2Cor 4:14-18 #22, Afflictions of the Elect 4/08/2016

 

 

 

 

#1. Looking Forward (2Cor 4:14, 1Thess 4:16-17, Matt 24:35, 2Cor 12:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. The Purpose of Afflictions (2Cor 4:17-18, Heb 12:5-9, Rom 8:17-18,28-29, John 15:20)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. Troubled on Every Side (2Cor 4:8-13, Acts 14:22, Eph 3:16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans 5:3 (2X). Today is installment #22 in the series of "The Wisdom of God" (2X). Two weeks ago I preached on "A Remnant According to the Election of Grace", which should have been titled "Only A Remnant" (2X). Last week I preached on what is in "The Heart of the Remnant" (2X), namely righteousness, salvation, believing & confession. Today we are going to look what goes on inside and outside the hearts of the remnant. We are going to see how God loves and nurtures His children. That is why today's sermon is titled, "Afflictions of the Elect" (2X). At first sight this may not look very loving or nourishing to us, but we have to let the Bible speak, which means we have to listen to what God says through His word, the Bible. So, why does God allow His children to be afflicted? In fact, He does not allow it; He does it. And so:

Why does God afflict His children? Well, this is God's plan. God, in His wisdom, decided to afflict us, because: this is how we spiritually grow, and this is how we become a better servant of God, and this is how we become more loving toward God and toward our fellow man, and this is how we bring more glory to God than if we were not afflicted. In fact, as soon as you become saved that is when the afflictions begin. Does this come as a surprise to you? Let us read about this here in Rom 5:3,

Ro 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

Ro 5:4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Ro 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Do you see that? We glory in tribulations. What are tribulations? Tribulations are afflictions, and afflictions are trouble that causes a great deal of pain. It does not mean that we are really looking forward to receive all kinds of trouble, because tribulations are painful. None of us are really so masochistic in nature that we look forward to pain. For example, if you have a son or a husband who serves in our armed forces in the Middle East, and you receive a little telegram from the Department of Defense saying, "We are sorry to inform you that your son or your husband was killed in action", that causes a great deal of pain. It feels like your whole world caves in, and you do not know if you can go on with life any more. Is this what God has in mind here in Rom chapter 5? Yes indeed! This is what God has in mind. God is not only aware of everything that goes on in this world, but God's providence, or God's hands, are involved in everything that goes on in this world, except sin. We serve a sovereign God, and because He is sovereign His providence carries out what God in His counsel determined before to be done. God has a purpose for everything that He does. Most of the time we do not understand what God's purpose is for things that are happening around us. But this world is full of affliction. It all started when Adam sinned. God said to Adam in Gen 3:17-18,

Gen 3:17-18, "t;Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, " and so on.

That was the beginning of afflictions on the people of this world. Because of the curse God declared on Adam's race everyone in the world is suffering. Both the Elect children of God as well as the reprobate children of the Devil are suffering afflictions. But the response to those sufferings is different for the two groups of people. The reprobate consider their afflictions bad luck, or they blame it on bugs, or they blame it on Saddam Hussein, but they always blame it on other people, never on themselves. I imagine when they stand before God's judgment throne they will say, "Lord, we never had the opportunity to be drawn to the Lord Jesus", and I imagine that Jesus will answer them, "What about the time when you lost your job, and what about the time that I struck you down with a severe pneumonia, and what about the time when I gave you AIDS. Were those not excellent opportunities to seek Me because eternity was knocking at your door?" Just like God said to Israel in Amos 4:9,

Am 4:9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

In fact, you find in Amos chapter 4 several more afflictions by God on the nation of Israel, and in all these cases God ends the statement, "yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD". This is how God draws people to Christ, but for the reprobate it does not have this effect. The afflictions on the reprobate do not have the result that they are drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, these are not the afflictions I want to preach about today. When we look at the elect children of God, we see that they are conceived and born in sin just like others, and they are by nature children of wrath, even as others. But God's afflictions on the elect are of lasting value. Afflictions on the elect have the effect of waking them up to realize that God requires a reckoning of sins, and they are drawn to Jesus as their only Savior, the only one who can rescue them from Hell. And then we realize the wisdom of God in this matter of afflictions. Then we understand WHY God created our afflictions. They have helped us in the process of salvation, they continue to draw us closer to Jesus, and they are designed for our spiritual growth. Then we see the wisdom of God in all these things. But who administers the afflictions to the elect? Most of the time the reprobate do that, and they do that with pleasure. This is one of the reasons why the reprobate are in the world, to afflict the elect children of God. And that is the reason why this world is spiritually such a dark and dismal place. Please turn about 45 pages to your right () to the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians 4:14 (2X). In this world "we walk through the valley of the shadow of death". Spiritual death is all around us and it is so depressing. How can we obtain courage and some comfort for the afflictions imposed on us by this world? We do that by:

#1. Looking Forward (2Cor 4:14, 1Thess 4:16-17, Matt 24:35, 2Cor 12:9)

Looking forward to the future that awaits us on that glorious Last Day. We read in 2Co 4:14,

2Co 4:14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

He who raised up Christ, the Head, shall certainly also raise up all the members of His body. Therefore, a child of God does not fear death. Death is only a stepping-stone to be with Christ. What a glorious day it will be when we see Jesus come out of heaven to rapture us up, to be with Him forever. We will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Just listen as I read to you from:

1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Is this not an event that we look forward to? The whole world shall hear a thundering shout from Christ who is then coming as the Judge. The trumpet sound will be so loud that everyone will know: "This is the end of the world". And even though it may seem fearful, all those who have become saved shall experience the thrill that our salvation finally will be complete. Our bodies will be changed. Our minds will be changed; our minds will be synchronized with the mind of God, so that we will see sin as it really is, and we will understand the Bible from cover to cover. And "so shall we ever be with the Lord". Even during the judgment scene of all the spiritually dead standing before the Judgment Throne of Christ, and even during the time when they will be cast into the Lake of Fire one by one, and also during the time when the NH&NE will be set up as the New Jerusalem coming out of heaven, and even throughout all eternity future "so shall we ever be with the Lord". How shall we not rejoice at a future like this? There will be no more sin of any kind. There will be no more afflictions of any kind. God Himself assures us of this when He said that God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. And then God adds, "For the former things are passed away". This will make us totally joyful, because God will erase from our minds all our sins. God shall also erase out of our minds all family relationships, because we cannot be reminded of those family members who will suffer for an eternity in Hell. Everything that reminds us of sorrow shall be erased out of our minds. No, not everything shall be erased, because the Lord Jesus said in Matt 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away". The Bible will still be there. All the sins of all the unsaved shall still remain, because they will be judged for their sins. The Lake of Fire will still be there, but God shall remove it into such an obscure corner that it be out of our sight. But we will be with Christ, beholding Him, and be filled with awe and ecstasy about Him who is our Bridegroom. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face". We shall see Him as He really is. And this forward look to being with Christ forever shall give us comfort for the afflictions imposed on us by this world. God promised it, and that shall be enough. God promised that His grace will uphold us through our earthly afflictions, because He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness", from 2Cor 12:9. We can see the:

While we live here on this earth. God is taking good care of us. We read in 2Cor 4:15-16,

2Co 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

2Co 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

God says, "All things are for our sakes". That really means all things, just like "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose", as you know from Rom 8:28. All things. We can hardly believe that Almighty God would revolve the entire history of the world around us, around His elect, those who are the called according to His purpose. What an honor and what a glory. And why does God revolve all things around us? Paraphrased God says in verse 15, "In order that the abundant grace that God is pouring out on His children living on this earth might be to the glory of God". And what is the process that God has in view? It is that through the thanksgiving of many God will be glorified. And that is again thanksgiving for all things. God's children will give Him thanks for all things that He sends them in this life, because we believe that all things work for our spiritual well being. It may take us a while to thank Him really for all things, but that is what we are driven to do, because God said so in His Word. It may take us a while to thank Him for the death of a spouse, or for the death of a child, or for a divorce that happened in the past before we became saved, or for the loss of an arm or a leg or an eye. But if I am a child of God then I will eventually believe that God has done those things to protect me and to draw me closer to Him, and that is an immense blessing. Moreover, look at verse 15 where it says "through the thanksgiving of many". Most of us assume that it refers to many people. But when we search for the ways in which this word has been used, we come to the conclusion that it refers to many afflictions. The saints give thanks to God for the many afflictions He sends their way. How can this be? It can only be through the abundant grace that God bestows on them that they can be thankful for afflictions. And this is altogether Biblical in the view of Rom 8:28. The unsaved will not thank God for their afflictions. But that is why the many afflictions "abound to the glory of God". The word "redound" means, "abound".

And then we read in verse 16, "For which cause we faint not", or paraphrased, "This is the reason why we faint not. We do not give up to do the Lord's work because His grace keeps pouring down, and we remain faithful to God's Word, the Bible, by giving thanks for all God's works in our life". And then we read, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day". There is a tendency by some to interpret these as the "old man" and the "new man", as we find for example in Eph 4 and in Col 3. But this is a mistake. The "outward man" refers to everything that relates to the present life. God sets before us two kinds of life, the earthly life and the heavenly life. The "outward man" is the maintenance of the earthly life, which consists in the maintenance of our body as well as riches, honors, friendships, and so on. As we age we suffer a decrease of these blessings. Our riches are gradually consumed, people shift their honors to the younger generations, and our friends die one by one. God is dismantling our outward man little by little, and calls us back to meditate on a better life. Thus it is necessary that the conditions of the present life should decay in order that the "inward man" will flourish more and more. Like John the Baptist said in John 3:30, "He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease", because in proportion as the earthly life declines, so does the heavenly life advance. And this takes place daily, because God continually stirs us up to such meditation.

We have seen that we must have our focus on the glorious life hereafter so that we can bear our afflictions, and we have seen that God gives us an abundance of grace to do so, but what is:

#2. The Purpose of Afflictions (2Cor 4:17-18, Heb 12:5-9, Rom 8:17-18,28-29, John 15:20)

We find that in the following two verses, 2Cor 4:17-18.

2Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

2Co 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

It is hard to find another passage of Scripture where there are more contrasts than in this one. Look at it now. Affliction and glory. Something that is light, and something that is weighty. Suffering which is just for a moment, and joy which lasts an eternity. Things that are seen, and things that are not seen. Things that are temporal and things that are eternal. Afflictions that work for us, and God who works in us. God is showing us here the exceeding greatness and glory of the things unseen, reminding us again of where we should put our focus. Our focus must be on Christ and on our future with Christ, so that we can bear with afflictions in this present world. We also need to be comforted.

Why are we afflicted? We are afflicted for our own spiritual growth, or we are afflicted for the benefit of other believers. Who causes our afflictions? Fundamentally God is the one who takes responsibility for all our afflictions. But basically, our afflictions arise out of sin, which can be our sins, or it can be other people's sins. The sins of the reprobate are a source of affliction of the elect, and it takes many reprobate to afflict one of the elect. That is why the number of saints is "Only a Remnant".

Put a sticker here in 2Cor 4 and please turn about 80 pages to you right () to the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:5 (2X). One reason for afflictions is because God deals with us as we deal with our children. When we sin we need correction, which is also called chastening. This is not the penalty for our sin. Christ bore the penalty for our sin, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. We cannot improve on that. But in the course of our daily life we need God's guiding hand, which comes in the form of chastening. Chastening is God's guiding hand to teach us where we have gone astray, and to bring us back on the path that He carved out for us. God says in Heb 12:5-9,

Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son,

despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Heb 12:7-8 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Heb 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

You see, our sin invites chastening by the Lord. And since we sin quite often we may expect much chastening. If God loves us He chastens us. If we are without chastening then we have evidence that we are not His sons. Clearly, His chastening hand works toward our sanctification. Please turn about 120 pages to your left () to the Epistle to the Romans 8:17 (2X). Not all afflictions are chastening because of sin. For example the sufferings of Job were not God's chastening for Job's sin. When we consider the sufferings of the Apostle Paul, these too were not chastenings to steer him back on the right track. When we lose a son or a daughter or a husband on the battlefield or in a traffic accident, this too might not be a chastening action from God. And when we, or a loved one in our family, contracts cancer, that too is most likely not a chastening for sin. There is much suffering in this world, which is working for glory. Whose glory? God's glory! God is the only one whom we must glorify. Yes, that is exactly what God says in the Bible. Afflictions work glory. Let us read about that in Rom 8:17,

Ro 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Ro 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

We are joint heirs with Christ "if so be that we suffer with him". This is not a requirement for salvation, but after we have become saved we enter into the condition of suffering with Christ. Verse 17 says that these afflictions are necessary. Again, this is not referring to atonement for our sins on the cross. These are afflictions that Jesus suffered while He walked on this earth. For example, these are sufferings for our witness in this world. The Lord Jesus warned us that these sufferings would come and would be required of us, when He said in John 15:20,

Joh 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

These were the sufferings that the Apostle Paul experienced during His missionary journeys. Now, you can see what that did for Paul. It drove him on to work for Christ, and to look toward Christ as His only Comforter. And thus, when we experience suffering of any kind, God is teaching us to pray and to look to Christ as our only hope. So, here again, we see these afflictions are absolutely necessary. Moreover, when we have gone through certain afflictions we can comfort others who are presently enduring the same kind of afflictions. And they are necessary, because afflictions work glory. Glory to God for the wisdom in working wonderful things in our souls through afflictions, and glory to the saints for the faith that God has instilled in them to endure these afflictions. If we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, if we must "suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together", then our suffering is a divinely appointed affliction that leads us to everlasting glory with Christ in the life hereafter. Let us now return to the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians 4:17-18 (2X). God speaks here of:

Why is God calling our afflictions "light"? And why does He say that they are only "for a moment"? When we contract cancer that is certainly not a "light affliction", and it certainly is not "for a moment". Except for pancreatic cancer, for most cancers it is a long drawn out process with much suffering, lasting several years. The answer lies in perspective. When we compare our affliction with the glory that awaits the children of God, then the affliction loses its weight, and becomes exceeding light. And when we compare our affliction of the present time with the eternal weight of glory, then our affliction seems only "for a moment". And when we understand from the Bible how our glory cannot be gotten any other way than through suffering, because we must be conformed to the image of Christ, then we realize that our afflictions are absolutely necessary to the attainment of that glory. The rule, which God has set, cannot be changed. Verse 17 says that our affliction works for us. It works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. This must not be interpreted that we will receive a higher place in heaven for the suffering that we do here on earth. Absolutely not! But compared with eternal glory to come, the present pain that we bear in this body is as nothing, and is just for the moment. Our focus is not on the here and now, but our focus is on Christ and what He had to suffer in our place. Our focus is on heaven. We read in 2Cor 4:18,

2Co 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Our focus is on the things that are not seen, and on the things that have eternal value. The glory that we are to receive is an exceeding great glory. And unto that glory the affliction works! It means that our affliction has an end purpose, and that end purpose will be attained under the direction of the providence of God, which are the hands of God, and according to the counsel of God, which is the plan of God as worked out already before the foundation of the world. While we are in the midst of affliction and we walk by faith, not by sight, we do not look on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen. That is the time when our affliction works glory. What a marvelous grace that God allows us to look at the unseen. The unseen is of course the things of God's heavenly Kingdom, the glory of His presence, the house of His Covenant, the inheritance of the saints and the NH&NE where righteousness dwells. To see these unseen things is only possible through the eye of faith, which we have received by grace. To see them means that we have set our hearts on them, and hope for them with our whole being. That is when our affliction works unto glory.

Do you think that Satan will let all this pass by without a fight? O No! Therefore we are:

#3. Troubled on Every Side (2Cor 4:8-13, Acts 14:22, Eph 3:16)

Let us read that here in 2Cor 4:8-13,

2Co 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

2Co 4:9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

2Co 4:10 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.

2Co 4:11 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.

2Co 4:12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

2Co 4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

These were the troubles the Apostle Paul faced when He brought the Gospel to the Roman Empire. The Romans did not persecute him. No, instead he was persecuted by the people from his own church, the church at Jerusalem. That is what we can expect when we bring the Gospel into the world. The gossips and the lies from the churches that we fled will be our constant companions. We shall be persecuted as the Lord Jesus told us ahead of time. In addition we read in Acts 14:22,

Ac 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Did you hear that? "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God". It means there will be no exception. We all must go through much tribulation before we will enter the Kingdom of God in heaven. But have no fear, because God "would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man", from Eph 3:16. You see, we are more than conquerors, because we have God on our side. And our afflictions are:

Whose glory? God's glory! But because we are sons of God, and we are also the body of Christ, and we are the Bride of Christ, therefore He will glorify us by making us joint-heirs with Christ. What has God been teaching us here? God has been teaching us why we must have afflictions. They are destined for our spiritual growth, and they are to make us more like Christ. How can we face these troubles with confidence? We must be looking forward to the glory we will receive. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. God's grace will uphold us through many afflictions, and we must give thanks to God for everything He brings into our life, including our afflictions, because they are all working toward our spiritual well being. We faint not, because we are renewed day by day. Our light affliction is only for a moment. Therefore we look toward the things that are not seen, and we look forward to life eternal with Christ in the NH&NE. Our troubles are working for glory, God's glory, for which we are willing to give all that we have.

Please turn about 90 pages to your right () to the First Epistle of Peter 1:6 (2X). You find 1st Peter right after the Epistle of James and just before 2nd Peter. In this Epistle of 1st Peter God has a great deal to say about how to bear the sufferings in this life, by looking forward to the 2nd coming of Christ. God says in 1Pet 1:6,

1Pe 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

We are kept by the power of God. That is why our faith fails not, and we shall persevere unto the end of time. God encourages us here that we shall never fall away through the afflictions that we must bear. Therefore, what is our comfort? Our comfort is that we truly believe, with heart and mind, that the present trouble we face is necessary, and that God ordained that it works unto the glory we will receive in the NH&NE. Therefore, we are more than conquerors; we have God on our side.

And so we see that God works in wondrous ways His wonders to perform. Even in the midst of our afflictions God is making our afflictions to work for glory. Our afflictions are the divinely appointed means to bring us to everlasting glory in Christ and with Christ. Let me read to you a poem:

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices. Who from our mother's arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. This was the first stanza of the hymn that we are going to sing in a few minutes. AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.

 

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