2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 9—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
July 5, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is from the Epistle lesson recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for the power is made complete in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ should dwell in me. For this purpose I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insulting injuries, with troubles, with persecutions and distresses for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am powerful.
Are you, today, able to confess with the apostle Paul these God-breathed words: “I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insulting injuries, with troubles, with persecutions and distresses for the sake of Christ”? Are you, today, able to confess the Word of God, “My grace is enough for you” in the middle of weaknesses, injuries, troubles, persecutions and distresses? It is the goal of God’s Word here in our text to give you the assurance that God’s grace for you is sufficient for what you are going to face for the sake of Christ.
And what you are going to face because you are a Christian are these very things which Paul has listed. Once more—weaknesses, insulting injuries, troubles, persecutions and distresses.
These are the things the Church of Jesus Christ has suffered since the Day of Pentecost. In one sense, there is nothing new here. Acts 2 records for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power upon the chosen Apostles and Peter’s sermon, the Day concluding with 3000 baptisms. By Acts 3, Peter and John were locked up and then hauled before the ruling council in Jerusalem who ordered them “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” In Acts 7, Stephen is murdered, the first Christian after Pentecost to die for the sake of Jesus. James, the brother of John was killed by King Herod is Acts 12. Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi in Acts 16. Ultimately, Paul was beheaded in Rome. Peter, also, was crucified.
How many hundreds of Christian men, women, and children were martyred for the faith during the many persecutions which arose in the early centuries AD? How many died in the arenas at the mouths of the lions? According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an estimate is that more than 70 million Christians have been martyred over the last two thousand years. More than half of these were in the 20th century under fascist and communist regimes. For the early 21st century, they estimate that 1 million Christians were killed over the 10-year period from 2000–2010, an average of approximately 100,000 Christians killed each year. And how many more Christians suffer daily insults, injuries, troubles, and distress because they confess “Jesus Christ is Lord”? How many Christians have been beaten, imprisoned, have had reputations destroyed, homes and property vandalized because of their faith?
Our sons and daughters have been insulted in school because of their faith. They have been made fun of and mocked because they pray. Employees have been told that they can’t talk about Jesus Christ at work or they will face disciplinary action. Businesses who stand on the Word of God as their norm for faith and life have been blasted as “intolerant” and have been boycotted in protest of Christ.
It’s happening, people of Christ, as it has for 2000 years. The Church of the Lord Christ is persecuted. It is just as Jesus said. The world hates us because the world hates Jesus. (John 15:8) The world hates us because we confess Christ and His Word as absolutely true. The world hates us because we will not give in to the lies of Satan that has so numbed the world that the world doesn’t have a need for truth or morality or right and wrong. It’s not about “love wins,” or “marriage equality,” or any other clichés that you might hear or read. It’s about truth. It’s about what is definitively right and wrong according to the Word of God. It is about sin of all varieties, and it is about the gracious forgiveness of Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world, not so that we can continue to live in sin and say everything is okay, but so that we might live a new life in the abundance of His grace and love for all sinners of all shapes and sizes and sexual orientation.
For the Gospel is the power of God for salvation! (Rom 1:16) It is, as Paul writes in our text, the power of Christ that dwells in us. How wonderful that the Holy Spirit God-breathed to Paul the same word He breathed to John in His Gospel. From John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” It is the power of Christ that dwells in us by the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ, who suffered and died on the cross in weakness for our sins and rose from the dead in glory defeating our death, comes to tabernacle, pitch His tent, or dwell in us with power! He dwells in us with the power of His grace and mercy, His forgiveness and everlasting life.
It is that power, brothers and sister in the Lord, which must sustain us in the midst of the persecutions that we are going to face in the coming months and years as members of Christ’s body, the Church. For Satan is going to continue to spread His lies. He is going to point to Christians as haters and bigots as we stand on the Word of God, which the devil has led people to believe is a human book written by mere people with opinions that are “outdated,” and not entirely the true, God-breathed Word of God, without error. As Jesus said in Revelation 2:29, “He who has an ear to hear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
And for a brief moment let us consider the message of Jesus Christ in that last book of divine revelation to us. The word pictures that John gives us depict the enemies of Christ and His people, the Church, as two beasts. The first beast is the social-political beast. It represents and symbolizes every human authority and everything of the human nature that Satan can corrupt and control and use in his warfare against the Church and individual Christians. The second beast is the religious beast, representing a false spirituality and a fake form of Christianity that is filled with the lies and deceptions of the devil. (Rev. 13) In Revelation 17, we find that the social-political beast is under the control of the religious beast, the false spirituality and the renegade version of “church.” The ultimate purpose of Satan and his henchmen is to shame and belittle God and His Christ by shaming and destroying God’s saints on earth and their witness to the Christ. As Jesus warned us so that we would be ready for the contest, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:9 ESV)
Will the Church endure to the end and be saved? Will you and I be able to stand in the day of persecution, the day of insult, injury, and trouble, the day of distress, and say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God’s truth. I confess Jesus is Lord.”? The answer is YES! The grace of God in Jesus Christ is sufficient for us! It is enough because His power, yes, the Christ Himself, dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. In the time of persecution, weakness, and defeat because of the confession of Jesus and the saving faith we have been gifted in Him, we are powerful in Christ! We have been saved from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Even as he attacks us and seeks to destroy us, we already have victory. Jesus Christ is Lord!
Again, from Revelation, chapter 19: “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ . . . ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. . . . Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
In the power of Jesus Christ, your King and your Lord, stand firm in His all-sufficient grace. Stand upright in the day of trouble, in the time of weakness and distress, for the Lord Christ is with you in power, strong to save. Do not become discouraged. The victory over sin and Satan has already been won. And you and I, with the whole Church of Christ, will stand together on the day of Jesus’ coming again as His Church Triumphant and Victorious! Amen.