2 Corinthians 13
It would appear from these verses that Paul is wrapping up this final defense of his ministry by taking the offensive. He will shortly make another trip to Corinth, and when he arrives, any remaining opposition will be dealt with in strength, not by Paul’s strength, but with the strength of the Lord.
This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 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 in our dealing with you. (13:1-4)
Paul has had enough of the Corinthian rebellion; Jesus has had enough of the Corinthian rebellion− it’s about the get real.
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? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. (13:5-6)
In these remarkable verses Paul is telling the people in Corinth to examine, to test themselves to determine whether or not they are in Christ at all. If they are, they should have the Holy Spirit within them, and if they do not, then they have failed the test and were never in Christ: Ouch!
Of course, should they pass this self-examination, the Spirit will confirm that Paul is for real and that their whole rebellion is wrong, a complete fake. This assumption of Paul’s brings us to the heart of the entire matter and to a point that all of us need to learn. If we are in Christ and someone comes along and challenges the church or its leadership, we usually insist that the church, or its leadership must defend themselves against such charges, for this is the way of Men. Yet Paul has just turned the tables entirely, by telling them to examine themselves, their motivations and whether or not they are really followers of Christ. If they are really followers of Christ, they need to seek God’s guidance and be prepared to prove their allegations with two or three honest witnesses− God is not amused by people who sow dissention and division in His Body, the church.
Naturally, God is even less amused by people in positions of authority or leadership who abuse their positions in the church, so if you are indeed His follower, you must have your facts straight and be prepared to prove them before you launch an attack against anyone.
That is where these individuals in Corinth have gone wrong.
It would seem from our text that this is going to be their last chance to get things right in Corinth, because when Paul comes to town, there will be no end of trouble for anyone who hasn’t either repented or gotten their facts straight, for the truth will come out. It would seem that Paul is optimistic about the result:
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (13:11-14)
As we’ve seen before, most of the Corinthians had come to terms with what was happening in their congregation and had come to realize that the outside instigators of these problems were troublemakers who simply desired to tear down the Church. With these words of encouragement for everyone, coming after Paul’s injunction for self-examination, I think that Paul believed the Corinthians would have the issues settled before his arrival there. Things happen in this life, sometimes people are led astray for a time by criticism, by lies, by instigators… Sometimes people who appear to be the very strongest in the church are fooled and have a hard time recognizing their mistake; this is the human condition.
Yet in the final analysis, people who truly love the Lord and who honestly seek His guidance, not to win the argument, but to follow Him, will find the path of truth, as long as the others will adopt the path of love and allow the ones in error to repent and be restored.
Oh, and just in case, Paul is on his way to make sure they get it right.