Delivered from Death
Back in the late 1970s, I still lived at home with my parents. It was the day before Christmas, and my dad and I had made a trip to a local store to pick up some last-minute items. I remember that as we were driving home, the roads were snow-covered.
About a mile or two from home we were rounding a curve when I looked ahead and saw another car coming toward me and it was across the center line. I immediately began to slow down and edge my way toward the shoulder of the road. But we were crossing a small stream and the guardrails left almost no room to get off the road.
When the oncoming driver saw us, she panicked and applied the brakes. Those of you who live in snow country know exactly what happened without me saying more. When the driver applied the brakes, she lost control of the car and it headed straight for us. If she had just left off the accelerator and gently steered to the right, I think she could’ve avoided hitting us.
By that time, I had come to a complete stop, just inches from the guardrail. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait for the impact. There was a loud crash and the jolt of the impact. The hood of the car flew up, blocking our vision. Fortunately, my dad and I weren’t seriously injured. The other driver wasn’t either, but I think she was treated for shock.
It’s amazing! Something like this, that unfolds in just a few seconds, can seem to take a long time. My point is, that there was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid it.
Have you faced circumstances beyond your control? Situations where it seemed to you there was no way out? Perhaps it looked so hopeless that you despaired of any positive outcome. When you reach that point, it can be so hard to remember the promises of God.
The apostle Paul faced numerous situations where he despaired of life itself. In our continuing study of his second letter to the Corinthians, we’ll look at one of those situations and how the apostle responded. I’ve titled today’s teaching, “Delivered from Death,” and it’s taken from Second Corinthians 1:8 to 14. Listen now as I read these words from Holy Scripture.
In these verses, we see the several MEANS by which we are delivered from death to live with confidence.
The First MEANS (by which we are delivered from death) is,
By Divine Intervention
In our previous study from verses three through seven, Paul reminded his readers that God’s comfort was sufficient for any trouble or affliction they would face. To drive home the point, he shares a personal experience with them.
He refers to something that happened to him in Asia. He isn’t specific, so we don’t really know what he was referring to, but perhaps the Corinthians did. Maybe it was the mob in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquilla risking their lives for his, or the death threats that led to his hasty departure from Ephesus. At any rate, these weren’t just mild irritations!
The word-picture here is of something pressed out of measure, a crushing burden, unable to be carried under normal circumstances. It was so heavy, so grievous, that Paul even despaired of his life! The Greek word literally means “no passage.” Paul saw no way out! And even though this experience was in the past, it was still very real in Paul’s mind. Perhaps, like me, you’ve relived an experience like that again and again.
But then, look what happened. Just as Paul had written in the earlier verses, God showed up! Even though Paul’s tribulation seemed like a death sentence, God intervened. That intervention spared Paul’s life and taught him a valuable lesson. It is a lesson you and I need to learn as well. It is this, that God allows us to experience seemingly impossible situations, to teach us that our intellect, our possessions, our status, and our connections to important people are all inadequate. Like Paul, we need to learn to trust completely in God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to meet our needs in times of crisis.
Divine intervention spared Paul’s life in this traumatic situation. But it did more than that. Look what he says in verse 10. We trust in God “who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us…” Did you catch that? Paul says God delivered us in the past, He’s delivering us now, and He will deliver us in the future. What a statement of triumph and confidence! And you can have that confidence too.
I know some people who have experienced very hard things in life. Some of them have become angry, disillusioned, and bitter. But that wasn’t Paul. Others I know have clung to God throughout their disappointment and heartache, and they have come through the furnace of affliction with a powerful life witness for Jesus. Like Paul, they understood that God intervened so He would be glorified and that their suffering would encourage others.
Are you going through a severe trial? Have you almost given up hope that change is possible? Have you allowed God to intervene in the situation or are you still trying to muddle through on your own strength? God wants to bring you to the point of complete dependence on Him. He wants you to understand that His power alone is sufficient to meet your need. He wants you to come to the place where you have complete confidence in Him.
And remember, your trial may not end as the one Paul mentions here. Eventually, he gave his life for the sake of the Gospel. Yet, even in that, he trusted God completely. He knew that divine intervention was a means to being delivered from death.
The Second MEANS (by which we are delivered from death) is,
By Human Intercession
Notice the next thing that Paul wrote. He said God delivered us, [now listen] “you also helping together in prayer for us…” So, Paul relied completely on God, but he also recognized the role of God’s people in prayer.
Intercessory prayer is crucial to the expression of God’s power and sovereign purpose. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote,
“More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Morte d’Arthur”
When you and I engage in intercessory prayer we often have no idea of the result. But hopefully, we have enough experience with it that we will continue to pray even when God seems silent. When Paul was going through his extreme trial, it may be that the Corinthian Believers didn’t know anything about it. But because they had him on their hearts, because they loved him as a brother in Christ, they were interceding for him before the throne of God.
The result of this intercession is “that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” Here, Paul uses picturesque language; “that out of many upturned faces (in intercession), thanks may be given to God by many on our behalf.” The “gift” Paul refers to must be the precious gift of deliverance from the impossible situation he had faced. And because the Corinthians engaged in intercessory prayer, they also shared in the joy of Paul’s deliverance. If you have never experienced the joy of being part of an answer to someone’s prayer, you’re really missing something!
The goal of prayer is not to change God’s plans. It is rather to see Him glorified in those plans and thank Him for them. We can be confident that God’s sovereign plans will be accomplished, balanced by the faithful prayers of His people.
Like the Corinthian Believers, we may not know the dangers faced by those we love. But we can be confident that God hears our intercession on their behalf. And we can be confident that one of the means of being delivered from death, physical or spiritual, is human intercession.
The Final MEANS (by which we are delivered from death) is,
By Confident Expression
Perhaps you’re wondering what I mean by that. Paul writes in verse 12 about the testimony of his conscience. Paul testified in Acts 24:16 that he always did his best to maintain “…a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Paul knew what it meant to have a clear conscience. Do you have that same confident expression, the testimony of a clear conscience? But how does that become a means of deliverance from death? Hold on, we’ll get there.
Paul states that part of maintaining a clear conscience is to live a holy life in godly sincerity. Holiness and godly sincerity aren’t intrinsic to us, that is, they’re not something we possess within ourselves, but they are gifts from God. Paul recognized that.
He also reminded the Corinthians that his teaching wasn’t conducted in the power of fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God. And it was this grace that was the motivation for his lifestyle choices—his conduct. In other words, Paul told the Corinthians that his lifestyle was lived in accordance with what he taught. It was a confident expression of what he believed. Remember, Paul had spent 18 months in Corinth, much longer than many other places where he planted churches. So, the Corinthians had ample opportunity to observe his conduct.
And then further, Paul gave a confident expression throughout his communication. Some in Corinth had accused him of being deceptive, self-serving, etc. But Paul reiterates that his writings to the Corinthian church were consistent with what he taught in person. He hadn’t hidden anything from them, he didn’t communicate with double meanings, and he had no secret agenda.
Now, back to the question, “how does confident expression deliver from death?” We’ve already noted that death can be physical or spiritual. Let me summarize Paul’s motives as he expresses them here. First, he said my life is open to inspection. I have nothing to hide and that allows me to have a clear conscience.
Second, I lived a life of purity and holiness which you observed when I was with you. I didn’t teach you one thing and then live by another standard. And finally, I lived among you with transparent sincerity. What you saw is what I was and am.
These three aspects of conscience, conduct, and communication will play a key role in deliverance from death. A guilty conscience causes one to be secretive and dishonest. It also causes harshness in judging the sins of others. Ungodly conduct hastens spiritual death in us and also impacts those who are looking to us for a godly example. Inconsistent communication brings confusion, charges of favoritism, and strife. I urge you to ponder these things and make an application to your own life.
Paul closes this section by reminding the Corinthians of their mutual rejoicing with him. He knew that some of the Believers in Corinth had embraced Christ and the teaching Paul had given them. He encouraged them to look forward to the day when that mutual appreciation would be expressed in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
My friend, have you discovered the means by which you can be delivered from death to live with confidence? Whether that death is physical or spiritual it can only be avoided by divine intervention. Jesus intervened in rescuing Paul from the peril of physical death. And maybe He’s done that for you too. But you and I must understand how much more important it is to be delivered from spiritual death.
And what about human intercession? Do you believe in the power of prayer? Have you experienced it personally? Have your prayers resulted in divine intervention in the lives of others? You and I may not know the impact of our prayers on this side of eternity. But they enable us to tap into the power of God to bring deliverance from death. As Tennyson said, “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
And finally, is your confident expression delivering yourself and others from death? Is your conscience clear, is your conduct in harmony with what Scripture teaches, and is your communication consistent and trustworthy? If so, you can be sure that these means will deliver you and those around you from death.