Pastor Tom Ascol finishes his series on 2 Corinthians covering Chapter 13 in a message entitled “Final Warnings, Exhortations, and Encouragements.” Paul’s pointed and personal words here to a troubled church, the result of his deep love for the Corinthians, remain applicable to the church today.
True Christians live by the power of the gospel, the beginning point of which is trusting the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. Living in this gospel requires churches to heed warnings, obey exhortations, and cherish encouragements. There are reasons for God-given warnings. First, Paul tells us people who persist in sin will be justly disciplined or punished. Corrective discipline is a part of the Christian life used to bring believers into conformity with Christ. Second, Paul continues writing, this is the way of Christ. While he and his ministry may appear to be weak, it is this very weakness through which Christ’s power is revealed. Christ’s arrest, trial, and death were not a sign of His weakness but were used powerfully by God. So Paul’s arrests, imprisonment, and apparent deference to others were being used to draw people to salvation. Finally, warnings ought to be seen as an unrequired act of kindness on God’s part. Reacting to warnings today prevents discipline tomorrow.
Paul exhorted the Corinthians. He challenged them to examine themselves, to test the veracity of their faith. Self-examination is an important activity. It is the way to see if we suffer from a false faith and, upon this discovery, sincerely turn to Christ. For real believers this self-examination reinvigorates the understanding that Jesus Christ is in them. Since Christ is in us we ought to emulate the way of Christ. Furthermore, since it was Paul that had originally evangelized the Corinthian church, if these people were in Christ it was Paul who guided them. They should, therefore, listen to his five exhortations; rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace. These are admonitions every church needs to obey to live in love and peace.
Lastly, a church needs to cherish encouragements. Paul’s prayers for the Corinthian church should provide encouragement, particularly as he prays believers would be strengthened in their walks so they will not need the discipline he has the apostolic authority to administer. Their restoration to the faith once for all delivered to the saints for which Paul prayed would give them the strength they needed to go on correctly for God. The assurance of fellowship was another encouragement Paul offered. This fellowship, which should have been present within the Corinthian church, extended far beyond Corinth. The Church of Jesus Christ is greater than any one local assembly of saints. Paul next offered a benediction to the Corinthians. He asked God for a three-fold blessing: the grace of our Lord Jesus Crist, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
This triune blessing, indicative of the Godhead’s Trinity is available to all who come to God through the blood shed on the Cross of Calvary by the Lord Jesus Christ.