The paradox of our life in Christ
2 Corinthians 6:1-13 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 for He says,
“At the acceptable
time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. 12 You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. 13 Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Contrary to what Jesus says, there are many today who believe and declare that there are many and varied paths or ways to enter heaven. They say that because God is a loving God, all or most will enter heaven. In truth, as 2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. God is a loving God and He does desire that none would perish. But that means His desire also is that all would come to repentance. Again, according to Jesus, the way is not wide, but narrow. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) So then according to Jesus Himself, there are not many or multiple ways to the Father in heaven, but one single way, through Jesus Christ and the finished work of the cross.
That the way is narrow that leads to life, is that it is like Jesus Himself. While He went to the cross once for all, to pay the price for every sin of every person is broad in that it is available to all. It is narrow and few find it because we tend to view things from an earthly perspective, not a heavenly one. In today’s text Paul says: Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. Many of these things seem to contradict each other. But the life of a believer, the life of a follower of Christ is a life of paradox. Human nature tends to see things as either or, one way or the other. Believers then, tend to follow or promote doctrines that focus on one aspect of the character of God or limited truth about life in Christ. Some believe that the narrow way is found through focusing on holiness and righteousness. They speak of the judgment of God against sin and the need for repentance. Others believe in a doctrine of love and grace; God’s acceptance of all people regardless of their background or their actions. Some believe that the Christian life is a life of sacrifice and suffering; that followers of Christ must take up their cross and suffer as He did. Others believe that through Christ we have already overcome all the evil and darkness in the world; that the kingdom of heaven is already here and we have both victory and authority over all the works of evil. The perspective of people as to what the right doctrine and so, what is the narrow way which leads to life are almost limitless.
Is it possible that the narrow way is not one or the other as we tend to think, but all of these? It is both the love and grace of God and righteousness, holiness and justice. Indeed, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8) But God also says: “I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44) Jesus says: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more." (John 8:11) The love and grace of God, demonstrated in the cross and death of Christ is for all. Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) In response to the love of God, we are to live as He calls us to live, holy and righteous, free from sin.
In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus says: “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” In John 14:12-14 Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Jesus laid hands on the sick and they recovered. He opened blind eyes and raised the dead. I will take Him at His word and believe that we too have the authority to do those things. He taught us to pray: Your kingdom come Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. So, I will pray and believe that all of the promises and the realities of heaven are available here on earth. I also though, by the testimony of scripture, the history of the church and believers and the evidence I see with my eyes, know that as Jesus says: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (Jon 16:33) I believe as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. While Jesus indeed has overcome, He is victorious over satan, over sin and death, yet we still struggle daily against the forces of darkness and evil. We are called to live victoriously, with authority over sickness and death and so I will pray and believe. But acknowledging the struggle we still have, I know there will be battles we lose on earth. That doesn’t change who God is, or the life He calls us to.
God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is all in all. God is I Am. No one characteristic or aspect of His character can fully define Him. No single experience either good or bad encompasses all that God is or wants for us. Jesus calls us to the narrow way. Perhaps the narrow way to life is simply: Come what may I will follow Him. The psalmist seems to have known the narrow way. May his prayer and declaration be our’s.
The Lord is my shepherd, Ishall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.