LESSON TEN: 2 CORINTHIANS 13:5-14
ENCOURAGEMENT REGARDING TESTING
Paul has bared his heart before the Corinthians. His last plea is this: I don’t want to have to discipline you when I come. I want you to voluntarily repent and return to Christ and to me. However if you don’t, I will be forced to discipline you. So to spare yourselves and me, please each of you examine yourselves to see if repentance is needed!
DAY ONE: SELF-EXAMINATION
READ 2 CORINTHIANS 13:5-6
It is easy to fool others into thinking we are more spiritual than we are. It is even easier to fool ourselves! It is tempting to become self-satisfied because we know a lot of Scripture and have served in the church for years when a closer examination would reveal that our faith is superficial.
Because many who profess to be Christians may not be followers of Christ in reality whether they realize it or not, it is wise to evaluate our faith ourselves. Barclay records four tests which the Synod of the Church in Uganda drew up for their people to test the reality of their Christianity. These tests are worth our consideration: “1) Do you know salvation through the cross of Christ? 2) Are you growing in the power of the Holy Spirit, in prayer, meditation and the knowledge of God? 3) Is there a great desire to spread the kingdom of God by example, and by preaching and teaching? 4) Are you bringing others to Christ by individual searching, by visiting, and by public witness?”1
A. TEST OF FAITH
- Paul may not be doubting the salvation of these Corinthian church members, but rather their sanctification – their growth in the faith. However, the place to begin is with one’s salvation. If a person is a true believer, the Holy Spirit will be at work in him or her. If there are no signs of this, then one can assume the person is a Christian in name only. How does Romans 8:9 state this?
- When one puts their trust in Christ for salvation, what does Romans 8:16 tell us happens?
- What are some evidences that the Holy Spirit is at work in a person’s life? (Galatians 5:22-24)
- What does 2 Peter 3:18 add?
- I John 3:14 gives a very bluntly stated practical test. How do you measure up?
- John 14:23-24 is one of many passages in which Jesus gives a test to us. Is it enough just to know Scripture?
The Corinthians have been testing Paul. But even Paul has tested himself and has passed the test over and over. If they observe him they will see that is true.
- Another test is that of fruitfulness. Why is this a good test? (John 15:5)
- What is the supreme test of love for God and people? If one passes that test, what is one called? (John 15:12-14) How does 1 John 3:16-18 describe it?
Make a check list for yourself of characteristics which Scripture says are true of Christ’s followers. Take some extended time alone with just your Bible and your journal and evaluate yourself honestly before God. Ask Him to reveal any areas in your life which need to change.
DAY TWO: TEST FOR LEADERS
Paul doesn’t give specific tests for church leadership in this book, but given the problems that false apostles created, let’s take a look at what Paul (and other apostles) recommended elsewhere. Paul rightly sets the bar high. This is very practical for us today.
Our churches may have different administrative structures with different titles for these roles, and variations on the job descriptions. Nevertheless the type of roles and criteria listed in Scripture are wise and practical.
The first requirement, before those in the lists below, is a strong faith in Christ with Biblically sound doctrine.
A. REQUIREMENTS FOR PASTORS AND ELDERS
- In addition to the problems created in the Corinthian church because of false apostles who came in and needed to be dealt with after the fact, what does Titus 1:10-11 say must be dealt with? Would it not be easier to prevent these problems by having leaders who were well-qualified Godly people?
- Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9. Do any of these criteria surprise you? What stands out to you as being especially wise in relation to your church or group?
- How does Acts 6:4 describe the primary role of the apostles when the church began in Jerusalem? This might be a description of a teaching pastor in a church today.
- What does Peter add in 1 Peter 5:1-4 regarding the motive a pastor must have? Notice that the elder or pastor is to be a servant-leader who models the Christian life to the flock.
- What instruction does Paul give in 1 Timothy 4:13-16?
- What further charge does he give in 1 Timothy 6:11-12?
- To whom is a pastor/elder/overseer/shepherd ultimately responsible? (1 Peter 5:4)
- How should churches treat their pastors? (1 Timothy 5:17)
B. REQUIREMENTS FOR DEACONS
- Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
- Also read Acts 6:1-3 which describes the reason for the role of deacon.
C. REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL CHURCH MEMBERS
- Skim Romans 12. How are you using the gifts God has given you to serve the body? How have you found God’s will to be good as you’ve done so?
- What is necessary for us to serve God acceptably? (Hebrews 9:14)
- Which of Peter’s words convict you? (1 Peter 4:7-11)
What requirements did your organization have for you? How do they compare to the criteria Paul gives? Can you see the value of each trait listed? How do you measure up?
DAY THREE: TRUTH BUILDS UP A CHURCH
READ 2 CORINTHIANS 13:7-14
A. RIGHTEOUS LIVING
Whether or not people are watching, Paul says, always do what is right, regardless of whether anyone gets credit for it or not. We pray you will not do anything wrong. We pray you will be seen to have passed the test of righteous living in the eyes of others regardless of what they think of us.
- Don’t be so foolish as to look at your sin and not address it. (James 1:22-25)
- Base your faith and life on God’s standard of truth. Do we find that in the church or in God’s Word?
- Don’t be afraid of weakness. God can use that to mature, restore and strengthen you.
- Discipline yourselves so Paul (or your own leader) doesn’t have to. God gave Paul his authority for the purpose of building up the church, not for tearing it down.
B. FINAL COMMANDS
If you didn’t know whether you would see someone you loved again, what would your last words to them be? These are Paul’s:
- Aim for perfection.
- Aim for unity. (Note: there is a difference between unanimity and unity!)
- Aim to live in peace.
- Love one another.
- May the Grace of Jesus, Love of God, Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Was this plea effective? Yes. Paul spent 3 months in Corinth on his next trip. He wrote Romans during that third visit in Corinth. In that letter, Paul said there was no more work for him to do in Corinth so he was free to go to other regions. (10:15-16; Romans 15:23-29)
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE: REVIEW
Over the next two days, try to take a block of time to carefully review thoughts from the lessons below which were significant to you. Note how you applied them, or how you plan to apply them. Below is a suggestion from each lesson. Don’t be limited by these. You may have been impressed by something different. The important thing is that you have been open with God over whatever issues He brought to your attention!
- Suffering: How has your understanding of suffering changed? How has your choice to persevere and trust God through suffering changed? Which Scripture was most helpful?
- Church discipline and forgiveness: This is neglected to the detriment of our churches. What new insight have you gained? Might this be a good topic for discussion with your team?
- Jars of clay: How does this increase your love for Christ, and give you boldness to let His light shine through your imperfections?
- Life after death: Has your fear of death lost its grip on you? Might you be interested in doing a deeper study on heaven with your family or teammates?
- Ministry of reconciliation: How does the fear of the Lord as well as the love of the Lord motivate you? How does understanding your role as an ambassador help you?
- Holiness: How is this both a goal and a motivation?
- Generosity and equality: No one is exempt, but the type of giving may vary from time to time. How does cheerful, wise giving and receiving bring unity within the body of Christ? In what way have you been challenged regarding your own giving?
- Leadership traits: How does this help differentiate between Godly leaders and those who merely profess faith? What part does spiritual warfare have when false leaders assert themselves?
- Thorns: How could God’s “no” in answer to a prayer be to one’s benefit?
- Examining one’s faith: Might it be wise to periodically do this to insure that we don’t unknowingly drift away from the dynamic faith we once had? There is a danger in becoming so busy “doing” for God that we neglect to “be” with God!
What one or two lessons has God impressed upon you? How have you responded? Would you share that with someone else this week?
God gave us His Word not so that we would just “have” it but so that it would transform us. God has spoken to me in several areas through 2 Corinthians. In what way has Paul’s very personal letter of 2 Corinthians been part of that transforming process for you?
Scripture rightly tells us that leaders are held to a higher standard. Paul has been a good model of one who is not perfect but whose doctrine and lifestyle are “in sync.” He has been tested and his faith has come through like gold. You and I are wise to also test ourselves – not against other Christians, but against the Word of God. Our God is worthy of the best! And those who follow us need our teaching and model to be consistent with the faith we proclaim.
I have been personally challenged through 2 Corinthians. Have you? As James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (1:22) So now what? Will you and I walk away from this study unchanged, or will we respond by obeying what God has shown us?
A last word from Paul (which I echo): “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
1. Barclay, William, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Corinthians. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), p. 296.
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