Chapter 13 is the final chapter and the end to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. He tells them “this is my third time coming to you” and he quotes from Deuteronomy “every fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” He reminds them that he warned them when he was there physically (the painful visit), and again in writing and now he is warning them a third time to repent and turn from their sin. He warns them that if he comes to see them in person again, he will not be lenient and will use the full capacity of his authority. What I found interesting is that using his God given authority was Paul’s proof to them of Christ working in him. This was his answer and response to those who were questioning whether he was a legitimate apostle. This made me recognize that when we are in a place of rebellion, we tend to question anyone who tries to correct us. Even when we know better. We will focus on their flaws and pull them apart as an attempt to justify our rebellion and minimize the authority of anyone who would dare correct us. In our minds, if we can invalidate or discredit the one exposing us or calling us out on our sin, we can justify ignoring their warnings. By finding their flaws, or even fabricating them in our own minds, we can shut off the guilt or the obligation to change, by equating their flaws or perceived flaws with our sin and rebellion and justifying our sin as merely a shortcoming. We excuse ourselves from changing by pretending we are working on it. Our minds are very crafty!! As I read this it occurred to me that this is exactly why the false apostles had such an influence on the church in questioning Paul’s legitimacy. The church knew Paul was their authority because he brought them the gospel and established them as a church, but as they were pulled into sin, they needed to quiet the guilt inside themselves by discrediting the authoritative voice that was calling them to repentance.
I love the wisdom of Paul’s next response when he told them to test themselves by examining themselves. There is no test more true than actually examining ourselves. In order to pass this test we have to identify the work that needs to be done in our own hearts. To fail this test is to look past the things we need to change. For me personally, this is what wakes me up when I realize I am just coasting through. Even when we have eliminated the big obvious sin issues, there should always be something we are working through. Not the same issues that we are ignoring and saying we are working through, but new things that God reveals to our hearts as we walk with him in deeper levels. Today this reminds me to test myself to see what I am ignoring. If I am playing the comparison game or trying to invalidate or discredit someone else I am probably trying to quiet the guilt of my own disobedience.