II Corinthians 12:11–13:14. The Last Word.

Key Notes: Embedded in Corinth. Embedded in Christ. Corinth 40 years later. Bonded by oaths. Test yourself.

One way to study the text—any text-- is to try to reduce it to simple sentences. In doing this, we omit some spiritual material, and most of Paul’s ironies and asides in order to capture the flow of the argument.

Let us try a narrative summary.

I am coming to you for a third time. 12:14
The signs of a true apostle have been demonstrated to you. 12:12
No financial provisions are required, and no guile or deception should be implied. 12:14
I am coming to build you up. 12:19

However,  I fear that I will find division and disorder. 12:20
I may grieve over the unrepentant, the impure, the immoral, and the debauched. 12:21
Be prepared for judicial proceedings. Justice will be tough. 13:1
As Christ is weak (in His death) but powerful (in His life), we also live by the power of God. 13:3
Self-examination is better than judicial proceedings. Is Christ in you or not? 13:5

We pray that you will do right. We are for the truth. 13:7
We pray for your broken bones to be mended. 13:9
I want to use my authority to build you up, not tear you down. 13:10
Goodbye for now. Mend the broken. Listen to me. Be at peace with each other.
May God be with you. 13:11

Benediction.13:14

Comments:

Paul is making his final statement before returning to Corinth the third time. The first time was his evangelistic and teaching mission, which lasted‘ months. (Acts‘:1–17). His second was the painful visit that required serious church discipline. (IICor.2:1–4). He hopes his third visit will not require further discipline and he is trying to correct various bad conducts in advance.

Paul mentions his power credentials three times:
“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience….” (12:12).
“It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ….” (12:19)
“…Christ is speaking in me.” (13:3)

And then he throws the question back at  them:
            “Do you not realize that Christ is in you…?” (13:5)

“…children ought not to not lay up for their parents but the parents for the children.” (12:14).
The proverb says “House and wealth are inherited from fathers…” (Prov.19:14)

Actually, family support should flow in both directions. The IVth  commandment compels us to honor father and mother (Ex.20:12). It is reinforced by Jesus’ criticism (Mk.7:9–13) of people who find legal ways to avoid  funding their aged parents. In practice, the parents provide for the children when the children are dependent. The children provide for the parents if they become dependent.

“If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?” (12:15)
Of course! In the Eros kind of love which the Corinthians exhibit, the pursued runs away, seeking to avoid involvement, commitment, to escape the trap. There may be panic. If the pursuer stops, the pursued may cautiously turn back. In the spiritual life, God is the pursuer and people usually run. “Where shall I go from your Spirit?” (Psa.139:7). Running from God is the theme of Francis Thompson’s famous poem, “The Hound of Heaven”. Miraculously, when a person becomes a believer, love from God is reciprocated with love to God, as well as love,  joy and worship. In the same way, love between pastor and people should be unstrained and beneficial.

The fear that Paul will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, (12:20) and sexual immorality (12:21) reflects the conditions in I Corinthians. Corinth did not change much in spite of Paul’s intense efforts. Clement, one  of the early Church fathers, wrote a letter to the Corinthian Church forty years later, in 97AD,  denouncing their pride, lust, strife and tumult.

“You are full of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation.”
“Your schism has subverted (the faith of) many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.” (The Anti-Nicene Fathers. Clement’s Letter  to the Corinthians. The end of chapter 46).

Churches, and families, cities and nations tend to have reputations that carry over for generations. Are our present church problems a crisis or a symptom of long-standing disorder?

Paul’s planned return to Corinth puts us in mind of Jesus’ Second Coming.
“Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like those who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes….” for them . Lk12:35–37

Paul is embedded in Corinth.

Paul’s comfort is their comfort. 1:6
Their pride is Paul’s pride. 1:14
Their joy is Paul’s joy. 2:3
Their forgiveness is Paul’s as well. 2:1
They are Paul’s letter of recommendation. 3:1–2
They live and die together. 7:3
They are fools, both. 11:17–19
Christ is in Paul. (13:3). Is Christ in them? 13:5
If they fail the test, they both fail. 13:5,7

Paul is even more deeply imbedded in Christ. “In Christ” is a phrase Paul uses some 200 times in his writings. It defines his relationship without really explaining it. It is a mystical concept.

He shares in Christ’s sufferings. 1:5
All the promises of God are “yes” in Christ. 1:20
God establishes us with you in Christ. 1:21
God in Christ always leads us in triumph. 2:14
In Christ everyone is a new creature. 5:17
A man in Christ was caught up into the third heaven. 12:2
We speak in Christ . 12:19


Paul also uses other expressions for his relation to Christ.
We utter the AMEN through Him. 1:2
We are the aroma of Christ to God. 2:14
We have confidence toward God through Christ. 3:4
The veil is taken away through Christ. 3:14
We see the glory of God in the face of Christ. 4:6
The life of Jesus is manifested in our flesh. 4:11
The power of Christ rests on him. 12:9
Christ is speaking in him. 13:3

Paul’s bonding between himself, and the Corinthians and Christ, is reflected by his use of an oath six times in II Corinthians. He is intense.

“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you was not yes and no." (1:18)
“I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. " (1:23)
“As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine {that he does not accept financial support} will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.” (11:10)
“Do I not love you? God knows I do.” (11:11)
“The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, He who is blessed forever, knows that I do not lie.” (11:31)
It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your up-building, beloved.” (12:19)

None of this bonding denies the real tensions between him and the Corinthians.
They are clearly divided on four issues:
            Have the Corinthians accepted the grace of God in vain? 6:1
            Are they separated from idol worship? 6:16
            Have they accepted false teachers? 11:13
            Is there still gross sin? 12:20–21

There are also two areas of strain.
            The Corinthians are restricted in their love for Paul. 6:12; 12:15
            Their giving for the church in Jerusalem is sluggish. 8:11

The final and crucial challenge is
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize the Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail to met the test.” (13:5)

Do you realize? Do you know? Are you sure? Do not go away unsure of salvation. If we die, or when Jesus comes, we must be ready. Commit your life to Him now. Today is the day of salvation.