That Death which Reveals Christ

by Mark Peterson

October 26th 1997 Michigantown Christian Church,
Michgantown Indiana

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; {10} Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. {11} For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
(2 Cor 4:8-11 KJV)

A young coed had two problems common to many students: low grades and no money. She was forced to communicate both to her parents, who she knew would have trouble understanding. After considerable thought she used a creative approach to soften the blows of reality and wrote:

"Dear Mom and Dad,

Just thought I'd drop you a note to clue you in on my plans. I've fallen in love with a guy named Jim. He quit high school after grade eleven to get married. About a year ago he got a divorce.

We've been going steady for two months and plan to get married in the fall. Until then, I've decided to move into his apartment (I think I might be pregnant).

At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I'd like to finish college sometime in the future."

On the next page, she continued:

"Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I've written so far in this letter is false. NONE of it is true.

But Mom and Dad, it IS true that I got a C in French and flunked Math. It IS true that I'm going to need some more money for my tuition payments."

Even bad news can sound like good news if it is seen from a certain vantage point. So much in life depends on "where you're coming from" as you face your circumstances. The secret in this case and in yours is perspective.

Often in life we are struck down by blows which seem meant to destroy us. Our business fails, our children leave the path we prepared for them, our spouse rejects us for another, sickness threatens our lives and we wonder, "what it's all about, why is this happening?" And in our prayers we echo the words of Christ "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". And indeed we see our present trouble as the turning of God's back upon our lives.

We are told however in scripture, that the trials that we face, regardless of the reasons, have an end in mind. When God allows us to suffer He does so with the thought of our spiritual growth at the forefront of his thoughts. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 that "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; {10} Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. {11} For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor 4:8-11 KJV)

When we talk about perspective in the midst of trial and suffering, this is what we see. It is the goal of God to enable His children to walk through the fiery furnace of life and not be overcome. And so it is His counsel that you "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Col 3:2 KJV) And so as the Word of God is unfolded before you today, know that it is my intent, not to show you a way to avoid suffering, but rather to demonstrate the necessity and benefit of suffering in the lives of those who are Christ's, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col 3:3-4 KJV)

Now it must first be understood that when, in verse 8 of 2nd Corinthians 4, Paul uses the word "we", he is referring to himself and those in his company who are being discredited by some in the Church of Corinth. And what we must realize is that Paul makes a distinction between those in his company and those who would discredited him by showing that he and his fellows are true believers in Christ and that those who would discredit him are nothing more than false accusers and citizens of this world alone. And so he shows us that the suffering of which he speaks of in our passage today only applies to those of us who "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. .."(Rom 10:9)

You see there is a difference between the suffering of the Christian and the suffering of the pagan. Do not make the mistake today to attempt to apply this perspective on suffering to your life if you do not know Christ. And do not attempt to encourage others with these truths if they do not know God. For those who suffer without Christ, suffer in vain, unless they through that suffering turn to Christ and receive him.

Paul makes several distinctions between the suffering of the Christian and that of the lost in verses 8-9.

The ultimate distinction which Paul relates to us is that regardless of the severity of our suffering, we who belong to Christ will not be destroyed. In Romans 8:35 Paul asks the question "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom 8:35 KJV) If I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if I have confessed Him as my savior and repented of my sins, if His Spirit lives in me, then how can any trial or any foe destroy me? Oh, I might falter in my steps, I might very well be struck down by my circumstances, but I will not be destroyed, nor will any who puts his trust in God. In response to his own question Paul writes, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. {38} For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:37-39 KJV) And so the first distinction one can see between a believer and un-believer is that the one who believes consistently prevails over suffering.

The second distinction which Paul makes is that he who suffers with Christ is not without hope, for he may be perplexed, he may be wondering about his circumstances, but he is not found in despair. The American Heritage Dictionary defines despair this way: "To be overcome by a sense of futility or defeat, an utter lack of hope, something that destroys all hope." This does not describe the one who trusts in God, whose soul belongs to the resurrected Christ. The writer of Hebrews said as encouragement to the Jewish Christians "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. {6} So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." (Heb 13:5-6 KJV)

It is often that we become confused and uncertain about the path we are on in life. We question our employment. "It doesn't provide the enjoyment and satisfaction I want in a career," we say, "and yet this is where God has put me." Some consider the choices of their children and say "I don't understand, where did I go wrong, what didn't I teach them." Some are desperate for a certain event to take place in their lives. They want a baby, but none comes, they want a mate, but none can be found, they want a job, but they're all gone. And they wonder why.

God tells us in the passage we just read that He is our helper and we should not be afraid because he will not leave us. Now some read this passage and say, my problem isn't money, its love, it's barrenness, it's anger, it's hate, it's disease, it's death.

What we must be aware of is that when the modern translators brought the passage from the Greek into the English they made a choice on what words should be translated from the original Greek and in so doing they limited the meaning of the passage. For example: the word money in this passage was not originally translated as such. The King James translators saw it as carrying a broader sense and translated it "conversation". The Greek word here tropos means ways, means, mode or style. An even clearer word in English for this Greek word is "character." Also, we find that the word for love here is more aptly translated as covetousness. And so we could say that the writer of Hebrews was instructing us to "Let our character, our mode of living, our style be free from greed and covetousness. Therefore, the way we live, the means with which we employ ourselves, the mode of living we choose should be void of greed. And greed is born out of selfish living."

Now here is where the passage applies to making a distinction between the hopelessness of the world and the hopefulness of those who belong to Christ. The person who believes he is the only one who will take care of himself is the one who employs himself in selfish pursuits allowing greed to overshadow clean living. That same person lives in despair without hope for the future. Not so with the one who trusts in God. He says to himself, "my God will never leave me, He is my helper, my stronghold in the storm." Matthew Henry wrote: "We are perplexed, often uncertain, and in doubt over what will become of us, and not always without anxiety in our minds on this account; yet not in despair even in our greatest perplexities, knowing that God is able to support us, and to deliver us, and in him we always place our trust and hope."

As we come to verses 10 and 11 we find Paul giving us an explanation for why we are different. Some might be asking why do we suffer, and while I won't attempt to answer that question today, I assure you that if you take his explanation for why the Christian responds to suffering differently than the un-saved you will most likely receive your answer.

Paul tells us in these two verses that we are "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. {11} For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor 4:10-11 KJV)

The first explanation which Paul gives us for why we are different is that we are carrying in ourselves the death of Jesus. Now, as you know Jesus, following His death was resurrected into a new life. I believe that Jesus lived so purely and responded to life's hardships so well because he understood that despite the reality of impending death, destruction would not overtake Him. He knew he would live again. He knew that He would sit at the right hand of God. He knew that He would one day return to this world victorious over His enemies. He had hope. We likewise have hope. Follow the logic in Paul's statement. We share in the death of Christ, Christ was victorious, consequently; we will be victorious. Christ had courage by which to live because he knew His victory was secure. Christian, our victory is Christ's victory and if His triumph is certain then our triumph is certain. Paul wrote in Romans 6:4-6 "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. {5} For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: {6} Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."

Now the question that arises is this, do Christians no longer sin? Are Christians perfect? In a Spiritual sense yes, they are perfect, for by the blood of Christ we are made pure. God sees in us nothing but the perfection of Christ. Yet, the reality of our continual moral failing reveals to us that there is still work to be done in our flesh. We've been crucified with Christ, yet that crucifixion will carry on throughout all the days of our lives until we are perfected in our flesh as we are in our Spirit.

Read what Paul says in Philippians (Phil 3:10-12 KJV) "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; {11}If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. {12} Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Note the fact that the apostle, the great Saint of the Church, declares that while he is saved he is not complete, his knowledge of Christ is imperfect. And consequently, he desires to submit himself to the death of Christ by sharing in his Savior's suffering. And that is the attitude of the believer. Every believer in God must realize that the ultimate goal is not to secure admittance into heaven. The Christian's ultimate goal is to become like Christ in His victory, and the only way that may be done is by becoming like Him in His death.

Finally, Paul reveals to us that we are different because we are an encouragement and a witness to others of Christ's existence and help. He explains that ". . . For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor 4:11 KJV) It is an encouragement to others to see in the life of a believer a hope that overcomes despair. Friends, when others witness our hope, when they see our trust in God in action in the midst of troubled times, when they see us pressed on every side, but not crushed, they are seeing Christ. They are witnessing the present power of the living God and the resurrected Christ at work in our lives. And it is God's intent that they might be moved to seek out that hopefulness that we possess.

So take courage in your confusion and brokeness , for God is at work in you to create a divine personality which resembles that of Christ himself, and through that work he designs to bring others to Christ.

A stranger watched with curiosity as a lumberman occasionally jabbed his sharp hook into a log, separating it from the others that were floating down a mountain stream. When asked why he did this, the worker replied, "These may all look alike to you, but a few of them are quite different. The ones I let pass are from trees that grew in a valley where they were always protected from the storms. Their grain is coarse. The ones I've hooked and kept apart from the rest came from high up on the mountains. From the time they were small, they were beaten by strong winds. This toughens the trees and gives them a fine and beautiful grain. We save them for choice work. They're too good to make into plain lumber."

Friend, God often allows some of His dearest saints to be bent by trial or buffeted by the winds of adversity so that they may be strengthened for His service and prepared to fulfill His highest purposes. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil 2:12 KJV) And trust in God with all your heart, soul, and mind.


[ Top | Eschatology | Bible Studies | Classics | Articles | Other Articles | Sermons | Apologetics | F.A.Q. | Forum ]