Learning from the Past

The book of 2 Corinthians was a difficult letter for the apostle Paul to write.  Paul started the church in Corinth and later found in floundering in its mission.  They were essentially dividing into factions led by various leaders all going in different directions away from the teachings of Paul and the Word of God.  Paul tried to get things back on track in his first letter to the Corinthians then followed up with a visit and another letter which has since been lost. Therefore 2 Corinthians is actually his third letter trying to get the church in Corinth once again pointed in the right direction.  Paul closes his letter with a simple sentence that sums up his desire for their path forward.

 “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”  2 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

This one sentence is a perfect guide for all of us as we work together with other believers to accomplish the mission God has placed before us.

Rejoice

You have been saved by the grace of God.  Your sins are forgiven.  By trusting Jesus you have been granted eternal life.  This is not something you achieved on your own.  No one has the ability to achieve righteousness through their own work.  Salvation is a gift from God to those who believe.

Be Made Complete

Work hard to reach maturity as a follower of Jesus.  Study the Word of God.  Don’t listen to anyone teaching you anything other than the Word of God.

Be Comforted

All those who believe are filled with the Holy Spirit to guide them and support them through life.  As part of the body of Christ, you are connected to the power of God.

Be Like-minded

Our goal should be to have the mind of Christ.  We are the body and He is the head.  If we all follow His instruction we will all be moving in the same direction.

Live in Peace

If everyone is pointed in the same direction through the Word of God, there will be peace.

As I look around at our world today I see some similarities with the church in Corinth.  Indeed, we have many different Christian denominations each with a different take on what the Word of God teaches.  Some of the varying doctrines are completely misguided.  Others are only slightly misaligned with mainstream teaching.  One shocking similarity we have with Corinth is their willingness to follow teachers who were eloquent speakers and therefore financially successful because they received a fee for their service. Paul, who lived a Spartan life, had to defend himself against what he called “super-apostles.”

“I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge.”  Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?”  2 Corinthians 11:5-7 (NIV)

“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:13

So the people of Corinth were enamored by successful flashy speakers.  How familiar does that sound?  And they were unimpressed by the apostle Paul who started their church and had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9).

Again, the book of 2 Corinthians has a relevant message for us today.  If we exalt those who are wealthy and successful, we have completely missed the message of the Word of God.  The exultation of Jesus was through humiliation, suffering, and death on a cross.  Paul demonstrated this same kind of sacrifice by risking persecution as he built the church in Corinth for no material gain.  As followers of Jesus we should also imitate this way of life by loving and sacrificially serving others.

Is there anyone in the church today who would not want the apostle Paul as their senior pastor?  Is it possible someone who sold more books recently would be better received?  When you listen to someone teaching the Word of God you should see Jesus and not the person delivering the message.  Let that be your measuring rod going forward.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV)

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