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2 Corinthians 12:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

My grace is sufficient for thee - Thou shalt not be permitted to sink under these afflictions. Thy enemies shall not be able to prevail against thee.

My strength is made perfect in weakness - The more, and the more violently, thou art afflicted and tried, being upheld by my power, and prospered in all thy labors, the more eminently will my power be seen and acknowledged. For the weaker the instrument I use, the more the power of my grace shall be manifested. See at the end of this chapter, ( 2 Corinthians 12:21; (note)).

Will I rather glory in my infirmities - Therefore, his infirmities do not mean his corruptions, or sins, or sinfulness of any kind; for it would be blasphemous for any man to say, I will rather glory that God leaves my corruptions in me, than that he should take them away.

That the power of Christ may rest upon me - Επισκηνωσῃ επ ' εμε· That it may overshadow me as a tent, or tabernacle; affording me shelter, protection, safety, and rest. This expression is like that, John 1:14; : And the word was made flesh, και εσκηνωσεν εν ἡμιν and made his tabernacle among us - full of grace and truth. The same eternal Word promised to make his tabernacle with the apostle, and gives him a proof that he was still the same - full of grace and truth, by assuring him that his grace should be sufficient for him. Paul, knowing that the promise of grace could not fail, because of the Divine truth, says: Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my afflictions, that such a power of Christ may overshadow and defend me.

The words are also similar to those of the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 4:5; : On all the glory shall be a defense. God gives the glory, and God gives the defense of that glory. The apostle had much glory or honor; both Satan and his apostles were very envious; in himself the apostle, as well as all human beings, was weak, and therefore needed the power of God to defend such glory. Grace alone can preserve grace. When we get a particular blessing we need another to preserve it; and without this we shall soon be shorn of our strength, and become as other men. Hence the necessity of continual watchfulness and prayer, and depending on the all-sufficient grace of Christ. See on 2 Corinthians 11:30; (note)

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And he said unto me - The Saviour replied. In what way this was done, or whether it was done at the time when the prayer was offered, Paul does not inform us. It is possible, as Macknight supposes, that Christ appeared to him again and spoke to him in an audible manner. Grotius supposes that this was done by the בת קול Bath-qowl- “daughter of the voice,” so frequently referred to by the Jewish writers, and which they suppose to be referred to in 1 Kings 19:12, by the phrase, “a still small voice.” But it is impossible to determine in what way it was done, and it is not material. Paul was in habits of communion with the Saviour, and was accustomed to receive revelations from him. The material fact here is, that the request was not granted in the exact form in which he presented it, but that he received assurance of grace to support him in his trial.

It is one of the instances in which the fervent prayer of a good man, offered undoubtedly in faith, was not answered in the form in which he desired, though substantially answered in the assurance of grace sufficient to support him. It furnishes, therefore, a very instructive lesson in regard to prayer, and shows as that we are not to expect as a matter of course that all our prayers will be literally answered, and that we should not be disappointed or disheartened if they are not. It is a matter of fact that not all the prayers even of the pious, and of those who pray having faith in God as a hearer of prayer, are literally answered. Thus, the prayer of David 2 Samuel 12:16-20 was not literally answered; the child for whose life he so earnestly prayed died. So the Saviour‘s request was not literally answered, Mark 14:36. The cup of suffering which he so earnestly desired should be taken away was not removed. So in the case before us; compare also Deuteronomy 3:23-27; Job 30:20; Lamentations 3:8. So in numerous cases now, Christians pray with fervour and with faith for the removal of some calamity which is not removed; or for something which they regard as desirable for their welfare which is withheld. Some of the reasons why this is done are obvious:

(1) The grace that will be imparted if the calamity is not removed will be of greater value to the individual than would be the direct answer to his prayer. Such was the case with Paul; so it was doubtless with David; and so it is often with Christians now The removal of the calamity might be apparently a blessing, but it might also be attended with danger to our spiritual welfare; the grace imparted may be of permanent value and may be connected with the development of some of the loveliest traits of Christian character.

(2) it might not be for the good of the individual who prays that the exact thing should be granted. When a parent prays with great earnestness and with insubmission for the life of a child, he knows not what he is doing. If the child lives, he may be the occasion of much more grief to him than if he had died. David had far more trouble from Absalom than he had from the death of the child for which he so earnestly prayed. At the same time it may be better for the child that he should be removed. If he dies in infancy he will be saved. But who can tell what will be his character and destiny should he live to be a man? So of other things.

(3) God has often some better thing in store for us than would be the immediate answer to our prayer Who can doubt that this was true of Paul? The promised grace of Christ as sufficient to support us is of more value than would be the mere removal of any bodily affliction.

(4) it would not be well for us, probably, should our petition be literally answered. Who can tell what is best for himself? If the thing were obtained, who can tell how soon we might forget the benefactor and become proud and self-confident? It was the design of God to humble Paul; and this could be much better accomplished by continuing his affliction and by imparting the promised grace, than by withdrawing the affliction and withholding the grace. The very thing to be done was to keep him humble; and this affliction could not be withdrawn without also foregoing the benefit. It is true, also, that where things are in themselves proper to be asked, Christians sometimes ask them in an improper manner, and this is one of the reasons why many of their prayers are not answered. But this does not pertain to the case before us.

My grace is sufficient for thee - A much better answer than it would have been to have removed the calamity; and one that seems to have been entirely satisfactory to Paul. The meaning of the Saviour is that he would support him; that he would not suffer him to sink exhausted under his trials; that he had nothing to fear. The infliction was not indeed removed; but there was a promise that the favor of Christ would be shown to him constantly, and that he would find his support to be ample. If Paul had this support, he might well bear the trial; and if we have this assurance, as we may have, we may welcome affliction, and rejoice that calamities are brought upon us. It is a sufficient answer to our prayers if we have the solemn promise of the Redeemer that we shall be upheld and never sink under the burden of our heavy woes.

My strength is made perfect in weakness - That is, the strength which I impart to my people is more commonly and more completely manifested when my people feel that they are weak. It is not imparted to those who feel that they are strong and who do not realize their need of divine aid. It is not so completely manifested to those who are vigorous and strong as to the feeble. It is when we are conscious that we are feeble, and when we feel our need of aid, that the Redeemer manifests his power to uphold, and imparts his purest consolations. Grotius has collected several similar passages from the classic writers which may serve to illustrate this expression. Thus, Pliny, vii. Epis. 26, says, “We are best where we are weak.” Seneca says, “Calamity is the occasion of virtue.” Quintilian, “All temerity of mind is broken by bodily calamity.” Minutius Felix, “Calamity is often the discipline of virtue.” There are few Christians who cannot bear witness to the truth of what the Redeemer here says, and who have not experienced the most pure consolations which they have known, and been most sensible of his comforting presence and power in times of affliction.

Most gladly, therefore … - I count it a privilege to be afflicted, if my trials may be the means of my more abundantly enjoying the favor of the Redeemer. His presence and imparted strength are more than a compensation for all the trials that I endure.

That the power of Christ - The strength which Christ imparts; his power manifested in supporting me in trials.

May rest upon me - ἐπισκηνώσῃ episkēnōsēThe word properly means to pitch a tent upon; and then to dwell in or upon. Here it is used in the sense of abiding upon, or remaining with. The sense is, that the power which Christ manifested to his people rested with them, or abode with them in their trials, and therefore he would rejoice in afflictions, in order that he might partake of the aid and consolation thus imparted. Hence, learn:

(1) That a Christian never loses anything by suffering and affliction. If he may obtain the favor of Christ by his trials he is a gainer. The favor of the Redeemer is more than a compensation for all that we endure in his cause.

(2) the Christian is a gainer by trial. I never knew a Christian that was not ultimately benefitted by trials. I never knew one who did not find that he had gained much that was valuable to him in scenes of affliction. I do not know that I have found one who would be willing to exchange the advantages he has gained in affliction for all that the most uninterrupted prosperity and the highest honors that the world could give would impart.

(3) learn to bear trials with joy. They are good for us. They develope some of the most lovely traits of character. They injure no one if they are properly received. And a Christian should rejoice that he may obtain what he does obtain in affliction, cost what it may. It is worth more than it costs; and when we come to die, the things that we shall have most occasion to thank God for will be our afflictions. And, O! if they are the means of raising us to a higher seat in heaven, and placing us nearer the Redeemer there who will not rejoice in his trials?

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle gives an account of the method God took to keep him humble, and to prevent his being lifted up above measure, on account of the visions and revelations he had. We are not told what this thorn in the flesh was, whether some great trouble, or some great temptation. But God often brings this good out of evil, that the reproaches of our enemies help to hide pride from us. If God loves us, he will keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good. Prayer is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer. If an answer be not given to the first prayer, nor to the second, we are to continue praying. Troubles are sent to teach us to pray; and are continued, to teach us to continue instant in prayer. Though God accepts the prayer of faith, yet he does not always give what is asked for: as he sometimes grants in wrath, so he sometimes denies in love. When God does not take away our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives grace enough for us, we have no reason to complain. Grace signifies the good-will of God towards us, and that is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort in all afflictions and distresses. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thus his grace is manifested and magnified. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.
Ellen G. White
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 101

Christ has given us no promise of help in bearing today the burdens of tomorrow. He has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9); but, like the manna given in the wilderness, His grace is bestowed daily, for the day's need. Like the hosts of Israel in their pilgrim life, we may find morning by morning the bread of heaven for the day's supply. MB 101.1

One day alone is ours, and during this day we are to live for God. For this one day we are to place in the hand of Christ, in solemn service, all our purposes and plans, casting all our care upon Him, for He careth for us. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” “In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 30:15. MB 101.2

If you will seek the Lord and be converted every day; if you will of your own spiritual choice be free and joyous in God; if with gladsome consent of heart to His gracious call you come wearing the yoke of Christ,—the yoke of obedience and service,—all your murmurings will be stilled, all your difficulties will be removed, all the perplexing problems that now confront you will be solved. MB 101.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 263

It is a daily working agency that is to be brought into exercise, a faith that works by love, and purifies the soul of the educator. Is the revealed will of God placed as your highest authority? If Christ is formed within, the hope of glory, then the truth of God will so act upon your natural temperament, that its transforming agency will be revealed in a changed character, and you will not by your influence through the revealings of an unsanctified heart and temper, turn the truth of God into a lie before any of your pupils; nor in your presentation of a selfish, impatient, unchristlike temper in dealing with any human mind, reveal that the grace of Christ is not sufficient for you at all times and in all places. Thus you will show that the authority of God over you is not merely in name but in reality and truth. There must be a separation from all that is objectionable or unchristlike, however difficult it may be to the true believer. FE 263.1

Inquire, teachers, you who are doing your work not only for time but eternity, Does the love of Christ constrain my heart and my soul, in dealing with the precious souls for whom Jesus has given His own life? Under His constraining discipline, do old traits of character, not in conformity to the will of God, pass away and the opposite take their place? “A new heart also will I give you.” Have all things become new through your conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ? In words and by painstaking effort are you sowing such seed in these young hearts that you can ask the Lord to water it, that it shall, with His imputed righteousness, ripen into a rich harvest? Ask yourselves, Am I by my own unsanctified words and impatience and want of that wisdom that is from above, confirming these youth in their own perverse spirit, because they see that their teacher has a spirit unlike Christ? If they should die in their sins, shall I not be accountable for their souls? The soul who loves Jesus, who appreciates the saving power of His grace, will feel such a drawing near to Christ, that he will desire to work in His lines. He cannot, dare not, let Satan control his spirit and poisonous miasma surround his soul. Everything will be placed one side that will corrupt his influence, because it opposes the will of God and endangers the souls of the precious sheep and lambs; and he is required to watch for souls as they that must give an account. Wherever God has, in providence, placed us, He will keep us; as our day our strength shall be. FE 264.1

Whoever shall give way to his natural feelings and impulses makes himself weak and untrustworthy, for he is a channel through which Satan can communicate to taint and corrupt many souls, and these unholy fits that control the person unnerve him, and shame and confusion are the sure result. The spirit of Jesus Christ ever has a renewing, restoring power upon the soul that has felt its own weakness and fled to the unchanging One who can give grace and power to resist evil. Our Redeemer had a broad comprehensive humanity. His heart was ever touched with the known helplessness of the little child that is subject to rough usage; for He loved children. The feeblest cry of human suffering never reached His ear in vain. And everyone who assumes the responsibility of instructing the youth will meet obdurate hearts, perverse dispositions, and his work is to co-operate with God in restoring the moral image of God in every child. Jesus, precious Jesus,—a whole fountain of love was in His soul. Those who instruct the children should be men and women of principle. FE 264.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 166

Satan is busily working with all who will give him encouragement. Those who have the light, but refuse to walk in it, will become confused, until darkness pervades their souls, and shapes their whole course of action. But the spirit of wisdom and goodness of God as revealed in His Word, will become brighter and brighter as they follow on in the path of true obedience. All the righteous demands of God will be met through sanctification of the Holy Spirit.…  1SM 166.1

There are great privileges and blessings for all who will humble themselves and fully consecrate their hearts to God. Great light will be given to them. When men are willing to be transformed, then they will be exercised unto godliness. 1SM 166.2

“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Says the Saviour: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). 1SM 166.3

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 194

When Christ is formed within, the hope of glory, then the truth of God will so act upon the natural temperament that its transforming power will be seen in changed characters. You will not then, by revealing an unsanctified heart and temper, turn the truth of God into a lie before any of your pupils. Nor will you, by manifesting a selfish, un-Christlike spirit, give the impression that the grace of Christ is not sufficient for you at all times and in all places. You will show that the authority of God over you is not in name only, but in reality and truth. CT 194.1

Let every teacher who accepts the responsibility of teaching the children and youth, examine himself. Let him ask himself, Has the truth of God taken possession of my soul? Has the wisdom which comes from Jesus Christ, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy,” been brought into my character? Do I cherish the principle that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace”? James 3:17, 18. CT 194.2

Teachers, Jesus is in your school every day. His great heart of infinite love is drawn out, not only for the best-behaved children, who have the most favorable surroundings, but for the children who have by inheritance objectionable traits of character. Even parents have not understood how much they are responsible for the qualities developed in their children, and they have not had the tenderness and wisdom to deal with them, whom they have made what they are. They have failed to trace back to the cause of the discouraging developments that are a trial to them. But Jesus looks upon these children with pity and love. He understands; for He reasons from cause to effect. CT 195.1

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