Today’s selected reading continues in the second epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints of Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first ten verses of the twelfth chapter. When we come to the twelfth chapter of the second epistle of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians we find an incredibly unique passage of scripture. The twelfth chapter of this epistle has long puzzled and baffled scholars and students of the Bible alike for the apostle Paul opens up this chapter by speaking of a specific glorying that he was going to engage in. As this particular chapter begins and opens up it does so with the apostle Paul speaking of visions and revelations and a certain glorying and boasting that can take place around such realities and manifestations. Upon reading the previous passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul asking a series of questions directed to those to whine he was writing. In the latter portion of the eleventh chapter the apostles Paul asks four very pointed and focused questions. “Are they Hebrews?” “Are they children of Israel?” “Are they Abraham’s seed” Are they ministers?” Upon reading these four questions in direct context of what is found within this chapter it is incredibly interesting to consider the reality and concept that during the days of the apostle Paul—as well as during the days of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah—there seemed to be a pervasive boasting in nation heritage and lineage. If you read the account of John the Baptist in the opening chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke you will find him making a very specific declaration unto the Pharisees when preaching in the region of the Jordan River—namely, say not to themselves that they have Abraham as their father, for the Lord was able to from the stones around them to raise up for Himself sons and daughters. This same reality was manifest e and revealed in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John when Jesus was speaking directly into the Pharisees and Jews once more.
If you read and study the ninth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Roman Christians you will find the apostle Paul speaking of very specific realities and manifestations that were given unto the nation and people of Israel—namely, the law, the covenants and the promised. What t was true that unto the nation and people of Israel were given very specific and very previous promises which were divine gifts of grace and mercy from the hand of Almighty God. When you come to the third chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation you will find the apostle Paul himself speaking of those things which he could indeed boast of—namely, that he was circumcised the eighth day, that he was of the tribe of Benjamin, that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand these realities for prior to his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, and prior to his encounter with Christ when he was in the desert of Arabia we find the apostle Paul making great boasts and great claims regarding his lineage and heritage as a Hebrew of Hebrews. Before he encountered Christ the apostle Paul saw his life and found his identity in his being of the seed of Abraham, as well as a Pharisee. You will note that prior to his encounter with Christ the apostle Paul was a studen under Gamaliek—perhaps and Mosul likely to become a Pharisee 9of Pharisees. We dare not miss this very key and crucial point, for the apostle Paul—prior to conversion—found his identity and his worth and value in the fact that he was a Pharisee studying under Gamaliel, as well as a Hebrew of Benjamin. Like his Old Testament counterpart Saul kit of Israel, the apostle Paul was also of the tribe of Benjamin—Benjamin you will recall was the final son born to Jacob in his old age who was the brother of Joseph. Undoubtedly there could have been a great deal of boasting and glorying the apostle Paul could have done in his previous life prior to his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. I must at this moment and juncture ask whether or not you find it absolutely amazing and incredible that everything changes the day we meet and encounter Jesus Christ. Regardless of how we encountered Jesus, and regardless of where we encountered Christ, it is absolutely incredible how everything truly changes the day we meet and encounter Jesus Christ.
When you study time and history you will notice that time itself is divided into two separate sections and divisions—the first being what is need as “B.C” or “Before Christ,” and the second being “A.D,” which is commonly known as “After Christ.” Just as the sacred canon of Scripture is divided into two distinct sections and parts—the Old Testament and the New Testament—so also is time itself divided into two sections. What’s more, is that if you study Scripture you will notice that there is an Old Covenant and there is a New Covenant. In fact, there are specific references to the New Covenant found within the Old Testament prophetic books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel—powerful references which describe just how absolutely incredible and wonderful the New Covenant would be in comparison to the Old Covenant. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-first verse of the thirty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find the following text written concerning this New Covenant which would be established and implemented by the Lord within he earth. Consider if you will the words which the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed in the southern kingdom of Judah unto the children of Israel: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
If you turn and direct your attention to the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel—specifically the thirty-sixth chapter of this prophetic book—you will notice additional commentary and language on what this new covenant would look like. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-second verse of the thirty-sixth chapter you will find the promise of restoration for the children of Israel and its direct link and connection to the new covenant the Lord would establish in the earths. Consider if you will the words which are found beginning to read with and from the twenty-second verse of the thirty-sixth chapter: “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in your before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the strong heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to talk in my statues, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the. Lord God; IN the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will al so cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:22-36).
In light of the words we read in the Old Testament prophetic books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel I feel it absolutely necessary and imperative to turn and direct our attention to two very specific passages of Scripture which are found in two of the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote. The first is found in the second epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth, while the other is found in the epistle he wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in the fifth chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were located within the city of Corinth: “For we commend not ourselves again to you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the fl each, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:12-17). With these words the apostle Paul speaks of the reality of one being in Christ, and that when one is truly found to be in Christ, they are a new creature. The true and authentic mark of this new creature is that old things have passed and are passing away, and all things have become and will become new. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for there should be a powerful transition that takes place within our hearts and lives the moment we experience that “A.D” moment—that moment Christ enters into our lives and radically and dramatically alters and changes everything. I feel the great need to pause at this moment and declare that if we are doing this thing right—when Christ enters into our lives—He completely and radically alters and transforms our lives and absolutely changes everything. How do you know you are a new creature that is found in Christ? You know you are in Christ and have become and continue to become a new creature in Christ when old things begin to pass away and all things are becoming brand new.
When you come to the third chapter of the New Testament epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi you will find additional commentary concerning this powerful and marked transition and transformation that takes place that moment between B.C and A.D. It is worth noting and point out that one of the dangers we must continually guard against is to get stuck in that moment that exists between B.C and A.D. There has always been, and there will always be a tremendous danger in allowing ourselves to get stuck in the in between—stuck in the place between our old life before Christ and our new life in Christ. I can’t help but consider how many men and women are presently stuck in this place between their old life prior to Christ and their new life in Christ. It is not enough that we experience that divine moment between “B.C” and “A.D.,” for we must continually strive and push forward beyond the moment of A.D into the fulness of that reality. STUCK IN THE MOMENT BETWEEN B.C. AND A.D! PRESSING ON BEYOND THE MOMENT OF A.D! Oh, I can’t help but think about how many men and women desperately need to do everything that is necessary to transition and move ourselves beyond that moment between two times and move forward in the reality of new life in Christ. With that being said, let us now turn and direct our attention to the words and language the apostle Paul expresses unto the Philippians in the third chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto them: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinkers that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made comfortable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Now as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus .Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:3-16).
With the words we find and read in this particular passage of Scripture we notice a powerful and marked transition within the life of Paul, for when it came to glorying in the flesh the apostle Paul provided a litany of reasons he could glory in the flesh more than those around him. The apostle Paul provided a list of realities surrounding his life that gave him room and space to boast before he encountered Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus, and there is not a doubt in my mind that he did such. For the apostle Paul, however—everything changed when he encountered Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus, for all those things which he counted as gain in his life before Christ he now counted as loss, and even as dung in his new life in Christ. In fact, three times within two verses the apostle Paul uses the word loss to describe those things which he experienced and enjoyed prior to his new life in Christ. With that being said, however, there is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord wonderfully and powerfully used certain aspects of his previous life before Christ in order that He might further use Paul in the earth—namely, the teaching he received while studying under Gamaliel. There is not a doubt in my mind the Lord wonderfully and powerfully used the knowledge of the Law and of the Hebrew Scripture within the apostolic ministry he had been entrusted in. It’s necessary and worth noting this particular reality, for despite the fact that old things within our life prior to our new life in Christ passing away, there are certain aspects of that old life the Lord can use within our lives to enhance that which He has called us to. I am convinced the knowledge and learning the apostle Paul received while studying under Gamaliel—perhaps to one day become a chief Pharisee among the Pharisees—was wonderfully and powerfully used by the Lord to increase and enhance the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul. Isn’t it just like God to take that which we received while attempting to pursue something of our own agenda, something of our own desire, something of our own purpose and will for our lives, turn it on its head, completely flip the script, and use it for something far greater than we could even think or imagine. Such is what happened in the apostle Paul, as the Lord caused old things to pass away in the waters of baptism, yet used his teaching, his knowledge, and his learning while studying under Gamaliel to further enhance and increase the ministry entrusted unto him.
What we read in this particular passage of Scripture speaks of a tremendous boasting that could be done concerning and regarding our old life prior to Christ. When we read the eleventh chapter of the second epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth we notice specific causes for boasting among those whom Paul encountered—namely, that those he encountered were Hebrews, those whom He encountered were Israelites, and those whom he encountered were the seed of Abraham. What’s actually quite remarkable is that when it came to these three specific realities, each of them were tremendous causes to glory in the flesh rather than glorying in Christ. Being a Hebrew, being an Israelite, being the seed of Abraham were all reasons and causes to glory in the flesh and place confidence in the flesh rather than placing confidence in Christ and our identity in him. What I find to be absolutely incredible about this particular passage is that when we consider the concept and reality of being a minister of Christ for the sake of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven there is absolutely no room to glory in the flesh. In fact, when you read the apostle’s response to these rhetorical questions, you will find that that which he presents are not causes for one glorying in the flesh, but rather one glorying in Christ and one’s identity in Christ. If you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the latter portion of this passage of Scripture you will find that whereas he once gloried in the flesh and whereas he at one point put confidence in the flesh, that all changed when he encountered Christ. In fact, everything the apostle speaks of and lists in this chapter run completely contrary to our ability to place any confidence in the flesh. Consider if you will that which the apostle Paul references and speaks of within this eleventh chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints: “in labour more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stone, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that when we read this particular passage of Scripture, and when we consider the reality and concept of serving as a minister of Christ, we recognize and understand that there is absolutely no room, there is absolutely no space, there is absolutely no place for any glorying in the flesh. There would be those who serve as ministers of Christ who place a tremendous amount of trust and confidence in their flesh, yet that which the apostle Paul presents unto us in the eleventh chapter runs absolutely contrary to this concept. I fear, however, that there are a number of ministers who place an exorbitant amount of confidence in the flesh, and spend their days glorying in their flesh rather than glorying in Christ and their identity in Him. In fact, if you transition to the thirtieth verse of the eleventh chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul—“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (2 Corinthians 11:30). When the apostle Paul encountered Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus everything within his life was turned upside down, and he experienced a dramatic and powerful transformation unlike anything he had every known before. It was in that moment “A.D” that the apostle Paul recognized that there was absolutely no room or space for any confidence or trust in his flesh, and that he no longer had any room to glory in the natural. Oh that we would recognize and understand this reality and concept, and that we would understand it well, for it completely goes against the grain of everything we are and everything we seek to be. When speaking of being a minister of the gospel and a minister of Christ—not only could the apostle no longer glory in the flesh and place any confidence in the flesh, but he would also begin to glory in his infirmities? Why? Why would the apostle glory in his infirmities? What was it about his infirmities that would cause the apostle Paul to glory in his infirmities rather than his natural ability, his natural strength, and his flesh? The answer is actually found in the very next chapter when the apostle Paul experiences and encounters Christ once more within his life.
When the twelfth chapter of the second epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints begins and opens, it does so with the apostle Paul declaring that it is not beneficial or necessary for him to glory. Where the apostle Paul takes this concept of glorying and boasting next is one that can and will strike at the very heart of much of the charismatic and Pentecostal movement within this generation. The apostle Paul opens this twelfth chapter by transitioning to a place where he spoke of visions and revelations of the Lord, and how such could very well have been the cause of much glorying and boasting within the hearts of men. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that in the charismatic and Pentecostal movement that is so pervasive and prevalent in our generation today there are a number of men and women who boast of visions and revelations from the Lord. I know there are countless men and women who not only glory in visions and revelations received of the Lord, but they also brag and boast of such visions and revelations. There are men and women who make it their sole aim and purpose among the saints and brethren to glory and boast in the visions and revelations they receive from the Lord, as if visions and revelations are something to glory and boast over. What I absolutely love about this particular passage of Scripture is that while it is true the apostle Paul referring to a man he knew in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven, and such a man who was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which are not l awful for a man to utter. The apostle Paul knew of such a man in Christ, and it was of this man whom he would glory, yet he himself could never and would never glory of himself. What’s so incredible and amazing about this particular passage of Scripture is the direct transition the apostle Paul makes from visions and revelations of the Lord to infirmities. What began as a statement concerning visions and revelations of the Lord would dramatically transition to speech about infirmities, which for the apostle Paul would seem to be of greater value and worth than infirmities.
VISIONS HAVE NEVER PROVEN THE STRENGTH OF CHRIST! REVELATIONS HAVE NEVER PROVEN THE STRENGTH OF CHRIST! VISIONS AND REVELATIONS OF CHRIST HAVE NEVER PROVEN THE GRACE OF GOD BEING SUFFICIENT FOR US! The apostle Paul would begin this passage by speaking of revelations and visions of the Lord, yet he would immediately transition it right back to speaking of infirmities and that which caused him to place no glory in the flesh. If we are being honest, I would dare say that infirmities are of much greater worth and value within our hearts and lives than visions and revelations, for only through infirmities can we reach the place where we no longer glory in and place any confidence in the flesh. Only in, and through, and according to infirmities can we truly prove the strength of Christ which is made perfect in our weakness, and the grace of God which is sufficient for us. I believe with all my heart that while visions and revelations of the Lord do in fact take place within the lives of the saints of God—they should never be the cause of glorying and boasting. The tragic reality is that there are men and women who would rather glory and boast in visions and revelations of the Lord while completely ignoring their infirmities—that which not only proves the strength of Christ, but also the grace of God. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that the only thing he would glory in within his life was his infirmities—that which not only proved the strength of Christ, but that which proved the grace of God. Moreover, in the sixth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul declares that though he would desire to glory, he would not be a fool by doing so, for he would not that any man think more highly of him than they ought to. Furthermore, the apostle Paul would go on to write and declare that lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure. This is actually quite remarkable, for the apostle Paul refused to glory in visions and revelations, and he refused to allow men to think more highly of him than they ought, and in order to prevent him from being exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given him, which was a messenger of Satan to buffet him.
As this twelfth chapter progresses, it does so with the apostle Paul beseeching the Lord—not once, not even twice, but three times that this thorn in the flesh might depart from him. There is no indication on which of these occasions Christ spoke unto the apostle, but the apostle Paul wrote that instead of removing this thorn within his flesh, He declared and proclaimed unto him “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Not only would the Lord not allow the apostle to glory in the flesh, or place any confidence in the flesh, but the Lord would also give unto him a thorn in the flesh in the midst of it it all, and in the midst of that thorn in the flesh being present within the life of the apostle, the Lord not only declared that His grace was sufficient for him, but also His strength was made perfect in his weakness. I absolutely love that when it came to ministry and being a minister of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul could never and would never glory in the flesh, nor place any trust or confidence in his flesh. In fact, immediately following Paul’s recounting of the words which the Lord spoke unto him, he writes the following words which should be carefully considered by each and every saint of God and follower of Christ: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—would you rather have confidence in the flesh, or would you rather have confidence in Christ? Would you rather have the strength of flesh, or would you rather have the strength of Christ? Would you rather have a power that proceeds from your own flesh and ability, or would you rather have the power of Christ flowing through and resting upon you? For the apostle Paul, he would rather glory in his infirmities in order that the power of Christ may rest upon him. What’s more, is that he would actually take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. Why? Why would the apostle Paul take pleasure in such realities and such manifestations within his life? The answer is actually found in both the ninth verse, as well as the tenth verse—“that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” and “for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
The important thing to recognize concerning the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter, for these words can only be written from a place beyond that moment of transition between the reality of “B.C.” and “A.D.” It was only after the apostle Paul had encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and experienced him during those three years in the Arabian desert that he was brought to the place where he could no longer glory in or place any confidence in the flesh. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we will glory in the flesh and boast of visions and revelations of the Lord, or whether we will glory in our own infirmities and that which proves the nature of Christ within our hearts and lives. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are not only going to continue glorying in our flesh, but also trying to prove our own strength in the face of that which we face on a continual and daily basis. There is a tremendous need within our hearts and lives for us to place absolutely zero confidence in the flesh, and instead glory in that which causes the power of Christ to rest upon us. What’s more, is we must ask ourselves if we are willing to allow ourselves to become weak in order that He might be strong. We dare not forget the words which the Lord spoke unto the prophet Zechariah in the prophetic book which bears his name, for the Lord declared unto Zechariah that it was not by might, nor was it by power, but it was by His Spirit. Oh that we would allow ourselves to come to the end of who we think we are and who we believe ourselves to be in order that we might find that place where we can encounter who Christ truly is. Only to the degree and measure we allow ourselves to come to the end of who we are can we truly find and discover who Jesus Christ is. Are you willing to come to the end of yourself in order that you might the beginning of who Christ truly is and who He can be within your life? How you answer this question can and will dramatically alter every area of your life, and can make all the difference in how you experience the manifestation of the life and power of Christ within your life.