Tag Archive for 'Paul'

2 Corinthians 12:8 and Answer to Prayer

I just found that I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, although not very much lately. II thougt I would post some from the archives:

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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.

Three times he pleaded for his affliction to be taken away. This is reminiscent of Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane. “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44) “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

We can see that Jesus and Paul were persistent in prayer. Maybe there is significance in comparing the fact that Paul and Jesus both prayed three times but that isn’t a magic formula. Jesus may have prayed that same thing many times before that night. And Paul received a definite answer after three times.

The parables that illustrate persistence in prayer are the impudent friend in Luke 11:5-10 and the bothersome widow in Luke 18:1-8.

Both Jesus and Paul got an answer of “no” to one of their most fervent prayers. This should give us comfort when we and our loved ones don’t get what we wish.

But by no means is that the end of it. God accomplished in Paul and Jesus much more after an answer of “no” than anyone would imagine. God is good (Nahum 1:7) and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” I never thought that this could apply to the answer of “no” until now.

As far as our prayers go, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “Calvin explains that there are two kinds of answers to prayer:

We ask without qualification for those things about which we have sure promise, such as the perfecting of God’s kingdom and the hallowing of His name, the forgiveness of sins and everything profitable* to us. But when we imagine that God’s kingdom can and indeed must be furthered in such and such a way, or that this or that is necessary for the hallowing of His name, we are often mistaken, just as, in the same way, we are often deluded as to what in fact tends to our own welfare.

We can ask with full confidence for what is certainly promised to us, but ‘we cannot prescribe the means.’ God may grant the end that we ask for in prayer, but God may use a means that we do not desire.”

*I’m guessing his definition of “profitable” may be different than what we may think.

Paul’s Prayers

Prayer is one of my favorite subjects to read about. I just learned of a book by A. W. Pink called Gleanings from Paul. Quite a while ago I compared my prayers to Paul’s and it transformed the way I pray.

In 2009 I read A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson, which helped me further. I wrote a blog post about that and included all of Paul’s prayers. Reading through those is extremely educational.

After learning about Pink’s book I searched for a free eBook version of it and found one at Providence Baptist Ministries. Barnes and Noble also has a Nook Book (ePub I believe) for 99 cents right now. The paper version is there and can be found at Amazon with good reviews.

I haven’t read it, but look forward to it. Let us know if you have and would like to tell us about it.

There is certainly no lack of training in the Bible to teach us how to pray. We have the oft neglected Psalms, Jesus’ explicit teaching, Paul’s prolific examples and all of the other prayers in Scripture. We also have books from gifted teachers written recently and long ago.

Paul’s Prayers

I’ve been posting a lot of quotes from A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson*. I highly recommend this book to improve your prayer life. (There is also a link at the bottom of this page if you don’t want to interrupt your reading.) I’d like to post some things a little more substantive. I thought it would be good to list all of Paul’s prayers as Carson has them in the book. I couldn’t easily find a list on the web so I thought I would do it here at the risk of reinventing the wheel.

What he would like us to keep in mind is we need “to find out exactly what it is he asks God for on their [the people he prays for] behalf, and compare the results with what we normally ask for.”

Quite a few years ago I memorized some of Paul’s prayers like Eph 1:17-19, Eph 3:16-21, etc. That alone reshaped how I pray. As time went on and I paid attention to what Paul prays for, my own prayers became more and more spiritual and less temporal, not that we shouldn’t spend time petitioning for things related to the latter. When I found out about this book I wanted to look into Paul’s prayers further.

Carson used the NIV and I know he endorses the TNIV so that’s what I’ll use here. Some of them are short enough to mouse-over and see the whole thing. For longer ones you can click on “More” in the lower left corner of the tooltip-like popup or look them up however you’d like if you’re interested. Below that is the list without TNIV in the way if you’d like it (which should show up as NLT as of now):

This exercise is extremely beneficial. If you haven’t already I would highly recommend memorizing some of these prayers. I have NIV and ESV (below–each one has to be marked for the plugin to recognize it) for you.

Rom 1:8-10
Rom 10:1
Rom 12:12
Rom 15:5-6
Rom 15:13
Rom 15:30-33
1 Cor 1:4-9
1 Cor 16:23
2 Cor 1:3-7
2 Cor 2:14-16
2 Cor 9:12-15
2 Cor 12:7-9a
2 Cor 13:7-9
Gal 6:18
Eph 1:3ff
Eph 1:15-23
Eph 3:14-21
Eph 6:19-20
Phil 1:3-6
Phil 1:9-11
Phil 4:6-7
Phil 4:23
Col 1:3-14
Col 4:2-4
1 Thess 1:2-3
1 Thess 2:13-16
1 Thess 3:9-13
1 Thess 5:23-24
1 Thess 5:28
2 Thess 1:3ff
2 Thess 1:11-12
2 Thess 2:16-17
2 Thess 3:2-5
2 Thess 3:16
1 Tim 1:12
1 Tim 2:1ff
2 Tim 1:3-7
2 Tim 1:16-18
2 Tim 4:22
Titus 3:15b
Philemon 1:4-7
Philemon 1:25

Rom 1:8-10 ESV
Rom 10:1 ESV
Rom 12:12 ESV
Rom 15:5-6 ESV
Rom 15:13 ESV
Rom 15:30-33 ESV
1 Cor 1:4-9 ESV
1 Cor 16:23 ESV
2 Cor 1:3-7 ESV
2 Cor 2:14-16 ESV
2 Cor 9:12-15 ESV
2 Cor 12:7-9a ESV
2 Cor 13:7-9 ESV
Gal 6:18 ESV
Eph 1:3ff ESV
Eph 1:15-23 ESV
Eph 3:14-21 ESV
Eph 6:19-20 ESV
Phil 1:3-6 ESV
Phil 1:9-11 ESV
Phil 4:6-7 ESV
Phil 4:23 ESV
Col 1:3-14 ESV
Col 4:2-4 ESV
1 Thess 1:2-3 ESV
1 Thess 2:13-16 ESV
1 Thess 3:9-13 ESV
1 Thess 5:23-24 ESV
1 Thess 5:28 ESV
2 Thess 1:3ff ESV
2 Thess 1:11-12 ESV
2 Thess 2:16-17 ESV
2 Thess 3:2-5 ESV
2 Thess 3:16 ESV
1 Tim 1:12 ESV
1 Tim 2:1ff ESV
2 Tim 1:3-7 ESV
2 Tim 1:16-18 ESV
2 Tim 4:22 ESV
Titus 3:15b ESV
Philemon 1:4-7 ESV
Philemon 1:25 ESV

*There is a new edition out with a new, and I think more appropriate title: Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. As far as I can tell, it’s the same book with a new cover and a new Preface.

Paul and the Importance of the Old Testament

Peter at Beauty of the Bible laments the fact that he went to a Christian book store and didn’t find any commentary on the Old Testament. Peter says, “I think this is evidence of the sad state of Christianity’s understanding and interest in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, Christians will never understand the New Testament as well as they want or need to without understanding the Old Testament.”

I always think of Romans 15:4 regarding how important Paul thought the OT is.

Romans 15:2-4
We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Obviously Paul was talking about what we call the Old Testament. Even the Gospels most likely weren’t written until after Romans. There’s no way we can know what he’s talking about or receive teaching, hope and encouragement from them if we don’t know the OT. If the OT wasn’t useful, it wouldn’t have been quoted so much by Jesus and the inspired NT writers.

Related post:

Paul and Fighting as a Sport

This question has probably been asked often in the past, but if fighting as a sport was considered sinful or hedonistic would Paul have used it as a metaphor?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Lattimore Translation
Do you not know that when they run in the stadium they all run, but only one wins the prize? Run to win. And everyone who competes keeps in training in every way; but they, to win a perishable wreath; we, for an imperishable one. I myself do not race without a goal; I do not box to punish the air; but I batter my own body to enslave it; so that, while calling others to action, I may not myself be disqualified.

I don’t think he would, but I can’t really back this up. I would appreciate it if you could give me grounds for this or refute it.

I may or may not have a followup post on this.

What Is Sound Doctrine?

I have been wondering for a while what exactly sound doctrine is comprised of and how far it goes. I suppose this depends on one’s point of reference.

According to Paul in the Pastoral Epistles it looks to be both what conforms to the gospel and right behavior, not just teaching alone.

The quotes below are by Gordon Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. He uses the NIV which is bold in the commentary.

1 Timothy 1:8-11
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Having mentioned behavior that is ‘contrary to sound doctrine,’ Paul concludes by describing the true source and measure for such teaching. It is that which conforms to the . . . gospel of . . . God. The gospel, as God’s good news over against the bad news of humanity’s grotesque sinfulness, is Paul’s favorite word for God’s activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of sinner. ‘Sound doctrine’ accords with the gospel message, both in content and resultant behavior; the ‘diseased’ teaching of the straying elders does not.

Titus 2:1-15
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 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 glorious appearing 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.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

what is in accord with sound doctrine has not so much to do with the cognitive side of the gospel as the behavioral.

I need to remember that sound doctrine should always lead to right behavior and not just stop with teaching.

Beyond this there are creeds, catechisms, systematic theology, etc. which may also be sound doctrine.

Are there different types of sound doctrine?

Some Conclusions Confirmed In Studying 1 Corinthians 1

1 Corinthians

I had come up with some conclusions in reading and studying the 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5 passage on my own, under the Holy Spirit of course (see the other blog if you want various boring details).

  1. The second half of verse 17 really goes with the rest of the chapter even though there is a paragraph break in most translations
  2. Verse 19 (For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Isaiah 29:14) is nothing new and Paul is stating a timeless truth (not that other truths aren’t timeless)
  3. Verse 29 is the crux of the whole chapter
  4. This passage (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) is key to the whole book and to Paul’s rhetoric in delivery and content of the gospel message

Most of these things may seem obvious. After this I read Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians on this passage and he mentions the things noted above. I like his commentaries because he often answers questions I have and he doesn’t just exegete each verse or paragraph, he gets to what’s really important about a passage, how it fits with the rest of the chapter, book, writer etc. and why.

1. He says that it’s unfortunate that there is a paragraph break in most English translations between verse 17 and 18 because the “for” at the beginning of verse 18 ties it to verse 17 as an explanation of the final clause in that verse.

2. Fee says that the wisdom of the crucifixion is the fulfillment of the Isaiah passage.

3. He says, “With this clause Paul expresses the ultimate purpose of the divine folly: ‘so that no one may boast before him'”.

4:

This paragraph [1 Corinthians 1:18-25] is crucial not only to the present argument (1:10-4:21) but to the entire letter as well. Indeed, it is one of the truly great moments in the apostle Paul. Here he argues, with OT support, that what God had always intended and had foretold in the prophets, he has now accomplished through the crucifixion: He has brought an end to human self-sufficiency as it is evidenced through human wisdom and devices.

I’ve also read Barrett and will be rereading Garland (on this passage) which I read a few months ago. I’m not implying that Fee is always right and if my assertions agree with him they are automatically correct. But Fee’s commentary seems to speak better for lack of a better term. I always seem to like his style. It’s gratifying to see some of the work on this may be going in the right direction.

In studying 1 Corinthians in our group study, I decided to concentrate on this passage and I can’t say how valuable it’s been.

More posts to come.

F.F. Bruce on Paul’s Gospel

1 Corinthians

Paul’s insistence on ‘knowing nothing’ among the Corinthians ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2) had some regard to the intellectual climate of the city. As he came to know something of the Corinthians’ reverence for the current wisdom, he stressed that element in the gospel for which current wisdom could have no place: what more abject spectacle of folly and helplessness could be imagined than a crucified man? A crucified deliverer was to Greeks an absurd contradiction in terms, just as to Jews a crucified Messiah was a piece of scandalous blasphemy. But as Paul persisted in preaching Jesus as the crucified Saviour and sin-bearer, the unexpected happened: pagans, as well as Jews and God-fearers, believed the message and found their lives transformed by a new, liberating power, which broke the stranglehold of selfishness and vice and purified them from within. The message of Christ crucified had thus accomplished something which no body of Greek philosophic teaching could have done for them.

–F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free

I would like to post more on this in the near future.

I got Paul by F.F. Bruce for $1

Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free

I got Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce for $1 from a resale shop today. Having a low book budget I feel very blessed. Has anyone read it? I would imagine I’ll use it for reference as opposed to reading the whole thing like I usually do.

Colossians and the Gospel Based On Christ

Colossians 2:3-8 HCSB
In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
4 I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. 5 For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the strength of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

It was essential to listen to Paul’s warning in his own day: it is even more essential to heed it in our day when the arts of persuasion, and the means by which they can be exercised, are so highly developed. There is a fresh responsibility laid on Christians to examine all teaching for the truthfulness of its content rather than the attractiveness of its packaging. There is a new call to be sceptical of exaggerated rhetoric, the tendentious anecdote, or the theatrical appeal, for nothing is so dangerous as feeble reasoning allied to fast talking.

–R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians & Philemon, 1980

Paul’s answer for his friends was startlingly simple; the mystery of all mysteries was the (now public) good news of what Jesus did on the cross for his people (Colossians 1:28-2:5). Moreover, Paul made it plain that maturity came through understanding this gospel better and better, not through laws, experiences and revelations.

–Mark Strom, The Symphony of Scripture

I’m learning the basic gospel message as revealed through Christ is of central importance not just to salvation and then we move on to other things; it is always of central importance.

To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”

“This is the gospel by which we were saved, and it is the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives…If you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.

–Jerry Bridges

Colossians has become one of my favorites and I will revisit it in the future.

Here is a related post I came across:
A Sense of Christ’s Sufficiency

Speaking The Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 NRSV (all)
…speaking the truth in love…

I always thought of this as synonymous with “tough love”. Which would be something like pointing out someone’s fault(s)–something they might not want to hear, but doing it with an attitude of love. This is the only way I’ve heard anyone use this phrase.

Is that what Paul means here?

First, the immediate context:

Ephesians 4:14-15
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Paul is speaking about doctrine or teaching here.

Edit: Quotes from O’Brien’s commentary:

A sharp contrast…is drawn between the final words of v. 14 and this opening clause of v. 15. Over against the ‘crafty scheming’ stands the expression in love (a key phrase in the letter), while speaking the truth is set in opposition to the words ‘of error’. Thus, speaking the truth in love lays out a twofold contrast with the false teachers: the latter were presenting false doctrine in a deceptive manner, but over against this God’s people are to grow through proclaiming the truth in love.

…the apostle is not exhorting his readers to truthfulness in general or speaking honestly with one another, however appropriate or important this may be. Rather, he wants all of them to be members of a ‘confessing’ church, with the content of their testimony to be ‘the word of truth’, the gospel of their salvation.

What is the truth?

Colossians 1:5
You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

Galatians 2:5
we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.

Galatians 2:14
But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Ephesians 1:13
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

A passage that is similar to Ephesians 4:14-15:

Philippians 1:15-17
Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.

By proclaiming the truth and speaking sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, Titus 2:10) to each other “we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”.

Normally I would stop there and smugly think that now I know that speaking the truth in love isn’t about rebuking someone (edit: related to their own personal faults and unrelated to doctrine or the gospel). But the in love part is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

When talking about doctrine to a fellow brother or sister, or proclaiming the gospel, it should be out of love. I don’t think I would ever do these things deceitfully, but selfish ambition of some sort is definitely a possibility. I could try to get somebody to come over to “my side”, convince them to have the same doctrine as me, show them how much knowledge I think I have about something etc. My attitude should be to have their best interests in mind (Philippians 2:4, Ephesians 4:29) out of love for them and most of all to glorify God.

Romans 15:5-6
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Supplements

Galatians

Please excuse this post for being like a rough draft. I spent too much time on it already. If you can make it to the end you will either be rewarded, frustrated or wonder why I’m writing about things you already know.

Galatians 2:16 NRSV yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

Most of us believe that works (of the law) will not save us and it is by God’s grace through faith in/of Christ that we are saved. Longenecker defines Paul’s use of “the law” as:

…the Mosaic law as a religious system associated in some manner with righteousness.

Paul adds another dimension to this in his letter to the Galatians. He is also saying that the law can’t add anything to what Christ has done for us nor can it perfect our salvation. There is no supplement regarding our standing before God. If we “obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:9) and then try to perfect it by works of the law, we are going backwards:

Galatians 3:3 NRSV Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?

Longenecker says,

The main point of Paul’s rhetorical question here, however, has to do with the incongruity of beginning one’s Christian life on one basis (‘with the Spirit’) and then shifting somewhere in progress to another basis (‘by human effort’). What Paul wants his converts to see is that the Christian life is one that starts, is maintained, and comes to culmination only through dependence on the activity of God’s Spirit (Gal 5:25; also see Phil 1:6…the point is made that completion of the Christian life comes about on the same basis as its inception, viz. by God’s working).

Longenecker quotes Betz,

Paul’s missionary efforts were taken as merely the first step, and that the opponents claimed to provide the necessary and final measures to bring salvation to completion and perfection.

Longenecker:

As such it combined faith in Christ for initial acceptance before God and a nomistic lifestyle* for true holiness, thereby claiming to work out in full the meaning of righteousness. Paul, however, was not content to allow any supplement to the work of Christ, either for one’s initial acceptance before God or for one’ life as a Christian. For him, to start talking about supplements [including circumcision] was to bring matters back to square one and the issue of legalism, even if it be claimed that nomism alone was the question.

It’s interesting to note that whenever Paul mentions Abraham and the covenant, he never mentions circumcision, which is one of the ‘works of the law’ that the Judaizers where claiming the Galatians needed to perform. The promise of Abraham did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:11-13; also see 1 Cor 7:19).

Galatians 3:6-18 NRSV Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

Galatians 5:18 NRSV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

*According to Longenecker, nomism is “expressing their Christian convictions in their lifestyle in ways compatible with Jewish tradition” which was not to be foisted on the Gentile Galatians. Although, “To be a Jewish believer in Jesus did not mean turning one’s back on one’s own culture or nation. Yet no longer could it be argued that circumcision, Jewish dietary laws, following distinctly Jewish ethical precepts, or any other matter having to do with a Jewish lifestyle were requisite for the life of faith.”

Update: Please see the first comment by Bryan.

Paul Speaking as a Fool

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 11:16-21
I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that.

2 Corinthians 12:11
I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

I have never really grasped exactly what Paul is meaning in these verses.

“Fool” here is for the most part referring to the super-apostles. He is being sarcastic to make a point.

In 11:21 he is again referring to his strength in weakness. Again, using sarcasm he is saying that he was too weak to lord his authority over them.

Garland in his commentary on 2 Corinthians clears this up very well.

Paul admits to being a fool by adopting the boastful tactics of his competitors, but by doing so he tars his opponents with the same brush. They are fools as well (see 11:19-20), but, unlike Paul, they are not playing the part of a fool. They take their boasting seriously. The Corinthians are also made out to be fools for allowing themselves to be captivated and led astray by foolish boasting. They have dishonored themselves by betraying their apostle and failing to defend him.

Paul uses this failure as his final justification for his fool’s speech (see 2 Corinthians 11:1-6). Since they have not defended him against his competitors, he must defend himself. The truth had to be told, more to save the Corinthians from such fools than to save Paul’s reputation.

Referring to the last part of 12:11 Paul realizes he is nothing compared to God (Daniel 4:35 a) and whatever he is comes from God (1 Corinthians 15:9-10;  2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 3:12-16). The super-apostles really are nothing but make themselves out to be “super”.

2 Corinthians 12:8 – Prayer

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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.

Three times he pleaded for his affliction to be taken away. This is reminiscent of Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane. “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44) “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

We can see that Jesus and Paul were persistent in prayer. Maybe there is significance in comparing the fact that Paul and Jesus both prayed three times but that isn’t a magic formula. Jesus may have prayed that same thing many times before that night. And Paul received a definite answer after three times.

The parables that illustrate persistence in prayer are the impudent friend in Luke 11:5-10 and the bothersome widow in Luke 18:1-8.

Both Jesus and Paul got an answer of “no” to one of their most fervent prayers. This should give us comfort when we and our loved ones don’t get what we wish.

But by no means is that the end of it. God accomplished in Paul and Jesus much more after an answer of “no” than anyone would imagine. God is good (Nahum 1:7) and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” I never thought that this could apply to the answer of “no” until now.

As far as our prayers go, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “Calvin explains that there are two kinds of answers to prayer:

We ask without qualification for those things about which we have sure promise, such as the perfecting of God’s kingdom and the hallowing of His name, the forgiveness of sins and everything profitable* to us. But when we imagine that God’s kingdom can and indeed must be furthered in such and such a way, or that this or that is necessary for the hallowing of His name, we are often mistaken, just as, in the same way, we are often deluded as to what in fact tends to our own welfare.

We can ask with full confidence for what is certainly promised to us, but ‘we cannot prescribe the means.’ God may grant the end that we ask for in prayer, but God may use a means that we do not desire.”

*I’m guessing his definition of “profitable” may be different than what we may think.

2 Corinthians 11:30-33 – Lowered in a basket

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 11:30-32
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

What do verses 32-33 have to do with 30-31? The translators didn’t put a paragraph break there. Is this an example of Paul’s supposedly helter-skelter writing? For some it may be obvious or you’ve already come to understand it one way or another but for me and others I’d like to write about it.

I’d like to gather some points by Garland from his commentary on 2 Corinthians and a thought or two of my own.

Garland mentions that 11:30-12:10 are the demonstrations of his weakness.

It may seem abrupt to us because he switches from comparisons with the “super apostles” and his catalog of hardships and switches to this subject.

11:32-33 is a narrative event in contrast to the listing of his sufferings. But it’s not just a narrative of a historical event in his ministry. It’s an example of weakness. Garland says, “Hiding in a basket is not something that someone with power would do, and the incident occurs at the very beginning of his ministry. It serves a a paradigm, as it were, for what was to come.” Imagine how you would feel hiding in a basket in fear of your life. (Acts 9:25)

In contrast, according to Aulus Gellius, “the special distinction of a mural crown belonged to the man who had been first to climb the wall.” (Attic Nights 5.6.16) Garland says, “The ‘wall crown’ (corona muralis), one of the highest Roman military honors, was presented to the first soldier to go up and over the wall of an enemy city.” This would not have been lost on the Corinthians. Yet again Paul is emphasizing suffering and weakness to get the message of the cross through to the Corinthians.

This reminds me of the indoor artificial climbing walls. If you climb to the top you’ve succeeded. You made it up with your own skill and under your own strength. Yay! If you slip or lose your strength then the dreaded rope catches you and you are lowered back down in defeat. It’s all in fun if not taken too seriously but it may serve as an example of the contrast.

Garland says, “We should not overlook, however, that Paul’s escape parallels similar escapes in the Bible. The Israelite spies were hidden by Rahab the prostitute and let down by a rope through a window in the wall (Joshua 2:15), and David escaped Saul’s soldiers with the help of Michal, who let him down through the window (1 Samuel 19:12). The biblical parallels show a pattern in which an ignoble escape on one day led to victory on another (Joshua 6:1-25; 1 Samuel 23:1-14).”

These aren’t “woe is me” types of statements, they are a testament to God’s power and strength in weakness and humiliation. If it wasn’t for God’s power, Paul certainly would never have made it through the litany of near-death experiences to bring the gospel so powerfully and genuinely to the Corinthians. That’s partly why he says in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.”