1 & 2 Corinthians: Day 40

Finally, Rejoice

by

Today's Text: 2 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 15:1-8, Colossians 1:9-12

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 15:1-8, Colossians 1:9-12

Think about the words you would use to describe the Church today.

When Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthian church, he didn’t know what the Church today would look like. Designations like Catholic and Protestant, Reformed and Arminian, even conservative and liberal, didn’t exist. And yet, in the newly formed Church of Paul’s day, they still needed to pursue unity. Dissension fractured the new body of believers, much as it has for centuries. The study of Church history is the study of fractions, disjointed parts that make a whole.

The last chapter of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s plea to his Corinthian brothers and sisters. A brief review of Paul’s relationship with the church at Corinth might be helpful here as we close our study of both letters.

First Corinthians is Paul’s instruction manual to Corinth. He clarifies new Christian traditions and social positions (everything from spiritual gifts to marriage to the Lord’s Supper). Factions in the church had begun to form around different interpretations of these traditions. Church leaders who opposed Paul began to gain traction around their interpretations, and Paul responded with a strong letter of rebuke (which was lost).

Many Corinthian believers responded well to Paul’s rebuke, and found sure footing again. But dissenting factions remained, and it is to these people that Paul addressed 2 Corinthians. Paul really puts himself out there in this letter. It is his apologetic for himself as a leader, but also for the cause of Christ. 2 Corinthians is emotional and strong, like the closing arguments of a political debate or a courtroom drama.

Many scholars and commentaries refer to 2 Corinthians as Paul’s apologia pro vita sua, a latin phrase which means “a defense of one’s life.” He defends himself, he defends the body of Christ, and he defends the faith. Church unity is one of Paul’s soapboxes. He returns to it over and over, and in his closing statements to the Corinthians, he says this:

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace.
—2 Corinthians 13:11

Restoration, comfort, agreeableness, peace—as the body of Christ, Paul calls us to these things in this important epistle. Can you imagine if those words described the Church today, let alone the Church throughout history?

Here’s what I believe about the Church, in a rather church-y metaphor. When you look at a piece of stained glass, you see one of two things first. You can see the whole beautiful picture, or you can see the hundreds or thousands of smaller pieces of glass. All of those different pieces of glass have a purpose; they bring a unique color, perspective, shape, or function to the whole piece of art. But the primary goal of all of those little pieces is to come together to present one beautiful message to its audience.

Until Christ returns, the Church will always be made up of thousands of pieces, expressions, or denominations. Each one brings something different to the body, yet all too often, we err on the side of contentiousness, distrust, or outright anger toward those other parts of the body. But our prayer should always be, as Paul’s was, that we present a mature, unified picture of the body of Christ, being of the same mind, at peace with one another and with God. In this way, we will display the glory and the heart of our King, Jesus Christ.

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Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.

  • Renae Pearson

    Verses 3 and 4 really stuck out to me. The fact that Christ works powerfully in us! And that the power of his resurrection can be applied in our life! That’s some serious power!
    So when I feel like I will never break this habit or get better at this area of sin, I have to remember power of the resurrection lives in me!

  • About what is Paul talking in verses 5 through 8? “Even though we may appear to fail”. We continually to seek God to do His will. Why would not just Paul but the whole “we” appear to fail?

    • Deborah Craytor

      I think in most cases that when Paul says “we,” he is using the “royal we,” i.e., he is referring to himself.

      • Jen

        I thought perhaps Paul was talking about himself, Titus, Timothy etc. his desiples helping him travel from city to city to start the church to teach of Jesus Christ.

  • I’ve never liked the idea of denominations, it’s so divisive and creates an us vs them mentality in the church. I remember I was at a more traditional Presbyterian service once, and the pastor said: “we don’t do such and such, unlike those Methodists!” How is that helpful?

    I don’t think any one denomination has all the answers and lives out Scripture perfectly, and that’s why I really like the stained-glass metaphor. We all come together with our differing opinions and styles of worship to serve one God. There is enough tension in the world, we don’t need to add to it.

  • Carol Pierce

    The Word of God rightly handled personally & corporately is what unites us as believers. If we focus on anything else there will always be dissension.

  • Ann Duncan

    Amen.

  • Gina Glennon

    I really enjoyed today’s wrap up of 1 and II Corinthians. I have lived through 2 heartbreaking and destructive church fights all because of personality and power issues. Such a poor witness to the watching world and so sad. It was good to revisit these letters as a reminder how much we need to pray for our church leaders and one another so that the enemy will not get a foot in the door and sow disunity. Lord, help us all to love one another as You do, for the sake of Your glory!

    • DebRN

      And what a terrible way to share our faith. I was spiritually damaged when “Christians” on my campus told me I was part of a dead church, called people baby Christians, some spoke in tongues, some said that was of the devil. It may be cleansing to just face when things have gone wrong and make amends to change it. I love this direction: aim for agreeableness, comfort one another agree with one another, live in peace.

  • I really love being reminded that before denominations existed there was still different understandings in the body; and the stained glass illustration really helps to get this message across. Each piece different – yet working together! Working together to bring people closer to Jesus. I think if we focused on the bigger picture more than whose piece was the “best” we’d find restoration, comfort, agreeableness, and peace amongst ourselves. We need it and the world needs it. Thanks SRT!

  • Kelly Chataine

    The scripture always provides so much to reflect on and apply. Today, the end of II Corinthians 13 jumped out to me.
    Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
    Rejoice ~ Restore ~ Comfort ~ Agree ~ Peace ~ for the God (our God) of love and peace is with us!

  • Kristine Loughman

    Restoration, comfort, agreeableness, peace… that’s the opposite of how I feel most of the time these days when I look at where we’ve come as a country, a world. Zoom in closer to my little family of four, with a sassy pre-k child an an 8-going-on-teenager daughter… peace and restoration are needed in my house too! Lord, help me be a peace-maker and comfort-bringer to those around me. Let me not be so eager to wade into every argument, fists raised.

    • Kelly Chataine

      Yes! May we all seek to bring peace and restoration to our part of this troubled world. Wonderful reminder! Thanks, Kristine.

  • Churchmouse

    Maturity in Christ. My life as my witness. The legacy I leave. These are never far from my mind. My prayer for myself, my family and the church is Colossians 1:9-12. When I first read those verses I insert my name. The second time I read those verses I insert my family’s names. The third time I read with the church in mind. Knowledge of God’s will. Wisdom. Spiritual understanding. Walking worthy of the Lord. Pleasing to Him. Bearing fruit. Strengthened with all power. Endurance. Patience. Joyful. Grateful. Sharing in the saints’ inheritance. In the light. Yes. That’s a prayer worth praying. The fourth time I read those verses : for the world. That all may know and believe while there is yet time. Amen.

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