As we wrap up this letter, we see Paul’s heart for the Corinthians, that they would know God’s best in their lives.
Paul starts out by challenging them, saying,
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. (5)
How can we tell that we are Christians? The apostle John gives us ways to test the genuineness of our faith: our belief in the truth about Jesus (1 John 2:22-23), our obedience to Christ (I John 2:3-4), and the love we have for God and others (I John 4:7-8). This is not to say that we will ever be perfect in obedience and love, but we should see these things starting to develop in our lives. And when we fail, true Christians should be quick to repent.
Paul’s prayer was that they would pass the test. That they would prove the genuineness of their faith by their repentance. He told them,
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. (7)
Why did he pray this?
Not that people will see that we have stood the test… (7b)
In other words not just so that people will say, “Oh Paul is such a great leader. Look at the people he has raised.” But rather,
…that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. (7c)
What did he mean by this? Paul had told the Corinthians that he would come with a heavy hand if they didn’t repent. But if they repented, and Paul as a result didn’t show his heavy hand, his critics would probably say, “See how soft Paul is. He’s no true leader.” But to Paul that didn’t matter. His only concern was that the Corinthians would repent and do what was right. And so he said,
We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. (9)
Others might think he was weak because he didn’t come down hard on the Corinthians for their failures. But again, he didn’t care about that. He wanted them to be strong and not need his heavy hand. And so he prayed for their perfection and restoration. The ESV puts it,
Our prayer is that you may be fully restored.
Paul then told them,
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. (10)
In short, “Ultimately I want God’s best for you. God has placed me into your lives that you may be built up.”
And so he charged them,
Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. (11a)
For if they did so,
The God of love and peace will be with you. (11b)
He then concluded,
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (14)
That’s what Paul’s hope and prayer for them were. And that’s what our hope and prayer for others should be.
Sometimes we need to be hard on people when they sin, particularly when they are stubbornly rebellious against God. But all that we do should be aimed at their restoration, that they may know God’s best in their lives.
How about you? Do you seek God’s best in others?