2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;…
The all-sufficiency of God is the essence of all Christian experience, it has been the support of the faithful in all ages of the Church; it gives strength to patience, solidity to hope, constancy to endurance, nerve and vitality to effort.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS SUFFICIENCY. The sufficiency of God may be considered either as proper or communicative. By His proper sufficiency we mean that He is self-existent, self-sufficient, independently happy. It is, however, of the sufficiency of God in relation to His creatures that we have now to speak. He is sufficient —
1. For the preservation of the universe. "The heavens were made by Him, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth." And as nothing earthly has within it the power to sustain itself, tie upholdeth all things by the word of His power. Reason refers all this to the operation of second causes; piety looks through the complications of the mechanism to the hand that formed it. The whole universe is one vast laboratory of benevolent art, over every department of which Deity presides; a sanctuary, every part of which Deity inhabits — a circle, whose circumference is unfathomed, but whose every section is filled with God.
2. For the preservation and for the perpetuity of the gospel plan is the salvation and ultimate happiness of every individual believer.
(1) Christianity is not to be viewed by us merely as a moral system; it is a course of Divine operations. We are not to regard it as a mere statement of doctrine, we must remember the Divine agency by which it is always conducted and inspired. Human eloquence and reasoning are persuasive and powerful things; they can charm a Herod, make a Felix tremble; but they can do no more. Inanimate truth can produce no abiding change. Pardon and sanctification are not the necessary consequences of statement of doctrine. Scripture cannot produce them. But let the Spirit animate it, and it has the power of God. Hearers who sit under the ministration of the truth without the Spirit may be likened to a man standing upon the brow of a hill, which commands the prospect of an extensive landscape. The varied beauties of field and dell are before him, but there is one drawback — the man is blind. So the truth is in the Bible, but the man has no eyes to see it. Prevailing truth is not of the letter, but of the Spirit (ver. 6).
(2) There will be considerable difficulties about the mode of procedure. Man is a moral agent, and God has endowed him with talents, and invested him with an immense delegation of power in the distribution of those talents, in the exercise of that power. He has got such a respect for the will that He has placed within us, that He will never force an entrance. He will do everything else. But notwithstanding opposition, the gospel shall triumph. We can conceive of no enemies more powerful than those it has already vanquished. God is with the gospel — that is the great secret of its success. She does not trust in her inherent energy; She does not trust in her exquisite adaptation to the wants of men; she does not trust in the indefatigable and self-denying labours of her ministers. God is with the gospel, and under His guidance she shall march triumphantly forward reclaiming the world unto herself. And, oh, what a comfortable doctrine is this! If this gospel is thus to be conducted from step to step in its progressive march to triumph, I shall share, surely, in its succours and salvation by the way. It guarantees individual salvation and individual defence. Thy sufficiency is of God. What frightens thee — affliction? God is thy health. Persecution? God is thy crown. Perplexity? God is thy counsel. Death? God is thine everlasting life. Only trust in God, and all shall be well; life shall glide thee into death, and death shall glide thee into heaven.
II. THE AUTHORITY WHICH BELIEVERS HAVE TO EXPECT THIS SUFFICIENCY FOR THEMSELVES. We have a right to expect it, because it is found and promised in the Bible. It is not my Bible, your Bible, it is common property, it belongs to the universal Church.
1. Listen, "Thus saith the Lord, who created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel; fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name." Now think of all this, believers, past, present, and future, and then come and hear God saying, "I have called thee by thy name," to every one out of that mass; "Thou art not lost in the crowd. Thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; through the rivers — deeper than the waters — they shall not overflow thee," etc. "The Lord God is a sun and a shield," light and defence; we do not want much more in our passage. "He will give grace and glory"; and if any of you are so perversely clever that you can think of some blessing that is not wrapped up either in grace or glory, "No good thing shall He withhold from them that walk uprightly."
2. Are you still dissatisfied? God condescends to expostulate with you upon your unbelief. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speaketh, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord?" How often have you said that! Are you still distrustful? Then ponder Scripture examples — Abraham on Moriah, Israel at the Red Sea, Nehemiah building the wall.
3. But you are not satisfied yet. You say, "Those are all instances taken from the Old Testament times." Well, come into common life. In that house a man is dying. He is a Christian, and knowing whom he has believed, he is not afraid to die. But the thought that he will leave his family without a protector pressed upon his spirit somewhat, and when you look at him there is a shade of sadness upon his countenance. But you gaze awhile, and you see that shade is chased away by a smile. What has wrought the change? What! why, a ministering angel whispered him, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive." You call the next morning; the widow is sitting in sorrow. But she too is a Christian, and flies to the Christian refuge, and her eye traces these comfortable words, "Thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name."
(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;