WE SHOULD NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble, which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
The tribulation, referred to in the preceding verse 4, is probably that which Paul begins to explain in the lesson text. He wants the Christians at Corinth to be fully aware of the trouble, which came to us in Asia. The specific event, or events, referred to in this passage is unknown, and could possibly be any number of occasions, when those that opposed his teaching, threatened Paul's life. Some bible scholars consider the troubles to be the stoning Paul received at Lystra that was incited by certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium. After stoning, he was taken out of the city, supposing he had been dead (See Acts 14:19-20). Others think that the incident referred to could have been the threats of harm Paul received when the Jews laid wait for him in Macedonia (See Acts 20:1-3).
However, most bible scholars seem to think that the trouble,referred to in the lesson text, came upon Paul while he was at Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, and here referred to simply as Asia. The threat of harm Paul received here was due to the insurrection that occurred among the silversmiths that were incited, and led, by Demetrius (See Acts 19:21-41). Whatever incident is referred to here, this we know, that Paul and his fellow laborers in Christ were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life. The persecution was so intense that Paul referred to it as being beyond the strength that human beings could endure, to the extreme extent that they could possibly lose their lives. No doubt this is one of the near-death occasions of persecution that Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 11:23.
When despair for one's life sets in, all human efforts to survive disappear, and ...the sentence of death seems inevitable. It was at this point that Paul said,we should not trust in ourselves, for deliverance from such extreme, life-threatening peril. The salvation of their physical life was beyond their control. Their trust was now placed in God, which raiseth the dead. How helpless one must feel in times like this, but how comforting it is to place all trust in God to prevent death and sustain life on earth - that only God has the power to raise one from the dead. There have been many times in my life, and probably in the lives of most individuals, when our last breath on earth was only minutes, or in some cases, only inches, away due to serious illnesses or to any number of other moments of dangerous peril. It is in times like these when we place our complete trust in God for deliverance from situations of almost certain serious injury or death.
Practically in constant peril at all times, wherever he went to preach the gospel message of salvation through the Son of God, Paul was exposed to all kinds of physical danger from the enemies of Christ. I am sure that Paul felt that his life had been preserved by God's intercession, and he gives much credit to the prayers of faithful Christians that had been given by many on our behalf. As it was referred to in this instance, we must never forget that (t)he effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).
There have always been in the past, and will forever be in the future, times when salvation from physical dangers is beyond human capability. It is times such as these that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God. Indeed, God is the source of physical life, and, as recorded in His holy word, He has demonstrated it a number of times, by miraculously bringing the dead back to life. The culmination of His power over death was demonstrated with the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The God that can protect and restore physical life, is the same God that offers spiritual salvation the faithful in Christ Jesus. In whom do you place your trust for the eternal salvation of your soul? In your own human ability? In the doctrines of man? In the indecisive nature of human religious bodies? Or, do you place your trust in God? Whether it is for the preservation of your physical body or your soul, we should not trust in ourselves (or other human beings), but in God!