Remember, Paul, in the larger context of this letter here, is speaking to believers. This is important, because he is discussing salvation in a way that is largely ignored in Christendom, and seems poorly understood by all except the faithful, and that is sanctification, the act of God imparting His holiness to us through His work and our cooperation.
We should contrast this with justification, the act of God declaring us righteous in the first place. This is why Christ died in our place according to the Gospel. He became human, he lived for between 33 and 34 years as a human, in perfect obedience to God under the Law of Moses, and then deliberately and knowingly gave up that life as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us vicariously on the cross. All those big words are chosen and precise in their definition, but the basically mean that Christ died for OUR sins as a substitute (vicariously), atoning for them (propitiation), with God then declaring us righteous in Christ (expiation), which pronounces us as faultless before God (justification). This is a sole work of our triune God, as opposed to sanctification, which God allows His new creations in Christ to learn to CHOOSE to do His will, and instead of simply imputing His righteousness (giving us the righteousness of another, Christ) monergistically (alone by Himself), He imparts His righteousness to our changed natures by teaching us to choose His will and live according to His Word. This is defined as sanctification, the process whereby He makes us holy, and it is said to by synergistic, that is we are allowed by God to participate in the act by our choices, that will move out into our works. However, it is still mostly His work – and none of what we do to become holy is worth two cents if we have not been born again, or saved, or converted, or justified, or redeemed, or regenerated – whatever term you want to choose for justification.
Paul is speaking of sanctification here to believers, and when justification does come up (as it does in 4:15, for example), it is mentioned as happening as a result of Christians that have said yes to sanctification and are choosing to live as God commands. If you read carefully, Paul is using this kind of sanctification as evidence of justification before God and all of His gifts to men, including His own Apostleship.
I normally give a great big review of how we have gotten to the point we are in the book, but at this point, I’m tired of repeating myself, and there are only two more studies including this one in the series, and in all of the Pauline Epistles that we have yet to cover. Most of it is on video, and you can find it, at least right now, on the Berean Nation YouTube channel, so check it out, and subscribe while you’re at it. I need 987 more subscribers to get the really fun toys. Meaning I have 13 subscribers on YouTube. That’s okay, I’ve never said the message was popular.
At this point, I would rather just give a short summary of why we are where we are. We are at this point in 2 Corinthians because Paul, the humble, and self-effacing servant of God, was forced by events and people to give a defense of his service to Christ, and so he has chosen to address the false teachers, who have called themselves “super apostles,” on their own level in their own fashion, but then set his own goalposts in concrete and dared them to take a shot on net by simply using their terms of what it means to be an Apostle of Christ, but in a way no sane person would ever wish on another human being, let alone knowingly put themselves through unless they had a worthwhile enough cause, in Paul’s (and hopefully our) case, that of Christ, who has the right to expect us to do what we can do to bring glory and honour to His name and never worry about our own ease or comfort.
Think about this for a minute. Paul was beat up, hit with sticks, whipped, lied to and about, been on ships that had sunk and spent a day and a night in the sea, And who knows what other craziness–all to bring the word of Christ’s death and resurrection to the world. None of these “super apostles” could say the same. All they could do is a) make stuff up, and b) attack and malign Paul’s character so that he had to respond…and respond he did with the third of four letters that we know about, often called the “angry letter,” which has been lost to history, but may in fact have been preserved in some form in chapters 10-13 of this letter. That is why we are studying it: To see what information WE can glean so we do not fall into the same issues that the Corinthians.
You also need to recall that the Corinthian believers were a part of the most issue-ridden church of the day. The regions around Corinth had turned the name of the city into a verb, to Corinthianize. That meant to completely debauch or debase any person, place, or thing to a very low degree by shameful and licentious behaviour. How would you like your city’s name to have that done to it? Although “to Ottawize” has more of the connotation of taxing something to death these days [chuckle].
So with all of that as an understanding from last week, what we can say is that a humble servant of God is called upon to do a little bragging about himself–and he does, but not in a way you would expect. Oh, he bragged about his achievements to be sure, but it is what he defined as achievements that would have most of us gritting our teeth. I know mine were clenched…but in a whoa, that’s quite a ride kind of way. Paul knew something–that anything this world would give him was skubalon compared to the riches of the knowledge of the greatness of Christ. That greatness of Christ certainly had a greater cost. For those of you that did not follow when I said the word “skubalon,” that the semi-liquid putrescence that comes out the back-end of a bovine animal, and growing up on a farm, I certainly dealt with enough of it to know.
KV4: Jesus died because of our weakness–and lives by the power of God
For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
1-4: You want proof of Christ in me? Okay, here it comes…
5-10: Paul would rather not use severity, but if that’s what you need…
11-14: Final Instructions to Corinth…and all of us…
The first thing I have to say, because we have spoken a bit here of the “choice” of the believer, and the “exercise of their will,” is that this is all possible for us at all because of the Power of Christ, and the will of God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere in Scripture, it talks about how it is God the Father that has foreknown, foreordained, called, justified, and glorified us all. Notice no mention of Sanctification in that Ordo saludus? It isn’t because it isn’t important, it is because THIS is where God involves the “free will” He has given to us in the working model of salvation. You cannot have this without Justification before God, all made possible in His Son, and who the heck cares how we got there? This is not the place to argue about Calvinism vs. Arminiansim, Beloved. This is the place to accept what the word says about it after reading this. It is not about us, remember…it is about Him. See what I mean in the study itself.
KV4: Jesus died because of our weakness–and lives by the power of God
For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
Now what moron would think to himself that we had anything to do with any of this? The only thing we ever did was bad, and Jesus, God the Son, died to pay the penalty for that. And YET, He lives…by the power of God, which the key verse I chose makes very plain, God directed not toward Him, but to those God chose, the believers in Corinth, and everywhere and everywhen else, if I may coin a word. The story here is not about us, Beloved. The story was, and is, and always will be about Him, the Christ, the Son of God. He was not weak, in that He was Himself God. And yet, he chose a path that would ultimately expose Himself to the wrath of the Father for all those who would and will ever believe in Him. He suffered the ignominy [public shame or disgrace] that we should have suffered, and though He died most painfully, He lives today in Heaven, where He sits on the Throne of the Universe with His Father, and He has even made Him OUR Father. It is no small thing that Jesus lived the life we should have lived and then laid it down to die the death that we all deserved.
I can hear the objections: “But I’m not that BAD! I mean, I’m not Hitler!” (Or Stalin, or Mao, or Pol-pot, or fill in the blank with your favorite monstrous inhuman tyrant…) Maybe that’s true…but how would you stack up against GOD’S holy standard, the great Decalogue, also known as the Ten Commandments, His moral law?
Let’s try a few at random. Have you ever told a lie? Even a small one? I’ll give you a hint–if you answered “no” there, you have just told one, whether you remember it or not, whether you agree with me or not. Reality is objective, and if you don’t believe that, ram your head against the door frame 10 or 12 times and then tell me how your head feels. So that would be what we call a “fail.”
Have you ever stolen anything? I mean taken something that was not yours without the intention of returning it? Maybe you don’t remember, but I bet you have, even if it was an extra minute by the water cooler at work. That too is a form of theft, because while you are at work, your time belongs to your employer. And if you don’t think you have even then, you have most definitely robbed God of the attention due Him every Sunday or at other times. He created you and you belong to Him. If you want to go on without Him, that makes you at a minimum a thief. Again–fail.
Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? I bet you have. How would you feel if I turned YOUR name, or worse, your mother’s name into a cuss word? You kiss your mother with that mouth? Of course not, you would never do that…that’s your mother, and no matter how you sometimes feel about her, that’s the woman that gave you life, and you love her at some level for that. But that’s what you are doing by using the Lord’s name as a curse word. That’s the One that created you. And you use his name as a curse word to express disgust. In the Old Testament, that was called “blasphemy,” and that crime was so serious it was punishable by death! So–another fail.
Here’s one that every guy will get especially, but also ladies. Have you ever looked on another human being that you are not married to with lust for them in your heart? If you guys answered that, “Of course, I’m a guy,” you got the right answer, and it is surprisingly just as common among females, and isn’t specific to orientation! Jesus said if you look on someone like that, you have committed adultery in your heart already. So–yet another fail.
This one is a little darker…but as serious as a heart attack, and I can tell you firsthand those are serious. Have you ever murdered anyone? I can tell you that you have. Jesus said, in Matthew 5 if you want to fact-check me on this, that if you are angry with another person without a real cause, you have already committed murder in your heart. I agree, you didn’t actually kill them…but have you ever practiced, because of that anger and distaste, the art of character assassination? You know that’s true, even if you’re denying that to yourself (making you a liar, remember where we started). So…fail.
Beloved, that’s five out of ten commandments, and you have still broken every single one of them. You cannot do anything BUT that if God Himself has not awakened you to your own sinfulness. And if He has done that and you’re sitting there thinking, “That’s me…” Then I have GREAT news. “For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.” It says in ch.5:21 that “He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son] who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf–so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [God the Son from the context]. The story isn’t about you…it is about how He saved you, and all the glory SHOULD go to Him as a result.
It is this power that the Apostle Paul is speaking of all through the book of 2 Corinthians, and specifically, he speaks of its power to change lives in those God has chosen for His own reasons to change, and Paul is not pulling punches about this. The false teachers that referred to themselves as the Super Apostles (but were not) said that Christ did not really live in Paul, and told the Corinthians to demand proof. Paul, not to say the Lord Himself, was willing to oblige.
1-4: You want proof of Christ in me? Okay, here it comes…
Paul was once and for all going to show them that in fact Christ did live in him, and the reasons why. He was going to show the false teachers to be false, and relieve the church in Corinth of anyone that would follow them, and he was about to visit them in person to do so. Let’s get into the text.
1: This is the third time I am coming to you. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.
- This is a repeat of the words Paul used in 12:14. This is not, as some have falsely suggested, a transcription error. We have all done this while speaking, have we not? Paul is using repetition to make a point, demonstrating the very oratory and literary skill that these false apostles claimed he did not have, and therefore could not do. And what does he do right after that? He quotes from the Old Testament, in fact from Deuteronomy 17:6, and 19:15. We’ll read the verses because the meaning is context-sensitive in 2 Corinthians. Paul is using the passages he is quoting in their Old Testament context.
- On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. (Deut. 17:6)
- A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. (Deut.19:15)
- Paul is saying that he isn’t, as have the Corinthians, just going to take the word of one more-or-less flimsy witness. He is going to take the time to establish the facts of the case and then pronounce godly judgement, and sentence. There is another place this is quoted in Scripture, and it is appropriately in the mouth of Jesus Himself in Matthew 18:16 in the passage about church discipline. That is the very purpose that Paul has in mind here.
2: I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone,
- Paul is alluding to the depressing last time he visited Corinth. He had told them then. He wrote them an angry letter about it. I don’t know if you saw the Justin Peters Meme about the difference between his letter to Philippi and his letter to Galatia, but it kind of sums up the argument.
- Paul was…well…how would I say it…put out. In the extreme. About these false teachers that were likely the cause of all the nonsense that had been going on in Corinth…likely from the very beginning. If you have been with us, this is not the only instance in Scripture where the enemies of God have tried to steal a congregation from Paul. The Thessalonians also had a second letter written to them because someone had creatively written a letter claiming to be from Paul himself…but preaching all kinds of false teachings. Paul wrote the second letter then to clear that up. He is wring this letter here to clear up the face-to-face chicanery that the wolves were running against the Lord’s sheep in Corinth.
- Paul is saying here that he will not spare anyone that is found to be following any of the false teachings of these individuals. He will continue his statement in the next verse, because this verse ends with a comma.
3: since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
- Paul states the truth. “You want to see Christ speaking in me? Okay, here it goes.” Paul goes on to say that Christ is not weak toward the Corinthians. What could that possibly mean? One commentator, Dr. John MacArthur, has suggested that since the Corinthians wanted an authority structure in the church, Paul was about to speak about that. We here in the West have lost the plot in terms of the centralization of authority, because we live here in Canada, in a representative democracy. We have a federal government, and then we have a provincial government, and they each have their realms of authority, and who has how much of what kind of authority isn’t always straight forward, because our representatives are the ones who vote on the policies that will govern our democracy. You will note here that the Church is NOT a democracy. It is a monarchy, and it has a living, reigning, righteous monarch that is very much in control within His actual people, King Jesus, ruler and Creator of the universe and everything it contains. He makes unilateral decisions, and all of His true people, that is to say, all believers through all of time over all of the world, love Him for it. Contrariwise, the rest of the world hates Him for it, and because we are with Him, it hates us also. Christ demands that we follow Him with everything we are and everything we have. For this, for such weak creatures as ourselves, it means that He has to give us His strength and grace to face such a hostile environment. It is that Christ who speaks in Paul, and that Christ is not weak, but is mighty…and might IN YOU! If you are His, He is in you, and you will be able to stand in the face of the world and its religion of Moronism (Yes, there is a Mormon joke there, but I’m not trying to be funny.)
4: For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
- That brings us to our key verse in context. For all of the opposition to Christ and His aims and goals for His creation, both demonic and moronic, Christ died for us on a Roman cross so that we would be able to escape the plans of the enemies of God and the wrath of God that is coming on the planet because of that. I think we’re already seeing that, but not in the cosmic signs and wonders just yet. Did you notice that Mexico refused to say that having an abortion was against their constitution? Later that day, they were hit with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. I’m not conspiratorially tying those events together, but look at what happens! A nation takes a slide into the pit of sin and it loses some of its protection against natural disasters. Another step is wicked leadership. I don’t want to cast aspersions, I’m just saying. I could make connections here in Canada, but then people will call me a conspiracy theorist. I’m not. I’m observant. My mind makes connections between causes and effects. I don’t make this stuff up.
- Christ was indeed crucified on a Roman cross, yes, he was given over by the Jews, but it was actually the Roman army that crucified our Lord. And where is the Roman army today? Gone, with its empire. Mind you, the current EU is a bit of revival of sorts of that empire, but I don’t want to get into that or its prophetic implications or we will be here all night.
- Paul says that Christ was crucified for weakness. I ask you…was the weakness His? Some would suggest that it was His weakness, or God the Father’s weakness. Certainly the enemy thinks that. I suggest that there is no weakness in executing a perfect plan in perfect fashion. We know Christ was meant to go to the cross, and in fact provoked that deliberately. So whose weakness is referred to here in the text? I think it must be ours. Paul says in this verse, “we are weak in Him.” That isn’t Paul’s exact meaning, but it is a category statement to say that we are weak. If we are the “wekness” for which Christ died, then the rest of the verse makes sense.
- Though He died in human weakness, He lives because of the power of God. And although we are weak, if we are in Him, we also will live by the Power of God in Him, because that power, Paul tells us, was directed toward US!
You see Beloved, theology matters. Interpretation matters. Exposition matters. Exegesis matters. This isn’t “my interpretation” alone. This is the interpretation of every real believer since Christ rose from the dead. This is the interpretation of historic Christianity! This presents the gospel in all of its power and glory for the Lord through Paul, all while Paul points out that he himself is coming, and will not spare anyone for unrepentant sin. Hey, the Corinthians wanted proof. So do some people I talk to. Just remember…you asked for it.
5-10: Paul would rather not use severity, but if that’s what you need…
Paul is ending this letter in strength. He is absolutely DONE being gentle and meek, because the church needs a leader, and it’s chief Apostle right now. Paul would rather be gentle, and self-controlled with meekness. But he was able to use other attributes when it was required. It is like Paul is saying, “Hey, I don’t want to be severe and authoritarian for the Master, but if that’s the only way you can hear this, then get ready, because here it comes.”
5: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
- Paul’s very first statement here is concerning the gospel, to see if you are an actual believer in Christ. Examine yourselves! Honestly! By the known standards that Paul has spoken in their presence and written to them in letters! Those letters were inspired by God for just that purpose, Beloved! How about you? Let’s take a moment here to do just that and examine ourselves.
- As we did at the beginning of this study, we’re going to look at a list. Not a list of rules like the Ten Commandments, but a list of fruit. Open your bibles or your software to Galatians 5 and read verse 22 and 23. [Someone read that out loud!]
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- Beloved, here is a checklist. If your life is at least starting to line up with all these things, and I’m not perfect either, but I am on my way there, then you are IN THE FAITH. Let’s look at what they mean, because there are false teachers that will attempt to redefine the words on this list, and we aren’t going to let them get away with it.
- Love: agape, the very love of God. It is different from all other kinds of love that we could talk about. Beloved, love is NOT love, is NOT love, is NOT love. The Greek actually has four words in Scripture for this! This is the specific one that is separate from emotion, and married to commitment if you’ll pardon my turn of phrase. It is self-sacrificing, not self-centred. It is actually described in 1 Corinthians 13! We like to read it at weddings, but that’s actually a confusion of sorts. This is divine love. It is not the same love for a man and his woman, for example. That’s storge, familial love. It is not the love for a man with his friend. That’s phileos, brotherly love. It isn’t lust or attraction, either. That’s eros, the attractional emotional force that can be binding, not always to good things. Get the RIGHT love!
- Joy: chara, it means delight. Is your faith full of delight in doing the things of the Lord? If I’m being honest, not always! For example, these bible studies…they’re hard! I spend easily 8-16 hours on them, and I have nothing to show for it afterward, physically speaking. I can’t even get more than three or four people to listen! And that isn’t joy, that’s frustration! But then I remember why I’m doing this, and who gave me the mandate and permission, and called me to do it. And He fills me with that holy delight at doing His will.
- Peace: eirene, a state of mental welfare and calmness regardless of circumstance or situation. It doesn’t matter what is happening, such a peace calms your thoughts and helps you think clearly! It does not actually mean “absence of war,” as I have heard some brothers say over the year. Beloved, we as believers are in a constant state of war with the enemy and with his world system, and make no mistake, he hates us and wants us destroyed. Does that bother you? It should…and yet for some reason, it does not…and it doesn’t bother me either, because I’ve read the book, and I know how it ends for Him and I know how it ends for all of God’s servants.
- Patience: makrothumia, it means long-suffering. We are able to bear with circumstances and situations that we are in, and have that mental calmness (peace).
- Kindness: chrestotes, goodness, uprightness, excellence. This isn’t merely a quality, but is an action here, and expresses itself in deeds of compassion and gentleness when appropriate.
- Goodness: agathosune, what is good. What is right, what is true, what is appropriate, what edifies. Does that describe our speech to each other? Does that describe our behaviour to each other? It should.
- Faithfulness: pistis, again, as an action, not a concept or definition. The Greek word means a conviction based on hearing, or a firm persuasion based on information. We hear that information, and we ACT on it, making the life of EVERYONE better as we are faithful. This does NOT mean “reliable,” as some would suggest. It is a specific word referring to our faith.
- Gentleness: prautes, and it means power under control. Jesus, the King of the universe had the ability to destroy every single sinner in the temple that day where He started flipping tables over and beating people with a whip made of cords (you may be able to tell that I am not a so-called Christian “pacifist,” I don’t think Jesus was a pacifist, and although I know some really smart people that have tried to show that He was, they have to do theological backflips when they come to this passage. It says He beat them. What was “them” referring to? Just the animals to drive them out? I’ll grant it could mean that, but it doesn’t actually say that. It just say “them.” And that includes the people that were there. I personally think He did what He did there consciously to make a point, but to provoke the events that would lead to His own death on a Roman cross days later. See? Theology matters.
- Self-control: enkrateia, actually comes from the word kratos, which means “strength.” It is the specific strength to control oneself under duress of some kind. If someone has offended your sensibilities, you have the power not to do the same in return. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a trait that many people have.
- Beloved, if these things are in your life, and are increasing over time, you are displaying the fruit (singular, it’s all one fruit) of the Spirit, and it is a sure sign you are His, because we are known by our fruits. I have an old friend that coined the phrase “Lady Clairol Christian,” based on that “Only her hairdresser knows for sure” commercial from the 1970s. Only the Lord knows for sure? I’m not sure I agree, but I’m also not sure I don’t, if you know what I mean, because we are all filled with sin, regardless of our justification.
- Some others say that “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I only partly agree based on these words of Paul, and those words of Jesus in John 13. What that passage in John 13 ACTUALLY says is that “They will know we are Christians by our love FOR EACH OTHER as BELIEVERS,” and not or generally mushiness shown to the world in non-specific fashion, which is what they mean.
- So how about it? Do YOU pass the test? Or do you fail it? If you fail, you can turn to Him right now, and repent of your sins, asking forgiveness from a holy God.
6: But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.
- With all that said, I think Paul is giving the Corinthians (and by extension us) some clarity and certainty on that subject. Paul is saying, “I know that I do not fail the test, nor do any of the brothers and sisters that are with me.” From this verse, I have to say–it is possible to know for certain if you are justified and “in Christ” as Paul puts it. If you don’t know for sure, maybe you need to spend less time with Lady Clairol and more time reading the Scriptures. It says in 1 John 5:13, “…that we may KNOW we have eternal life,” not just hope, guess, pray, or wonder. If you don’t know in the 1 John 5:13 sense, the Greek word oida, that is, if you have not seen and perceived, and hence KNOW that you have eternal life in Christ, then maybe you need to go back to step one and repent of all your sins, asking forgiveness for them from a loving God, and MEANING it this time, indicating that you want to change, and aren’t just “filling in a fire insurance policy,” if you take my meaning. Repeat as necessary until you DO know.
7: Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.
- Read that carefully with the previous verse in mind. We pray to God that you do no wrong SEMICOLON. There is more to the statement, and it alters the meaning with context. Not that WE OURSELVES [may look good here]. Paul is saying here, Look, Corinth, do the right thing and follow Christ. What WE look like isn’t what is important, and that is why Paul is saying this.
- This is a direct slap in the face for the false teachers, who would have cared very much what they looked like, and not cared at all what the Corinthians were doing except that they did what they instructed. Why is that important? Because Paul was not concerned with his own agenda. Paul cared for the souls of the Corinthians, and if they were doing what is right, then it wouldn’t matter what else happened, because THAT was what was important.
- Paul reaffirms that in the second half of the verse. So that you do the right thing, even if that makes us look bad (which it wouldn’t have, but the Corinthians needed to hear that).
8: For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.
- That word for “truth” is an interesting word in Greek. Alētheia is used here in the absolute and objective sense. We are talking about not just the facts of the matter, but how they fit into a particular context as well in this verse. The context here comes from the surrounding verses, which are talking about the Corinthians “doing the right thing,” as it were. God’s servants should never stand in the way of a person doing what is right before God. If they ARE doing that, and we can all cite recent examples, then frankly, it makes me wonder if they are really servants of God, or if they are playing for the other team.
- In fact, Paul states this as a two-part phrase. We “have no power” [lit.] to “contradict” or “act against” the objective facts in context, we only “have power” to “support” or “act in support of” the objective facts in context. That’s how we should read this verse. For any that are doing otherwise, well, it is clear to at least me that their repentance is required. Makes me think of Russell Moore for some reason…
9: For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
- Now, this verse adds to the context we are working in. The word “for” is a connecting word, usually indicating a causal relationship but not always. Think about what Paul is actually saying here. Look, servants of God rejoice when YOU do the right thing, that’s what this is distilled down to after all the grammar is sorted out.
- This verse is speaking specifically about the sanctification of the believers in Corinth. First, it is what the Apostle and his co-labourers pray for, and then Paul says, “that you be made complete” in the last part of the verse. The Greek word katatartisis means a making ready, or a perfecting, or a completing of some kind. Vine says that the word itself implies a process that has a consummation at some point. Beloved, isn’t that what we have been saying about sanctification? It is the process by which we are made holy, for without that sanctification, we will not see the Lord, and we participate in that process by “doing the right thing” in the eyes of God, and it literally takes the rest of our life? I have never seen that so clearly as I do in this verse with the use of that Greek word. In fact, Paul says that he and Timothy find this worthy prayer material.
10: For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.
- Paul is writing these things as a kind of a heads up, I’m on my way thing to Corinth. He is saying, “I’m telling you what I will be looking for. Do the right thing and stop the bad behaviours I have named, and do the good behaviours that I have recommended. That way,” Paul says to Corinth, “when I get there, you won’t have to see mean Paul, you get nice Paul.
- With apologies to our very dear brother Justin Peters here, but the meme photo is too good to not refer to it.
Paul adds something here that we should also note. Paul had Apostolic authority from the Lord. That authority was for the building up and strengthening of the church. That did mean that some things had to be surgically excised, but other things needed to be added, like a daily walk with Christ and a study of the Scriptures, among other things. In fact we here at BereanNation.com always recommend four specific things. Those are found in Acts 2:42–The Apostles’ Teaching (the Word of God, individually daily, and at least once per week gathered with the church), Fellowship (with God and with each other, as often as possible), Worship (individually every day, and corporately at least once a week), and Prayer (again, individually daily, and at least once a week as the church gathered together).
We also recommend that a faithful church is a place that is doing ALL of these things every week. If your place of worship is NOT doing these things, there are some things you can do about it. You can talk to the pastor or church leadership, and suggest this to them. If they listen, that’s great! If not, or if they already have abandoned those principles and practices, then you should start looking for a place that does those four things individually and corporately on a weekly basis.
11-14: Final Instructions to Corinth…and all of us…
And here we have arrived at the last few lines of the letter of Paul and his son in the faith Timothy to the church at Corinth. He has a list of final instructions that will help them prepare for his coming, and by extension, these things will also help us to prepare for His coming.
11: Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
- As always, I find it useful to know what words are actually used in Greek so we can do the hard work of knowing their definitions and what is really being told to us. If we take it back to the original language, it most often leaves VERY little room for “your interpretation” accusations that seem to plague all those that wish to walk with Christ. You know, Dr. R. C. Sproul had a great thought on that, and for what it is worth, I will share it. First, the statement assumes there are multiple ways to interpret what is being said, and that is probably true, but most often there are very few real interpretations possible. Second, the statement itself implies that YOUR interpretation is WRONG, and THAT can be fact-checked, as they are wont to do these days. How many other people have the same exact interpretation as you have, and how early did that interpretation occur in church history are questions you can ask to help sort that out. Something I like to do is flip that script. “Really? Then what is YOUR interpretation? I’d like to know where you think I am erring in my interpretation, and how that compares with other historical interpretations of the Word.” There is a guy in our congregation that hates it when I do that. Anyway, on to what the words used say.
- Rejoice: The Greek here is actually chairete, a form of chairo. It literally means to be full of joy. This verb form is in active voice, and that means it is something we do, as opposed to something we have done to us, and it is an important difference as we will note momentarily. We are to choose to live in happiness and contentment. And I should tell you that this is in the second person, so YOU rejoice…and it is plural…YOU ALL choose to fill yourselves with joy at the prospect of Jesus and the salvation He died to give you as a believer.
- Be made complete: katartizo, “to make fit, to equip, to prepare.” This verb is in the passive tense, and it means that contrary to the command to fill ourselves with Joy in Christ, it is something that is done to us. In this sense, the action is to make us holy, and that is done by the Holy Spirit as we choose to fill ourselves with joy in Christ, because the two are connected!
- Be comforted: This Greek word is VERY familiar to all of us here at BereanNation.com. Parakaleo defines the idea of coming alongside to render aid. Again, this is in the passive voice, and it is something that is done to us. We are the objects that are being along-sided, so to speak. And who is the great Paraklete, so named by our Lord Christ? Again, it is the Holy Spirit. He comes alongside to render comfort to be sure, but the aid we require to choose to walk in Christ and not in our flesh, as Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians.
- Be like-minded: phroneo, to be of a certain mindset, to think in a certain way. In my mind, this speaks to one’s worldview among other things, but I think it also means that we try to see eye to eye on things, and if we need to discuss it, then so be it, but we will arrive at a unity of thought on it by discussion. If there is no unity of thought, then the job of being like-minded is not completed. There are a lot of reasons for this, and the very intelligent have a lot of difficulty in this area. We like to be right, and we often have to overcome a great deal of hubris to see eye to eye. But the command, and this is an imperative, is to be like-minded. Vine says this requires moral interest or reflection, not just unreasoning opinion. The issues discussed are not merely intellectual. This is the active voice, and it means WE are to engage in it.
- Live in peace: eireneuo is a form of eirene, and means to live in peace with others. That’s what an ancient Greek person would understand from the word. We are not supposed to argue with one another about words, and meanings that have little or no spiritual consequence, “because that would be unloving,” [he said mockingly]. Romans 12:18 uses the word like this: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Now, in context, Paul, remember is speaking to believers, and this means, “get along.” Remember Euodia and Synteche, those two sisters in Philippi that needed help to get along (Phil. 4:2)? That’s what that means. Just get along. Stop arguing, stop correcting without reason, stop being hurtful in tone or address without Christ. Just…get along and play well with others.
- You see, if you do these things, Paul tells us that the God of Peace will really be with us. To me, that’s a set of marching orders, and if you don’t want to live that way, I completely understand. You are entitled to live any other way you fell you must–but you can’t do that here, so don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Moving on.
12: Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- I could actually say a great deal here, and I entertained some of the things I have seen and heard over the years about just what this says and means, and some of it was downright funny. We’ll just explain and see where this takes us.
- The custom in the ancient near east, according to Dr. MacArthur in his commentary on this letter says that it was the custom for members of the same sex to do a light touching of both cheeks to one another as a form of greeting on occasions of arrival or departure. The short version of this is that the “holy kiss” is just a part of that. You have probably seen ME do that with certain brothers I know and love well. Today, we have replaced that with a firm handshake, but it is meant to be a physical expression of the brotherly affection believers have for each other, even if, or maybe especially if they have not ever or rarely met.
- I remember once hearing about a brother in fellowship somewhere in the midwestern US I think, who wanted to give all the sisters a holy kiss. Needless to say, that wasn’t a holy kiss. The word “holy” takes all of the sexual meaning away if you aren’t married to the other person. Anyway, one of my brothers there saw what he was doing, so he thought he’d “obey the scriptures” as this brother was suggesting to the sisters he was assaulting like this. When the brother extended his hand for a handshake, our brother pulled him right into him and laid a holy kiss right on the lips. He exposed that this other fellow was no brother at all, but was a “brother” looking at the “sisters” as potential bedmates, and he was sampling the population as it were. That “brother,” I am told, never attended another meeting.
- Greet each other when you see each other. And be affectionate toward each other! Remember who we are! The writer of Hebrews calls us “Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling.” We should address and treat each other as such. Not argue with each other about triviality after a meeting.
13: All the saints greet you.
- And in classic fashion, Paul is sending the greetings of all the saints with the letter. Though they were separated by distance, they were one in Spirit, and Paul wanted to assure the Corinthians that we are indeed one big, raucous, and joy-filled family, and we share the great love of our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ with each other. Other believers everywhere today share in the same love they had then, regardless of where they may be. When you think about it, it fills you with joy and wonder at the power of God to create such a thing as the church.
14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
- And with that final thought, Paul gives really the ultimate trinitarian benediction that characterizes most if not all of his letters, and he gives them like this. The GRACE [charis] of our Lord Jesus Christ. That grace, or if you like, unmerited favour of God in Christ, makes all of this possible, and it is because of the LOVE [agape] of God [the Father because He is mentioned separately from both Christ and the Holy spirit in this verse] that we have a reason for all of this in the first place, and the Holy Spirit, who gives earthly believers the power to live this way to begin with–this triune God be with you all.
Here at the end of the letter, several things should become obvious. First, Paul, talking to believers, has outright stated, against the false teachings of his detractors, that Christians are made by Christ’s sacrifice, and not some special knowledge that Gnostic teachers can impart for a fee. Second, he has let it be made known that there is a code of conduct for a Christian, and that is live without sin as much as possible, and to be mortifying it, or confessing and forsaking it when it comes up, and when it comes up again, until it is gone, even if that doesn’t happen until Jesus comes for us. Third, he has shown that he is in fact a capital-A Apostle, with the requisite authority and accompanying miraculous power to demonstrate that authority to the world. These so-called “super apostles” were nothing but frauds and needed to be put out of the church, much like they especially do today, but that is another topic. Finally, he has demonstrated for all time that he has followed the Lord Jesus everywhere he was led by the Spirit of God, and calls us to be like him in his pursuit of Christ.
May we be everything that he wanted and prayed for regarding Corinth…and by extension, for us. May we represent our Lord half so well as Paul did, and pursue Christ and his commands like he did, and like all the believers of Corinth did. Because WE are their legacy.
And that’s what I saw in the BOOK of 2 Corinthians, and in chapter 13 of the same.
Now, I need to say that I’m taking three Thursdays off from the Bible Study. Part of that is because this is hard, I have diminished health, and I need a break for a week. Part of this is because I have some upcoming pulpit supply, and there are only so many hours in the day. Some of it is to get ready for our next book, which I am glad to say is one that I started in 2014 and never got to finish because of my November 2014 heart attack.
We will be taking a bunch of different authors at once, which are usually called the General Epistles, and run from James through Jude. I don’t know what we will study after that, but in following my burden from the Lord it will be a New Testament book. I have it in my mind that I must preach through the New Testament, and I don’t know why just the New Testament, but that is my burden from Him. So on October 7 of next month, we will be starting the Book of James! I’m excited for that.
Close in prayer.