April 20, 2021
Paul has opened his life to the Corinthians and concludes with one final issue before moving to his conclusion. Paul is a missionary. The congregations that sent him out also provided the financial support required to do the work. This approach continues today and most missionaries to other cultures are financially provided for by the people from the culture they were sent from. This makes sense when the missionary is spreading the gospel in new areas. Unfortunately, once disciples are made and churches are established this approach may create challenges.
When the Corinthians decide that they would prefer to listen to men who charge them for their messages and who tell them what they want to hear, Paul’s approach appears to fail. I worked for many years in a profession that sought out ways to improve how people did their work. Often it was difficult for people to accept the change, especially if it involved increased effort in the short-term. One thing that seemed to work on a regular basis was to hire a consultant to come in and deliver the same message. For some reason, the fact that the consultants were getting paid significant amounts of money made their message more believable.
Whether in person or away Paul has been ministering to the Corinthians with no expectation that they will compensate him for his service. His service is valuable, but he desires to avoid any appearance that he is attempting to exploit the Corinthians for his own gain. As their spiritual parent he desires to provide for them rather than depend on them.
20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (2 Corinthians 12:20-21 NIV)
When I read through Paul’s description of the congregation I am struck by a clear need for humble Christ-honoring leadership. This is a congregation in chaos continuing to struggle with serious moral issues. The absence of loving leadership and the chaos that results are keeping people from dealing with the sin issues that they need to repent of and leave behind. Under everything going on in the Corinthian congregation I would expect to find a pervasive lack of trust.
How often does this kind of church environment continue to hold individual Christians and the congregations they are a part of back. The work of becoming like Jesus is hard. Confession and repentance disappear in an environment characterized by selfishness and discord. All these behaviors lead to a lack of trust. To make myself vulnerable to another in the way that real growth requires I must trust them and have confidence that they care about me more than they care about themselves. I think this is why Paul emphasizes this list of relational issues first. We do not generally consider them the big sins, because they are so common. May we do all we can as individuals to encourage trust and loving relationships within our congregations that will promote confession and repentance that lead to real spiritual growth.