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II Corinthians 12:10

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions and in distress for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Any deviation by embellishment, oversight or abject ignorance is abomination before Yehovah God. It is also the heart and soul of man’s theology. Countless numbers of assemblies, fellowships and covens are holding conferences, seminars and conventions in hopes of conveying to the natural man how he may harness the power of the inner man and accomplish great things. Saul of Tarsus grew up and matured in such a system and he excelled higher and accomplished more than all his kinsmen.

The path assigned to this man lead him twice to a place of exaltation. The first was at the feet of Gamaliel where he was taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers and was zealous toward God (Acts. 22:3). Here he persecuted the church of Jesus Christ and “profited in the Jew’s religion above all my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:14). He grew in stature, wisdom and power to the point where he received letters from the Pharisaical Counsel in Jerusalem to comb the countryside in search of these followers of this way, who were first called ‘Christian’ at Antioch. Unlike the man they called Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the carpenter whom they accused of having no formal training or education, Saul was well educated. He was fluent in the language, knowledgeable of the text and completely familiar with the customs and traditions. He was a man who had dedicated himself to the strict sect called Pharisee. He was circumcised in compliance with the Mosaic Law on the eighth day of his life of the stock of Israel. He was of the tribe of ‘the son of my right hand’ (Benjamin), an Hebrew of the Hebrews, completely consecrated to the pursuit of perfection. He became a man of influence, authority and power and he knew how to make good use of these to their fullest extent.

Where did this young man get such a zeal for religion? He was born a Roman citizen in an unremarkable town called Tarsus over 400 miles from Jerusalem, yet he was also of the house of Israel. As a child he left home and came to the temple in Jerusalem to study the ways and customs of the father’s. He was apprenticed under Gamaliel where he was totally immersed in intense studies and a disciplined lifestyle. He was made willing at a young age to travel to this place and surrender himself wholly unto God. His training and education brought him to the conviction that he was, according to the righteousness of the law, blameless (Phil. 3:6).

This was not the way for a Roman citizen to live. If in the pursuit of knowledge, an earnest Roman would delve into the plethora of Greek and Roman scholars and study the philosophies of the ages. Religion was a part of this but it was an addendum to the assimilation of wisdom through fables and mythology. Being a free born citizen, Saul had all this at his disposal, but the purpose of the mind of God was elsewhere. Thus according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, this chosen vessel was first sent to be filled with the doctrines of man before he came to the knowledge of the truth.

“But when it pleased God”

God had elevated this man in prestige, power and wealth, which are the ways of Adam and his world (Rev. 13:18). The natural man flourished in the natural world as he demonstrated his expertise in the manipulation of the pattern of heavenly things through the carnal understanding of the flesh. This is the ability that man was created with for the purpose of the performance of the labour that is assigned to him. Saul of Tarsus was to exercise this ability as the means of his ascension to the position he obtained wherein he profited in splendid fashion and display. Almighty God had interwoven these qualities and abilities into the fabric of the creation and the time of the habitations of Saul and the limitations thereof, for His glory and honour. He had afore assigned this chosen vessel, Saul of Tarsus, to be the instrument of the execution of His will and to preach the gospel to the nations of the world. Now under the authority of Jerusalem on the road to Damascus armed with the honour and glory of man and his machinations, Saul was about to be ambushed by the truth.

This man was abased to the lowest form of existence. He was reduced from the pride of his Olympian like glory and prestige to the humility of a blind, helpless and afraid man. Here stood on the Damascin road, which once was commander and chief but now who needed to be led by the hand to a place of refuge. He came forth in the strength of man yet devoid of the power of faith and found himself devoid of the power on which he relied and helpless as a child.

He was led by the hand of the same band of marauders, whose intent was the apprehension and incarceration of this criminal element called the followers of Messiah, to what can only be concluded was a safe house. Here a man named Judas who lived on a street called ‘Straight’ had been ignorantly afore prepared of God to receive this abased and humiliated champion of the cause. There he sat for three days without food as his friends abandoned him for his edicts and commands were of no worth anymore. He found, as he sat in darkness, that he had lost all of his presumed power and authority and he feared for the future. It was soon to be revealed to him that he was no more righteous according to the Law of God than the most despised Gentile dog. Almighty God had humiliated him and broken his earthen vessel to manifest that Adam has no strength in which to present himself or his works of righteousness before the Righteous Judge of the Universe.

“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas and took Titus with also” (Gal. 2:1).

Saul of Tarsus, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God which stood as He had been slain from the foundation of the world, was set apart for the work of the ministry. A man who had been educated in an elite school with an extensive library of primary source material and the most esteemed professors was not ready to enter into the ministry of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the ages of man cannot approach the simplicity of the truth as the truth confounds the collective wisdom of Adam. God had fashioned and trained this one, who was elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Messiah, in preparation for him to be taught of the Spirit of Holiness. At the appointed time, he was removed from society and alienated from the commonwealth of Israel with all her grandeur, politics and hypocrisy as he was taken into the wilderness for an education that no son of Adam can ever have.

The great and mighty Saul of Tarsus was now devoid of earthly possessions, influence and associates yet he grew mighty in the faith of Jesus Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him. There must be an imbalance in these two elements for when the flesh is strong then there is no faith and whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Hence when the child of grace discovers by the revelation of the Spirit, that “the good that I would, I do not but the evil which I would not, I do” it is because of the sin that dwells within and even though this deficiency has been ordained of God from the beginning yet the Spirit within groans and travails because of the weakness and infirmities of the flesh.

These infirmities have been intricately interwoven into the existence of the child of grace and when the eyes of understanding have been illuminated by the Spirit of God to see, recognize and consider them, the vanity of Adam and his world is made manifest. As God reveals Himself, whose name is “Faithful and True”, as He tabernacles with the children of hope, the perfection of Holiness is understood by faith. The exceeding sinfulness of sin is made evident through the weakness of Adam to measure up to the standard of the holiness of God and His Law.

And so it was seventeen years of the teaching of the Spirit in the wilderness by revelation accompanied by infirmities, reproaches, necessities and persecution that cured this chosen vessel in the furnace of affliction and made him suitable for the preaching of the gospel. He was shown the reality of the heavenly existence and by the perfect law of God he was slain each and every day of His life. He was stripped of his confidence in his abilities of man and accounted all of his accomplishment and gain of the former days as refuse not worth of the offering before the throne of grace. He experienced the truth of the vain labours of man in his attempt to please God and was given the peace to accept his station in life as being according to the will of God. He knew that without the Master and the absolute predestination of his life in complete harmony with good pleasure of His will, he could do nothing. He was that treasure hidden in the field which the good man had gone and sold all that He had to purchase the field (not the treasure). He was the soil of that field that had been afore prepared to receive the seed and he was that seed which should bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. He was that earthen vessel wherein dwelt the light of the truth in the hands of Gideon and his army. Those clay pitchers needed to be broken in order to vanquish the inveterate enemy. Thus when the trump of God sounded forth this clay pitcher was crushed in order for the light to shine forth and every child, who has been made a partaker of flesh and blood is likewise.

This mental, emotional and spiritual awareness, although essential, was not sufficient. God inflicted Saul with a thorn in his flesh lest the arrogance of Adam should cry out, ‘Come see my zeal for Yehovah’. Yet He did not leave His servant to find his own way or learn how to cope with his disability. His grace was sufficiently bestowed upon Saul not only for the labours assigned unto him but also for the adversities that he suffered. His station in life of going from renowned scholar to abject fool was counterproductive to the mind and lusts of the flesh but Saul was made to rejoice in his infirmities. His transformation for a socially acceptable and revered Pharisee to a recluse vagabond was his perfection in weakness and the absence of physical strength and abilities were so “that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (12:9).

“And now stand I and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God unto the fathers…why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:6).

The power of God is absolute over all things. He commands the stars of the heavens, the wind and the waves of the sea and the dust of the earth. The epitome of the demonstration of this great power is that He should bring Adam to the end of the time of His habitation, returning the dust unto the earth from whence it came, and raise His people up to the manifestation of their existence in Him in the heavenlies. Saul of Tarsus had been indoctrinated and brainwashed to the fullest extend as to believe himself ‘blameless’ but now he gloried in the hope of the resurrection. No longer was there any confidence in the flesh for in the years of isolation the refiner’s fire and fullers soap had burned at the wood, hay and stubble of Edom. This furnace of affliction would not be quenched until the time when there remained no residue of the house of Esau and the tabernacle of this dwelling were dissolved. Then the manifestation of the part in the primary resurrection, that this child of grace had from the foundation of the world, would be evident as the tabernacle not made with hands would be made evident.

Saul had been brought from the power of the arm of the flesh to walking by faith yet every element of his life was essential to the work that he was given. It was absolutely necessary that he be certified in the eyes of man that he had been schooled in every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses. This is made evident when he went every Sabbath into the synagogues and reasoned with the learned men that Jesus was Messiah. But he did not need the wisdom, imagination or instrumentation of man or this world to be taught the truth. When he was in those schools, the Godhead dwelt in him and protected him as he unknowingly prepared for the ministry. As he stood at the side of the stoning of Stephen and gave his consent, the Holy Spirit, wherein he was sanctified, dwelt in him preserving him unto the day of Messiah and as he persecuted the church and gave his sentence of death against the elect of God, the power of God enabled and strengthened him to bring him to that episode on the Damascin road; “for we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rms. 8:28) {emphasis added}.

Saul of Tarsus could no more alter the steps of the path he was given to walk than Samson could have caused his hair to grow or the thief on the cross could have been reformed. Each was elevated to a place in this world of affluence and success yet as the elect according to the foreknowledge of God, they were each, every man in his order, brought low and humbled. Then did Yehovah reveal Himself in them. Then did they see their ways and hate themselves. Then were they made weak in the flesh but mighty in the power of God.

Saul was persecuted, beaten, whipped, stoned and left for dead because he had the experience of hope. He lived by the faith of the Son of God, rejoiced that he had been counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s name and he longed to return to his Father’s house. He knew that in him, that is in his flesh dwelt no good thing, that the flesh and blood could not inherit the kingdom of God and that he must be changed. He was taught of the Spirit that this flesh must return to the dust from whence it came. He had his affections set on things from above and he knew that when he was to be absent from this body, he would be present with the Lord.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (12:7).

The arrogant pride of the heart of Edom has deceived him to think himself righteous and perfect (Ob. 3). The pride of life strokes the ego of man to think that he has worth and value to God and his fellow man and this is of the world (I John 2:16). Saul of Tarsus was prepared to preach the power of God by learning the vanity and weakness of man. This is the same lesson each child of the kingdom is taught from above as he wanders through this barren wilderness and Satan is the servant of God for the welfare of His children. This messenger sent from God to fulfill His will was for the purpose of reminding Paul that He is a subject of the King and a servant of God. As such he is not to present himself in the phylactery of man or speak with great swelling words. He is not to draw off man to follow after him or establish his own traditions and customs. He was to preach the power of God unto deliverance from sin, deliverance from the wrath to come and deliverance from the body of this death. He, Saul, was a wretched man who had no hope in this world yet he lived by faith and that not of himself.

The path that has been walked is most often painful to remember and the way of life that was enjoyed is embarrassing and unfulfilling. But the steps of the righteous are ordained of Yehovah from beginning to end for the praise of His name and His glory.

Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
March 2, 2014