October 7, 2011

Saturday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 92, 1 Kings 3:16-28, 2 Cor.13:1-14
Evening - Ps.46, 96, Mt. 9:9-17

Commentary
2 Corinthians 13

This chapter is a wonderful combination of warning, encouragement, and promise. The warning is that Paul, in the name of and acting for Christ, will deal with those who remain in the sins he wrote of in chapter 12. He will not spare them (13:2). There is a time for patience, and a time for action. The Corinthians have been stumbling through apostasy and sin due to the influence of false teachers for several years. Now it is time for action. They must rid themselves of the false apostles and their followers, or Paul will cast them out when he comes. Christ in Paul will accomplish this (12:3-4). They must also repent of the sins that are dividing the church and dishonouring Christ (11:20-21). If they will not, Paul will cast them out of the Church. This means they will be considered and treated as non-Christians. By their actions and doctrines they seem to show that they are not of Christ, therefore, Paul will remove from them the privilege of participation in the Holy Communion. This may not sound very serious to the modern reader, but it is actually very serious. To be a Christian is to participate in Christ. It is to live in Christ, hope in Christ, and feed on Christ as a branch feeds on the tree. To be excommunicated is to have the Church say that a person's life and views are antithetical to Christ, and seem to show that he is not participating, hoping, or feeding on Him as a Christian. Therefore the sign and seal of his participation in Him is removed. Such a person is being turned over to Satan in the hope that he will see his spiritual danger and seek Christ fully.

The encouragement is found throughout the chapter, but is especially abundant in verse 5. Paul encourages the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith, and to prove themselves by true doctrine and faithful living. Paul is encouraging them to examine themselves by Scripture, not the teachings of the false apostles, and not by the feelings and excitements they experience in the services led by the false teachers. This is a difficult thing to do, and few Christians ever really attempt it. But it is the only way to know whether we are truly in Christ or reprobates.

The promise is that turning from sin to Godliness brings all of the fullness and grace of God into our lives (13:11). The holy kiss (13:12) is not an invitation to turn the worship of God into a hugfest. It means that those who truly belong to Christ have ceased the debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults, and sensual sins which have characterised and divided the Corinthian Church for so long (12:20-21). Having turned from those sins, they now live in peace with one another. Those, formerly considered "enemies," against whom the sins of 12:20 were committed, have now become fellow partakers in Christ, and live in Christian peace and love. This does not mean they no longer have disagreements, or that they live in a state of sinless euphoria. It means they practice forbearance, humbleness, and forgiveness, trying not to give offense to others, and refusing to take offense at the actions and words of others. Such people, instead of greeting one another with wrath and strife, greet one another in peace and harmony. Rather than fighting, they "kiss."

The saints of verse 13 are the Christians in Macedonia, from which Paul wrote 2 Corinthians.

The letter closes with words of peace and grace; the benediction with which we close the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, and which, according Evan Daniel's history of the Prayer Book, was universal in the ancient liturgies. John Chrysostom, who wrote the prayer which precedes it in the Prayer Book, also wrote of this benediction, "After having united [the Corinthians] to one another by the salutations and the kisses, he again closes his speech with prayer... uniting them unto God also." Matthew Henry wrote that in this verse, we are promised "the grace of Christ as Redeemer, the love of God who sent the Redeemer, and all the communications of this grace and love, which come to us by the Holy Ghost." "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion (fellowship) of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."

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