In reading the last half of 2 Corinthians today, a few things stood out for a little further consideration.
- Paul speaking of his relational position as spiritual father to the Corinthian church in 2 Cor. 12:14-15, “…For I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.”
In my role as youth/music minister at my church, I need words like this to keep my proper task in focus. Ultimately, I do not work at the church because the money is so good and I like to eat food and live in a house. What I do, I must do with a heart for the people. “I do not seek what is yours, but you…I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.” Ministry done right is, in sum, a net loss–pouring oneself out for the good of others. Remember that Jesus, the even greater Servant-Minister, “emptied Himself,” exchanging the form of God for a servant’s guise. He told us that the one who loses his life for His sake will ultimately find life. True life is found in loss; true ministry is done at a loss. Job expectations should include heartache, disappointment, conflict, trial, and affliction. And even as I write these, I’m mindful of the way Paul described his own troubles in ministry, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17)….” For Paul, such “light affliction” included hard labor, imprisonment, beatings, near-death experiences, lashings of the whip, beatings of the rod, a stoning, three shipwrecks, encounters with robbers, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, frostbite, sunburn, and ceaselessly aching of the heart and head for numerous churches (2 Cor. 11:23-28), etc. And yet for this eternal (>momentary) weight (>light) of glory (>affliction), he pressed on. And so will I. When Christ takes hold, what was once regarded as gain becomes loss; what was once regarded as foolish waste becomes the greatest gain (Philippians 3:7-8).
- “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 indeed you fail the test (2 Cor. 13:5).”
What is interesting to me is that Paul does not explicitly spell out how we are supposed to test ourselves. What he points us to is this: If a man is in the faith, then Christ is in him. And I think this is the entirety of the test. How can I know that I am saved? If I am saved, then Christ lives in me. If Christ lives in me, then Christ lives through me and I through Him (Gal. 2:20). So the self-examination of the faith is an elementary, one-question exam: Is there evidence of Christ’s life in me? And so I pose the question to you. Does your life bear the marks of Christ’s living through you?
- Real Biblical Authority. “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 (2 Cor. 13:10).”
For me the point is crystal-clear. Biblical authority in the church is for a very specific purpose: Edification (building up), not Destruction (tearing down). Once again, Biblical authority is for building others up, not tearing them down. And one more time, Biblical authority is for edifying the brotherhood to their good, not lording it over them to their detriment. Biblical authority does not jive with power-hunger. When we become power-hungry, we have lost sight of what Biblical authority is and what it is for. Sometimes first we must be broken in order to be refashioned. Sometimes we need to be corrected in our understanding so that our lives may then follow suit. But ultimately, authority is for building, not for destroying.