Why Did Paul Want More than Grace?


I know we all need grace for salvation, but I have been curious about what Paul wrote in second Corinthians.

For even if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I would be telling the truth, but I refrain from this so that no one may regard me beyond what he sees in me or what he hears from me, even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me — so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. (2Co 12:6-9)

Here is what Webster’s says about this verse:

Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.

My grace is sufficient for thee. 2 Cor 12

The struggle with sin is something that Christians misunderstand.  We all know that in one way or another we struggle with it, but I don’t think that we fully appreciate the struggle or what it means.  We focus more on the sin and not enough on the grace

Here you have Paul tormented with a thorn in the flesh, or flesh based sin.  Now the sin could be a physical act, but I think it is more of a temptation that Paul faced.  It was enough of a sinful issue that Paul cried out to God three times to remove it from him, but God said no.

God’s grace was sufficient.  What does that mean though?

Grace is not overcoming the sin or removing the sin, as Paul wanted but rather the covering of the sin.  It does not mean that Paul would not have sinful thoughts, but rather that he was once and forever forgiven for the sins.

Now by becoming the “new man”, the sinful desires can be resisted more easily, but God did not remove those desires so that Paul could overcome them by his own power.  That is why God’s grace is sufficient.

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32 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Religion

32 responses to “Why Did Paul Want More than Grace?

  1. hiddinsight

    THIS IS COOL…! I am preparing a post about grace too…neat confirmation for me 🙂

    • Thank you. Grace is such a strange concept for man that I think we all need to explore it and understand it so we can move past that sin nature and understand that sin happens, but it no longer derails us or holds us hostage.

      • Rather it is WE who hold ourselves hostage. And, when we stop, we have an enemy that reminds us of the reasons why we were hanging our head. When Grace is truly grasped, we STAND OUT to others because we are not impacted by shame.

  2. The unanimous message of the Bible is that man is responsible for his own sins. “The soul who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4). We do not bear the guilt or penalty for the sins of others (Ezek. 18:20). Sin by definition is not something that can be transferred from person to person through birth or any other process. Sin is not a state or condition except when perpetuated by sinful actions (1 Jn. 3:4; 5:17; Jas. 4:17).

  3. I like it – grace is basically mercy – and I agree 100%. People need to understand not to beat themselves up about the thoughts or misgivings they have at times – they’re struggles and we all have them. What fun would life actually be without some challenges?

    My theological issue is with this idea “but rather that he was once and forever forgiven for the sins.”

    I am not sure that is the teaching of the bible, in fact, I think we all are responsible for our actions and accountable for what we do. It is weird to me, or maybe I am missing the message here, that someone can be forgiven always…when they may sin in the future (do future sins count or are they not covered yet)?

    • I think it is taught.

      If Jesus died for our sins which sins did he die for? Either he had to die for all of them at once or he has to keep dying for them each time we sin after asking forgiveness.

      This is one of the big differences between the mosaic covenant, as blood atonement was required yearly, and this new messianic covenant in which Jesus atoned for all sins in one fell swoop.

  4. “If Jesus died for our sins which sins did he die for? Either he had to die for all of them at once or he has to keep dying for them each time we sin after asking forgiveness.” (Xander)

    It’s a strange theological construct then.

    So Jesus dies for ‘all’ your sins – isn’t that somewhat of a license for irresponsibility? I mean, one could come to Jesus – be forgiven all their sins – then continue sinning regardless of anything? How is this any different than the idea all are saved by Jesus’ death – meaning everyone that is born into this planet?

    • The forgiveness of sins has been paid for all but not applied to all. That is why we are told to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Without it, the atonement is not applied to the individual

  5. As for Jesus atoning for all sins in one fell swoop – seems inaccurate to me as Jesus taught this in Matthew 5:24-25:

    “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

    To me it seems clear that Jesus is teaching about personal responsibility for your ‘sins’. In fact, in this scenario – one cannot even come to God (with their offering) unless they made things right with their brother. Jesus is teaching us to be responsible for our actions and no amount of offering, including his, will change our duty to our fellow neighbor. and to address our own sins.

    • As for this system, it’s speaking of Judaic system of offerings – which Jesus obviously has some background in as someone that also follows Judaism (since he is teaching on it – like a rabbi).

    • That is one way of looking at it, but I see it as Jesus is telling people to get out of the religious rituals they have been following without being repentant.

      The sin offering is not replaced by apologizing to or forgiving your brother for any past offenses. The sin offering is still critical, but if they come with anger or forgiveness in their hearts, then the sin offering becomes a religious routine to be followed and not a repentance or submission to God.

  6. “The forgiveness of sins has been paid for all but not applied to all. That is why we are told to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Without it, the atonement is not applied to the individual” (Xander)

    Acceptance of Jesus = action on our part in our salvation – correct?

    Without the acceptance aspect there is no salvation. One could say via this construct that Jesus’ death and sacrifice were not enough since we still needed to accept it for it to magically work/kick in.

    • That is one way to look at it, but for me that is like a heart transplant patient taking credit for a successful operation since they agreed to have surgery.

  7. “The sin offering is not replaced by apologizing to or forgiving your brother for any past offenses. The sin offering is still critical, but if they come with anger or forgiveness in their hearts, then the sin offering becomes a religious routine to be followed and not a repentance or submission to God.” (Xander)

    I agree, the religious routine makes no sense (symbolism) without the actual thing (repentance and asking for forgiveness from your brother).

    However, Jesus never does tell the person to quit the religious ritual altogether – but to make things right – the finish the ritual. Jesus actually never advocated against Judaism and it’s practices (namely in Matthew and Mark – the 2 oldest gospel texts).

  8. “That is one way to look at it, but for me that is like a heart transplant patient taking credit for a successful operation since they agreed to have surgery.” (Xander)

    So, the heart patient has a choice of whether or not to accept the heart operation? Is that the comparison?

    • So Jesus has saved all the world, well almost all the world. only those that accept to take the salvation act as ‘legit’? Then they have the blood sacrifice applied to them – others who have not applied – get nothing? Correct?

      Prove it.

      • Pretty much. Jesus was saying in Mathew that all are invited but not all will choose to come to the wedding. God has invited all to partake, but not all will choose to do so. Or with the owner of the vineyard. Those who rejected the son he had sent were to be utterly destroyed.

        Mat 19:20-28 The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” (21) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (22) But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. (23) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! (24) Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” (25) The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” (26) Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” (27) Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (28) Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

        Mat 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

        Mat 21:43 For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

        When it comes to salvation, I know what it says but that does not mean I know who is and who is not saved. That is strictly a matter between the person and God, but if someone is counting on being saved by a method other than what the Bible teaches, then I will point out that their faith might be misplaced.

    • What about if you were in jail and someone bailed you out, you have the choice to stay or to go. Your choice has no bearing on the fact that the bail was paid. The only thing that your choice does is reject or accept the gift, but the gift its self is unaffected.

  9. “Pretty much. Jesus was saying in Mathew that all are invited but not all will choose to come to the wedding. God has invited all to partake, but not all will choose to do so. Or with the owner of the vineyard. Those who rejected the son he had sent were to be utterly destroyed.” (Xander)

    Those parables could just as easily be about Jesus as a rabbi and the importance of the teachings he is giving (as in following them). All get the message, but not all will accept it. So as in the case of the wedding, vineyard, or the son sent to the kingdom – it can be all about accepting Jesus’ teachings and following them (which would also mean accepting him as a teacher). You’re next teaching proves my point – Matt 19: 20-28

    The teaching to the rich young ruler is about following God, and set-up by following the commandments (IE: teachings). The issue with the ruler is not that he can’t become a disciple, I am sure he could, his issue was riches and tie to his money – which he likely refused to give up since he would have to give up a lot (which all the other disciples did – but they didn’t have much to begin with). It’s really a comparison between poverty and having money – as Peter and Jesus point out – and coming to God as equal’s.

    Jesus’ point “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!” (money is at issue here)

    Peter’s point: “we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (also about money – more possessions than anything else)

    It’s likely tied to this idea: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44b-45)

    This was likely the Jesus the disciples knew and loved – and they kept his tradition alive.

  10. “What about if you were in jail and someone bailed you out, you have the choice to stay or to go. Your choice has no bearing on the fact that the bail was paid. The only thing that your choice does is reject or accept the gift, but the gift its self is unaffected.” (Xander)

    I agree, if this is what is actually being said by Jesus to his disciples.

    It’s more like Jesus is teaching the disciples to avoid jail, no whether you follow the teachings or not will determine that….accept them and follow – you save yourself the headache; do not follow – good chance you might end up there or worse.

    It’s all about the blood atonement question and how you interpret that. It gets very little play for something so central to your belief system – don’t ya think?

    Here is a great question: If what you are saying is true and is what is being taught by Jesus (or the disciples) – how come the gospels never lay the story out the way you believe it? How come your theology is a patchwork of teachings that make an interpretive deliverable that benefits your doctrine/belief?

  11. Why layout the fundamentals when the fundamentals were already known and practiced though? The gospels came as a response to people miscommunicating the life and message of Christ. That is why Paul was writing letters before the gospel narrative was put out.

    “Jesus’ point “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!” (money is at issue here)” – Why is this a money issue? Why does having money keep you out of heaven when that teaching has never been mentioned in Judaism before? Here is a man who followed all of the commandments and lived according to the law yet was not going to enter the kingdom of heaven. Obviously following the commandments alone were not enough, but why is it that money is the thing that is keeping him out of heaven? Why does money mean so much for this man but not an issue for Solomon who God made richer than any other man?

  12. “Why layout the fundamentals when the fundamentals were already known and practiced though? The gospels came as a response to people miscommunicating the life and message of Christ. That is why Paul was writing letters before the gospel narrative was put out.” (Xander)

    So the fundamentals of what Jesus taught (only in Israel) was well known in Gentile territories? I have this feeling not much was actually known about Jesus in these Gentiles territories, thus the need for the creation of the gospels. The miscommunication likely occurred in Gentile regions cause they never had nor were visited by Jesus (or his disciples for that matter).

    • You are missing that the early gentile believers had been exposed to Judaism and had an understanding of what that entailed. They were the ones who were at the synagogues listening when Paul came through telling about Jesus. He was telling the people about salvation for all who would accept him as the messiah, starting with the Jewish people first in the synagogue, where the gentiles heard. This is one reason we do not have Jesus speaking about every issue, as it is understood that if it was not addressed then there was no change from Judaism. The fundamentals of the faith were there.

  13. “Obviously following the commandments alone were not enough, but why is it that money is the thing that is keeping him out of heaven? Why does money mean so much for this man but not an issue for Solomon who God made richer than any other man?” (Xander)

    Well I know for sure that passage is about money – Jesus mentions ‘rich man’ and ‘money’ 4 times and this seems to be the point of that story.

    One must remember this is not the commandments being written here, these are narratives – stories – about Jesus and his teachings on the commandments – and they have agenda’s.

    In this case, the agenda seems to be about how money keeps people from seeing the kingdom of God. For some reason, the gospel writer’s that developed this story made a point about money and being poor for the sake of the gospel. I don’t think they for once considered Solomon and all his wealth – since being rich is not a ‘sin’ per se.

    However, being rich and following the same faith as the disciples (see Acts 2 and Ananias and Sapphira (a few chapters later)) and apparently wealth was an issue for a struggling early community.

    • The point of the story is that the love of money conflicts with a person in that they do not love God above their money. It is not about money by itself, but rather the condition of the heart towards money. That being said, the man followed the Law and upheld every commandment but God was not his first love. Following the law did not make him pure enough to get to heaven. Even with complete obedience, he was still unclean.

  14. “This is one reason we do not have Jesus speaking about every issue, as it is understood that if it was not addressed then there was no change from Judaism. The fundamentals of the faith were there.” (Xander)

    I generally agree, however, after the Gentiles leave the synagogues they do not have the Torah or anything to reference – since they did not have copies of that document. So their understanding would be very limited to memory and pieces they knew here and there.

    As for the Jesus teaching issue – I generally agree.

    • Jews in that day did not have their own Torahs to read from . They memorized the verses from studying with a Rabbi as a child and from what was taught each week. The Jews would have had more exposure, but would be vulnerable to the same issues as you propose the Gentiles would have had.

      • To a degree, however, they could always enter the synagogue to review if they made a mistake. Gentiles, they wouldn’t have that opportunity after not attending synagogue anymore.

  15. “That being said, the man followed the Law and upheld every commandment but God was not his first love. Following the law did not make him pure enough to get to heaven. Even with complete obedience, he was still unclean.” (Xander)

    Jesus actually doesnt deride him for following the commandments. The only thing Jesus advised him to do was give all his money to the poor. The young dude did not want to do that – he had a lot of money. The issue is about money – not about commandments. In fact, Jesus even mentions ‘rewards’ if he does this.

    Following the law did make him pure – not that this mattered since it was not addressed in that passage – just that he lacked something in his interpretation of the law – the issue of money.

    • Did not the man ask what else does he need to do to get into heaven and stated that he followed all of the laws? Does that not imply that following the laws by themselves was not enough to get into heaven?

      I agree that it was about his love of money over his love of God, but having a little or a lot of money is not what kept a person out of heaven. Jesus instructed him to give up his money (or reject the world based priorities) and follow him. Following Jesus meant that you forsook everything but the will of Jesus. You dedicated your life to Him at all costs. It is not about the money.

  16. “Did not the man ask what else does he need to do to get into heaven and stated that he followed all of the laws?” (Xander)

    Interesting question actually. Maybe the kid didn;t know heaven was a possibility (Saducee’s didn’t believe it for example)? But what was he asking:

    “And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matt 19:16)

    He wanted to earn his way into heaven or thought there was some trick to this process – like ‘one thing’ he could to do ensure his entrance into eternity.

    Jesus’ answer “And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt 19:17)

    Jesus makes this crystal clear here: (a) God is the only good One (not himself); (b) keep (follow) the commandments to ensure eternity

    The young man admits to following the commandments but then asks “what am I still lacking?” (Matt 19:20)

    Jesus’ response ““If you wish to be complete/perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matt 19:21)

    If the young man wishes to be ‘complete or perfected’ in his journey – sell it all, give it away (to the poor), and then invites him to join his group that is doing the same. What will he receive if he does this treasures/rewards in that eternity.

    Matt 19:22 “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property”

    I think the young man knew the trade-off – riches now or later – and this was not worth the risk. In essence, his reaction shows he did not follow the commandments of God – at least – no completely (but partially) and the main one’s he admits to following in the passage may have been the very one’s he was breaking – including: murder, adultery, theft, lying (perjury), dishonoring his parents, and not loving his neighbor.

    Why did Jesus pick those laws (has to be a reason)? Maybe this person was ripping off people or hurting them to gather his wealth.

  17. Pingback: The Young Man & Jesus – Commandments Questions? | Loosing My Religion

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