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"A Weak and Mighty Visit"
2 Corinthians 13:1-6
Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 7, 2009
In this closing chapter, Paul deals very directly with the great problem that was then pressing in on the Corinthians; that is, the problem of those who are calling Paul's authority into question in order to advance their own false teaching in the church. In previous sections of the letter, Paul was dealing with the arguments regarding his own authority. But now, he makes it clear that he plans to deal very forcefully with those who are challenging his apostleship.
It's important to remember that Paul was not motivated by any selfish interest in this. His authority to preach and teach was uniquely given to him by Christ (Acts 9:15-16); and he was jealous for the spiritual well-being of those Christ had sent him to serve. Though some strong words are shared in this chapter, it's motivated by Paul's great love for the Corinthians, and by a great confidence in the power of Christ working through him.
I. THE NATURE OF PAUL'S THIRD VISIT (vv.1-2).
A. He mentions that the promised visit will be his third (see also 12:14). And in defending the significance of this third visit, he cites the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 that specifies that a second and third witness is required in law (see also John 8:17-18; Matthew 18:15-20; and 1 Timothy 5:19).
B. Paul's reason for mentioning this is because this third visit constitutes a third appeal to those who are sinning that they repent. He told them "before"; and now foretells as if present "a second time"; and now, in light of the fact that he will be soon coming to them, he writes in advance of the third appeal—warning those who have sinned before (without repentance), and "to all the rest", that when he comes, he will not spare them. He will deal forcefully with sin (see 3 John 10).
II. THE POWER BY WHICH HE WILL COME (vv. 3-4).
A. These strong-sounding words may have been received with a polite laugh from those who were challenging Paul's authority. It may be they doubted that he would come at all. They had already characterized him as being lowly among the Corinthians in presence; but bold in absent (10:1). They painted him as being strong in his letters, but weak and unimpressive in his bodily appearance (10:8). They considered that he was simply trying to 'terrify with letters' (10:9). But the fact is that his apparent weakness was deliberate. He said in 1 Corinthians that when he first came to them, he came "in weakness,in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).
B. Since they sought proof that it is truly Christ speaking in him, he would provide that proof. He had previously begged them that "when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh" (10: 2ff). Note that he is careful not to say that it is he who is the strong one. He affirmed that it is Christ who speaks in him; and that Christ is not weak toward them, "but mighty in you". The same Christ that is mighty in him is also mighty in them—if they will but allow Him to work in them.
C. As an example, he points to Christ Himself. Christ was crucified in weakness (that is, in his incarnate state), but yet now lives by the power of God (Phil. 2:5-11). Likewise, Paul and his co-workers were weak in Christ (12:10), but shall also live with Him by the power of God—again, the very same power that is at work toward the Corinthians (see also Ephesians 1:19-23; 3:20).
III. THE RESPONSE TO THE PROMISE OF HIS VISIT (vv. 5-6).
A. In view of these things then, Paul appeals to the Corinthians to examine themselves. "Test yourselves", Paul says, "as to whether you are in the faith. "Test yourselves." And in doing so, they could see for themselves that it was truly Christ who was in them, in the power of God, through the preaching of Paul—"unless indeed you are disqualified".
B. By the same token, Paul is confident that if they truly look to see Christ at work in them, they will also find Christ at work in him and in his co-workers. He is assured that, if they pass the test, so would he.
* * * * * * * * * *
Paul demonstrates a holy boldness in his service to God's people. He is compelled by love for them to deal with the sin taking root in them. But he does so not in his own power or skills of persuasion. He comes in the power of Christ—the same Christ who is also in the Corinthian believers and at work among them. When a man is truly motivated by love, and acts in confident trust in the power of Christ, he is truly humble. He is a weak and mighty man (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
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