II Corinthians 1:1-1-7 Comfort In The Midst Of Suffering
Paul begins his letter with his usual salutation whereby he clearly identifies himself and his office as an apostle, always stressing that he is such by God’s will (v. 1). In this letter he includes Timothy in his salutation, who had become a trustworthy helper and co-worker with Paul by this time, and a brother. His address is not just for the Corinthians, but he intended it to be a circular for all the saints in Achaia. Grace and peace is a common greeting for Paul with grace always preceding, for peace with God and each other, is always dependent on grace, and including the Father with Jesus (Cf. Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; I Th. 1:1; II Th. 1:2; I Tm. 1:2; II Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4).
Paul continually affirms the equality of the ontological Trinity, in the case of his greeting, the equal essence and divinity of Father and Son, and their relationship of Father and Son. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (v. 3 Cf. I Pet. 1:3) Knowing God as Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, opens the door to his abundant mercy and comfort. Tribulations will come, but He comforts us in midst of them all. “I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Is. 51:12a) “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Is. 66:13) It is the same covenant LORD thoughout the ages, and with His comfort also comes peace (Is. 66:12).
His comfort also serves a purpose beyond our own tribulations. In knowing His comfort we are able to comfort others (v. 4). Do we know His comfort-for this is the qualification for being able to truly comfort another? We share in Christ sufferings by following Him. But we also share in His comfort (v. 5 Cf. 4:10). Paul is clear that the affliction which he speaks of, is that which comes because one seeks to serve the Lord and His church (v. 6 Cf. 4:15; 12:15). But one day we shall also be glorified together (Rom. 8:17). This is our steadfast hope (v. 7). But it all isn’t waiting till glory. There is abundant mercies and comfort for His saints in the here and now. And with this comfort we are all equipped to comfort one another.
II Corinthians 1:8-14 Deliverance, Prayer, And Persevering In The Faith.
Deliverance from a death sentence might very well have been the reason for Paul’s thanksgiving to the Lord, possibly the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23ff.). He also gives thanks to the Corinthians for praying for him and his colleagues, and the gift granted may very well have been their lives, freed to give continued service (v. 11 Cf. 4:15; 9:11; Rom. 15:30-31). Whatever the experience was, it forced them to put all their trust in God whom they reasoned, “raises the dead.” (v. 9) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD.” (Jer. 17:7) Paul was confident that the One who had delivered them would continue to do so (v. 10)
A clear conscience is a worthy goal in life, and something to boast of, not as that which we achieve ourselves, but that which God grants by His grace (v. 12). There is a wisdom of this world, of those who boast only in themselves, and what they have accomplished. But the saints can boast, that by God’s grace they have sought a life of “simplicity and godly sincerity.” (v. 12) Or is this only meant for Paul and his colleagues? Surely he wrote this as an example. We are all called to put the Lord and others, especially of the church, first in our lives. Furthermore, Paul once again challenges the Corinthians to exercise the canonical test for what he was teaching them.
“For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand.” (v. 13a) Paul’s goal in this second letter was to reinforce the received apostolic canonical testimony and witness. “Now I trust you will understand, even to the end.” (v. 13b). It was Paul’s goal that they persevere in the faith to the very end. It would seem that they only understood him “in part,” thus necessitating his second letter (v. 14). They boasted in each other, so Paul was not about to let the seed which he had planted die (Cf. 5:12). They needed to grow in the faith he had entrusted to them, and like the Philippians to “hold fast the word of life,” that Paul’s labour would not be in vain (2:16).
II Corinthians 1:15-24 Established In The Son And Sealed With The Spirit.
It was Paul’s hope to visit with the saints in Corinth once again, Lord willing, and to stay a while (I Cor. 4:19, 16:5-7). He was confident that he would find his boast in them to be well founded. He was confident that he would find them persevering in the faith that had been entrusted to them (Cf. Rom. 1:11, 15:29). He once again reinforced the unity of the apostolic witness-there was but one gospel preached. Paul and his colleagues were unequivocal (v. 18), and he was concerned to continue to guard them against those who were false (10:2), who boast only in the flesh (11:18). He called God to witness, that contrary to the boasters in the flesh, he wanted to visit them, but was prevented from doing so (v. 23). Paul was faithful in his witness only because God is faithful in His (v. 18). It wasn’t that he ruled over their consciences, but rather, he rejoiced that they shared in the same faith which he preached and lived (v. 24).
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us-by me, Silvanus, and Timothy-was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (vv. 19-20 Cf. I Jn. 5:20) God’s covenant promises to His people find their ultimate fulfillment in the Son in whom we are established, and this to His own glory. These promises also included the gospel to the gentiles (Cf. Rom. 15:8-9). This confirmation is sealed to us with the giving of the Holy Spirit to all-a guarantee (vv. 21-22 Cf. Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in our salvation, though they each have their own unique role to play. Thus the very salvation of God’s people is testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity, and of the eternal counsel of the Trinity to procure this salvation. Contrary to those who boast in the flesh, it is by faith alone that we stand established.
II Corinthians 2 God Always Leads Us In Triumph In Christ.
Once again Paul shines some light on what went into his decision making process. Paul cared about people. He did not want to visit his friends in Corinth when all he could think about was sorrow (vv. 1-2). The sorrow was that they had rightly disciplined a man caught in sexual immorality, but had not taken the next step of forgiveness (vv. 6-7 Cf. I Cor. 5). He wants to stress the point that his previous instruction to them was given out of love for them, including the offender (vv. 3-4, 8). He wanted to see them be obedient in this matter to the very end and purpose sought (v. 9). If Paul could forgive him, then so could they (v. 10). To this injunction he also adds a warning-to not forgive is to give the devil a foothold whereby he can infect the whole body (v. 11). To not forgive, when it is called for, is essentially demonic.
Paul also gives us another insight here to his decision making processes. He says that the Lord, in His providence, had given him an open door in Troas to preach the gospel. One might therefore imagine that this was enough, but for Paul it was not. He says that he had no rest in his spirit because he did not find Titus there, so instead, he departed to Macedonia (vv. 12-13). This is a very important point. Sometimes it is not just a matter of circumstances seeming to work out a certain way in God’s providence. There are usually other considerations to take into account. For Paul it was crucial for him, at least in this situation, to have a co-worker with him. Then Paul issues his postmillennial declaration of thanksgiving for the victory that is in Christ. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” (v. 14a) He does not say that God sometimes leads us in triumph, or defeat!
Pessimistic eschatologies are an open denial of the triumph we now have in Christ-this wasn’t something Paul saw only in the distant future. Pessimistic eschatologies are also an open denial of the power of God in the gospel. The only ones suffering defeat are those to whom the saints and their message of the gospel is a stench of death (v. 16a). One other thing is certain, any genuine Christian will have the “fragrance” of Christ. To those who also receive Him, we are the fragrance of life (v. 15). The “fragrance” is the knowledge of Christ, and it is inescapable (v. 14b). So Paul asks the question-“Who is sufficient for these things?” (v. 16b) In and of ourselves, we certainly are not. Rather, both the message itself, and the power to deliver it, come from God alone (v. 17). Paul was not “peddling” his own wares, as was the practice of some, nor was he preaching the word merely for profit.
So for Paul there was a time for discipline in the church, motivated by love. There was equally a time for forgiveness for one who repents. Not to forgive in these situations is to give the devil a foothold. Yet despite these circumstances, which do occur in the church, Paul never waivered in his belief in the triumph we have in Christ, in fact, it is what motivated him to press on. Paul also shows us what ought to go into our own decision making processes. We ought not to think of an open door, so to speak, as always an end in itself. Sometimes it is more important to have fellowship with other saints. Furthermore, our behaviour in the body must be motivated by love, but our actions always solidly anchored in the scriptures. The word of God is to be what every faithful minister must preach, and what must be the saints only infallible guide. But let us beware of those who merely peddle the word for their own profit.
II Corinthians 3 The Surpassing Glory Of The New Covenant.
It seems as though Paul was constantly contending with those who kept pressing him and the Corinthians for his credentials-letters of commendation. Some simply would not accept his apostolic commission. However, what concerns Paul is that the Corinthians knew him first hand, and therefore they did not need any further proof (Cf. 5:12, 12:11; I Cor. 9:2). There were those who were simply commending themselves and doing nothing more than comparing themselves to each other (10:12). The issue was whether one had their commendation from God. “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (10:18; Cf. I Cor. 3:5-6)
Paul then addresses the theme that concerns him in these verses-the internalization of the law, by the Spirit, in the new covenant administration. Paul is also contrasting his readers with those whose religion is but external. Paul’s readers were authored by the Spirit, through the ministry of Paul. The same contrast exists with respect to the transition from the old covenant, epitomized in the Mosaic, where the law once did not have that spiritual internalization that was promised in the new (Cf. Jer. 31:33). The old covenant engravings had a glory, but it was a fading glory to the lasting glory of the law written on the human heart by the Spirit. It is not a different law which the LORD writes in the new, but a new location with the ministry of the Spirit.
The ministry of the Spirit in the new is called righteousness, because in the new the saints find true integrity. In the new the disconnect between the externally written law and the human heart is broken (v. 6). The old covenant administration had a glory all its own, but compared to the promised new, it was fading (vv. 7-11). Moses was veiled because of the greatness of that glory (v. 7), but he was also veiled so that the people could not see that the glory was passing away (v. 12). For the Judaizers of Paul’s day the veil remains, for they refused to acknowledge the transition to the new in the coming of Christ (v. 13). Only when one turns to the Lord is this veil of misunderstanding removed (v. 14), and that veil remains over their hearts (v. 15).
Part of Christ fulfilling all righteousness was in having the law written on His heart (Ps. 40:8). “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (v. 17) Jesus promised that He would send another-the Holy Spirit. So Paul is not saying that the Spirit and the Lord are one and the same. Rather, the Holy Spirit is sent to carry forward the ministry of Christ. Acts 1 makes this abundantly clear. The Holy Spirit was promised by the Father to give the church the power to bear witness to the Son (Acts 1:4-8). Some would hear but not perceive (Acts 28:26), for whom the veil remained. Some could not see that the glory of the old was fading toward the new.
There is liberty now where there was not before. The Spirit gives us the liberty to live the law from the heart. The Spirit does not give liberty apart from the law, but liberty to live it from the heart with integrity. It is into the image of Christ that the Spirit is transforming us. Just as Christ had the law written on His heart, even so shall we. This is the transforming work of the Spirit-from glory to ever increasing glory. Paul and James were united in their message. Those who find the law to be “the perfect law of liberty” are those who actually live it, and are blessed thereby (Js. 1:25). So the real stupendous glory, to which the old also pointed, is the image of God restored in Christ, through the Spirit!
“Therefore, since we have this hope, we use great boldness of speech.” (v. 12) So, their boldness was not of themselves, nor was it based on myth and legend-sweet thoughts with no foundation. Christ came, spoke, performed acts of redemption, and all witnessed to every bit as much as Moses-only with a lasting glory. More than a sure message, they also had boldness to speak it, for their sufficiency was from the Lord and not themselves (v. 5). For those without the regenerating work of the Spirit-the law kills, and so it should (v. 6). One of the uses of the law is to convict one of being dead. But then for the saint it becomes a guide, “the perfect law of liberty.” This is part of the surpassing glory of the new covenant.
II Corinthians 4:1-12 Gospel Light In Darkness.
Paul and his colleagues had boldness to preach because of the message, of the new covenant fulfilled, and they were made sufficient for this ministry by God (3: 5-6, 12). They did not peddle the word of God, rather they preached it sincerely as the message of God for sinners in need. They had a sure hope (3:12), and they had received mercy, so they did not lose heart (4:1). Such hope and mercy moved them to renounce “the hidden things of shame.” (v. 2) To “peddle” the word was to handle it with a craftiness born of deceit (v. 2 Cf. 2:17). Instead, they handled the word with sincerity, “by manifestation of the truth.” It was the pure preaching of the word that was commended to people’s consciences “in the sight of God.” (v. 2 Cf. 5:11) Paul and his colleagues commended their own consciences to God by acknowledging that they lived their lives and conducted their ministry in God’s sight.
Paul did not lose heart, for he believed in the sovereign will of God. If the gospel remained veiled for some, it remained veiled for those predestined to perish. There was no fault or shortcoming in the gospel, which remained the power of God (Cf. I Cor. 1:18). Those who perish do so because Satan had blinded their minds, not wanting them to embrace the gospel (vv. 3-4 Cf. Jn. 12:31). Ever since the garden, Satan has been asking, “Has God indeed said” (Gen. 3:1), and many believe his lies. The gospel was and is light in darkness, “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (v. 4) Paul and his colleagues did not preach themselves, “but Christ Jesus the Lord.” Jesus was the image of God in a unique way-as Lord. Paul’s gospel message deliberately goes back to these truths of the beginning verses of Genesis-Satan the liar, man in the image of God, and God the Father shining light in the darkness.
With a new creation, the Father shines a new light in the hearts of His people, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (v. 6 Cf. Gen. 1:3; II Pet. 1:19) “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18; 2:5) This was the gospel message which Paul first brought to the Corinthians. It shows that one’s nature determines how one interprets truth-all men filter truth through who they are. For those being saved, they know it to be the power of God. For those who were not being saved, and therefore did not know it’s power, it was foolishness. The gospel demonstrated that the power is from God, not of Paul or any other (v. 7). Paul and his colleagues knew this power, and it spurred them on to preach this gospel despite the opposition and difficulties that would come their way (v. 8-12).
In this second letter, Paul had informed his readers that they had despaired even of life (1:8), and later he would reiterate their troubles in Macedonia (7:5). “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (vv. 8-9) Paul did not deny or downplay or ignore his circumstances. To be hard-pressed does not mean one will be crushed. One can even be perplexed, not able to always make sense of one’s circumstances in life, “but not in despair.” The saints know who holds everything together, and we will never be forsaken or destroyed. The Christian life is not free of suffering, especially as one seeks to be faithful to the Lord. In this we share in the Lord’s suffering as much as in the life He is to us (vv. 10-12 Cf. Ps. 37:23-24; Rom. 8:17, 36; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 13:5;).
II Corinthians 4:13-18 The Same Spirit Of Faith.
Paul extolled the glory of the new covenant, but he also emphasized the shared faith with the saints in the past. “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke” (Ps. 116:10), we also believe and therefore speak.” (v. 13) What they believe and speak together is the gospel, albeit in the new covenant with this added ministry of the Spirit now poured out. This gospel hope is one of eternal life, as we await the resurrection of the body and life everlasting (v. 14). All of this is by grace alone, which causes thanksgiving to abound by many, to the glory of God (v. 15).
“Therefore we do not lose heart.” (v. 16a) This is as true for us as it was for the saints to whom Paul wrote. The body is perishing, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day (v. 16b). And as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, even so, if we have the Spirit, we also shall rise from the dead, with resurrection bodies like His (Cf. Rom. 8:11). So how do we know that we have the Spirit? We know by what Paul has just written before-the law written on our hearts and evidenced in our lives. It is not the gifts, no matter how spectacular they may have been, but it is the fruit of the Spirit’s presence that shows whose we are.
Compared to the glory that awaits the saints, Paul considered his many trials and tribulations to be a “light affliction.” (v. 17 Cf. Rom. 8:18) In fact, he rejoiced in them, if it meant the furtherance of the faith (Col. 1:24). Faith, as always, does not look at what is seen. This is the core of all pessimistic eschatologies and theologies. Faith always looks to the word of promise and hope. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13)
II Corinthians 5 We Know-All Things New.
“We know.” Paul did not say we hope, the way we often say hope today-more as a wish. We know that a resurrection body awaits us, for we have the witness of Christ’s resurrection life (v. 1-3). We do indeed groan while we live in the body-this is the result of the fall and the wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23). But unlike paganism, we do not look to be free from the body. Human beings consist of body and soul. For the saints, mortality is swallowed up by life (v. 4). To this end the Spirit is given as a guarantee (v. 5). This is our confidence. We will leave this mortal body behind-but we will always be with the Lord, one day with a spiritual immortal body just like His! (vv. 6-8) “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (v. 7)
Yet, this knowledge has an impact on how we live in the here and now. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” (v. 9) The Christian is not an aimless wilderness wanderer-that is the life of those whose bodies fell in the wilderness, because they did not seize upon the promises. Rather, the saints have one chief purpose and aim in life-to please Him. Furthermore, judgment is coming for all (v. 10). Therefore, we are also motivated by this knowledge, not to a works salvation-on the contrary-but to preach salvation to those who will have to stand on their own works alone (v. 10). Paul and his colleagues were known to the readers, but more importantly known to God (v. 11).
In light of that judgment to come, what does it mean to be known by God? It cannot mean that God simply knows that we exist-this is to state the obvious-He is omniscient-this is part of what makes Him God. No, rather, it is that they, and we, have been reconciled through the finished work of Christ. This is a covenantal “knowing”. Paul did not commend himself to his readers, and neither do we commend ourselves to God. There are those who have but an outward form of religion, but it is God who must change the human heart (v. 12). It is His love for us that compels us, not we ourselves (v. 13)! “We judge thus: that if one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (vv. 14-15)
Knowing people, including Christ, “according to the flesh,” that is, knowing in appearances only and not getting to the core or heart, is something which the Christian puts behind them. Being “in Christ” means living in covenant relationship to Him as a new creation. Life is not about putting on appearances-it is what is in the heart or core of a person. Having integrity means the inward and the outward are one and the same. Being a Christian, and knowing Christ, is more than the outward appearance, including the affirmation of certain truths (v. 16). A person must be changed, a new creation to the core. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (v. 17) Not some things, or a few things, but all things. So there is nothing that the Lord does not make new.
There is no conceivable area of life that He does not make new! Furthermore, “all things are of God.” All things are His, and He alone makes all these things new. It is God who reconciles (v. 18), which is His not imputing our sins to us. Reconciliation must and is by imputation alone-our sins imputed to Christ and His righteousness to us (Rom. 3:24). Our sins are not reckoned to us, but His righteousness is. This He did while we were yet His enemies (Cf. Rom. 5:10-13; Lev, 17:4; Rom. 4:11, 23-25). This is our justification. It is this message of reconciliation which Paul, his colleagues, and the church must take to the world as His ambassadors.
No ambassador extols their own virtues, nor do they take liberties at proclaiming their own message, therefore neither should we. There is no justification without reconciliation. And there can be no reconciliation without imputation. Those who deny the doctrine of imputation deny the very core of the faith and the biblical concept of justification. Whether it is Roman Catholicism, other false religions and human philosophies, or the ramblings of the Federal Visionists, the church must never ever sacrifice this most fundamental pillar and ground of our faith. There are not two, three, four, or five views of justification-there is but one! Any so-called “new perspective” on Paul is nothing more than an old lie.
II Corinthians 6-7:1 Perfecting Holiness In The Fear Of God.
Paul had a clear understanding that they were working with God, in the ministry of the word in the world, and in the building of His church. “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (I Cor. 3:9) To receive the grace of God in vain refers to the context of what Paul has been saying (v. 1 Cf. 5:12). It is possible to receive grace in a purely external fashion. There were those who had but a form of religion, but they did not experience the regenerating work of a Spirit changed heart. One who has the law written on their heart will evidence the fruit of the Spirit’s authorship in their lives. A merely externalized faith is but vanity-fools believing a lie they tell themselves. This is the condition of every sinner without the regenerating work of God’s Spirit.
It is very important that people respond to the word when they hear it (v. 2 Is. 49:8 Cf. Heb. 3:7ff). The gospel concerns one’s eternal destiny. To this end Paul was careful not to give offense, to give no cause for any to blame their ministry (v. 3). Paul and is colleagues commended and committed themselves to God, for Him to ultimately judge their work (v. 4a). Paul lists every conceivable circumstance that one might find themselves in (vv. 4b-5 Cf. 11:22ff.), and in every situation we are given what we need to get through them (vv. 6-8). The Christian has the Holy Spirit, and the fruitful work of the Spirit’s work within and without (v. 6). God does not work apart from His word-”the word of truth.” (v. 7) By His word and Spirit we have power, clothed with the armor of righteousness.
Everything purposed by our enemies is greeted with the exact opposite in our lives-dishonour with honour, evil report with good, “as deceivers yet true; as unknown yet known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (vv. 8-10) Paul was completely transparent with his Corinthians readers (v. 11). Likewise, they should be open with him (v. 12). There is no true pastoral care without openness. One of those issues which they needed to be open about was that they could not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. To be unequally yoked is to try and mix light with darkness in an attempt to mix the true God with idols. It is contrary to the goal of the covenant-“I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (v. 16)
All those who enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord must separate themselves from those who serve another god. God is a Father only to those in covenant with Him, and one cannot be in covenant with Him without separating from all that is contrary to the law word of the covenant. But we do not do this of ourselves, but rather, we have His promises in the covenant (7:1). Paul says “therefore” because all the responses to the circumstances he has just delineated are in fact promises of His help! These promises are our remedies for the separation required. We should also notice that there is no dichotomy with Paul, where the flesh is evil and the spirit good-both together need cleansing. The ultimate goal is “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (7:1)
II Corinthians 7:2-7 Filled With Comfort.
Paul and his colleagues had made room in their hearts for the saints in Corinth (v. 3). Therefore, it is right for him to ask them to make room in their hearts for them (v. 2). For the Corinthians to continue to hold back, which they were evidently doing, was really just to their own hurt. “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.” (6:11-12) The heart in the bible refers to the core of a person, usually to the core of one’s thoughts, but really to the core of the whole person, including one’s affections. What Paul and his colleagues spoke to the saints in Corinth came from their hearts. This was no superficial relationship for them, nor were they involved with them for mere external gain.
Their hearts were revealed by their actions-which were open for them to judge. Paul was confident, before God, that they were sincerely right. “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one.” (v. 2) “Wronged” carries the idea of hurt, injury, or unjust behaviour. If Paul thought that he or one of his friends had wronged anyone he was not hesitant to repay it himself, if he needed to (Cf. Philemon 18). “Wronged” carries the idea of an unjust act committed against someone. “Corrupted” on the other hand, carries the idea of ruining or spoiling what another has, causing it to shrivel, wither, spoil, and be destroyed. It is what takes place in people’s minds when they are subject to false teaching, such as a different spirit, Christ and gospel, which is idolatry (11:3 Cf. Jude 10; Rev. 19:2).
“Cheated” carries the idea of defrauding someone (KJV), it is the taking advantage of another out of covetousness. It is taking what belongs to another. It includes, as an example, adultery (I Th. 4:6). Paul was bold in this affirmation, confident that they had ministered with clear consciences. This knowledge brought him great comfort and joy, even in the midst of tribulations (v. 4). Paul had the scars to prove his devotion (v. 5). These were historical facts-he wasn’t just speaking empty words. However, he also knew the comfort of the Lord, which they had experienced through the ministry of Timothy (v. 6). So even as they ministered, they were also ministered to. Furthermore, Timothy was able to provide them with comfort because he had been comforted by the Corinthians.
There are great lessons here for all the saints down to today. When we are comforted by the Lord directly and through others, we should, in turn, provide comfort to others. We should also know that when we comfort others, they are then able to pay it forward, and in turn comfort others themselves. When you do not comfort others we rob more people than that one individual. This is how Paul began this letter, an epistle of comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (vv. 3-4) Do you know something of His comfort? If so, then you are qualified and obligated to comfort others.
II Corinthians 7:8-16 Sorrow In A Godly Manner.
Paul acknowledged that his first letter caused his readers sorrow, which happens when there is cause for discipline in the church. However, Paul took no pleasure in it (v. 8 Cf. 2:1-4). He was able to rejoice after the fact, because his admonishment had met with repentance (v. 9). Furthermore, he saw such admonishment as his duty, and in it he performed his duty and did not hold back anything that was to their spiritual health. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (v. 10) So their repentance led to life, because of the Lord’s mercy (Cf. Ps. 32:10). David was indeed a perfect example of this (Cf. II Sam. 12:13), as was Peter (Mt. 26:75).
One can be sorry or sorrowful in a lost manner, and yet it is also possible to be sorry or sorrowful in a godly manner. God makes the difference here through His mercy. Godly sorrow is never an end in itself, as it is with the ungodly. Godly sorrow moves one to diligence in one’s sanctification and to clear oneself of anything unbecoming, an indignation, fear, vehement desire, and zeal for such vindication. In so doing they had indeed cleared themselves (v. 11). This all highlights the corporate accountability that is present in the church for the known sin of any (Cf. Eph. 5:11). To this end Paul made clear that this is why he wrote, not so much for the one who did wrong, nor indeed of the one who was wronged, but rather for the sake of the church (v. 12).
Paul couches in his words a very important truth-all of life is lived “in the sight of God. “ (v. 12) With this Paul then returns to his message of comfort. This comfort was all the more joyful given this background to it. Paul and his colleagues were comforted by Titus, who had been comforted by the Corinthians earlier, for they had “refreshed his spirit.” (v. 13) So Paul was not ashamed of his boasting in them-Titus proved to him that their faith was genuine. They were as true as the truth which Paul and his colleagues had preached (v. 14). Titus himself testified to their obedience, since they had received him with “fear and trembling.” (v. 15 Cf. Phil. 2:12) This gave Paul all the more cause for rejoicing (v. 16).
II Corinthians 8:1-15 Making Known The Grace Of God.
Paul’s message was simple and clear-making known the grace of God-this is the gospel. Grace, God’s unmerited favour, is always only ever “bestowed”. No one can earn grace. Even as this most precious truth is assailed in every age, including our own, and by so-called reformed federal visionists revisionists, we must uphold Paul’s only perspective. Anything “new” is foreign to Paul’s thought. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (v. 9 Cf. Phil. 2:6-7) This is the great transaction-our sin imputed to Him, and His righteousness imputed to us.
Through grace, in the midst of suffering, the saints found joy. They also gave out of their poverty, they gave beyond even what they were able to give (vv. 1-3). We should remember the widow and her pennies (Mk. 12:43-44). This is what happens when grace comes. They wanted to minister to their fellow saints in need (v. 4 Cf. Rom. 15:25-26). They epitomized the life of those who are true Christians. First they gave themselves to the Lord, and then to others (v. 5). This was all of grace, and this was the ministry and purpose of Titus-that the Corinthians also know something of this grace (v. 6). Sanctification is grace completed. There is not some other works principle whereby we carry on with our own works after the initial grace of justification.
They had shown the fruit of the regenerating work of the Spirit, so also they needed to show the grace of God in their lives in their giving. “But as you abound in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us-see that you abound in this grace.” (v. 7) Faith is the start of it all-the first sign of grace bestowed. From faith one then speaks, not of our own thoughts. This knowledge we have we have because of grace. It is common for people to draw a dichotomy between speech or knowledge and love-that love is the real sign of regeneration. But these are all equally important signs of the Spirit’s work, and all equally necessary.
Sanctification requires diligence-this also is a fruit of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:13). By diligence one continues to grow in grace and is enabled to persevere to the end (Cf. 9:8). Paul in fact used the diligence of others to test the genuineness of the Corinthians faith. In this sense it was not a command which he was giving, even though these things are signs of the genuineness of one’s faith. His “advice” to them is to continue to do what they were doing to the end, to act on their desire to do the right thing (vv. 10-11). Many people don’t act because they think of what they don’t have. But Paul’s advice is to give according to what you do have (v. 12). He wanted their giving to be voluntary.
Paul wasn’t asking them to give beyond their means, even though, as he said, the Macedonians actually did just that (v. 13). Paul was desirous that the saints learn that the church was bigger than their local assembly. We are called to look beyond our immediate surroundings and give to other saints in other places who are in need, and vice versa (v. 14 Cf. 9:2; Heb. 13:16). This is nothing new-it has always been a sign of the genuine faith of the covenant community. Such was the behaviour of the saints in the old covenant, when they received the bread from heaven (v. 15 Cf. Ex. 16:18;). People should give as God causes one to prosper (I Cor. 16:2). Paul did not promote an equality of income, but an equality in burden sharing.
II Corinthians 8:16-24 The Glory Of Christ.
God alone can go to the core of a person and put in the heart a desire to serve. He did this with Titus (v. 16). Titus had an earnest care for the saints in Corinth, and it was not just out of obedience to an exhortation. From the heart he diligently and voluntarily sought out their good (v. 17). Paul had given this “advice” to the Corinthians to care for their fellow saints-that their giving might be voluntary (vv. 8-15). For this reason Paul was happy to send Titus and another brother who also had a reputation of service in the gospel ministry (v. 18). It wasn’t just Paul’s testimony, but it was that of the churches who sent this brother to accompany Paul, with a gift for the saints at Jerusalem, with a “ready mind.” (v. 19 Cf. 9:2).
It is worth noting that the churches had already established this sense of corporate accountability and representation (Cf. I Cor. 16:3-4). They chose this man to represent them and transport their gift and comfort to Jerusalem. Furthermore, Paul made clear that they did so for the glory of God. This is the chief end of man and the church-God’s glory and the enjoyment of Him forever (Cf. 4:15). They were simply administering what the saints had purposed to do on their own (vv. 19-21). “Giving money and administering it well is not mundane or unspiritual, but in itself honors the Lord.” (NGSB, p. 1838) Paul, Titus, and the brother chosen by the churches were all alike “messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.” (v. 23 Cf. Acts 20:4-5).
II Corinthians 9 Thanks Be To God For His Grace.
Paul reiterates the points he has already made in the preceding chapters. One might agree with him that it was “superfluous” for him to continue on these matters (v. 1). However, so important were these issues to him that he wanted to emphasize them again and again. He had been boasting of their willingness to voluntarily give to the needs of their fellow saints-he didn’t want to be proven wrong (vv. 2-4). To this end he sent the brethren ahead to ensure that everything would be ready and in order. It was what they had willingly and generously promised, “and not as a grudging obligation.” (v. 5). He does however add a basic principle at this point-those who give bountifully will receive the same (v. 6). A cheerful giver is one who does so willingly and not grudgingly out of necessity and command (v. 7 Cf. 8:10-12). He also reiterates that this kind of willingness to minister and serve others comes from God’s grace (vv. 8-9 Cf. Ps. 112:9; II Cor. 8:1).
God is the only one who can and must also increase the fruit of one’s labour (v. 10). Rather than being envious, the saints, like Paul, give thanks to God for the liberality of others (v. 11). Such thanksgiving rightly gives glory to God for this service (v. 12). Such “liberal sharing” is proof of the obedience of their “confession to the gospel of Christ.” (v. 13) God’s grace alone makes one sufficient for these things, and is every bit as necessary to sanctification as it is to justification (v. 8). God, who begins all redemption through grace, causes this grace to “exceed.” (v. 14) Such exceeding and abundant grace caused their fellow saints to not only give thanks and glory to God, but inspired them to also pray. It is always good to be reminded that God’s sovereign grace is the grounds for thanksgiving and prayer, and not the outcome. It is also good to be reminded that we know that God’s grace is in another, by the fruit in their lives, in this case the fruit of giving. “Thanks be to God.” (v. 15)
II Corinthians 10:1-6 Knowledge War-A Question Of Obedience.
Paul pleaded, even begged with the Corinthians, to be mindful of the spiritual war which is the Christian life. Paul made clear that he made his plea “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” (v. 1 Cf. I Cor. 4:21; I Th. 2:7) Two things stand out here-he was not acting on His own-the Lord was working through him. Also, one can only demonstrate this gentleness and meekness with the presence of Christ in one’s life. There is also an interesting perspective on ministry-one can and perhaps should be more bold at a distance, but in person perhaps a more gentle approach is called for. It is also true that a more direct and personal approach is sometimes needed when correction is called for. Some in their midst evidently believed that Paul was exercising leadership on his own authority, and these needed to be confronted (v. 2).
This inspired Paul to speak to the nature of the Christian life and ministry (v. 3). It is a spiritual battle waged not with the carnal arsenal of men, but rather, with an arsenal “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (v. 4) These strongholds are “arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” The battle is ultimately over epistemology-the study of knowledge. Carnal man claims autonomy with respect to knowing, and God, through His word, makes a sole and universal claim to be the only source of true knowledge. The war is a battle of ideas, and competing truth claims. For the Christian, knowledge is inseparable from obedience. As Paul makes clear elsewhere, man has the knowledge God imparts by revelation, but carnal man rejects it out of disobedience.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind.” (Rom. 1:28) The Christian, and in particular the Christian ministry, is an exercise in “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (v. 5 Cf. Rom. 12:1-2) Knowledge and the study thereof, is inseparable from ethics, morality, and a person’s ultimate spiritual condition. Fallen carnal man is rightly judged, because all men have the true knowledge of God, but man in sin rejects it (v. 6). More to the specific situation of the Corinthian church-there must be a separation from those who wilfully justify their sinful behaviour, albeit in the hopes that they might repent. Christian apologetics of necessity must confront and pull down before it can build-the Christian cannot build on a faulty foundation.
II Corinthians 10:7-18 Authority And Commendation Which The Lord Gives.
“Do not look at things according to the outward appearance.” (v. 7 Cf. 5:12; Jn. 7:24) This is a good principle to follow in many areas of life. David was a good example of this (I Sam. 16). Paul may have had a speech impediment, or perhaps he was not the drill sergeant that people might expect given the directives he had written (vv. 9-10). However, he was convinced that if one is truly a Christian they would recognize the apostolic authority which Paul and his colleagues had in Christ-for edification and not destruction (v. 8 Cf. 13:10). Why do some have authority in the church? It is to be for edification. Sadly there are many, as in Paul’s day, who exercise authority for destructive purposes. One thing that Paul could say-he was the same person in writing as he would be in person, unlike some who are two-faced and duplicitous (v. 11). Paul’s deeds matched his words.
False prophets and false teachers must commend themselves-Paul and his colleagues had their commendation directly from God, but also from the churches (v. 12 Cf. 5:12; Prov. 27:2). Those who commend themselves are superficial-they do not have the root of the matter within them, and their words and deeds are equally at odds with each other. Like the false prophets of old, these false leaders measure and compare themselves with each other rather than the standard of the word. There is also an important principle for us all here-there is a place for boasting, but in what God has gifted and called us to do. The true anecdote to sinful pride and the envious temptation to compare ourselves to others, is to boast and take pride in the work God gifts and calls us to (vv. 12-13 Cf. 7:14). “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone.” (Gal. 6:4)
One should not overextend the sphere in which God has called them to serve (v. 14). It is wrong to boast in another’s labours as though it were your own (v. 15). God gives everyone gifts and a calling which is unique. There is no need to compare our own gifts and calling with another-for all are necessary and honourable in the body of Christ (Cf. I Cor. 12). Paul and his colleagues were able to rejoice in the sphere in which God had called him to serve-not just in the spiritual growth of the Corinthian saints (v. 15), but also in the task of taking the gospel to the regions beyond them (v. 16 Cf. Rom. 15:20). To take pride in one’s own work is to give glory to God as the one who gifts and calls us to our own unique work (v. 17 Cf. I Cor. 1:31; Is. 65:16; Jer. 9:24). One’s deeds show God’s commendation. “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (v. 18 Cf. I Cor. 4:5)
II Corinthians 11:1-15 Godly Jealousy For The True Gospel.
Just as there is a place for godly boasting and pride, even so there is a place for godly jealousy. Paul was instrumental, by the grace of God, in the building of His church in Corinth. He had preached the one true gospel of Christ, that there was no other (vv. 1-2). However, there is such a simplicity to the gospel of Christ that Paul was concerned that the devil would deceive them into believing a different “gospel” and receiving a different spirit (vv. 3-4). This is the ultimate origin of the false apostles work. Paul was ridiculed for a seeming speech impediment, but the knowledge he communicated suffered no impediment (vv. 5-6 Cf. 10:10; I Cor. 1:17). There is a knowledge war as the church seeks to cast down arguments “and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (10:5)
Apparently, because Paul preached to them free of charge, there were some who therefore thought it wasn’t worth anything (v. 7). But nothing good in life is free since Paul did get his support from others to be able to preach without charge (v. 8). The saints in Macedonia gave him support, even as he was ministering to the Corinthians. Paul did this so that he would not be a burden to them (v. 9). This was a cause for boasting for him, not because he didn’t love them, but rather, because he did love them (vv. 10-11). Paul also wanted to point out the motivation of those who were attempting to lead them astray-the false apostles were in it for financial gain (v. 12). Like Satan, these false apostles sought to transform themselves into fake representatives of Christ for their own gain (vv. 13-14). However, as in Paul’s day, so in ours, these false teachers will suffer according to their own works (v. 15).
* Verse 6 seems to refer, in this context, to the separation that will happen, between Paul’s readers and the false apostles, if the saints will remain true to the gospel and their one bridegroom. The punishment of the false apostles will be their being exposed as frauds, as the true saints journey on.
II Corinthians 11:16-33 Boasting In Weakness.
Paul, once again, makes a distinction between what he is about to share, and what in other places he identifies as God’s direct command (I Cor. 7:6). It makes it all no less inspired. It is in fact included in the testimony of scripture to let us know that scripture itself does make these distinctions. A command, directive, teaching, or law from God holds a different place than other portions of scripture which may be seen as commentary or reflection. Wisdom literature, for example, seeks to apply the law to various situations in life, and often the situation or circumstances require this application. In the passage at hand, Paul makes clear that he is answering those who put all their weight behind their external credentials. He ultimately thinks it is foolish to place all one’s confidence in mere externals (vv. 16-18).
Paul was also not above using sarcasm. The Corinthians apparently thought that they were quite wise. However, if they were so wise, then why were they putting up with the foolish false apostles, prophets, and teachers? Wow! Is this ever relevant still today! In an age of the internet and Facebook and everyone thinking that by writing whatever comes to their mind they are for that reason wise and qualified to speak. Many regard one such post as of equal worth as another. If the Corinthians were so wise, then why were they allowing others to put them into bondage to false teaching and practices, cheating, devouring, and abusing them (v. 20)? Again, these are people who exalt themselves. However, if boldness in boasting of one’s credentials is what it took to convince his readers, Paul certainly had cause (v. 21).
Paul was a Hebrew, an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham-he was an ethnic Jew, a citizen of the nation, and a member of the covenant community. However, more important than all this, he was a minister of Christ (vv. 22-23a). To that end he was even more qualified than his detractors, for he had proven himself in the midst of trial and hardship (vv. 23b-27 Cf. I Cor. 4:8-13). “Forty lashes was the maximum that could be inflicted on a person, according to Deut. 25:3. It was Jewish practice to set the limit a little lower as a safeguard against miscounting.” (NGSB, p. 1842) Paul mentioned his trials earlier, but also the blessings in the midst of them (6:3ff). Most of these events are part of Luke’s historical record (Acts 9:9, 23-24; 13:2-3, 45, 50; 14:5, 19, 23; 16:22-23; 17:5, 13; 19:23; 20:31; 27:1-44).
Added to these trials was Paul’s concern for all the churches (v. 28 Cf. Acts 20:18). He suffered with them (v. 29). When they were made to stumble, he burned with indignation (I Cor. 8:9, 13; 9:22). In the end, Paul boasted in his infirmities or weaknesses, for they proved, by God’s grace, that the Lord was his strength and had carried him through them all (v. 30 Cf. 12:5, 9). He was confident of having a clear conscience before God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in this regard (v. 31). He then gives one specific example himself of such a trial, but also of the Lord’s providential deliverance (vv. 32-33). True minsters suffer with and for their people, and they have the scars and historical testimony to prove it. True ministers not only preach the truth, but in shepherding they also suffer along with their flock, and they do so with integrity.
II Corinthians 12:1-6 Judging By What Is Seen And Heard.
On the basis of this passage Paul offers proof that he, like all God’s prophets, had stood in His council (vv. 1-6 Cf. Jer. 23:18-22). He did not dream up the gospel-he received it by revelation (Gal. 1:12; 2:2). He was reluctant to boast, but it became necessary, given the boasting of the false apostles and teachers, whose boasting was of no consequence-mere externals and self-promotion. Paul’s boasting was of God’s intervention in his life, in particular the revelation of the gospel and it’s proclamation (Cf. Acts 16:9-10; 18:9-10; 22:17-18; 23:11; 26:13-18; 27:23-24).
Clearly Paul had grounds for his boasting, and such boasting was ultimately in God’s work in his life. However, his preference was that the people might judge him as they should all those who claim to be true ministers and Christians-on the basis of what they saw in his life, and what they heard him speak. Given the close of the canon and the end of the prophetic and apostolic office, this should in fact be the things which the church also looks to today to judge if one is a true believer or true minister of the word.
* “Third heaven. According to a common enumeration, the first heaven was the atmosphere of the birds and clouds, the second was the sky in which we see the stars, and the third would be heaven, the dwelling place of God. For fourteen years Paul had not made this experience a focus of his teaching, as some would have done. His focus was the message of Christ: ‘we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.’” (4:5) [NGSB, p. 1842] Paradise is heaven (Cf. Lk. 23:43; Rev. 2:7)
II Corinthians 12:7-13 Revelations, A Thorn, Signs And Wonders.
Paul has written about how foolish it is to boast, although he did boast in God’s interventions and grace in his life. Now he reveals that God had allowed Satan to bring a thorn into his life to keep him humble, given “the abundance of the revelations” he had received, and their uniqueness, and no doubt their splendour (v. 7). Paul arrived at this conclusion only after pleading with the Lord three times to take it away (v. 8). This is an example of the reality that God sometimes does not answer our prayers as we would like, and sometimes we need to accept what we are going through as God’s good and sovereign will for us-to which no prayer can override. Prayer will only be answered as requested, if it is in harmony with both his sovereign and decretive wills.
The main reason for this providence in Paul’s life was that Paul and others might learn that it is by His grace alone that we are strong, “made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9a) For this reason Paul gladly boasted in his weaknesses-that God’s grace might abound, and that it might be made manifest that he lived by the power of Christ (v. 9b). He did not “take pleasure” in his weaknesses and hardships in and of themselves, rather, he did so because it both manifested the power of Christ, and in his weakness the Lord made him strong (v. 10). He also made clear that his boasting was made necessary by the actions of the Corinthians in failing to commend him as they ought to have, and instead they were swayed by the boasting of false leaders who took pride only in mere externals of their own making (v. 11).
There are signs which accompanied the true apostles. These “signs and wonders and mighty deeds” were never something that men could manufacture in and of themselves, and they are unique to the apostolic witness (v. 12). These were given to authenticate the canonical witness. This is that which was also written by the writer to the Hebrews. Concerning the word, he wrote that it “first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the holy Spirit, according to His own will.” (vv. 3b-4) Two things are here enumerated: the signs, wonders, and various miracles, and the gifts of the Spirit-of which Paul clearly addressed in I Corinthians 12-14 especially.
Paul made very clear that these signs were accomplished by him and his colleagues, something the false apostles could not claim. By their very nature and purpose, anyone who claims either the signs or the gifts today are false. As those who were privileged to receive Paul and his colleagues, the true message of the gospel and the word itself, along with the accompanying signs and gifts, they were far from being inferior to the other churches. Paul’s opponents regarded him as inferior, but the exact opposite was in fact the case. Furthermore, Paul went out of his way not to be a burden to them, being sustained by others even as he ministered to the Corinthians. Again, with a touch of sarcasm, he asks them to forgive him of this wrong (v. 13)! Paul had the scars and historical testimony of his service, which included the signs of apostleship.
II Corinthians 12:14-21 Doing All Things For Edification.
Paul’s ultimate purpose in his writing and ministry was for the edification of Christ’s church (v. 19). In the case of the Corinthians he went out of his way not to be a burden to them-receiving, as he did, help from others to minister to them (vv. 14-18 Cf. 11:9). Paul had visited them twice already (1:15; 13:1-2 Cf. Acts 18:1-18; 19:1-41). His plans were to come a third time. Part of edification was to confront sin in their midst, for those who had not repented. For this there was mourning (v. 21). Paul and his colleagues did not need to excuse themselves, for they ministered in love for their edification (v. 19). His wish was to find them walking faithfully before the Lord (v. 20 Cf. I Cor. 4:21).
Some really important points are here. 1. Sin in the church has to be confronted-it affects the whole church and her witness to the world. 2. Sin is not just a personal or individual concern-it should be a subject of mourning for the entire church (Cf. I Cor. 5:1). 3. The church must also be willing to forgive-but those caught in sin must repent and turn away from it. 4. Edification should be the goal of ministry, and confronting sin along with reconciliation is a part of this. 5. Our wish should be that the church and churches are walking faithfully before the Lord. 6. There should be mutual love between a pastor and his flock (v. 15 Cf. 2:4; 6:12-13). 7. As an aside, parents should be laying up an inheritance for their children (v. 14).
Paul was afraid that his confidence might be unfounded, therefore God would humble him for his boasting in his spiritual children in Corinth (v. 21 Cf. 1:15; 5:12; I Cor. 4:14, 10:33). Paul was spent and still willing to be spent for them (v. 15 Cf. Rom. 9:1-2; II Tim. 2:10), not wanting to be a burden (11:9). In his visits it was his hope that they might rather be able to comfort each other in their sorrows (Cf. 2:1-4). Above all he acknowledged that everything he and his colleagues did they did “before God in Christ.” (v. 19) True ministry can only be done with a consciousness of God’s all-knowing presence in mind, and in union with Christ Himself. One cannot truly edify the church without living in union with Christ.
II Corinthians 13:1-6 Are You Qualified?
Paul warned the Corinthians that in his plans to visit them again he would deal with the issue of sin in their midst, but he made clear that his guide would be God’s law. There is no hint whatsoever that Paul was following anything different, just as Jesus also did not come to abrogate the law (Cf. Mt. 5:17-20). Paul’s intention was to follow the basic principle of witnesses-two or three were required. “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Dt. 19:15 Cf. 17:6) It was Paul’s intention to be guided by God’s law to do that which was right and just (vv. 1-2). For Paul this is Christ speaking through him (v. 3)! There is no “Christ ethic” being put forward which abrogates or replaces the law already given.
Even as Christ was crucified but raised in power, even so His people go from weakness to power through His resurrection life (vv. 3-4). This is the question that people need to ask themselves-is Christ in us? (v. 5) Examine, test, and know yourselves. True knowledge of ourselves requires examination and testing. To examine oneself is to have the discipline to scrutinize oneself. And the only way to confirm that scrutiny is to test it. To test carries the idea of proving by act or evidence. One may have a certain opinion about oneself by examination, but it must be proven by testing. Only when these two are combined-examination and testing-can one truly know oneself to be qualified to take the name ‘Christian’. Salvation is by grace-but there is also a process here to demonstrate the genuineness of one’s faith.
II Corinthians 13:7-14 Complete In The Truth.
Everything Paul wrote about he prayed about (v. 7 Cf. I Th. 3:10). This alone proves his dependence on God to work in their lives-that they do no evil, but rather, do that which is honourable. Paul’s prayer was also that they progress and grow in the faith, that they would be made complete (v. 9). For this same reason he continued to write to them. He did not want to visit them and find that they had gone backwards in their growth and maturity in the faith (v. 10). We already know that for Paul the most honourable thing to do is to follow the law-word of the covenant (v. 1). Paul went to great lengths to prove that he and his colleagues were qualified to speak as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, even though there were those who were suggesting otherwise. However, Paul’s judgment was based on examination, testing, and knowledge based on the truth of the law-word of the covenant (vv. 1, 8).
Paul concludes his second letter by repeating the point that, he was given authority for edification and not destruction (v. 10 Cf. 10:8). In his confrontation of the sin in their midst and of their own sinful behaviour, they may have thought otherwise, but his confrontation came from his love for them and was consistent with this ministry of edification (v. 11). Out of his desire to edify, he wanted them to be complete in the faith-this means conduct which is honourable and consistent with the law. This letter has also been one of comfort. Everyone likes the comfort part-not so much the confrontation. But peace is not possible without being of one mind on these things, and only then do we really know the love and peace of God in our midst (v. 11 Cf. Rom. 12:16-18; 15:33; Phil. 2:1-2). Only with this honest adherence to the truth is there the love and peace of true fellowship (vv. 12-13 Cf. Rom. 16:16).
This all comes by “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.” (v.14 Cf. Rom. 16:24) True Christian fellowship is based on the truth, and fellowship with God is therefore a Trinitarian fellowship. Our need and desire for fellowship is in fact based on the Trinity, and the communion enjoyed therein throughout all eternity. This is part of being created in His image. For Paul it is a fitting benediction to everything he has written. Paul made much of the irony between he and his colleagues and the Corinthians (Cf. I Cor. 4:10). He was glad to be weak if it meant that they were made strong (v. 9). It was really up to the Corinthians as to whether he would come to them with a rod or in gentleness (I Cor. 4:21). His desire was to find that they had acted themselves to do the right and honourable things, and to be of one mind based on the truth, in word and deed.