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"My grace is sufficient for you—for my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2Co 12:9
How mysterious are God’s dealings! That such a highly-favored man as Paul should come down from the "third heaven" to the very gates of hell (that is not too strong an expression, for "the messenger of Satan" came from hell), that he should sink in soul-feeling to the very gates of hell, there to be buffeted by "the messenger of Satan;" and all to teach him a lesson that heaven did not teach him—the strength of God made perfect in weakness! Do you not think, that if WE are to learn our weakness, we must learn it in the same way? How did Paul get his religion? And must we not get ours, in our feebler measure, through the same channels, by the same means, and by the same inward teachings?
If we are to learn the secret of Christ’s strength, it is not by making daily advances in fleshly holiness, and getting stronger in SELF day by day. It is not by old nature being so mended and improved, as bye and bye to be shaded off into grace, just as the colors in the rainbow are so harmoniously blended that you can scarcely tell where the one ends and the other begins. For this is what is really meant by "progressive sanctification," that the old nature is so gradually softened and blended into grace, that we can scarcely tell where the old man ceases and the new nature commences. Did the Apostle learn Christ’s strength in that way? No; but by being buffeted by Satan’s messenger, and thus being beaten out of his own strength, he found Christ’s strength made perfect in his weakness.
"Though I am nothing." — 2Co 12:11
Paul did not mean to say that he had no religion—but none in himself. ’What! could not Paul stand against temptation?’ Not more than you or I, unassisted by the grace of God. ’Could not Paul pray more than I can?’ No, not at all, except so far as the spirit of grace and supplication was given to him. ’Could not Paul love more than I do?’ Not a bit more, nor think a spiritual thought more, as far as self was concerned. I do not mean to say that Paul did not pray, believe, and love more than any of us do; but he did not perform these actions in himself one whit more than we can. He says, expressly, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing;" and therefore not the good thing of faith, or love, or divine communion.
Now when the Lord has brought a soul down to be nothing, he then makes his strength perfect in that nothingness; he communicates strength to pray, strength to believe, strength to hope, to love, to receive the gospel. Just like the poor man with the withered hand, to whom Jesus said, "Stretch forth your hand." It was withered, he could not do it of himself. But Christ’s strength was made perfect in weakness—when he spoke the word, the withered hand was stretched forth, and became as whole as the other. So with the dead Lazarus—he was asleep in death; but when the voice of love and power penetrated into the tomb—"Lazarus, come forth," life was made perfect in the dead corpse. So with the Old Testament worthies, who "out of weakness were made strong" (Heb 11:34). And so, each in our measure, it is with us; our weakness, helplessness, and inability are the very things which draw forth the power, the strength, and the grace of Jesus.
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Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24