Lord, we value our relationship with You and want to honor You above everything else. So we open ourselves to receive correction and teaching from those who can help us grow in faithful obedience. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 2 Corinthians 12-13
2 Corinthians 12:1–19 Paul was upset the Corinthians valued the more prestigious teachers who forced their allegiance and support. After all, Paul brought them the gospel without strings attached, so he wanted them to stay committed to the simple, original message. He defended his ministry, not in an effort to prove anything about himself but to help the Corinthian believers re-establish their confidence in the truth. Experiences of attack and suffering made his life a display case of God’s provision and grace, and any remarkable experience of visions is balanced by the “thorn” to keep him humble.
Notice that Paul knew God allowed this specific difficulty in his life—described in 12:7 as a “thorn”—to keep him weak enough to rely fully on God. Paul accepted this difficulty to grow his humility. He valued his human weakness because God displays grace and provision through it.
Though Paul and Timothy lived and worked self-sufficiently among the Corinthians, some claimed they were tricked into believing Paul’s teachings. But Paul’s life with them had been above reproach, so he argued for his parent-like commitment to them.
2 Corinthians 12:20–13:14 About to return on his third visit, Paul worried both he and the Corinthians would be humiliated by how their lifestyles were dishonoring God’s family name. Paul was ready to confront people who refused to live God’s way, because living God’s way proves the reality of their faith both to themselves and each other. When believers are able to receive and apply correction, they demonstrate themselves to be spiritually alive. Paul begged them to test and prove God’s Spirit before he arrived so they could see if they were in the faith.
Notice that Paul and Timothy had already lost face over the Corinthians’ lifestyles. Despite this, they would have been happy to see them reconciled to God and each other, even if their own reputation was never regained. Paul and Timothy had a radical love for their disciples and were deeply rooted in God’s approval, not other people’s.
2 Corinthians 12:10
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- How do you evaluate the faith or credibility of teachers? Think through what you learn from Paul’s model of right judgment in this section, and perhaps assess the language you use to endorse believers or teachers.
- Even when veteran disciple-makers follow apparently blameless methods, things can go very wrong. With a fellow disciple, discuss how you can better attach your self-worth to God’s perspective, not people’s. Think through ways to encourage each other when, despite all good efforts, relationships and work don’t turn out as hoped.
- Go to a respected mentor, teacher, or fellow disciple and ask them which areas in your life could better honor God’s name. Ask God to open your heart and ears, and then prayerfully make a concrete action plan to live differently.
- Remember how so much of Paul’s encouragement and concern was related to the faith and lives of his disciples and churches? Think of a mentor, teacher, or leader in your life who has helped you reconcile with God and live His way. Take time this week to write or speak to that person and thank them for how they served and shaped you.