Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the first verse of the fourth chapter and continues through to the tenth verse of the fifth chapter. “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:1-6).
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: IF so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
When you come to the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle you will find the apostle Paul building off the words and language which were written in the previous chapter. If you turn and direct your attention back to the words written in the third chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing of a different type of epistle—one that was not written with the ink of a stylus or pen but that which was written by the Holy Spirit. Moreover you will find the apostle Paul writing of these epistles being written—not on parchment or on tablets of stone but rather that which was written upon the hearts of men. In the opening verses of the third chapter the apostle Paul emphatically writes unto the Corinthian saints how they were their epistles written within their hearts known and read of all men. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous language that is found in these words written by the apostle Paul—particularly the phrase “known and read of all men.” If you have been a believer for any period of time you might have undoubtedly heard the phrase “Preach always—and if necessary use words.” You might have also heard the phrase “You might be the only Bible someone else reads.” Such phrases are intended to bring us face to face with the tremendous and incredible knowledge that we ourselves are a witness, a testimony and a declaration unto those before and all around us. If you name the name of the Lord Jesus and believe that He was crucified, was buried, was raised to life on the third day and ascended unto the right hand of the Father you are one whose life is a powerful witness and testimony unto those before and around you. Regardless of whether you fully believe or understand it you are indeed—to some small degree and measure—a gospel which is being presented unto men upon the earth.
I have to admit that as I sit here reading and pondering the words found in this passage of Scripture I am absolutely captivated with the idea that we as the saints of God and disciples of Christ are such as are living testaments which are presented unto men. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when considering ourselves to be disciples of the Lord Jesus it’s that we are such who are raised up to be living epistles known and read by all men. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to state that there will be men and women who will read the testament and message of your life before they will ever read the Scripture. Perhaps one of the most important truths we can and will ever recognize concerning our walking with the Lord Jesus is that we have been raised up to be a witness unto all those we come in contact with. Jesus made it very clear when speaking unto His disciples that we are to be salt and light in the earth and that we are to be a city set on a hill. Jesus emphatically declared that men would know that we are His disciples through the love we exhibit one toward another. Moreover when speaking unto His disciples prior to His ascension unto the right hand of the Father He declared unto them that they would be His witnesses in all the nations of the earth as they taught and baptized men in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Ghost. When Jesus departed from this world He did so leaving behind a powerful witness and testimony—those who had been with Him from the start and had walked with and followed Him. Upon His ascension unto the right hand of the Father Jesus left behind about one-hundred and twenty disciples and followers who would be His initial testimony and witness in the earth—first in Jerusalem, then in Judaea and Samaria and finally the uttermost parts of the earth.
The words we find here in this particular passage in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is incredibly unique and powerful for it calls and draws our attention to the truth that we are indeed living epistles made up of flesh and blood which are known and read by all. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact that as living epistles we are essentially following a similar pattern to the Lord Jesus when He stepped out of eternity into the realm of time and space. If you turn and direct your attention to the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will come face to face with a wonderful and powerful description concerning the Lord Jesus. In the opening chapter of this New Testament gospel you will be brought to encounter the wonderful reality that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The very first verse of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John highlights and underscores the Lord Jesus as the living Word come down from heaven. What’s more is the apostle John sought to convey to his readers and audience that this living Word was with God in the beginning and that this living Word was indeed God. Not only this but if you continue reading this first chapter of the New Testament gospel you will find it declared of the Lord Jesus that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely incredible that truth truly is for the living and eternal Word which was with God in the beginning and which was God took upon Himself the form of human flesh with blood and bones that He might walk among us. With this in mind I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John, the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews, as well as the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Philippian saints:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:1-5).
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Now man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:6-18).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; who crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
What makes these passages all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact that they all highlight the fact that the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the form of flesh and blood having laid aside His divinity and the glory He had with the Father. In order for Jesus to come among us He had to lay aside that glory which He shared with His Father in heaven from eternity past that He might walk among us in the flesh. In the opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we are brought face to face with the fact that the Word was in the beginning, that the Word in the beginning with God and that the Word was God. As if this weren’t enough to set the tone for the remainder of the chapter we find it written concerning the Word how He became flesh and dwelt among us. Stop and consider how incredibly powerful and significant these words truly are—the fact that the eternal Word which was with God in the beginning and which was God actually took upon himself the form of flesh and blood that He might dwell among us. For thirty years the eternal and living Word dwelt among us as one of us without our even being aware of His presence. For thirty years the eternal Word of the living God dwelt among us in the form of flesh and blood and we had absolutely no knowledge who was truly among us. It wouldn’t be until after Jesus turned thirty years of age that He would come to the Jordan River that He might be baptized by John the Baptist. It would be there at the Jordan River the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon the Lord Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father spoke from heaven declaring Jesus to be His Son in whom He was well pleased. Immediately after being baptized the Spirit would drive Jesus into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil for forty days before returning to Galilee in the power of that same Spirit.
For thirty years the living and eternal Word dwelt among us in the form of human flesh and we were none the wiser concerning who in fact dwelt and walked among us. When, however, Jesus turned thirty years old and after He had been baptized by John in the Jordan River and tempted of the devil in the wilderness He would become the Word made flesh which would dwell among us in authority and in power. For three and a half years the eternal Word would be more than simply “the Word made flesh” but would actually walk among us in authority, in power, in love, in compassion, in grace, in truth, and so much more. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth surrounding the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God—the very embodiment of the eternal God—being present among us as the Word made flesh. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this is that this was about so much more than the words which proceeded forth from His mouth but also the example and testimony He had in the earth. When we think about the Word which was made flesh we must needs understand that when the Father sought to accomplish His greatest work in the earth He would send His Son who was the eternal Word which would be known and read of all men. We know the apostle Paul wrote concerning the disciples of Jesus and the saints of God as being those who are known and read of all men and yet we must needs recognize that this was first seen and evidence in the person of the Lord Jesus. During those three and a half years the Lord Jesus was indeed the Word made flesh who not only dwelt among us but who was known and read of all men.
When we think about the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the third chapter of the second epistle we must needs recognize that just as we are a Temple of the Holy Ghost made without human hands so also are we epistles written without human hands. Just as the Lord Jesus was not formed or created from the seed of man and would become the incarnate Word in the flesh so also we must understand that we are living and breathing epistles of flesh and blood yet which were written without human hands and without ink from quills or pens. In all reality I absolutely love the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture for it calls and invites us into the place where we understand that we have been called to be living and breathing epistles which are to be known and read of all men. You and I—if we name the name of the Lord Jesus and walk with and follow Him—have indeed been called to be living and breathing epistles which were not formed nor fashioned by human hands. Building upon this even further we must needs recognize what is found in the first and opening chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John for within it we find him declaring that those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus were given the power to become sons of God—sons who were not born of the will of man, nor of flesh and blood, but sons who were born of the will of the eternal Father. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for even when we read the words the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of both the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as the second epistle written unto the same we discover that we are indeed the temple of the Holy Ghost and the temple of the living God made without human hands. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these chapters in Paul’s epistles written unto the Corinthian saints:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:15-19).
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
If we read and study the Scripture we know that there were indeed two Temples which were built by human hands—the first which was built by Solomon and the second which was built during the return from exile and later enhanced by Herod. We know that the Babylonians entered into the city of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC and not only destroyed the wall and gates of the city but also destroyed the temple as well by burning it to the ground. We also know that it was the Romans who entered into the city of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD and destroyed the second Jewish temple which stood in the midst of the city on the Temple Mount. With this being said it’s actually quite intriguing to think about how for more than three decades there existed two temples within and upon the earth—one temple that was made with human hands and one that was made without human hands. For almost four decades there would stand the physical Temple of the Jews on the Temple Mount—that which was built with human hands—while there was also an unseen yet seen Temple that was made without and apart from human hands. There was indeed a physical and natural Temple which stood on the Temple Mount which was made of stone while there was another temple that was made of flesh and blood and without human hands.
It’s actually quite interesting when you consider the fact that not only was the Lord Jesus the living Word made flesh but He also referred to His own physical body as a temple. You will recall in the second chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John how when the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus by what authority He overturned the tables of money and drove out the moneychangers He declared unto them concerning the destruction of this temple and how on three days He would raise it up again. Those who were present on this particular day thought the Lord Jesus was speaking of the physical and natural Temple which stood on the Temple mount made of stone and yet the truth of the matter is that the Temple the Lord Jesus spoke about was the temple of His body. This is important for us to recognize and understand for when we consider the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus we must needs recognize that we are a temple made without human hands, we are living epistles known and read of all, and we are a spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely and completely convinced that if you want to truly function in your role as a saint of the living God and disciple of the Lord Jesus you must needs realize that you are a member of the body, you are an epistle known and read of all men and you the temple of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something worth noting and recognizing when we think about our role, our purpose and function in the earth.
In the third chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul speaks of the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ as being epistles written upon their hearts known and read of all men. Moreover these epistles were not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not in tables of stone but in fleshly tables of the heart. When the living and eternal God descended upon Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai He would write the Law upon two tablets of stone which Moses would bring down from the mountain in his arms. When we read the words which are found in this particular chapter we must needs recognize and understand this imagery for it is such that helps us to understand that we ourselves have been written not with ink but with the very Spirit of God. While it is true that we are living epistles known and read by all men we must needs understand that we have been made into living epistles of flesh and blood which were written with and by the Spirit of God. It is indeed true that we are the temple of the living God made without human hands and that we are the spiritual body of Christ made without human hands and it is also true that we are indeed and in fact living epistles made of flesh and blood which are known and read of all men. What’s more is that when you come to the end of the third chapter of this second epistle you will find the apostle Paul speaking of the veil which Moses had to put over his face when speaking unto the children of Israel because of the reflection of the glory of the Lord that was upon him. Moses had spent forty days and forty nights in the presence of the living God and upon coming forth from his presence he reflected and radiated the very glory of the Father.
There is something truly powerful about the final verses of the third chapter of this New Testament epistle for within it we find the apostle Paul speaking of the veil that is upon the hearts of men when they hear the words of the Law of Moses. With this being said, however, the apostle Paul goes on to describe how this is done away with in Christ and that when men shall turn to the Lord the veil is taken away. The apostle Paul would go on to write how the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. What we must needs recognize when reading these words is that the liberty the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about in this passage of Scripture is not only liberty from the veil which is upon the hearts of men when the law of Moses is read but also the liberty to with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord. Not only this but there is liberty to be changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. BEHOLDING THE GLORY AND CHANGED INTO THE IMAGE! There is something truly wonderful and powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for before it is over we find the apostle Paul speaking of our beholding the glory of the Lord with open face and our being changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it helps us to truly understand the liberty the Spirit affords unto us—namely to have the veil removed that we might behold the glory of the Lord while also being changed into the same image from glory to glory. It might very well be said that what the children of Israel witnessed and observed with Moses reflecting the same image and glory of the living God is what we have been called to as the saints of the living God.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in the third chapter of this epistle I can’t help but wonder if we are truly beholding the glory of the Lord and being changed into the same image from glory to glory. What’s more is that the more time we spend beholding the glory of the Lord the more we can and will be changed into the same image from glory to glory. What’s more is I would dare say that to the degree and measure that we behold the glory of the Lord is the same degree and measure we can and will be changed into the image from glory to glory. Not only this but we have a great need to recognize and understand that we have been called to both behold the glory of the Lord and be changed into the same image from glory to glory. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly astonishing and powerful about the more time we spend beholding the glory of the Lord and our being changed into the same image and likeness from glory to glory. We have indeed been called to be changed into the same image from glory to glory and just as Moses reflected and radiated the glory of the Lord after coming down from the mountain so also must we radiate and reflect the glory and image of the Lord. Oh we know that Jesus was the express image of the eternal and living God and that if anyone beheld Him they were beholding the Father. We know that in Jesus dwelt the fulness of all the Godhead and that he was the exact representation of the living and eternal God. With this being said there is a great need for us to continue beholding the glory of the Lord that we might be completely and utterly changed into the image and likeness of the living God. We know that when Adam was formed from the dust of the ground he was created in the image of God and fashioned after His likeness, however, after the fall that image was marred.
When Adam was formed from the dust of the ground He was created in the image and after the likeness of the triune Godhead and yet what we ourselves have been called to is to have that image restored. With this being said we have a great need to note that the only way for this image to be restored is through our being changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The original image that was intended for Adam was indeed experienced by him up to the time of the fall and when the fall took place that image was forever marred and scarred. When we speak about the image of the living God we must needs remember that while it is true that we are still to some degree and measure created in the image of the living God we have a great need to be changed and transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only hope we have to truly have the original intention of bearing the image of the living God in us is to be transformed and changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. This process is done by and through the person of the Holy Spirit and we dare not miss or lose sight of this. To the degree and measure we behold the glory of the Lord is the same degree and measure we can and will be changed and transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps the single greatest question is not only whether or not we want to look like Christ but whether or not we even do look like Christ. If you were to truly examine your life carefully would you say you look more like yourself or would you say that you look like the Lord Jesus Christ? We have indeed been called to reflect the image of the living God and we do so through our being changed and transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus.
Upon coming to the fourth chapter you find the apostle Paul speaking of this ministry and mercy we have received from the Lord and how we faint not. Not only this but we have been called to renounce the hidden things of dishonesty not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully. Instead—by manifestation of the truth we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of the living God. This truth would be followed by the apostle Paul speaking of the gospel behind hid before those who are lost—and if the gospel is hid the god of this world has blinded the minds of those which believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them. The apostle Paul goes on to declare how he did not preach themselves but Christ Jesus the Lord and themselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to declare how God commanded light to shine out of darkness and how He hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Once more we find the apostle Paul speaking of the image and the Lord Jesus is the image of God which shines upon those who believe. In the previous chapter we read of beholding the glory of the Lord that we might be changed into the image of the living God and in the fourth chapter we read of the Lord Jesus as being the image of the living God. With this being said we must needs understand that we have indeed been called to be those who behold and continue to behold the glory of the Lord that we are changed and conformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only to the degree and measure we are changed and transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus can we truly be changed into the image and likeness of the living God.
If you continue reading in the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of this treasure which we have in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power of God may be of God and not of us. The apostle Paul sought to reveal unto the Corinthian saints that they did in fact possess this treasure in earthen vessels that the power may be of God and not of us—the treasure of the Spirit of the living and the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely necessary we recognize the words which are found in the latter part of the fourth chapter for directly linked and connected to this treasure in earthen vessels and the excellency of the power of God is this strength, this fortitude, this grace and this fortitude that is contained therein. The apostle Paul goes on to declare how they were troubled on every side yet they were not distressed and how they were perplexed but not in despair. What’s more is the apostle Paul goes on to describe how they were persecuted but not forsaken and cast down but not destroyed. As such they always bore about in their body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies. This is what the apostle Paul alluded to and referenced in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints when he spoke of knowing the fellowship of His sufferings as we are made conformable unto His death. With this being said I can’t help but consider the fact that one of the greatest ways the image of the Lord Jesus is created and formed within us is through suffering. Is it possible that one of the greatest ways the image of the Lord Jesus is formed within our physical bodies is through the suffering we face and experience in the flesh? Is it possible that the greater the suffering, the greater the conflict, the greater the pressure, the greater the affliction the more we are changed and conformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus?
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and I can’t help but continue to be completely and utterly challenge by the thought of suffering being the means to change and transform us into the image of the eternal and only begotten Son. We know the apostle Paul—when writing unto the Philippian saints—spoke of partaking of the fellowship of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ and His being made conformable unto Him in His death. In the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we are brought face to face with the truth of the Lord Jesus being made perfect through the things He suffered. There is a tremendous part of me that can’t help but think about the fact that suffering is at times within our lives the very tool and instrument used in the hand of the eternal and living God to change and transform us into the image and likeness of the Son. There are times in our lives when suffering is the only means by which we can be changed and transformed into the likeness of the eternal Son for suffering has a means of completely and utterly stripping us of all our pride, of all our boasting, of all our self-confidence, of all our arrogance, and of those things which would indeed hold us back from truly walking with and following the Lord Jesus. There is not a doubt in my mind that suffering is more often than not the tool and instrument used in the hand of the living God to change us into the very image and likeness of the eternal Son. At times in our lives suffering might very well be the only means by which we can be changed and transformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus for even Scripture declared how Jesus learned obedience through the things which He suffered.
If you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of this particular epistle you will find him writing of having this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay close attention to these words for the ultimate goal for us is to live our lives wholly and completely surrendered to the eternal will of the Father. What’s more is that we must needs be completely and utterly stripped of any strength which we feel we have within ourselves that we might trust fully and completely in the power of God. You will notice how the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture concerning the excellency of the power within us might be of God and not of us. Immediately following this the apostle Paul goes on to speak of being trouble, being perplexed, being persecuted and being cast down. What makes these words so incredibly unique and challenging when you consider them is when you find the apostle Paul speaking of being troubled on every side yet not distressed, being perplexed but not in despair, being persecuted but not forsaken, and being cast down but not destroyed. Despite those things which the apostle Paul and others faced in this life those things did not have any authority over them for the apostle Paul believed within his heart that in all things God causes us to triumph. Remember in the second chapter how the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
The words and language which we find in this particular portion of Scripture brings us face to face with something the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the epistle written unto the Roman saints. If you turn and direct your attention to the words and language found in this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring unto the Corinthian saints how the living and eternal God causes His saints to always triumph in Him. What we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Roman saints is absolutely and incredible unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for within it we find the apostle Paul bringing his audience and readers into a place where they recognized the triumph and victory they had in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the fourth chapter of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find him speaking of being troubled, of being perplexed, of being cast down and even of being persecuted and yet in all these things the apostle Paul continued to remain steadfast, strong and unmovable. Despite those things the apostle Paul faced it would not be enough to shake him nor deter him from his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite all those things you find the apostle Paul speaking of him suffering as mentioned in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament epistle he was never destroyed nor moved by any of it. Oh this does not mean that there weren’t times when the apostle Paul was overwhelmed in the midst of what he faced for even in the first chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul spoke of the trouble he experienced in Asia and how it was so severe that he even despaired of life itself.
If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that in this world we can and will have many trials, troubles and tribulations. If you consider the New Testament gospel narratives you will find that there were certain things the Lord Jesus Christ guaranteed His disciples and followers they would face. When speaking unto His disciples the Lord Jesus declared unto His disciples how they could expect offences to come in the world and that it was absolutely unavoidable. Moreover, the Lord Jesus spoke of His disciples expecting trials, troubles and tribulations and yet instructing them not to fear because He overcame the world. Not only this but the Lord Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. As if this weren’t enough Jesus also prepared and made ready His disciples for the rejection they would face in certain cities, towns, villages and homes they entered. In all reality the Lord Jesus did not prepare and make ready His disciples for an easy road in this life but rather prepared them to walk through trials, troubles, tribulation and the like. Jesus did promise them they would be His witnessed in Jerusalem, and unto Judaea and Samaria and ultimately unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus did promise them they would be endowed with power from on high, however, with this witness and power would also come tremendous trials, troubles and tribulation. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the eighteenth and twenty-seventh chapters of the Old Testament book of Psalms:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28-39).
“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? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice; have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I have believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:1-14).
“I will love thee, O LORD my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and I cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I. kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness. According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; with the pure thou silt shew thyself pure; and with the forward thou wilt shew thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God I have leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? Or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect, he maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued my enemies, and overtaken them; neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed forever” (Psalm 18:1-50).
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for both the apostle Paul in the New Testament and David in the Old Testament believed the LORD God was not only able to deliver them out of all their troubles but also cause them to triumph. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize when we consider these passages is that more often than not there are times when we look for and perhaps even expect the living God to deliver us out of and deliver us from our trials, troubles and tribulations, and yet that which the LORD God desires to do is to deliver us through those trials, troubles and tribulations. I can’t help but think about the three Hebrews in the land of the Chaldeans and how they refused to bow themselves before the golden image Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar. Knowing that refusal to bow down to the image would indeed mean being cast alive into the fiery furnace they would stand before the king and emphatically declare that even if their God did not deliver them from the fiery furnace they would not bow themselves before his golden image. Enraged Nebuchadnezzar would order the furnace to be heated seven times hotter and cast these three Hebrews bound and alive in the midst of the furnace. Much to his shock, horror and dismay he looked into the fiery furnace and saw four men loosed and unbound in the midst of the furnace walking and conversing with each other and the fourth looking like the Son of man. Nebuchadnezzar would call these three Hebrews out of the fiery furnace and both he and all those who were with him were shocked that not a hair on their bodies were singed, nor were their clothes burned, nor did they have the smell of smoke upon them.
Building upon this particular truth we must needs recognize the narrative of Daniel who was also alive in the land of the Chaldeans during this time. During the days of Darius the Mede the principals and the chief men in the land launched a conspiracy against Daniel that they might overtake him. Realizing they could not find any means wherewith to accuse him they manipulated the king into signing a decree that anyone who prayed to anyone but him for the next thirty days would be cast alive into the den of lions. Even after hearing the decree which the king signed Scripture reveals how Daniel entered into his chamber and opened his windows unto Jerusalem and continued to pray unto the LORD his God three times a day. Those who sought to find reason and cause against him found him praying unto his God and brought report unto Darius. Although Darius the Mede sought to deliver Daniel from his own foolish decree which he had signed he nonetheless ordered Daniel to be cast alive into the den of lions. That entire night, however, Darius could not sleep and early the next morning he went unto the den of lions to see if the living God had delivered Daniel from the mouths of the lions. Much to his shock and even his delight he discovered Daniel was still alive and how the LORD God had sent His angel during the night to shut the mouths of the lions. Darius would immediately order Daniel to be brought forth from the den of lions and ordered all those who sought to accuse him to be cast alive into the den of lions together with all their families.
The reason I mention these two passages of Scripture is that there are times when the LORD God can and will deliver us from and out of our trials, our troubles and our tribulations, however, there are other times when the LORD our God delivers us through those trials, troubles and tribulations. The three Hebrews and Daniel were not delivered from their trials, troubles and tribulation in the land of the Chaldeans but were delivered through them. Oh the LORD would indeed deliver them in the midst of that which they faced, however, they would have to walk through and endure that which they faced. I absolutely love the words and language the apostle Paul uses in the fourth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints for the apostle Paul speaks of being troubled—and not only being troubled but troubled on every side—and yet not distressed. The apostle Paul speaks of being perplexed but not in despair as well as being persecuted but not forsaken and being cast down but not destroyed. The apostle Paul would go on to write and speak about them always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in their body. Not only this but the apostle Paul would further declare how they which lived were always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in their mortal flesh. Oh please don’t miss that which the apostle Paul is writing in this particular passage for bearing in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus was viewed as entirely and absolutely necessary that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in their mortal flesh.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the final portion of the fourth chapter as well as in the fifth chapter. In the sixteenth verse the apostle Paul speaks of and declares unto the Corinthians how they fainted not and although their outward man perish yet the inward man is renewed day by day. The apostle Paul would go on to declare how their light affliction which is but for a moment worked for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found here for the apostle Paul firmly believed that the affliction(s) we faced in this life are but for a moment and work in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The question we must needs ask ourselves is what was that eternal weight of glory? If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fifth chapter you will find the answer to this—at least in part. Beginning with the first verse of the fifth chapter the apostle Paul declares that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God—a house not made with hands which is eternal in the heavens. With this in mind the apostle Paul goes on to write how in and because of this we groan as we earnestly desire to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the frailty of these earthly tabernacles and tents and how there is an eternal tent and tabernacle that is being prepared for us in the heavens.
I bring this writing to a close calling drawing your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture for he would write how being present in this body was to be absent from the Lord. With this being said we must also recognize and understand that there is a part in us that earnestly and eagerly groans and awaits our being clothed with this tabernacle which is prepared for us in the heavens. The words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter are directly in alignment with the words which he wrote in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. It is in the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle the apostle Paul declares how flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God and how our physical and natural bodies must needs be changed and transformed. Even as I sit here I can’t help but get the sense within my heart and spirit that as we get older and our bodies begin to deteriorate and shut down we are actually being prepared for eternity. There is something we must needs recognize and consider concerning these words for we must needs understand how we are preparing ourselves for the dissolving of this tent and just as the heavens will roll up like a scroll and a new heavens and a new earth will be created so also will our earthly tabernacles be dissolved and done away with that we might possess a new heavenly body which is incorruptible and immortal. There is a great need for us to understand this incredible and powerful truth for it calls and draws our attention to the truly wonderful truth surrounding the dissolving of these earthly and natural tents that we might be clothed with Christ and might put on our heavenly beings which were made without human hands. Even as I am writing these words I can’t help but think about my own body and how although I am not quite forty I get the sense that I am being prepared for this reality of an eternal being which is made without human hands. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus and whether or not we are truly groaning for our new heavenly and eternal bodies which are being prepared for us in the heavens.