By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 3:11, “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at 1conium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.” How is is that the Lord delivered him out of them all, yet he endured them?
Reply: The Greek word for delivered is from ruomai and means rescued. The same word is used in Matt. 27:43 when the enemies of Jesus passed by the cross and railed on him, saying, “He trusteth on God; let him deliver him now . . . .” The word is also used with reference to Paul’s deliverance from this body of death (Rom. 7:24), to his deliverance from the mouth of the lion (2 Tim. 4:17) and from every evil work (2 Tim. 4:18). The primary meaning of the passage under consideration is that the Lord rescued Paul from the hands of his enemies. Paul was rescued from the hands of his enemies who had left him for dead at Lystra (Acts 16:19). There was yet work for Paul to do.
In another sense, the Lord delivered Paul from these afflictions and persecutions by providing him with the strength to endure them. This is the idea expressed in 2 Cor. 12 concerning his “thorn in the flesh.” He had besought the Lord three times to remove it but the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). Paul then concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (emphasis mine, HH, 2 Cor. 12:9, 10).
The Scriptures do not teach that we, as Christians, will be free from afflictions and persecutions (2 Tim. 3:12), but they do teach that God will supply us with the strength to endure them. Neither are we free from temptations, but God delivers us from falling into them by providing the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). It is tragic that we do not always take the route of escape. Paul wrote in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through him that strengtheneth me.” God supplied Paul with the strength to carry out God’s will in spite of afflictions and persecutions. Paul was rescued from the hands of his enemies in some instances, and in afflictions, the strength of the Lord enabled him to endure them. We are not free from trials today, but when we put our trust in the Lord and obey Him, He is with us (Ps. 23:4) and He will supply the strength for us to endure them.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 42, p. 674
October 23, 1980