13 This is the third time that I am coming to you. On the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter shall be confirmed. I have previously said when I was present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone… Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless that is you fail the test? But I expect that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you do nothing that is evil; not so that we ourselves may be shown to have been right, rather that you do what is virtuous so that we will appear to have been in error (concerning you). For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak, but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you become mature. 10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down. 11 Finally, brothers, rejoice, mend your ways, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen. (2Cor13:1-2;5-14)

Regrettably Paul must end his second letter to the Corinthian church on a stern note. He urges them to mend their ways, to mature, and above all, live in peace with each other so that “the God of love and peace shall be with them” (v11). As I mentioned a few posts ago, we have evidence to show that such is unfortunately not how things turned out [Letter from Clement, Bishop of Rome c. AD96]. At the same time Clement (almost certainly the fellow worker Paul had referred to in Phil4:3) made it clear at the start of his letter that this was the result of a minority party within the church who nevertheless managed to wreak havoc.

Examine yourselves regarding the Faith

Paul had urged individual members of Corinthian church to “Test yourself as to whether you are in the faith – for don’t you realize Christ is in you, unless of course you fail the test” (v5). So how were they to test themselves – by questioning themselves along the lines of whether they were truly “looking to Christ’s finished work at Calvary and resting in the merits He had accrued on their behalf”? As we shall see, that cannot be the case. Still less, “boldly trusting in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it” (à la Luther). If you have read carefully through this epistle and certainly if you have taken any note of my comments on it, it is evident that cannot be what Paul will have had in mind.

Cooperating with grace

Such psychologically focussed analysis opposes the whole tenor of his teaching and evangelism. That had emphasized righteous living and self-control in the light of the judgement to come as a trembling Governor Felix had discovered (Acts24:25). And it was Paul’s emphasis with respect to his own salvation and ministry: “That is why I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified” (1Cor9:27NASB). His pastoral dilemma with the Corinthians had not been their failure to rely on God’s grace but their behaviour: “strife, jealousy, bad tempers , selfishness, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances, impurity, sexual immorality and indecent behaviour” – and that was just the previous chapter (12:20-21).

Christ in you – the hope of glory

It is why the apostle goes on to challenge them: “Don’t you realize that Jesus Christ is in you, if indeed you pass the test of being in the Faith?” (v5). Christ being in someone means they become like Christ and behave more as He would do. It is not a question of being able to say or sing: “Here in the grace of God I stand” – it concerns what one does and what one is. Or rather, it pertains to what one has become through the grace of God. For, don’t misunderstand me, apart from God’s enabling grace, the Holy Spirit’s energies and participating in the means of grace there is not a chance that anyone could be “presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude1:24). But it is a case of cooperating with God’s grace, not merely resting in it. For as that same apostle had also written to fellow-worker Titus: “the grace of God resulting in salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit2:11-13). Hence the benediction: “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen” (v14).

Related post: False Apostles

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