The God Of Love And Peace Be With You
By Msn. Rene
2 Corinthians 13:1-14
Key Verse: 4
“For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.”
Look at chapter 12, verse 19. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians “We have been speaking” and “Everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.” When we review his whole letter, and listen to some of the words he had been telling them, some of his words and actions towards them have certainly been viewed as harsh. But as he confesses to them, it had all been said and done for their own good, for their own strengthening! Look also at verses 20-21. In what Paul says here, we see clearly see the many problems of this church. They had fits of quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger; they had factions within the church; they even slandered each other, gossiped; many were proud and arrogant and some behaved in a disorderly manner. There were even those who had committed sexual sin and who indulged in such wicked acts that the children of God should never engage in! What did Paul want from them to have written them about this? Of course, as he says: “I’m afraid I’m going to find many of you who haven’t repented yet of these terrible sins.” Paul wrote ahead of time like this because he really wanted them to repent before he arrived. He loved them! And because he loved them, he neither covered up their sins, nor did he compromise with their sins. Some people think that not to mention someone’s sin common courtesy; they think it’s even loving them if they allow them to continue in their sins so as to respect their wishes. But Paul understood the Father’s love which doesn’t compromise with sin. He wanted them to help them purify their hearts and lives based on the truth of God. His love for them was genuine, in helping them to repent.
Why then is repentance in the church community so importance that Paul urged it again and again? Because the Christian community or church must always maintain spiritual purity. This is what the Lord has called us for— purity. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross for— that we might be purified of our sins. This is what every Christian must maintain in his or her life— purity. All of us are sinners. And when we have repented of our sins, we are forgiven and called to live a life in accordance with the gospel and its teaching. And by that grace, we are privileged to participate in the Christian community. The Christian community is a community of purified sinners, washed by the blood of Christ and avowed to live by his teachings, which include the continuous sanctification of heart and mind. If we only repent when we receive Christ as Lord and then forget about the life of repentance that we are all called to maintain, so many tragic things begin to happen in our lives. The Corinthians repented of their sins. Then some of them did not maintain repentance as a way of life. What happened to them? they returned to their old habits of sinning. Paul warned them as he warns us. We cannot stop repenting! If we do, we stop growing. More than that, we are no longer being purified. And when we’re living in sin we do not belong to the truth nor to the Christian community of Christ. So, what must we do? Of course, we must repent of our sins always— based on the truth. Repentance cleanses the heart and makes us humble and Christ like towards each other. And as such we can forgive one another and encourage one another instead of bite and slander one another as some of the Corinthians were doing. That way, our church can be strong, pure and healthy. God Almighty can dwell among us and He use us to serve his purpose. Once again, this is exactly why Paul urged them to repent. It was his love for them.
Now look at chapter 3:1. Paul wanted to visit the Corinthians for the third time to settle all these troubling issues that they had with him and with each other. What were some of these issues? He’s mentioned some of them already: Issues of slander, and of rumors and issues of damaging gossip in the church among church members about church members; and there were also other issues of a different nature— issues of burying the truth of God under hypocrisy. So what was Paul’s strategy to settle these matters? Read verse 1: “This will be my third visit to you. ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” Some issues could be settled with a handshake even among worldly people. But in this case, and with this much discord in this church community, Paul wanted to be thorough and absolute. So he wanted to settle matters according to the word of God. How? By the testimony of two or three witnesses, and look at the facts (Deuteronomy 19:15).
There were some other issues that Paul wanted to settle as well, perhaps also by witnesses and by the testimony of more than two or three people. What issues or issues are these? We can see them in verses 2-4. Let’s read them. “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.” It seems some of them were still having issues with Paul himself. In other words, some of them were arrogantly questioning his apostleship, and claiming that Christ does not speak through him. Some may say that even if Christ should speak through him, who’s to say that Christ doesn’t speak through them just as much as Christ speaks through him! We can imagine what terrible influence and environment these people were exerting in the church! This means that they would question everything Paul taught the church from the time he established that church. Who was responsible for this kind of heresy? It was the super apostles we heard about in the last chapter, those who spoke big but whose lives were empty. They had no spiritual value to them. Paul had written the Corinthians already about this matter comparing himself to them. He had boasted of his own suffering and his own visions. He had explained that an apostle is accredited by God through God’s hand in his life. These people’s lives who were slandering Paul didn’t have a shred of spiritual influence. It was such issues that Paul wanted to settle with the church now, once and for all. And here’s how he wanted to settle these issues.
He had warned them on his second visit while he was with them. Now he is repeating the warning to them in a letter while away from them. But now when he comes again to visit them he will not spare those who have violated the sanctity of the church and deliberately sinned. These are the people who are warned time and again, but like those who have no conscience, it seems as if warnings go unheeded. They seem to listen; they seem to be regretful for what they had done; they seem repentant; but as soon as the opportunity for sin comes again, since they never really dealt with the sin problem at its roots in their hearts, that same sin springs back to life and they make the best of it, again and again. Soon, they are sinning all over again, and they are doing it without remorse or a care in the world as if they had no care in the world whom they might damage along the way. This is the kind of people Paul would not spare because they were like parasites in the church, eating away at the very fabric of the body of Christ chipping away, making the body weak and vulnerable to the devil. More than that, look how they were defending themselves in order to maintain their sinful habits and in order to continue doing as they please. Paul says that they were “demanding proof that Christ is speaking through [him].”
How did Paul answer to that? Paul explained yet again the difference between what real weakness is and what real strength is. They had been bold in sinning. And they were also bold in their criticism of Paul. But all this because they mistook Paul to be weak and unimpressive. They were disillusioned by the impressive and powerful things of the world that appear powerful but have no power in the spiritual sense. They didn’t know that “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (10:4) Paul was going to handle this situation wit Christ’s authority when he visits them again. And this time he won’t be easy on them at all. This time, they would not be met with the gentle kind and soft spoken shepherd Paul who comes like a father to counsel his unruly children. This time Paul was determined to come with the power of the risen Christ to rebuke and to discipline those who have deliberately sinned and undermined the gospel of God’s grace. Paul used Christ’s example to convince them of what he’s talking about regarding what real power is all about. If they really knew Christ, they would know that Christ’s crucifixion was not a display of weakness but rather a display of God’s awesome power, demonstrated through the love of God. Why would Paul come to them in power this time around? It was exactly the same reason Christ demonstrated his power. Look at the end of verse 4. It was to serve sinners. Paul wanted to serve them. Using God’s power to rebuke and to chastise and to discipline is using it for the good of those in the church who need it— it is to serve them, because it is God’s love.
Up until now, some of them wanted to put Paul through the grinder and test him to see if he was a real apostle. How ridiculous is that when he had poured out his life to preach the gospel to them when they were lost in sin and wandering in the world without God! He had given them everything they needed to take their first steps in the Lord and had done all there is to do to help them mature in the faith. Now some of them had become corrupt and wanted to put him to the test. How does Paul deal with it? Let’s read verse 5. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?” As we mentioned, so far they had tested his apostleship. And Paul had very patiently borne with them. We also saw how Paul humbly defended himself in the truth of God. But look at what he does now that he is almost at the end of his letter. He challenges them to examine themselves! What kind of a test is this? He wants them to look deep in their hearts to see if they are in the faith— if they are living and acting by faith. Is their faith still rooted and grounded in the Lord and in his gospel? Are they trusting in the Lord? How are they making their decisions? Are they making them based on human reasoning or emotion, or are they basing them on the truth of God? If they are still in the faith, Christ would still be in their hearts and lives. And if Christ in their hearts and lives, they would pass the test. Otherwise, they would fail.
Paul called them to conduct a spiritual checkup on themselves to see if they were truly in the faith or not— if they were in Christ or not! Why is such a test necessary for them and for us? Because when we examine ourselves honestly, we also usually find many sins that we need to repent of; and we also find many ways that we could be better than we are! And when we honestly take a good look at ourselves, how can we even begin to criticize others or each other? So many people usually use this example about criticism, even though they hardly live by it themselves. They say: “If you point a finger at someone else, you’ll be pointing a thumb up at God and three fingers back at yourself.” The truth is that we each must examine ourselves first. This is especially true for those with godly responsibilities— as the Bible says: “…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (Romans 2:21a) That’s why its so important for us to examine our hearts, and our devotion to God; and to examine the way we study the Bible; to examine our attitude of worship; examine our self discipline; and examine our faith— has our faith become casual or is it still on fire for the Lord; we have to also take the time to examine our sense of mission— do we still hold mission and one to one Bible study and reflection writing and caring for the sheep close to our heart or do we need to ask the Lord to ignite that fire again? It is also imperative to examine our hearts to see if we are bearing the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control? (Gal 5:22) Or do we find ourselves at times hateful, grumpy, and angry. Of course, we will not always pass the test. But thank God for the grace of repentance which the Lord has given us. When we repent, the Lord intervenes and our hearts are filled with his joy and blessings. Then our church community grows in bonds of unity and love as it should!
Paul also wanted them to stand on the truth by doing what is right (6-7). So he tells them in verse 8. “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Why did he say this? Because whatever authority Paul has been using as an Apostle, he has been using it in support of the truth. He has always stood on the truth of God and on his Word of truth. And that is why Paul had always been confident in everything he had taught them and in confident in helping them mature into a beautiful church, in spite of the problems they had. He had absolutely depended on the word of God in his teaching and preaching. So he was powerful. Paul fully understood how eagerly God wants to build his church upon the truth. For this reason, Paul couldn’t abide nor tolerate false gospels nor false teachers who corrupt the truth. He knew that God dwells only where truth is honored. We need to know this and keep it in our hearts at all times. In God’s church there must always be two things: Truth and Grace. So every one of us who is a child of God, should work for the truth— and we must work for it without a hint of compromise. When we observe the condition of some of those who call themselves the church today, it’s sad that they look more like Sodom and Gomorrah than a church of Jesus our Lord. So, all the more it is our privilege that we stand on the Truth and defend it. It is also our privilege that we uphold the Grace of the Lord side by side with the Truth so that the lost children of God may see the light and come to the Lord for salvation.
Paul really didn’t like to be harsh with them as he testifies in verses 9-10. Then in verse 11, he gives them his final instructions. “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” He wanted them to strive for sanctification. He wanted them to be perfect like the Lord Jesus who died to set them free and to ensure their sanctification. Amazing! It’s truly amazing that God’s hope for them and for all of us is to grow in the image of the Lord Jesus throughout our whole lifetime. Paul’s final greeting was: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” In the early church they may have greeted each other with a holy kiss, but in our ministry we should settle our greetings with one another with two by two prayer and a “God bless you.” Read verse 14. “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen. Thank God who blessed us to study this letter and to learn how important it is to build our lives and church upon God’s truth. Amen.