Finally, brothers, goodbye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind,
live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.… May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (II Cor. 13:12, 14, NIV)
The history of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church was filled with tension. He could never ignore their carnality (immorality, instability, incongruity and insensitivity) but sought to address it not with eloquence or superior wisdom (2:1) but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (2:4). Paul’s tearful intercession for the Corinthian church demanded much of his time and energy. Because of their rejection of the truth of his message, he felt it necessary to defend the authority of his apostleship as well as the integrity of his character.
Throughout the years of Paul’s faithful intercession for the Corinthians, he called on his colleagues to seek to bring refinement and renewal to that incorrigible body. When Apollos declined Paul’s request to go and straighten out the group, he sent Timothy—but to no avail. The apostle’s final effort was to send Titus, and the latter’s ministry is proof that carnal Christians can, by the grace of God, be cleansed and walk in holiness and power!
Paul’s night of weeping for Corinth ended with the return of Titus to report the turnaround of the church that had caused the apostle so much suffering and grief. He now rejoices that the sorrow he had caused the church by his scathing call to repentance led them to repentance and that they are now restored to the faith (II Cor. 7:6-11)
Without question, it was the report of Titus that prompted Paul to write his second epistle to the Corinthians. It is filled with praise to God for divine grace and power at work now in a glorious manner.
Some Urgent Imperatives
Paul concludes his positive epistle first by giving some urgent imperatives: Aim for perfection. By perfection, Paul means three things: (1) Purity of heart, (2) Maturity in faith, and (3) Stability of life. Believers are to be done with insincerity in worship, they are to move away from shallowness and childishness in the Christian walk, and they are to purpose to answer God’s call to become strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
Be of one mind. When a congregation has allowed the enemy to deepen its division to the degree as had happened in Corinth, the apostle knew the only remedy was the moving of a mighty revival throughout the entire body. This had apparently happened under Titus. But Paul feels the need to not only rejoice with them but also to remind them that, where they had once practiced disagreement with resentment, they must now begin agreeing with respect.
Live in peace. Stop the dissension, backbiting, gossiping, murmuring, judging, shunning and hatefulness! Begin now to agree on some things. Speak kindly and sincerely to and about one another. Stop disrespectful remarks about your fellow believers and pray for the love of God to wash your hearts. Clear up your reputation of evil in the community of Corinth until the whole city knows that you now love one another! This new behavior will bring the anointing of the Holy Spirit on your public worship services so that you will now become redemptive and attractive to the city of Corinth.
Live in peace. Become thankful daily for your brothers and sisters in Christ so that you will begin praying for one another. Only as you pray for your brother will you begin to love him as you should. You’ll find that you cannot pray for him and bash him at the same time. Neither can you bash him and pray for him at the same time. So live in peace with God, with your fellow believer, with those in the world and with yourself!
The Trinitarian Benediction
I truly love this Trinitarian Benediction from The Message: The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (II Cor. 13-14)
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not exhaustively enunciated in the Scriptures, but it is there like heavy humidity in the atmosphere. God is revealed in our New Testament as sovereign but not solitary. He not only exists but coexists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; Luke 21-22; John 14:16-17; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6).
Ever since the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D., evangelical scholars have sought to show from the Scriptures that within the Godhead there is a trinity of persons, but a unity of essence; a distinction not in their personalities but in their activities. Karl Barth reminds us that “The Trinity consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each of these participates in the activities of the others.”
The Holy Trinity is an essential part of our Christian Gospel. Theologian J. I. Packer declares, “The doctrine of the Trinity is not a mere piece of scriptural lumber that we can get along very happily without.”
Consider the elements of the Gospel contained in the Trinitarian Benediction as given by the apostle Paul in II Cor. 13-14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The attribute of grace belongs equally to all three members of the Godhead. But in the Only Begotten Son, the Incarnate Word, the God-man grace becomes personified. We know the Father and the Holy Spirit are gracious because we see that marvelous nature brought to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, in His life and ministries and in His death and resurrection. Jesus Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Jesus, the sinless Son of God, became the perfect example of grace in his suffering and dying for us. He showed this love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Before we had a chance to prove our worth, while we were yet afar off from worship, praise or service to Almighty God, Christ took the chance on us by offering Himself up to the Father in full payment for all our transgressions. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”
The love of God. The attribute of love belongs equally to all three members of the Godhead. In all of my adult life I’ve considered the most profound declaration in Holy writ to be the Apostle John’s twice-stated truth: God is love (I John 4:8, 4:16). No doubt this divine attribute of love is the most amazing; it is also the most misunderstood, the most denied and the most abused attribute in all of humankind. The apostle John in his first epistle makes the case that the proof that God is love is found in His sending His Beloved Son Jesus Christ to planet earth to give His life as a ransom for sinners. Not only so, but God the Father and God the Son assigns the Holy Spirit the refining task of imparting this love to believers. Paul the apostle puts it this way: God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom. 5:5). Believers are enabled by the Holy Spirit to participate in, partake of and enjoy this impartation of divine love. The Spirit internalizes and enables us to experience and express the love of God in our relationship with God and with our fellow humans.
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit. By the term fellowship, the apostle here means “intimate friendship,” or close communion. God the Father and God the Son can never become our personal enjoyment until we establish a meaningful relationship with God the Holy Spirit. This was Jesus’ emphasis in His teachings on the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). Here he presents the Spirit, once He has been received by Christian believers in a three-fold role: (1) A Convicter, or Convincer—of not trusting Christ, of not living in righteousness and holiness, of the ultimate judgment of evil; (2) A Comforter—the One replacing Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus, will be with believers in their sorrows, stresses, persecutions, temptations, trials and all opposition; (3) Counselor—Jesus declared Himself to be the Truth, and one of His favorite titles for His promised Holy Spirit was The Spirit of Truth. He promised that the Spirit would guide you into all the truth. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Several years ago while attending a pastors’ conference in Portland, Oregon, it was my privilege to have lunch with the great Bible Expositor Dr. J. Vernon McGee. After a few words of getting acquainted, the venerable old Bible teacher asked, “Brother Jim, as a pastor, what are you studying and preaching on in these days?” When I answered, “I am studying on the Holy Spirit—among your Calvinistic scholars, I’m reading everything from Abraham Kuyper to Martin Lloyd-Jones, and from our Wesleyan scholars, I’m reading everything from John Wesley to Paul S. Rees to William Greathouse.” Dr. McGee replied, “That’s fine, Brother Jim! You know, one of my favorite lines from the New Testament is be not ignorant, brethren … You see, I happen to believe that the largest denomination in the world is Ignorant Brethren. Oh, Brother Jim, I think we will both agree that we must not be ignorant of the Holy Spirit!”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take heed lest we be ignorant of the Holy Spirit! How sinful! How shameful! How costly to fail to heed the call to His cleansing, renewing, anointing and times of fresh fillings.
Update on the book, ESTELLE
Two weeks ago we felt we had completed the book on the great 1946 revival in Arkansas in a total of 737 pages! However, we became convinced that the work should not only be refined and reduced for publication; we also sensed that we should submit it for professional editing before presenting it to a publisher. We believe we have engaged the editing services of one of the finest professional editors in the Northwest to help us strengthen the work. Our communication with her has convinced me that this was a wise move.
But now that her original critique is before us, with my dear wife, Shirley’s experience in editing and my son, Steve’s expertise, we will need a few more weeks to complete the final draft. We ask that you join us in praying for the right publisher!
I have felt the prayers of many of you as over the last two years I have sought to cast a vision for another great historic spiritual awakening from the outpourings of the Spirit that changed the condition of my heart and the direction of my life 65 years ago in Arkansas. May the Lord give a great number of us in many parts of our nation a mighty “Estelle Anointing” to pray for a sweeping revival nation-wide!