As we all know by now, Paul has been defending his apostolic ministry since chapter three, and this passage is his conclusion; or maybe I should more accurately say the epilogue. When you come right down to it, the conclusion of the persuasive defense was in the last passage, for here we have more about the result of the matter than a final appeal.
Everyone was now happy.
First, let’s recap the events: Paul spent a significant amount of time in Corinth preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and working with the new believers there to build a church. After that he went to Ephesus where he remained for a long time. While in Ephesus he kept in touch with the church in Corinth and sent at least one letter there. Later, they sent a letter to Paul asking about a number of things they were having trouble with and Paul wrote back answering their questions and adding his thoughts on a few things they hadn’t asked about; we call that letter 1 Corinthians. Pail had plans to return to Corinth for a visit…
Then, word reached Paul that a group had arisen, mostly from outside of the congregation, in opposition to Paul, apparently telling the people there that Paul had mis-taught the gospel, taken advantage of them and was apparently attempting to abuse their contributions made for the church in Jerusalem. I think we can infer that these allegations became rather personal: Paul went to Corinth to confront his accusers, and that confrontation wasn’t pretty; things were said, emotions rose… Paul went to Macedonia.
From Macedonia, Paul shot off another letter to Corinth, a letter containing some pointed comments. Paul, who had expected to meet up with Titus in Troas, was very grieved; Titus was not there or anywhere in Macedonia. The people in Corinth were also very grieved; what had they done?
Finally, Titus appears on the scene and he was able to report that the Corinthians had come to their senses, dealt with the troublemakers and repented entirely of their little rebellion against Paul. As a result, Paul is all the more impressed by the Corinthians, for they have come to see a mistake and they had rectified it themselves: Harmony was restored and everyone is happy again. Then, Paul sent another letter, we call it 2 Corinthians.
Reading though the text we have already seen quite a few lessons to apply to our own times. Yet there are a few more we should consider…
First, there are a lot of people who would like to sow chaos in the church, and we must not allow ourselves to be misled by them.
Second, Christians should not take church advice from non-Christians.
Third, we are all human, and even the best and most mature among us are susceptible to being carried away with emotion: Be careful what you say to people.
Fourth, when there is a real threat to the unity of the church, deal with it sooner, not later.
Fifth, when we realize that we have made a mistake, admit it, repent and move on in the Lord, don’t worry about saving face.
Sixth, always remember that in Christ, forgiveness is the default setting.
I’m sure I can come up with a few more, and by all means, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts if you’d care to. For me the bottom line is this: Even in the first century when churches had direct communication with the apostles, they had problems. People made mistakes, people said things they shouldn’t have, and had their feelings hurt. Yet they faced their issues, they repented when they needed to, and they forgave when they needed to; it was never perfect, it was never easy. Yet they persevered and built the Kingdom, and their legacy is with us to this very day, a legacy of purpose, of hope and of life, and we should thank God for them and follow their example as best we can in the Lord.