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An Examination of our Fitness for Duty (2 Corinthians 12 and 13) March 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons.


(2 Corinthians 12:14-13:14)

We began our study of 2 Corinthians 10-13 with a look at two necessary traits for our spiritual warfare, boldness and humility. Paul has up to now primarily been describing his own fitness as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Now he tells the Corinthians that he is coming to examine those who claim to be soldiers of Christ and see if they are truly fit for duty. He hopes though that the church will be able to carry out this examination on their own. For that reason he gives them some principles and guidelines, hoping that they will follow them in examining those who claim to be soldiers of Christ and exposing some of them as frauds.

We as a church are responsible to examine ourselves both as individuals and as a church. It is essential that we prove ourselves fit for duty.

1. We prove our fitness for duty by maintaining a parental sacrificial love (12:14-18). If you could sum up these chapters, you would find that this is the epitome of Paul’s fitness for duty. He loves the Corinthian church with the sacrificial love that we know of primarily as the love of a father or mother for their child. At the beginning of chapter 11 he talks about being the father of a daughter who makes sure that she gets the perfect match in a husband. In 1 Corinthians 4, he says that the reason he speaks such strong words to them is because he is their spiritual father.

Being a parent is not easy. Paul points out that he loves them more than they love him. Paul felt the pain that comes when a child does not appreciate their parents instruction. Paul no doubt became impatient with them at times. He never, however, disowned them. He never turned his back on them. This church treated him worse than all the other churches. Yet we find he plans on sacrificing again for them because he feels that is what is best for their future.

He does this in the face of the lies which were being spread about him. He refers to them sarcastically in the last part of verse 16, “I’m a sly one, I am! I’ve trapped you before and I’ll do it again.” The sad part is that some likely believed the lies. They would rather put their confidence in men who had made themselves the measure of spirituality rather than Paul who exhibited humility and sacrificial love.

He reminds them not only of his sacrificial love but also of those who he sent to the Corinthians, like Titus. Paul did not play good cop, bad cop with the Corinthians. He and Titus loved these people with a parental sacrificial love.

a. We are accountable God to maintain this love among us (12:19-21). Paul asks this question, “Do you really think I need to defend myself to you? It is God who sends me. I am accountable to him. All that I have done, all that I have written, all that I will do or write in the future is for one purpose and one purpose only – your edification, to build you up.”

Paul has actually spent much time defending himself in this and other epistles. He does not do it though for his sake but rather for the sake of his children. He does not need to explain himself to the church but if that is what will build these people up in Christ, that is what he will do.

Paul knows, you see, that self-defense often leads to sinful behavior. He lists those things that he fears might happen. It is an awful list filled with the “Dreck” and the mud of this world: contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions (politicking), backbiting (evil speaking), whisperings, conceits, tumults (the chaos that result from fussing and fighting). Verse 21 tells us what results from this type of behavior: humiliation and mourning. Have we not experienced this ourselves?

It is easy for us to turn our backs on such situations. They are painful. Love does not turn its back on such a situation but rather recognizes its responsibility before God and works toward reconciliation and edification. Both are necessary. It is not enough to bury the hatchet but rather we must work to build up that one, with whom we have fought. One identifying characteristic of true forgiveness is the desire to do what is best for that person you are trying to forgive.

Is that not what Paul is doing here? This church has had a history of tolerating sexual immorality and other types of extreme living. Some had openly repented but others had yet to do so. They were not currently living that life style but had not repudiated it. We do not know why. Perhaps they were making excuses for their past behavior. It could be that the false teachers were making excuses for these people. Paul reminds them though that there are no excuses for sin and they need to repent. Paul, why confront these people. Those sins are in the past. Paul’s answer would be this, I love them also and I am going to do whatever I can to bring them to repentance even if the price is deep grief. Why does he do this? Because he is accountable before God.

b. We are empowered by Christ to maintain this love (13:1-4). To knowingly go into a situation with both guns blazing would be easy. To maintain your love for people when you are the focus of their attacks and your message is one that they do not want to hear is quite another. There is really only one way to maintain your love for people with whom you are in conflict, through the power that comes through Christ. Certainly, we should follow Christ’s example but what Paul is teaching here is more. He is speaking of the resurrection power of Christ working in our weakness, strengthening us, enabling us to love those who do not love us, who spread lies about us, who withdraw from us, who continue to make excuses for their behavior. Just as Jesus suffered and died in weakness to save the world from sin, God wants us to suffer in weakness so that he can empower us to help us to love and forgive and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ.

c. We will undertake immediate, specific action when we truly love (13:7-10). We have already seen what Paul plans on his arrival but like a true parent, he does not wait until his arrival. Already we find him praying and writing. Now God may or may not allow you to sit down and write a letter, although that certainly is something you could consider but there is every reason in the world why you should be active in praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ, whether you have a problem with them or not.

First, pray that God would keep them from sin. Everyone of us is surrounded by temptations and everyday some of us are in such danger that we need the protection of God to keep us from evil. Pray that God would keep husbands and wives faithful and our young people pure. Pray that God would keep our business men honest. Pray that God would keep our people from gossip and evil speaking. Pray for them by name. Pray for them by sin. Pray for them by families. Pray for them. Protect them with your prayers.

Secondly, pray for their spiritual preparation. To be complete means to be trained, ready for battle, ready for the game, to have learned the discipline necessary to stand firm when the body gets tired, to be prepared. Pray for new believers, pray for believing teens and children, pray for believers moved by God to serve the Lord fulltime, pray for your pastor, pray for the advisory board, pray for each teacher, each officer, pray for those who have yet to undertake service for God because they do not feel prepared.

d. We have God’s presence when we maintain our love for each other (13:11-14). If we do this, then we will have God’s presence. Worship music does not bring God’s presence. Even prayer itself does not bring God’s presence. When God’s people, however, are at peace with one another, when they are of one mind and one accord, then, we can rest assured that God is with us, whether we feel him or not. When we fuss and fight with each other, when we gossip and backstab, when we puff ourselves up before others, God leaves, I think in much the same way he left Samson. Delilah cut off his hair and Samson woke up and did not even notice that the Spirit of God was gone. When we do not love each other as we should we are like Samson. We still have the muscles and the know how to use them but the strength is gone.

2. When our love is unfit, we should examine our faith (13:5-6). I come to these verses last because they hold up a serious warning. If we, like some of the Corinthians are lacking in love, we need to pay attention and examine our faith. Why? Because faith and love go together. If love is missing, then something is wrong with your faith. Either you do not have true faith in Christ or you need to strengthen that faith that is in you turning to the power of Christ that is in you to empower you to love others and to quit the sins of contentions and whisperings and unforgiveness.

Some of you may be asking yourself, how do I know if I am truly in the faith. Are you trusting Jesus, His crucifixion in weakness and His bodily resurrection from the dead by the power of God for forgiveness of sins. It is only through Him that we can be forgiven. Trust Him today and enter His service and His family for all eternity.






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