Monday, 7 April 2014
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 1 Corinthians 2:3
Building on his last two sentences which said that he came to Corinth not with “excellence of speech or of wisdom,” but he came only proclaiming “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” Paul will now add in a note concerning his own dependency on the Lord. As he came he states that he “was with you.” Vincent’s Word Studies says that this should rather be “I became” instead of “I was.” In other words, what he will describe is something that either grew out of his time there or that was increased during his time there. As he was there for over one and one half years, this is not unlikely.
Regardless of the tense used to describe him, the facts were evident to his readers as he calls them to mind. He was “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” Paul, contrasting himself to the fine orators and bold proclaimers of the world, was a much more feeble and timid person.
His weakness was probably a defect of the eyes. He once stood in the same room with a group of people, including the High Priest, and the following exchange took place –
“Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’ And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?’ And those who stood by said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ Then Paul said, ‘I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'” Acts 23:1-5
Also, in his letter to the Galatians, he made this statement – “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” Galatians 4:15
Additionally, Paul was known to write with unusually large letters, a sign of bad eyesight (Galatians 6:11).
Finally, Paul notes in his second letter to the Corinthians that he had an affliction which he asked the Lord to remove. Three times he implored the Lord. However, Christ told Him that His grace would be sufficient for him; that His “strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
With this probable weakness of the eyes, or something which was comparable to it which he openly writes about, he preached the gospel to those in Corinth. But more – he did so “in fear.” He was a man continuously targeted by those around him. Again, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he will describe some of those fears –
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
His troubles and fears become so great while he was at Corinth, that the Lord personally came to him to reassure him that He was being watched over. This is seen in Acts 18:9, 11 –
“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’ And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.'”
And finally, Paul notes not only the “weakness” and the “fear,” but also “much trembling.” Above all, Paul was a man who trembled. This wasn’t a result of the bodily harms which came his way, but in the thought that he would fail the Lord who called him and thus he would grieve the Spirit with whom he was sealed. It was his strongest passion to proclaim Christ, finish the race, and in whatever manner the Lord was so pleased for his end, to accept that end with confidence. If only he could be faithful, he would be pleased with the life he led. This constant battle against his own weakness caused him to tremble.
Life application: Have you determined to exalt the Lord at all costs and to never diminish His glory in the eyes of another? This is our highest calling in life. Let us not fail in this endeavor.
Lord Jesus, if I have but one request, it is that I glorify You with my life and never tarnish Your bright glory in the eyes of another. Though those around me fail to see Your holiness and Your majesty, let me continuously bring it to mind as I properly handle Your word to demonstrate who You are to a lost and dying world. This is my plea to You – be glorified though my conduct. Amen.