Calvary Road Baptist Church


Second Corinthians 2.16


Involvement in Christian ministry is frequently an emotional roller coaster, with the Christian who sincerely pours out his soul to serve his Lord experiencing some of the highest emotional highs, as well as the most discouraging disappointments. The child of God so often finds himself exposed to such vulnerabilities is shocked to discover what he experiences in service to God, that he is not only unnerved, but also downright crushed. A lost person looking on while things happen decides he wants no part of it. Therefore, it is important that we express to those around us what we know to be true.

Take the experiences of the Apostle Paul. He had been the most dangerous of early Christianity’s enemies, being personally responsible for not only the intense persecutions and imprisonments, but also even the deaths of some of the first Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. What turned him to Christianity, of course, was the Lord Jesus Christ’s glorious appearance to him on the road to Damascus, where he was headed to do damage to the Christian community in that ancient city.[1]

If Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, as the Apostle Paul had himself been witness of, then He must be who He claimed to be, the Son of the living God come to save men from their sins. It took three days for the implications of the glorious Savior’s confrontation on the Damascus Road to sink in to Paul’s reeling mind and overturned heart. However, he did come to faith in Christ, was forgiven all his sins, and immediately began to serve the Savior he had previously denied. Interesting to note is what the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to Ananias, the Christian in Damascus who was directed to minister to Paul, in Acts 9.15-16:


15        But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16        For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.


Take note of that last comment Jesus uttered to Ananias: “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” This indicates to us that the Apostle Paul always knew that his Master’s plan for his life was service accompanied by great suffering. Why did he put up with it? Second Corinthians 1.5-7. Turn there and read with me:


5          For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

6          And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

7          And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.


In other words, Christ will always make it up to you. Even knowing this, it is not uncommon for someone reading the Bible to be momentarily stunned by Paul’s admission in Second Corinthians 1.8, where he writes, “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.” That word “despaired,” from the Greek exaporeomai, refers to being at a loss psychologically, to being in great difficulty, and to experiencing doubt and embarrassment.[2] It sounds like being exasperated. Therefore, you see, the Apostle Paul once reached a place in his life where he wondered about the benefit of continuing to live. He was despondent.

Therefore, it is less surprising to read in Second Corinthians chapter two of his anguish of heart, of his reference to Satan’s devices, of having no rest in his spirit, and of finally asking, in Second Corinthians 2.16, “And who is sufficient for these things?” Who is up to the task? By the time Paul asks this question he is somewhat narrowly focused on the issue of false teachers who corrupted the Word of God. However, this question has broader applicability to each one of us. This is a valid question that you and I both need to apply to our lives. I speak not of professional or academic competency. I refer not to your success as an athlete. Social skills are of no interest to me at this point. I speak now of the spiritual realm, of serving God, of advancing the gospel, of lifting up Jesus Christ, and of cooperating with others in a congregational way to bring the lost to Jesus Christ.

Who is sufficient for these things? Who is competent to properly discharge the duties, obligations, and responsibilities every man is born with toward God? My goodness, most men are barely tolerable to their wives and a disappointment to their own children, much less to the high and holy calling of being one of God’s creatures. To be sure, most people give no thought to their sufficiency with respect to these matters. They think that because they reject the gospel they have no duty toward God, that because they have not embraced Christ as their own savior they have no obligation toward their fellow man. Therefore, in their delusional state, self-absorbed in their complete denial of reality, most people do not feel insufficient. They simply do not question their sufficiency.

I challenge you to deal with reality, this morning, rather than feelings. I urge you to admit that facts are stubborn things, and that just as God’s physical law of gravity obligates you to fall when you misstep, so do His spiritual laws obligate you in their own ways. Therefore, when you are contemplating your duties, obligations, and responsibilities toward God, for the air He gives you to breathe, for the shelter and nourishment He provides, as well as the intelligence and health you were born with, it is not at all surprising that you might find yourself sometimes confused, sometimes questioning, sometimes doubting, sometimes experiencing a sense of inadequacy, sometimes admitting failure, and not uncommonly being aware of a gnawing sense of fear with respect to your service to God.

No wonder Paul asked the question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The question needs to be asked. You owe God everything! To respond to Him with some kind of service is appropriate. However, the question is “Who is sufficient for these things?” The question needs to be asked. The question also needs to be answered. Allow me to answer, in four ways:




The Apostle Paul was, without doubt, the greatest Christian who ever lived. He was transformed by the power of the risen Savior from the chiefest of sinners, First Timothy 1.15, to the apostle who labored more abundantly than them all, First Corinthians 15.10. He wrote most of the books of the New Testament, was most successful in Christianity’s spread to the west, and is recognized as the primary interpreter of the meaning and impact of our Lord Jesus Christ’s life, earthly ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and ongoing impact in the believer’s life as He sits at the Father’s right hand on high.

Yet, one must ask if the Apostle Paul, in and of himself, for all his greatness, was sufficient? Let me read to you his own words: In Romans 5.6, he describes mankind, including himself, prior to conversion: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” In Romans 6.19, he describes every Christian, including himself: “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” In both verses, Paul uses a Greek word, asthenia, meaning weakness, impotency, showing that he was as spiritually weak after his conversion as he was before.[3] Add to this what he wrote in Romans 7.14-20:


14        For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15        For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16        If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17        Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18        For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19        For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20        Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.


My friends, there can be no doubt. For all his greatness, it must be admitted that Paul was not, in and of himself, sufficient to the task.




Pick the name of the greatest Christian you can think of. Go ahead. Would it be Hudson Taylor, the 19th century missionary to China? Would it be Adoniram Judson, the missionary to Burma? How about Dwight L. Moody or Charles H. Spurgeon? Perhaps you would entertain the fantasy that R. G. Lee, or Jack Hyles, or John MacArthur, or J. Vernon McGee, or John R. Rice, or John Piper, or perhaps someone else is the greatest Christian your mind might settle on.

Would you suggest that whoever your mind settles on as the greatest Christian you can think of was sufficient, when the Apostle Paul clearly was not sufficient? You see, the word sufficient in Second Corinthians 2.16 translates ikanos, and means competent and able.[4] If Paul was not competent, if Paul was not able, is it conceivable that anyone you can think of is sufficient? Should it not also create a question in your mind about what success in serving God really is?




We have already established that the Apostle Paul, the greatest example of Christianity ever to walk the earth, was spiritually incompetent to conduct Christian ministry. As well, we have concluded that no one we could think of could possibly measure up to the Apostle Paul. Therefore, incompetency and inadequacy among Christians when it comes to spiritual pursuits is not only the rule, it is the rule without any exceptions. To be sure, the Lord demands faithfulness.[5] However, faithfulness is not competency. Consider the implications of this, for just a moment. If the Apostle Paul is insufficient, and if every other Christian from that day to this is also insufficient, what could possibly be the basis for judging Christians and finding fault in them when the Bible clearly reveals that there is no such thing as a sufficient Christian, a competent Christian, a Christian who is up to the task? This means that the guy who refuses to go to church because of some church member is a guy who is profoundly dishonest, since the reason he says he has for not attending church is a reason everyone us could have if we chose to use it. “That pastor did something I didn’t like.” My friends, every person in this auditorium could say the same thing, and it would be just as true.

We Christians are, first and foremost, sinners. The fact is, in order to become a Christian you first have to admit your sinfulness, First John 1.9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Thus, we who claim Christ do not claim sufficiency. We do not claim sufficiency, we claim Christ! However, not only is every Christian insufficient, but so are you. Every sinner who has ever lived, every sinner alive today, and every sinner who will ever live in the future, is insufficient. You are not smart enough, fast enough, good enough, strong enough, determined enough, or anything else enough to be sufficient when it comes to spiritual pursuits. As Romans 3.23 phrases it, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That means you come up short. You are insufficient.

That means, your spiritual incapacity will be your doom. You are not sufficient to save yourself from sinning. Neither are you sufficient to save yourself from the punishment that will be visited upon you for sinning. You are not good enough to deserve God’s favor, nor strong enough to fend off God’s punishment. You provide God with no reason to forgive your sins, yet every reason to punish you for committing those sins. Therefore, when the Apostle Paul asks the question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” it must be answered that you are not sufficient, and that no other person you know is sufficient. Even so, if you did find another who was sufficient to address his own condition, how would that help you?




If by sufficient you mean competent, able, fit, and capable, then the Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient. Let me show you how Jesus is sufficient when you are not:

First, Jesus is sufficient to save you. He is competent and able to save you. He displayed His sufficiency to save you from your sins by suffering for the sins of others, even though He had never sinned. It is one thing to be sufficient for yourself, and quite another thing to be sufficient for others. Jesus is sufficient for others, including you. He took upon Himself your sins, Isaiah 53.6: “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He was punished for your sins, First Peter 2.24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Yet He rose from the dead in victory over sin and death, Romans 4.25: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” As we saw earlier, in First John 1.9, Jesus “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Moreover, by us, is meant you.

However, Jesus is not only sufficient to save you. He is also sufficient to keep you. Turn to John 6, where we find verses 37-40 and verse 44:


37        All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

38        For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

39        And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

40        And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.


44        No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.


Notice our Lord’s comments about His sufficiency to keep to the end those given to Him by God the Father. If you come to Him, He will not cast you out, verse 37. He will not lose you, verse 39, but will raise you up at the last day. Your life is everlasting and He will raise you up at the last day, verse 40. Finally, verse 44, He will raise up at the last day the one who comes to Him. I read from The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints:


 1 Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.

(John 10:28, 29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Ps. 89:31, 32; 1 Cor. 11:32; Mal. 3:6)


Jesus is sufficient to save you. Jesus is sufficient to keep you, as good Baptists have always believed. Third, Jesus is sufficient to consecrate you. Though it is frequently overlooked these days, our Lord’s sufficiency to consecrate is integral to His sufficiency to save and to keep to the end. I say this because of Hebrews 12.14, which reads, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Consider the logic of it. We have already seen that the Lord Jesus committed Himself to raising up on the last day those who come to Him, who have been given to Him by His Father. However, Hebrews 12.14 requires holiness along the way. This, too, is accomplished by the sufficiency of the savior. Hebrews 7.25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Jesus is not a priest who offered a sacrifice for our sins and was then done with us. No. He does continually intercede for us, and saves to the uttermost those who have come unto God by Him.

Jesus is sufficient to save you. Jesus is sufficient to keep you. Jesus is sufficient to consecrate you. Jesus is also sufficient to commission you. So many lost people are fearful of coming to Christ, as though there are more terrors associated with sins being forgiven by God than sins being punished by God, as though it is better for God to be angry with you than for God to be pleased with you. Go figure. However, the Lord Jesus Christ is not only gracious to save, to keep, and to consecrate, He is also gracious to provide for us a lofty and noble purpose in life after our conversion. That purpose is to glorify God by serving God according to the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission. In Matthew 28.18-20, we read the words associated with Christ’s Great Commission:


18        And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19        Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20        Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.


These are the marching orders for the Christian church. These are the marching orders for the obedient Christian. This is the charge that resulted in the world being turned upside down with a gospel message for undeserving sinners about God Who became a man to pay for our sins. Many question the savior’s sufficiency. However, I have found no reason over the last thirty-six years to doubt the sufficiency of Jesus Christ to save me, to keep me, to consecrate me, and to commission me.


Let us not question whether the Apostle Paul ever wondered about the answer to the question he posed, for in Second Corinthians 3.5, we see that he had the answer all along: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” How did God suffice to supply what was lacking in our lives? His Son, Jesus Christ, so that Paul could rejoice by saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

My friend, I am here this morning to admit to you that I am hopelessly pathetic. I am incompetent to perform the most basic spiritual tasks. I am, in a word, a nincompoop. Every Christian is the same, and you are even worse off if you are not a Christian, since I am at least forgiven all my sins because of Christ. Therefore, judge me as harshly as you wish. Judge Christianity and other Christians, as well as this church, as harshly as you wish. Just remember, our sufficiency is of God. Our sufficiency is Jesus Christ.

In all your judging and skepticism, be sure to consider Him. You may find me insufficient. I am quite sure you will. However, He is sufficient . . . to save, to keep, to consecrate, and to commission. That is why you need to come to Him if you are lost, and energetically serve Him if you are saved.

[1] Acts 9.1-6

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 345.

[3] Ibid., page 142.

[4] Ibid., page 472.

[5] 1 Corinthians 4.1-2

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