, and here he is, being sufficient in God's grace, allowing the power of Christ to rest on him. From this point on in the book of Acts, Paul was never whipped or beaten again. Read it, see it for yourself.

A day or two later, a few of the Judeans got together and discussed a plan to have Paul murdered.

Acts 23:12-31
And when it was day, certain of the Jews [Judeans] banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.

And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.

Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.

Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.

So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.

Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?

And he said, The Jews [Judeans] have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly.

But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.

So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

And he wrote a letter after this manner:

Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.

This man was taken of the Jews [Judeans], and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.

And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council:

Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.

And when it was told me how that the Jews [Judeans] laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.

Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.

See, Paul had learned to make grace his sufficiency. The power of Christ was resting on him, so God was able to get involved. Paul's sister's son overhead those men plotting to kill him, and Paul escaped without harm. God's grace was sufficient for him and he energised the Christ in him and walked by the spirit. He hadn't walked by the spirit in going to Jerusalem, but he had sure learned his lesson. From that time on, he was never disobedient again, he walked by the spirit and he was a super conqueror in every situation.

The Judeans then made another plan to have him murdered.

Acts 25:1-3
Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews [Judeans] informed him against Paul, and besought him,

And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.

Not long afterwards, as Festus was about to comply with the Judeans wishes, Paul appealed to Caesar. That was his way to escape, his way to be a super conqueror.

Acts 25:9-12
But Festus, willing to do the Jews [Judeans] a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews [Judeans] have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

Why did Paul appeal to Caesar? Jesus Christ himself had told him to earlier.

Acts 23:11
And the night following the Lord [Jesus Christ] stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

See, Paul was walking by the spirit when he appealed to Caesar. That was his way out, his way to escape. He didn't just make it up. The power of Christ was resting on him.

Paul had prayed three times for an answer, and he was told he was sufficient in grace. The grace we've all received is the gift of holy spirit. When we rest in the power of that Christ in us, then we are making grace our sufficiency. Paul later wrote these verses after he had learned this.

Ephesians 6:10
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Colossians 2:9,10
For in him [in Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

And ye are complete in him [in Christ], which is the head of all principality and power:

This word complete is a rare fourth conjugation of the Greek verb pleroō, and could be translated as totally, utterly, absolutely filled to capacity. In whom are we totally, utterly, absolutely filled to capacity? We are complete in him, Christ, a reference to the gift of holy spirit, the Christ in us. We are fully complete, equipped with absolutely everything we could possibly need to voyage through life. That's what the word means when it says Christ's grace is sufficient for us. We can handle anything when the power of Christ rests on us. That's what Paul learned. That's why he was never beaten with rods or whipped ever again.

Later, when Paul was on his way to Rome and the ship he was sailing on was wrecked, he wasn't harmed. Even when Roman soldiers were about to kill him in case he escaped, the centurion stepped in to protect him and he wasn't harmed. If any of those prisoners had escaped, those Roman soldiers would have been executed because that was the law. That's why they wanted to kill the prisoners. We can see this earlier in Acts. Those soldiers would have known about Peter and what happened to the Roman soldiers who had guarded him.

Acts 12:1-19
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

And because he saw it pleased the Jews [Judeans], he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews [Judeans].

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.

And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.

And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.

But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.

The Roman soldiers on that ship escorting prisoner Paul to Rome would have known about that incident with Peter, and what happened to the Roman soldiers guarding him. They also knew Paul and Peter were well acquainted, so it's hardly surprising they wanted to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from escaping. Paul would have known what they were planning, but he had learned to make grace his sufficiency, the power of Christ was resting on him, and he was not harmed.

God didn't tell Paul to shut up in 2 Corinthians, smile and put up with it, he gave him the solutions to his problems. That's why from that time on Paul gloried in his infirmities. He knew that the Christ in him which he'd received by grace was sufficient for him and he was never stoned or whipped ever again.

2 Corinthians 12:9
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.

The same is true for us, right now, as children of the living God.

Chapter 8 - Sufficient Grace Part 2