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FINAL WORDS FOR A TROUBLED CHURCH

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Well, we’ve finally come to the end of our studies in 2 Corinthians. Turn in your Bibles with me to 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Now I know most of you think that when a preacher says, “Finally…” it usually means what? Absolutely nothing in most cases, doesn’t it? But in this case, I can assure you that Paul really means it.

I heard about a preacher who came up to the pulpit with a band aid on his chin and said, “I’m sorry about this band aid. I cut my chin this morning when I was thinking about my sermon”. Then there was an anonymous voice from the congregation that said, “Next time why not think about your chin and cut the sermon?” Don’t you dare say, “Amen!”

We will finish 2 Corinthians this morning… and I promise I will finish at a reasonable time. Few books in the New Testament are as relevant to the church today as 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul wrote this impassioned letter to a first century local church that could just as well have been written directly to a twenty-first century local church in America. The believers in Corinth had been heavily influenced by false teachers who had come preaching in dynamic fashion… but their gospel was a false gospel… the Jesus they preached was not the Jesus foretold by the prophets and seen by the apostles… and the spirit that energized all their efforts was not the Holy Spirit. And we live in a day when many pulpits, the airwaves and now cyberspace are permeated with the same kind of teachers. Many are ambitious men and women who take advantage of gullible Christians and gather a following after themselves… just like they were doing in Corinth

Then there were the moral attitudes and lifestyles of Corinthian society… the sins of this city were so decadent and yet so common that many believers in the Corinthian church found them acceptable and in some cases, even appealing enough to give in to temptation. So unfortunately, the sins that were common in the pagan culture of Corinth could also be found in the church… which unfortunately is another reality in many of today’s churches… especially in those that place pragmatism above the authority of Scripture in their quest to be more culturally relevant.

Then you remember, in addition to the doctrinal and moral problems that Paul was concerned about in Corinth, his abilities as a preacher, his authority as an apostle, the integrity of his character and the sincerity of his motives were being questioned and maligned by the false teachers. As a result, Paul discovered that he had been rejected by many in the church he had founded and loved so dearly. So he wrote this letter to address these issues.

Last week I told you there were three characteristics that distinguished 2 Corinthians with its own uniqueness

1. Its raw honesty that made this letter more intimate than his other letters.

Paul laid the burden of his heart out before these people. He wasn’t afraid to bare his soul to them because he wanted them to know the sincerity of his love for them.
2. Its rich doctrinal truths

Passages like 2 Cor.5:17 speak of the doctrine of regeneration. 2 Cor.5:21 speaks of the doctrine of imputation, explaining that Jesus took our sins on Himself while also transferring His righteousness to us. Also in chapter 5 we learn about the Judgment Seat of Christ. There are just a lot of wonderful doctrinal truths to be found in this letter.
3. Its reassurance of many of God’s gracious provisions

He begins with the comfort of God and ends with the grace of God that is sufficient for the weaknesses of our humanity. This letter gives us a wonderful reassurance of God’s generous grace to every believer.
So in this intensely personal letter Paul has to address both his supporters and his detractors about the way ministry should be done and the character of the one who ministers. In our first sermon from this series we outlined this letter this way:

1. Consolation and the character of ministry (1-7)

2. Solicitation and the collection for ministry (8-9)

3. Vindication and the concerns for ministry (10-13)

If there were one central theme to characterize this letter it would be “Strength in Weakness” with the key verse being found in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where God told Paul, , “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” It’s the explanation for why Paul’s life and ministry was so effectively used to make Christ known through the whole Roman Empire. The manifest power of God through the weakness of Paul stands in dramatic contrast with the self-sufficient teachers that blasted Paul with their ridicule and accusations.

This last chapter is Paul’s ultimatum to anyone who would stand opposed to his teaching and his apostolic authority. Remember he said in verse 2, “that if I come again I will not spare…” But now that his final warning to them is out of the way, he now softens his tone with some final words of encouragement in these last four verses. We find some final admonitions admonitions or commands topped with a promise… then affections expressed toward the brothers and sisters in Christ… and finally, as the capstone perhaps one of the most significant and beautiful benedictions found in all of Scripture.

Hughes notes, “The closing remarks of the conventional correspondence of Paul’s day were normally terse and disconnected to the contents. But not so with Paul’s letters. They were meant to impress and exert lasting influence.” Of course, that’s the desire of every preacher who sincerely preaches the Word of God.

First of all let’s look at five final admonitions from Paul that were addressed to his “brethren.” That’s the key word that indicates the softening of Paul’s tone as he closes. It also reveals another hint of Paul’s optimism that the erring brothers will repent.

1. Admonitions (vs.11)

A. Be Joyful

Depending on your translation, this first one might surprise you.

Finally, brethren, farewell.
KJV and NKJV say “farewell.” NIV says “goodbye”. but the NASV says, ,”rejoice” which is probably a better translation from the Greek word, “chairete”.

It was sort of like the Hebrew greeting “Shalom” which literally means “peace.” But rejoice is certainly an appropriate greeting since joy is supposed to characterize believers. Even though Paul had been severe with the Corinthian Christians, everything he had to say was to the end that they would know the joy of walking in a right relationship with God. Joy is the fruit… one of the evidences that you are walking in the Spirit. Then he told them to

B. Be complete

The word is similar to what he prayed for them in verse 9 but here he exhorts them to it. Remember I said the Greek verb “katartizo” basically means to put in place, or to put in order. It was used to refer to restoring something that was broken or torn like in Matthew 4:21 where it is translated “mending nets.”

On the one hand it is God who does the work of completing us and making us useful for Him. Here the emphasis is on us doing the action though. It also has the idea of putting something back in order. Paul is calling for restoration here. There were a lot of things in the church that were out of whack so Paul is saying to them, “Look, you’ve got some things to fix, you’ve got some serious problems to correct.”

Now I don’t know about you but that seems to be a regular thing needed in my life. Would you agree with me that it’s pretty easy to lose track of our priorities? We get out of line and we constantly have to keep realigning ourselves… getting our priorities back in line… correcting the sins and the attitudes that we know hinder our relationship with God. We should constantly be making sure we are in line with God’s Word. That’s the exhortation here. I like Kent Hughes spin on this. He says it’s “Pull yourself together.”

Then he says, “Be of good comfort…” but it can mean

C. Be admonished

The word translated “comfort” from the Greek is better translated “admonished”. Carson says Paul is saying, “Listen to my appeal.” It is simply a charge to review the things that Paul has said and submit to it. He is saying that if they want to be the kind of church they ought to be then they should rejoice, get their life in order and submit to God’s authority. Now if we would do these things then we would all

D. Be like-minded

The false teachers came sowing discord and division but Paul says to be like-minded. Literally it means, “think the same thing.” Not that we all think exactly alike and have the same opinions but that there is an underlying unity that seeks to glorify God through submission to truth.

I like what I heard James McDonald say the other night as I was listening to him on the radio. He was preaching an excellent sermon on healing and he prefaced his message with “I know there are going to be a lot of people who disagree with my position on healing… but if you’re going to disagree, I want you to at least disagree biblically.” I like that… “in essentials unity… in non-essentials, liberty… in all things, charity (or love).” Every one of us should be so in tune with the Spirit of God and the Word of God that it becomes evident through the harmony in our fellowship.

Then he concludes his admonitions with

E. Be peaceful

Live in peace.

I’ll tell you right now, the key to living in peace is to be in harmony with one another? Whenever you find division you will definitely see an absence of peace. Where you have a common grasp of the Word of God, you will have the harmony that manifests itself in peace. But whenever you get people who start teaching something contrary, they begin to create a rift in the harmony which results in conflict and the absence of peace. So if you’re going to live in peace, you have to be like-minded, submissive to the truth and expressing joy in that truth.
Then these five admonitions are topped off with a promise to remember. “And the God of love and peace will be with you.” .” He’s not saying this will be the result if you do these things but it’s more like, “Don’t forget… the God of love and peace will forever be with you.”

It is this God of love and peace who is at work in you “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” But all these things don’t come to us through a passive attitude that says, “God, make me more like Jesus.” .” and then you sit back and wait for Him to do it. We have to work also… living in peace… being like-minded… submitting to the Word… getting your life in order… and even rejoicing requires effort on your part. But the God who indwells you gives you the desire and the power to obey and please God. Paul is saying, “You do your part… and always remember, God is always faithful to do His part.”

2. Affections (vs.12,13)

Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the saints greet you.
First of all, what’s a holy kiss anyway? We had our greeting time a little while ago but I didn’t see any holy kissing. I saw a lot of handshaking and a few holy hugs. Well, I did kiss my wife but I suppose that’s not the same thing.

It was very common in the ancient east to greet one another with a kiss. It was typically a man-to-man, woman-to-woman embrace and the kiss was cheek to cheek. You’ll see that even today in some cultures of the world but today it appears to be not much more than a cultural formality. However in Paul’s day it was a way to demonstrate affection. It was a way to endear oneself. We all know there is power in touch to draw people together. Brotherly love shared among believers was to be shared on every level and even things like a holy kiss or a hand on the shoulder or a warm embrace can demonstrate genuine love. Jesus said, “Love one another” and the Bible says that the world will know we are Christians by our love. We show that love by our willingness to give up our lives for each other and by meeting each other’s needs. Brotherly love is an expression of affection given to someone through a ministry to them that meets a need they have. We are to love with humility, not considering ourselves but others as more important than ourselves according to Philippians 2. We love when we give ourselves away for someone else. And it will be love for one another that helps to build us up in this most precious faith. When we act this way towards one another, a holy kiss is a welcome gesture of such love.

Then he greets them on behalf of those who were with him. They all would have loved to have given a holy kiss to their Corinthian brothers and sisters, but since that wasn’t possible at the moment, he communicates their affection with a warm, verbal embrace. Love can be feigned… but there can be no doubt that Paul and his companions had a genuine love for them… because his actions spoke louder than his words.

So that’s it! Paul has pretty much summed up his desires for this church… and for every local body of believers. And this last verse is the capstone of Paul’s desires for them.

3. Benediction (vs.14)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
A benediction is a prayer that invokes a blessing. You’ll notice that it also invokes this blessing from the Trinity… Father, Son and Holy Spirit, from Whom our redemption comes. It is the love of God the Father that motivated Him to plan our redemption, send His Son and choose us to be His own. It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving His life as a sacrifice for our sins to secure the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. Then as the result of this great salvation we are welcomed into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as He indwells us and places us into the body of Christ.

This benediction calls for believers to enjoy the fullness of all that salvation has secured for them. That is what Paul desired for them all, even those who attacked him… may these things “be with you all. Amen.”

Heavenly Father, may it be that we too realize the fullness… the completeness… the richness… of all that we have in Jesus Christ. May we rise up from our places of comfort and ease to do your will, no matter what it may require from us. May we be comforted through the sorrows and troubles we experience and may they be effective in developing us to spiritual maturity and holiness. And I pray that I, as Your servant and under shepherd, would rest in the shadow of the cross… to be compelled to faithfully preach Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and raised and to glory only in Him. Help us dear Lord to embrace the immensity of Your grace… to find ourselves drenched in the depths of Your love… and to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as we commune with Him so that Jesus may be seen in us. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.