Thirteen chapters, forty-nine posts, and six months later, we’ve finally reached the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Along this journey we’ve learned more about Paul’s heart for his flock, the spiritual battle he fought on a daily basis, the authority God had given him, and most importantly, his great love for the Corinthian church. We’ve also discovered the various temptations, struggles, and failings of the Corinthians as they sought to follow God in an extremely pagan culture. A culture shockingly similar to our own, where pleasure is supreme, and the pursuit of it becomes a religion.
But through it all, Paul was right there encouraging them, disciplining them, and pointing them back to the straight and narrow way. Now as this passionate apostle closes his letter, he gives the Corinthians a few final directives.
We’re nearing the end of our time in II Corinthians. It has been an amazing journey of discovering Paul’s heart for his disciples and his desire to see restoration and renewed fellowship with the Corinthians. At times, his words were harsh and strong, and he did not hold back in telling the Corinthians the truth of the matter. But why this long letter? We know that he was planning on visiting this church in person, so why write too?
Paul gives us the answer near the end of the book.
Test. One word that ignites tension, stress, anxiety, and apprehension. Most of us don’t like taking tests, but our lives are full of them. From math tests in kindergarten to high school SATs or grad school finals, our entire education is based off of test-taking. Then in adulthood, we have driving tests, work related testing, and various other forms of tests. Our health is checked and evaluated based on tests—eye exams, blood tests, etc. In short, we use testing to measure all sorts of things, from competence in academics to whether or not we need more vitamins.
We are very familiar with the benefits and process of testing. So it should be no surprise that just as we test our physical health, we should also test our spiritual health. In fact, our spiritual testing should be of utmost importance to us, for the results from it have eternal impact. Therefore, let’s see what Paul said about spiritual testing.
Christianity is not mere fire insurance or a “get out of hell” free card. It’s not a free pass into heaven or an extra activity to add to one’s life. No! Becoming a Christian means surrender and death. Surrender to Christ’s lordship and death to the old ways of life. We often struggle with these two points, but as Christians, we should become more and more surrendered to Christ and dead to sin.
Out of all human relationships, there is only one that has remained somewhat intact despite the fall. Can you guess what relationship I’m referring to? Romantic love and marriage is tainted by selfish ambition and the desire for personal pleasure. The first murder was caused by sibling rivalry and jealousy. Friends are quick to betray. Cousins and uncles have stood on opposite sides of a battlefield and fought each other. So what human relationship is left?
Parents’ unconditional love for their children.
God’s ways never seem to make sense in our finite human understanding. The way of His kingdom is completely opposite of our world and culture. In His system, the humble are lifted up, the poor made rich, the last made first, and the weak made strong. Crazy, right?!
But it’s true.
Thorns are prickly, sharp, pointy objects that inflict pain on those who brush up against them. They look menacing and make you think twice about picking a berry or plucking a rose. Can you imagine getting one lodged deep into your foot or hand? It would be extremely painful!
Figuratively, Paul had a thorn in the flesh. It caused him constant pain, but he never complained. In fact, this is the only place in the entire Bible that we read about it. Outside of II Corinthians, Paul never mentions it. But why didn’t Paul tell others about it more often? Why did he only share this bit of information with the Corinthian church? Let’s find out!