A Death Sentence

When God’s children rely entirely on God, they appear to the world as weak and foolish failures, unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and “take care of themselves.” According to the world’s standards, only the truly pathetic need religion or some form of God. 

1 Corinthians 1:21-25 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

Paul’s affliction was so great, that it required the direct intervention of God to overrule it in favor of life. He looked a fool to be so persecuted and maligned, relying on God he seemed unfazed by his circumstances. Indeed, he looked simple. He appeared foolish for not reacting like the world because of the danger he was in. The resurrection of Christ empowered Paul and the other apostles to wisely consider their circumstances, in the context of God’s character, as revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s latest intervention led Paul to recognize God’s great power even more. 

And the reason for this, is that when things are at their worst and all human resources are exhausted, we are more receptive to experience the power of God.

Paul does not trust himself to just any god but to the true and living God, whom raised Jesus from the dead.  He therefore does not react to the difficult circumstances and copious suffering ordained for him with a gloomy stoicism. 

Paul approached his life, whatever the circumstance, with an overwhelming sense of triumph because of the power of Christ’s resurrection. 

Christ’s resurrection insures Paul’s resurrection. Paul now interpreted everything that happened to him through the lens of a resurrection perspective. In the midst of suffering he experienced God’s empowering presence and became convinced that it created an even more intimate bond between himself and His Lord, who had suffered and died for him.

This is not the first time Paul has experienced circumstances that felt like a death sentence. Our calling, as Christians, is to take up our daily cross. Our lives ought to feel like a death sentence of sorts. The way of the cross is a death sentence to “self.” If we don’t feel like Paul in this passage, are we faithfully pursuing God’s will in obedience like we ought?  

Paul has been in trouble and it won’t be the last time if he continues faithfully in his ministry. When God has rescued you once from great danger, you are confident that God can and will rescue you again.

The Greek verb synypourgeō in v. 11 means “to work together with” or “cooperate” by means of something. Paul is referring to the prayers of his readers on his behalf.

Paul does not hide behind the facade of a superman, pretending he can survive on his own without help from anyone else. Paul has no problem expressing his eager need for their prayers. The reason Paul is so confident in the power of their prayers, is because of his confidence in God to listen, respond, and deliver.

Paul is claiming that God’s gracious favor, in his current context, was conferred on him through the many faces uplifted to heaven in intercessory prayer on his behalf.  

Paul emphasizes giving thanks for participating in one another’s lives because through prayer they are participating in salvific work of God in one another’s lives. 

Unity in thanksgiving to God is one of Paul’s great aims of writing to the Corinthians. 

Paul is not soliciting their prayers solely for his own benefit. The excess of suffering brings an excess of comfort that overflows to the lives of others. This enrichment ought to lead to prayers of thanksgiving that declare the glory of God. 

Paul’s ultimate concern is not his rescue from danger, but that God will be honored more and more by his reaction to the death-sentence circumstances. 

The pattern of suffering and deliverance drives Paul further into the embrace of the living God, who alone possesses the power of resurrection. These death sentence circumstances also increase the prayers of the saints. Paul’s vision is never confined to himself and the little world he inhabits. Paul’s vision is the whole church living in intimacy and reliance upon the power of God and expresses this as Good News for the whole world.

Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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