Paul’s ultimate concern is not his reputation, but the
spiritual growth of the Corinthian Christians. (v. 7) In fact, Paul had
resigned himself to doing only what served truth(v.8), knowing that this
commitment would cause him to look bad to some people some of the time.
But Paul thrived on those times when the Corinthians were
living their faith well, even if he himself appeared incapable. In fact he
prayed for the Corinthians to become “complete”(restored or perfected) in the
way they lived their faith.(v.9)
Believe it or not, perfection is the intended goal of all
Christians. (Matthew 5:48) Although it is not achievable in our mortal bodies,
it is still the bar set in front of us. And the tireless forgiveness of God is
the wind at our back as we grow amidst repeated failure.
With the “completion” of the Corinthians as his goal, Paul
aims to have the Corinthians correct their thinking and behavior before he
comes to visit them, so that he will not need to be severe in his discipline
when he sees them in person. The primary purpose of the authority Christ gave
Paul over the Corinthians was to build them up, not discourage and beat them
down. But sometimes severe discipline is required in order to build someone up.
And Paul reluctantly carried out discipline in the church when necessary.(v.10)
But even in the context of discipline, Paul still recognized
that the Corinthians were his equals in importance to God. Paul’s brothers and
sisters. His desire was for them to become complete (“katartizo” can also mean
perfected or restored), to “come along side” and comfort each other
(“parakaleo”), to be on the “same page” with each other, and to live without
Striving for perfection while living in united,
compassionate community with others is a huge aspiration. And speaking from
personal experience, this can be especially difficult for the Geek, who may
already feel like an outsider in the mainstream Christian community. But Paul
reminds the Corinthians, and us, that the God who personifies love and
personifies peace, the being from whom both concepts come, will be present in
Scripture often directs us in ways that are not at all
intuitive. Our tendency is to either put too much emphasis on religious rules,
or to take a “who cares, I’m forgiven” attitude toward how we live. Scripture
commands both in one sense and neither in another. We are commanded to be
perfect, but “there is now no condemnation for
those who are in Christ Jesus”.(Romans 8:1)
Knowing we will fail can often keep us from trying. But God
already knows we will fail! He is never surprised by our failure. And he has
provided the solution through Christ, so that we can endeavor to be more and
more like him without being discouraged by our repeated failures along the way.
As Paul has already emphasized, community is a vital part of
that journey. He directs the Corinthians to “greet one another with a holy
kiss”, which in Paul’s time was a greeting reserved for family and close
friends. Obviously, the results of doing this in modern America would create
some problems. But we can obey the intention of this command by aiming to “say
hi” to others with the same interest and attention we reserve for family and
close friends, stepping out of our comfort zones to make others feel welcome
and of interest to us.(v.12)
Paul also adds that the community of believers with him send
greeting to the Corinthian church.(v.13)
As a reminder, it should be noted that the Greek word for
"saints" in verse 13 refers to those who are "sanctified"
(set apart) for the purposes of God. This term can refer to believers in
general, not only a select few "Super Christians".
Paul ends with a written blessing, expressing his desires
for what may be true about the Corinthians. Paul’s prayer is that Jesus Christ
will give them favor, even though they don’t deserve it (grace). He also prays
that God’s “agape” will be with them. Agape is a kind of love that brings about
what is best for someone else, even though it might not be what that person
desires in the moment. Lastly, Paul prays for the fellowship, or the
participation of the Holy Spirit with the Corinthians and with what they are
Next Week- Romans!
Coffee House Question- Can you think of a time when God’s
“Agape” brought about something in your life that you maybe didn’t enjoy but
that was ultimately of benefit to you?