2Cor.13:1-10 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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2 Corinthians 13:1-10


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Goals and Resolutions

How adaptable are you? Do you find it an easy thing to change your plans when circumstances change? Are you able to see the bigger picture and keep focused on what really matters? Or when you have decided upon a course of action do you stick to it come what may?

The apostle Paul was prepared to be highly adaptable in order to attain his goal of building up the Corinthians and not of destroying them. To do this he wasn’t about to push forward his own interests and claims at all costs.

Here as he comes to the end of his letter Paul speaks directly and firmly. He is soon to come to Corinth - this time for the third time - and the tone of his visit will be determined in large measure by the response that the Corinthians make to what he has written in this letter.

Paul hadn’t written to them out of the blue or with impersonal indifference. Paul loved the Corinthians and had invested very heavily in them:

  • he had already paid them two visits and was about to pay them another

  • he wrote them a number of letters – two are found in the NT but he probably wrote at least two more

  • he passed greetings to them from other churches

  • he sent some of his best colleagues to help them and urged others to go as well

  • he received news back from them and used it to help fuel his prayers for them all

In fact Paul’s first visit to Corinth was to last a year and a half as he stayed teaching the word of God.

No-one could, in all seriousness, call into question Paul’s concern for this particular church. And yet we should realise that in all this Paul was functioning simply as a minister, a servant, a bond-slave of Jesus Christ. All the concern he demonstrated, impressive though it was, was merely a pale reflection of Christ’s own love for the church:

Eph.5:25, 29 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."

"Tough Love"
While no-one should doubt the reality of Paul’s love for the Corinthians, we must not understand that love as being sentimental or indulgent. Genuine love is robust and vigorous and it seeks the best for the one who is loved. Such love does not pander to the other’s foibles and weaknesses but takes a long-term view, taking the risk of rejection in order to promote a more lasting benefit.

And so motivated by this kind of love Paul abruptly turned from what he had just been writing about to write about his next visit to see them; it would be his third visit and it was imminent.

When he arrived he would make no attempt to leave the existing problems any longer unresolved, there would be no papering over of the cracks. If accusations and insinuations had been made and allowed to fester causing tensions between Paul and the believers in Corinth they would have to be brought out into the open and every charge would have to be substantiated by witnesses – this in harmony with the Law of Moses.

Feelings, impressions and appearances are not the solid foundation upon which relationships are to be built nor by which they are to be destroyed.

Up until now the Corinthians had been acting as though it was the apostle who was in the dock, as though it was he who was on trial and needing to defend himself. They had been acting as though it was up to Paul to prove that his credentials were genuine and trustworthy.

Paul, however, saw things very differently. Paul knew his ministry to be authentic and knew that his coming on this his third visit would be a demonstration of the fact that Christ spoke clearly in and through him.

In the light of this conviction Paul did not see himself as being under scrutiny and instead issued a challenge to the Corinthians. They who thought Paul needed to be tested needed to examine themselves. There was a real danger that they might fail the test and so show that they were failures themselves.

Paul did not issue his challenge in that childish tit-for-tat manner that we can so easily employ. When we do that sort of thing all we really want to ensure is that it is us who shine when we’re compared to others. This is not what motivated the apostle.

Paul had two goals and they both concerned the Corinthians; he was not primarily interested in his own reputation or status as an end in itself but only in so far as that could help promote his primary goals:

  • he wants them to stop doing what is wrong

  • he wants them to do what is right

And yet Paul was well aware that on his visit to the Corinthians he might be called upon to exercise stern disciplinary measures if he were to succeed in bringing to order this recalcitrant congregation.

Paul was prepared to do what was necessary. If the exercise of stern discipline was what was required (even if Paul might not personally wish to do so) stern discipline is what Paul was ready to apply.

The actual description of such discipline is not to be found in what Paul writes here. He doesn’t make the slightest attempt to explain just what might be entailed. I think that part of the reason at least why Paul doesn’t want to spell it all out beforehand is that he really does hope that it will not in the event prove necessary. What Paul really longs for and prays earnestly for is that the full restoration of the Corinthians will be secured without the need for discipline to be exercised at all. Yet discipline will be employed if restoration proves impossible without it.

This in itself should help us to see the true value and worth of discipline. Christian, or church, discipline is designed to promote the ultimate well-being of the one being disciplined; it is meant to be restorative. It is not about the imposition of punishment or retribution.

If the Corinthians were actually to respond to this current letter the way in which Paul hoped they would, they would have repented even before he arrived with them.

Continued Weakness
Now if the Corinthians were to respond positively to the warnings and threatening contained in this letter concerning possible disciple one of the outcomes would be that Paul would not have any need to exercise disciple upon arrival. Thus Paul would be deprived of a stage upon which his apostolic authority might have been displayed. With no such display of authority and power others might continue to consider Paul to be weak.

We are often far too concerned about our own reputation and not nearly concerned enough about those the well-being of others with whom we may come into contact. But this was not the case with the apostle who leaves us a fine example to strive to imitate. Just take a look at v.9:

v.9 "For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for."

Of course this way of doing things did not begin with the apostle Paul who himself was seeking to construct his own ministry life after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

May that attitude that flowed from Christ to Paul flow into our hearts too.


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