[1] This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [2] I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—[3] since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. [4] For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

2 Corinthians 13:1-4

Seventy four written and audio blogs and we have arrived at the final chapter of 2 Corinthians. It has truly been a learning and humbling experience to walk slowly with Paul and the church at Corinth.

Paul has faced false apostles and false teaching, lies and deceit. Along with an aversion to suffering, an expectation of success as the World describes it, an authoritarian approach to leadership, a gospel attached to monetary gain, levels of blessing where some are more privileged than others. Let’s keep going! A boasting of supernatural experiences, a leaning towards show and eloquence, immoral behaviour and more. What love and patience this man had for the church he fathered.

So, to set the context of the verses we are looking at together. Paul’s first visit to Corinth resulted in the church being established (Acts 18:1-8). His second visit was difficult and painful and led him to postpone visiting for a while (2 Corinthians 1:23 and 2:1). Now he contemplates his “third” visit and warns them of what will happen upon his arrival which appears to be equally difficult and painful.

Paul’s reference to the “evidence of two or three witnesses” is from Deuteronomy 19:15-21 an Old Testament law designed to protect a person against unfounded or inadequate charges by a malicious accuser, so we get an idea of what Paul is expecting.

“Those who sinned before” (vs 2) is probably a reference to the same unrepentant folk in 2 Corinthians 12:21, and “all the others” is less certain but gives us an idea that what Paul is anticipating is quite widespread amongst the church. Not an easy visit then!

Paul wants to address the church about particular sins, he hopes for repentance and restoration but he understands that if this is not the case it may lead to removal from the church or not being able to break bread. He has set out his something similar before in his first letter to Corinth.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5

Many in the church were seeking “proof” that Christ was “speaking” through Paul (vs 3), they wanted evidence that Paul was the mouthpiece of Christ. Maybe it was down to “show us a sign” “perform a miracle for us”, or maybe it was a polished performance, or to look the part at least.

DA Carson

“They were so sub-Christian in their thinking that Christ like gentleness and meekness meant little to them. They preferred manifestations of power, however exploitative and arbitrary they might be (11:20). Paul’s gentleness they therefore misjudged as weakness, preferring the triumphalistic pushiness of the false apostles. Paul responds by saying that if it is power they want to see as the absolute criterion of genuine apostolicity, they may get more than they bargained for: he may be forced to display the power of the resurrected Christ, speaking through him in the thunderous tones of punishment, another version perhaps of the judgment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira”

Paul’s point is that his life and especially his relationship to the Corinthians mirrors that of Christ. Jesus, says Paul, was the supreme embodiment and example of both weakness (in his crucifixion) and strength (in his resurrection and exaltation). Jesus was “obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8), refused to retaliate or react against his accusers (Matthew 26:67-68). But unlike us, he did not remain in weakness but came to life again through the resurrection “power of God” (vs 4).

Yes, says Paul, I am weak, as Jesus was, a weakness you’ve despised and used to undermine my credibility. But “in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God” (vs 4).

The phrase “we will live with him” is speaking of his imminent visit to Corinth when, with Christ’s help and with God’s power, he would act decisively and vigorously against unrepentant sin within the congregation. He knows he can’t do this with just eloquence, persuasive words and intellectual argument it has to be divine intervention.

I want to encourage you to see and celebrate and embrace the countless blessings that are ours now, in this present age. We are indeed one with Christ by faith and his resurrection power is operative in and through us in marvellous and incredible ways. That was what Paul was trusting in, it is not just an apostolic privilege but available to every believer.

[19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Ephesians 1:19-20

[13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

This power from God is wide ranging. A power for purity, a power for witness, a power that energises us to persevere in suffering, a power that enables us to triumph over the flesh and to resist the seductive promises of the Devil. It is a power that enabled Paul to confront sin in Corinth and to enforce whatever discipline was called for. It is a power that resulted in humility and self-sacrifice and generosity and spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.

We should want to be neither passive nor presumptuous. We long to experience all that is graciously ours now, through Christ, but without demanding of God that he do it now, right now. He may have other ways to teach us that will only be seen in the “afterwards”. It’s never just Christ’s weakness, or just the power of God, it’s both.

May God teach us this wonderful balance of a Christ likeness life, who was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.