Paul Again Informed The Corinthians He Was A True Apostle; A Final Warning; Final Instructions; A Final Promise; Final Greetings; A Final Prayer
This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Just as the Torah teaches us that not one, but two or three witnesses are needed to establish the truth about a matter, Paul’s first two visits, which already occurred, and his third visit, which was about to occur, would all be witnesses to the same truth: that the Rabbi from Tarsus was a true apostle. He was sent by God. He represented God. Therefore he was to be respected. He was to be obeyed.
During his second visit, and earlier in this letter, Paul had warned those who opposed him that if they did not end their opposition to him, he would deal with them in a very firm way. He repeated that again warning in a very clear way. 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 Messiah is speaking through me. Those who opposed Paul accused him of not being a true apostle, or of being an inferior apostle not worthy of their obedience.
Those who opposed him had been demanding proof of his apostolic authority. They wanted proof of his authority? He would give it to them – but not in a way they would like. He would deal with them like Messiah deals with them. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. Messiah is not weak in dealing with His people. He is powerful. How powerful? Very powerful. Powerful enough to end any opposition to Him. And that is how Messiah’s representative, Paul, would be with them.
There was a time when Messiah was weak. During His time on Earth, Messiah was weak – especially when He was crucified. But He is no longer that same weak man whom the Jewish leaders rejected and the Romans crucified. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Right now, at this very moment, Messiah is alive, and full of God’s power.
Like Messiah, Paul had gone through a time of weakness. His second visit to Corinth was painful. While there, he experienced more attacks from opponents while the rest of the community provided little support. He seemed weak. And he still seemed weak because he was still being attacked by some of the Corinthians. But, like Messiah, Paul’s time of weakness would be followed by a time of strength. He and his team would soon return to Corinth full of divine strength to deal with those who opposed them.
Just as Messiah’s followers in Corinth should be afraid of disobeying the powerful Son of God, they should be afraid of disobeying Paul and his co-workers, who like Messiah, could be powerful when they need to be. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.
Some of the Corinthians who opposed Paul had been demanding proof he was an genuine apostle. Now the Lord’s representative turned the tables and instructed them to do the same to themselves. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Messiah Yeshua is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Paul was convinced that their self-examination would reveal that the people in Messiah’s Community in Corinth were in the faith – at least most of them. And if they were in the faith, and if he had brought them the Good News about the Messiah and established them in the faith; if he was the founding father of their community – then their faith was all the evidence they needed to prove he was a true apostle who should be obeyed, not opposed.
One way of responding to those who are attacking you is to hope your opponents will do something wrong. If they discredit themselves by doing something wrong, their attacks can be ignored. But the Lord’s servant, who is committed to doing what is right and what is true, does not want anyone, especially those he is responsible for, to do anything wrong. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong – not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. Paul and his team served the God who is righteous and true. They didn’t want anyone in Messiah’s Community to do anything wrong. They wanted all of the Corinthians to do what was right, to turn from their sins; to reject the false apostles; to stop opposing Paul.
Paul and Timothy and their loyal band wanted the people of Messiah’s Community in Corinth to be strong in faith and be fully restored – fully restored to God; fully restored to them and to each other. If that happened, when they arrived in Corinth, Paul would not have to use the authority the Lord gave him to be harsh with them. He could be could be gentle with them – which he preferred to be.
We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. The Lord wants His servants to build up His community. That’s why He gives them authority – to build up, not to tear down. However, if those who opposed Paul didn’t end their opposition to him, and if he had to be harsh with them, he would be harsh, even if it produced some tearing down, because sometimes tearing down is necessary before building up can take place. But, Paul preferred that everyone in Corinth were fully restored to God, and to him and his team, and to each other so he wouldn’t have to do any tearing down.
Warnings are unpleasant. The final warning was over. Now this divinely inspired letter ends with some instructions for victorious living. 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.
Rejoice: The community had problems, and when you are having problems, it’s easy to focus on your problems. Focusing on problems can lead to sadness. They needed to focus on the great things the Lord had blessed them with, which would produce joy: things like knowing we are part of an amazing family; that God is our loving Father; that Messiah is our elder brother; that the Spirit of the Father and the Son lives in us; that all our sins are forgiven; that we will receive a great inheritance; that we will live forever. Rejoice – even when experiencing problems – by focusing on the great things God has done, is doing and will do for us.
Strive for full restoration: There were divisions in Messiah’s Community. The Corinthians needed to strive at ending those divisions; for all of them to be fully restored to God, to Paul and his team and to each other; strive, because it’s not easy to maintain good relations with others. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of work. But the effort pleases God and is worth it.
Encourage one another: Instead of discouraging one another by doing things that were wrong; by having divisions; by following false apostles; by opposing Paul – they should encourage one another by turning from their sins, ending their divisions, rejecting the false apostles and embracing Paul. Instead of discouraging one another with their actions and their words, they should encourage one another with good actions and good words.
Be of one mind: The Corinthians needed to end their disagreements and come together so they were united and moving in the same direction, working to build a loving and united witnessing community.
Live in peace: They needed to stop their conflicts and enjoy good relations with each other.
A final promise: If the Corinthians acted on these instructions and made a sincere effort to rejoice, strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace, they could be sure that God would be with them and help them accomplish these things. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
God’s nature is one of love and peace. God is love. God loves. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to be the atonement for our sins. But love is not only something God does, love is who God is. Love is an essential part of God’s nature. It defines who He is and how He relates to His creatures.
The love of God causes Him to think about His creatures, to consider what is best for His creatures, to take the initiative to help His creatures where they need help the most.
God’s love means that He is committed to help His creatures. He wants what is best for them, to bless them, to do good for them, to provide for them, to help them reach their God-given potential. If they can be redeemed, He wants to redeem them. If they can be saved, He want to save them.
The God of peace. Peace is wholeness; completeness; well-being; integrity. God is perfectly whole. He lacks nothing. He needs nothing to make Him complete. He has total integrity. He has all-comprehensive well-being. His purpose is to restore peace, well-being and wholeness to human beings who have lack integrity, wholeness, completeness, peace.
If we have the promise that the God of love and peace is with us, we can be confident that, more and more, we will be able to become more like God – loving and peaceful.
Final greetings: Gestures are important. When two men fight and want to reconcile, they use the gesture of shaking hands. When a husband and wife quarrel and end their quarrel, they “kiss and make up.” The Lord’s people needed to end their divisions, and greet one another with a gesture which expresses love. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Greetings express love, care and support. Greetings strengthen relationships. All God’s people here send their greetings. Paul and his team were not in Corinth. They were with other communities. How encouraging it must have been for the Corinthians to know that, in spite of the challenges they were experiencing, all of God’s people in the congregations they were among, loved and cared for the Corinthians.
And it wasn’t just God’s people who loved and supported them. The Rabbi assured them in a final prayer that each Person of the Three-In-One God did as well. May the grace of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. The Lord’s people in Corinth could count on the Lord Yeshua the Messiah to supply them with His grace, and He has a lot of grace – enough grace to meet all of their needs; enough grace to help them overcome all their problems. They could count on God, meaning God the Father, to supply them with His love, and He has a lot of love – enough love for them to love each other the way they needed to. And they could on the Holy Spirit to supply them with His fellowship and the fellowship He creates. The Holy Spirit living in God’s people creates a community of shared values that is able to overcome our divisions.
Father, thank You for this divinely inspired letter and the many things it teaches us.
Lord, we thank You for Paul and Timothy and their loyal band. Help us be more like them.
Lord, You give leaders to Your community to build up, not to tear down. Help me, Rabbi Glenn and Dave be good leaders who build up the Shema community, not tear it down.
Lord, good leaders need to be tough but prefer to be gentle. The elders here prefer to be gentle, but can be tough with those who need some tough love. I pray, however, that You would work in our community so that we don’t need to be tough with people – at least not very often.
Lord, Paul challenged the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith. Help us examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith by asking ourselves probing questions and being brutally honest with the answers. Questions like: Which kind of seed and soil am I? Am I like the seed that fell on rocky ground? Am I someone who hears the word and receives it with joy, but having no root, lasts only a short time? When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, I quickly fall away? Am I like the seed that fell among the thorns? Have I understood the word but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful? Am I like the seed that fell on good soil? Am I someone who hears the word and understands it and puts it into practice and produces an abundant crop?
Am I serving You the way I should with my time, talents and treasures? Am I spending too much time on myself and on my pleasures? On trivial things? Is there sin in my life from which I refuse to turn away? Am I obedient? Am I consistent? Am I aware of You the way I should be, close to You the way I should be?
Heavenly Father, help us, in spite of our problems, challenges, trials, hardships, sufferings and difficulties, rejoice; strive for full restoration – with You, and with each other. Help us with our good words and actions encourage one another.
Father, help us be of one mind. Your people don’t need to agree about everything, like issues of secondary importance like what we eat or drink or which day we observe; but we do need to be of one mind about the essential teachings of the faith. Lord, Messiah’s Community lacks one-mindedness in many ways. Help us be of one mind so we are united and moving in the same direction and working together to proclaim the Gospel.
And may the God of love and peace be with us, so that more and more, we will be full of love and peace.
And may the love of You, God, our Father, and the grace of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.