Today: [2 Corinthians 13:] Giving Others a Clean Slate: In the concluding chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul prepares the people for his arrival and third visit among them. He has heard many controversies are taking place. Informers have told him many things, and he wants to help restore the church to its original simplicity and wholesomeness. He wants to give them and for them to give each other a clean slate so that the body can be healed and brought to a restoration of its testimony in Christ.
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[2Co 13:1-14 KJV] 1 This [is] the third [time] I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. 2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: 3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. 4 For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. 5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? 6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. 7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. 8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 9 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, [even] your perfection. 10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. 11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. 12 Greet one another with an holy kiss. 13 All the saints salute you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, [be] with you all. Amen.

In chapter 13 Paul notifies the Corinthians of his third planned visit to their city. , and the things Paul hears are taking place have been disputed on all sides. The pressure is on him to deal with things before he arrives, but he chooses instead to speak in person to the people involved in the various controversies saying “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established…” When you are in ministry, you will hear many things said to you in confidence or by people who want to inform you but not get involved further than that. In the second church I pastored in central Louisiana I received many calls in the beginning from various people in the congregation. One brother would call to inform on a particular sister, and while speaking to him, the very person he was slandering was calling in on the same line to report on him. The entire congregation was up in arms against one another and vying for my ear to convince me how godly and right they were and how wrong and sinful the other members of the congregation were. I rebuked the entire lot from the pulpit threatening to expose the gossiping tongues openly if it didn’t stop. Then the calls stopped to me but continued among the very people who were warring with each other now calling one another to slander me because I wouldn’t play their game. I resolved to make an announcement – everyone in the congregation regardless of who they would now have a clean slate with me. I would take them at face value and wasn’t interested in their past or what others had to say about them. Eventually, the entire congregation who elected me to be their pastor moved on, and a new congregation replaced them. The original congregation wasn’t interested in a pastor with a pastor’s heart – they wanted a referee for their religious free-for-all which I wasn’t willing to be. This was Paul’s dilemma. He wants to bring these people to a place of maturity but finds they are resistant to his efforts.

Because Paul isn’t cooperating with the congregation in their efforts to discredit one another they resist him seeking a proof of Christ speaking through him. In the prophetic, we find this often. It isn’t enough to speak according to the word of God – many people don’t care if what you say is derived from God’s wisdom or from the scripture themselves. They will believe nothing that isn’t proved to them by some form of prophetic parlor trick, and they do this because their leaders have taught them that the only legitimate word from God is one that comes in the form of what can only be termed a psychic reading. Paul refuses to engage in these tactics saying that though they see him as weak the power of God is still present in his life to minister to the people.

In v. 5 Paul rejects the attempt of the people to impeach his credibility instead turns their words back on themselves saying if they are going to examine someone they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith and to prove themselves whether they are speaking and acting from who Jesus is in their hearts or are they acting from a reprobate spirit? We might ask as well what is a reprobate and how do you become one?

The word reprobate here is a Greek word that is the opposite of the word approved. It is also translated as “rejected” and “castaway.” In the context of v. 5, the implication is clear that one can be a believer who is wholly indwelled by the Spirit of Christ and then consequently become a reprobate or rejected vessel. “Know you not your own selves,” Paul says “how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you are reprobates?” That statement suggests that one can be in Christ and then find themselves rejected a very sobering consideration.

Paul’s prayer in v. 7 is that the Corinthians would do no evil – not just to make him (Paul) look good (because he is their spiritual father and the founder of their church) but so they would come to the place of transparency and honesty in their spiritual lives. No matter how deeply the Corinthian church might contaminate itself, it doesn’t change Paul’s testimony among them because (v. 8) nothing can be done against the truth of what God wrought in him and through him in their behalf.

What is Paul reaching for? He is appealing to the last vestiges of spiritual maturity in the Corinthian church, reminding them who they are in Christ and urging them to strive for the perfection of God in their own lives rather than examining and blaming others for their shortcomings including Paul himself. He is writing these things and sending them on ahead of his visit (v. 10) in hopes that he will not have to use sharpness when he arrives for he sees his primary ministry not to destroy but to edify and to bless.

What is Paul’s conclusion in this second letter to the Corinthians? In verse 11 he gives his final words that they be perfect. That they be comforted that they be of one mind. Most Christians today would opt out right here. Christian culture does not uphold unity as it once did. Instead, we celebrate diversity to such a degree that we question any group of people who come together on the basis of agreement before God regarding his word and his testimony among us. Paul goes on to exhort the people to live in peace so that the God of love and peace would be with them. Why? Because where there is no unity and no peace and no love in demonstration the Spirit of God withdraws and leaves the people to their own feuding and self-indulgent debates and strifes. Lastly, Paul encourages them when they come together to greet one another with a holy kiss. Can you imagine a congregation of people with this level of purity and intimacy among them? We have fallen so far short of this that churches are disbanding by the score. Statistics in 2018 tell us that 7000 – 10,000 churches a year are shutting down and calling it quits.

Communities with once vibrant congregations are now trying to decide what to do with abandoned church buildings that are nothing more than an eyesore in their neighborhoods. Times are fundamentally changing while the beat goes on in Christian culture as though nothing were awry. What is to be our response? The Corinthian church was an absolute mess – but Paul’s apostolic exhortation was “be perfect. Be of good comfort. Be of one mind. Live in peace. Know that the God of love and peace is with you when you pursue the purity and intimacy with God’s people that allows you to honestly and with transparent affection for one another to greet each other with a holy kiss.

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