Abraham and Paul (2)
In the life of Paul we find events that are very similar to those that happened to Abraham, as we saw yesterday. There is a phrase that Paul used that could be applied perfectly to Abraham, or any other believer that has experienced limitation: "But we had within ourselves the sentence of death that we might not trust in ourselves, but in God who gives life to the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9).
Death is necessary in order to be able to know the God that raises the dead. For the rest,without the sentence of death, how will we lose confidence in ourselves? God wants to bring us gradually from a confidence in ourselves to confidence in Him, to translate us from ourselves to God Himself, since in ourselves there is impotence, lack, and sterility, while on the other hand in God is all power, generosity and abundance.
Further on in the same epistle, Paul gives the details of the death that he constantly experienced: "in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses; in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger ... by dishonor, by evil report ... as deceivers ... as unknown ... as dying ... as punished ... as sorrowful ... as poor ... as having nothing". But alternating with them are the experiences of resurrection, of life and blessing, so that we cannot mention death without mentioning the resurrection life that comes after: "by glory ... by good report ... truthful ... well known ... behold we live ... not dead ... always joyful ... enriching many ... possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:4-10).
In another place, he states it thus: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed... So death works in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 7:4-12).
According to the wisdom of God some (few) are to experience death in order that others (the more) might experience life. This was first so with the Lord, who died on the cross in order that "through His obedience the many might be constituted righteous" (Rom. 5:19). His death brought us salvation, and His wounds gave us life, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.
These experiences of Abraham and Paul allowed them to reach spiritual maturity. Initial faith introduces us into the race, but it is tribulations that cause us to grow and mature. Paul says: "through whom [Christ] also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope" (Rom. 5:2-4).
Faith is the door by which we enter, but beyond are the tribulation and the perseverance for the formation of the character of Christ. And this is maturity.