Monday, 31 August 2015
…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:10
Paul completes his lengthy list of things the apostles endured for the sake of the gospel with this verse. He begins with the words, “…as sorrowful.” The life of the apostle was one which, by its very nature, included an element of sorrow. They evangelized the lost, many of whom never received the message they proclaimed. For Paul, he carried an especially great sorrow for the lost of his own people, Israel. Concerning their state, he wrote this in Romans 9 –
“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.” Romans 9:1, 2
Along with sorrow for the lost, they certainly felt sorrow during their afflictions, trials, and imprisonments. The life of an apostle was one of all of these as they were continuously under attack for what they proclaimed. And yet, at the same time they were “always rejoicing.” They possessed something that could never steal their joy; the sure knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. Salvation had come to the world!
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always.” He was the perfect example of this. Despite his sorrows in his earthly afflictions, there was a deeper and more perfect joy which those afflictions could never steal away. The 69th Psalm very closely reflects the sentiments which Paul writes about here. In it, David writes of the numerous trials and afflictions which he faced. And yet, in the midst of it he writes of sorrow mixed with joy –
“But I am poor and sorrowful;
Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.
30 I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:29, 30
Next Paul writes that they were “as poor, yet making many rich.” The word “poor” describes paupers. They were literally destitute of any earthly wealth. Paul worked with his own hands to feed himself. The rich and luxurious life he once knew ended when he called on Christ. He once sat with the ruling council of Jerusalem, but later he often sat in dirty Roman prisons. He gave all for the cause of Christ as he testifies to in Philippians 3:8 –
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
And yet, in their poverty, the apostles made “many rich.” Jesus asked in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” In other words, all the wealth of the world is mere poverty without salvation. But through Christ, eternal riches await those who will but receive Him. This was what the apostles offered to a sick and dying world. Through their message many have become kings! It is a message which still has the same ability today. And so even though dead, their words are still bringing this eternal wealth to people everywhere.
Finally, Paul closes this thought with “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Charles Ellicott explains these words this way –
“The series of paradoxes culminates in this. In language which has found echoes in the thoughts of sages, saints, mystics, he utters the truth that in the absolute surrender of the thought of calling anything its own the soul becomes the heir of the universe. All things are his, as with the certainty of an assured inheritance. The beatitude of the meek, of those who claim nothing, is that they “shall inherit the earth,” and so all things are theirs—the forces of nature, and the changes and chances of life—for all are working together for their good.”
Even with the loss of all of their earthly riches, they had gained the greater, eternal riches of heaven. The verb used in this verse means “possessing all things to the fullest.” Paul confirms this thought in 1 Corinthians 3 –
“Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
Life application: Should Christians find themselves robbed of everything they possess, they still possess everything. Let us not worry about the temporary, corruptible, earthly things we have. Rather, let us rejoice in our eternal inheritance which Peter writes about for us to revel in –
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5
Glorious God, help me to not get stuck on the things of this world. No matter what I possess, it is temporary and will perish. Help me to fix my eyes on that which is eternal, incorruptible, and undefiled. Grant me the sense to focus on that which will never fade away – my inheritance in heaven – because of the work of Christ Jesus my Lord. Thank You for the sure promise I enjoy in Him. I possess all things to the fullest in Him alone! Amen.