He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians from the city of Ephesus. Paul had founded the church in the city of Corinth, and spent about 18 months there before moving on to Ephesus. 1 Corinthians was a letter written to his fledging church there to deal with issues the church was having (imagine that, a church that had issues) and to answer some questions they had. But while in Ephesus, Paul himself ran into some real trouble. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Sounds like quite a trial, doesn’t it? Like I said, Paul went from the city of Corinth to the city of Ephesus. Paul was always going to cities. Christianity itself began as a mostly urban movement, it took a few centuries for it to filter out to the more rural areas. In fact, the word “pagan” literally means rural, because those were the areas that held out for centuries against the Christian movement.
The city of Ephesus was most famous at this time, in fact was known around the world for the temple of Artemis, known to the Romans as Diana. This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and people came from around the world to see it. As such, it was very important to the local economy. There existed in Ephesus a huge silversmith industry devoted to the making idols of the goddess. So when these characters calling themselves Christians showed up, declaring Jesus as the one true God, lord and savior, king of kings, and that gods made with the hands of men are no god’s at all, some of the locals took offense. Now, Paul was messing with their money, and we know how people can get when you mess with their money, don’t we? Demetrius, we can call the head of the silversmiths guild, especially was offended, and was quite forceful in getting the rest of his union worked up as well. In fact, an entire riot broke out in the city over these Christians, and if they could have they would have ripped Paul limb from limb (read the story in Acts 19). Long story short, Paul had to leave. It is this peril that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians.
Has God ever helped you? Has God ever healed you? Has God ever saved you? Has he ever rescued you, delivered you? Then don’t ever forget, he will do it again. We don’t have a quota, we won’t use up our lifeline, we won’t burn up our phone-a-friend. When we go through trials after our come-to-Jesus salvation moment, we sometimes think God has somehow forgotten how to save us again. He hasn’t. Faith says God has delivered me, he will deliver me again.
One way to describe the Bible is the salvation history of the people of God. It is literally story after story of God delivering his people from one peril after another. Even Adam and Eve God did not forsake, but clothed them. The story of Joseph being delivered by God through his trials of rejection and accusation for the purpose of saving those who had rejected and betrayed him. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – how many times did he deliver them? The Exodus, deliverance from bondage through the Red Sea. 40 years in the wilderness, with a cloud by day and fire in the night, and all that manna, manna, manna. All the times David was delivered, starting with Goliath. The exile of the people, Daniel delivered from the lions den, Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego delivered from the fiery furnace. The return from exile and the plots still coming against them after that deliverance. All culminating in Jesus Christ, savior of the world.
Whether it’s a flood, a famine, or a pharaoh, God will deliver. Whether your facing a Goliath or in a lions den, God will deliver. When the wine runs out, the boat begins to sink, or Lazarus starts to stink, God will deliver. Faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of Christ. Christ delivers us, heals us, rescues us, provides for us.
But this does not mean things will always turn out the way we want. From Hebrews 11, our faith “hall of fame” – “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:35-38 ESV.
Should we say God failed to deliver these heroic martyrs? Of course we wouldn’t say that. God delivers us through our testing, not always from our testing. Isaiah sawn in 2 was no less delivered by God that Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.
But we have to know what to ask. Jesus in Luke 11 promises we will always receive the Holy Spirit if we ask. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” Luke 11:11-13 ESV.
In technical terms, we know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity, right there with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. And Jesus promises that our Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask Him. But what, exactly, does that mean for us?
Spirit can also be a synonym for attitude. The word attitude almost never appears in any translation of the Bible, the the word spirit does. To say someone had a bad spirit is to say they have a bad attitude. When we are going through trials in our life, sometimes what we need more than anything is the Holy “attitude” with us and in us to get through it.
One thing that happens very often when something bad happens to us is we begin to ask ourselves “What did I do to deserve this?” Then, we very often will come with an answer. “I always do this“, or “I should have done that.” We become our own worst accuser during our time of testing. But we ask Jesus for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of advocacy, not self accusation. Then we can remember “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 ESV. We do love that verse, but we forget that the context is that is even though we are lambs led to the slaughter, we are more than conquerors in Christ who loved us.
In Ephesus, Paul was delivered from Demetrius and death. In Rome, Nero beheaded Paul. Do we say that God delivered Paul from Ephesus, but Nero was just too strong for God to overcome? NO!! Did God fail to deliver Paul in Rome? NO!!
Written by Paul on death row in Rome. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV. The time of my departure has come – like he’s an airline passenger just waiting for liftoff!
Were the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by Isis not delivered by God? Did God fail to deliver the 9 Christians shot to death in their own church in Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago?
Here’s the hope we have – for the Christian, for the believer in Christ, death is nothing. As in, death is really no thing. We believe Jesus has conquered death. For we who belong to Messiah, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
When death arrives, suddenly as one of our murdered martyrs, or slowly as when we suffer some terminal disease, we see death coming, coming, coming, but when it arrives, all we see is Jesus. Even in death, Jesus delivers us from death. Even in death, Jesus delivers us.
The only real power the principalities and powers have over us is the fear of death, the power to kill. This was Pilates truth, remember when Pilate famously asks Jesus what is truth? Then a few verses later he answers his own question. “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John 19:10 ESV. Pilate’s truth, the power to kill.
Without the fear of death, principalities and powers are powerless. “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT. When we die we are told we will be absent from the body present with the Lord in a place Jesus calls paradise, but Paul’s calls sleep. Asleep, that is, until Jesus returns and raises us from the dead, the grand culmination of all things.
God will deliver, even in death. This is true in other forms of death we encounter in life, those moments of pain and loss. Those times of loss, pain, sorrow, rejection, disappointment. Sometimes we are Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego. Sometimes we are Daniel in the lions den. Sometimes the Red Sea is just parted for us and we can walk right through. But other times we have to go through real pain and suffering. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
And we remember Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV. God does not cause all things to happen, but he does work them together for the good of those who love Him!! Our life story is made up of many threads, many stories. God weaves it into a tapestry of grace, arranging things around the events in our lives until ultimately all that is left is grace and beauty.
God will deliver. Again.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 ESV