We come this morning to the closing words of Paul's second letter to his brothers and sisters in Corinth. It has been, in many ways, a letter of mixed emotions. Paul has spoken great words of love and joy toward them. But he has also had to speak very firmly to them. And now, in these closing words, we see a very clear 'inside' picture of his pastor's heart toward them.
Paul had been given authority from Jesus Christ as an apostle. And he was not afraid to use that authority if he needed to. But he much preferred to use a gentle touch. Here, in these closing words, we see something of that gentle touch on display.
I. PAUL'S PRAYER FOR THE CORINTHIANS (vv. 7-9).
A. Paul uses a word (here translated "pray") that also has a strong sense of a "wish" or "desire". His appeal is to God for them that they would do not evil (perhaps in the sense of their antagonistic spirit toward his authority and of their unrepentance toward the toleration of sin in their midst). He makes it clear that this is not so that he and his co- workers could appear reputable in the sight of men, but that they themselves should do what is honorable—even if it should be that he should appear disreputable in the sight of men.
B. Paul affirms that his concern is not for appearances. His great concern is for the advancement of the Gospel ("the truth"). He can do nothing against it, but only work for it. For this reason, he is even glad to be "weak" (in the valuation of men) if it makes the Corinthians "strong" (in Christ). More than this—he even prays that they may be "complete" (that is "put together" and "mature").
II. PAUL'S PURPOSE IN WRITING TO THEM (v. 10).
A. Paul writes the things he writes in this letter, being absent from them, for a reason. He doesn't want to have to come and use his Christ-appointed authority as an apostle in a harsh way. He doesn't want a repeat of his second visit (v. 1).
B. His reason for not wanting to use "sharpness" is because he believed that the authority he had been given by Christ was for the purpose of building up, rather than for tearing down. Paul's ministry was a "constructive" ministry rather than a "destructive" one.
III. PAUL'S LONGING FOR THEIR CHARACTER (v. 11).
A. As a final word, Paul gives his "wish-list" for the Corinthians—revealing what it is that he wanted to "build up" in them. He wishes them "farewell"—literally using the word for "joy". Basically Paul is saying this as a form of final greeting to these whom he loved so much but had to address so strongly.
B. As an expression of what it meant to him for them to be "built-up", he wishes for them to be "complete" (or "together"); of good comfort (see chapter 1), to be of one mind (that is unified in their attitude and submission to Christ), and to live in peace (not in division).
C. He assures them that if they do so, "the God of love and peace will be with you".
IV. PAUL'S SENSE OF FELLOWSHIP WITH THEM (vv. 12-13).
A. He calls them to greet each other in a holy manner. He calls for a holy "kiss" (emphasis on "holy"). They are to maintain a genuine, Christian affection for one another.
B. He also assures them that their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the body likewise greet them. Paul was glad to convey to them the love of others of their brothers and sisters; and to assure them that they do not stand alone.
V. PAUL'S VIEW OF GOD'S COMMUNION WITH THEM (v. 14).
A. In one of the clearest affirmations of the trinity to be found in the New Testament, Paul affirms their union—not only with one another and with the rest of the body of Christ— but with the very Godhead. Their union with God is the basis of their union with each other.
B. Here we see the partnership of the triune Godhead in our salvation: We receive grace through the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. But that grace has its origin in the love of the Father. And it is brought into effect by the ministry of the Holy Spirit—who brings us into communion with the Father and the Son, and thus with one another.