As it turns out, Paul wasn’t defending himself at all!
19 All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
This is why we need to read the bible in entirety, not pieces and chunks that fit our agenda. The past couple chapters have seemed to be a defense of Paul’s ministry. He makes it a point here to note that he isn’t defending himself. He was merely trying to lift up the Corinthians in exhortation. The Church at Corinth was Paul’s baby; he planted it and tried to nourish it to grow. It was his responsibility and part of his holy calling from God. He is accountable to its health, which is why he says what he does in verse 21. As we become spiritual leaders, we are accountable to God for those we lead. This starts in the home where men are accountable for the spiritual development of their families.
Verse 20 reminds me of when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” It seems here Paul is talking about the Corinthians not being guided by the spirit, but rather by sinfulness. He reminds them that not only does he not wish them to live this way, but also that they truly do not wish to live this way. It’s a warning not to slide back into their old habits. If we recall, Paul has been reminding them (and us) of the slavery of sin and that we are no longer subject to it, so why do we let it mislead us?
Do you exhort others as a defense of your faith or for their own spiritual growth? I find this to be a struggle as the spiritual battle rages on. There is a time and place to defend the faith, but there is also a time to exhort and help others. How do we know the difference? The easiest indication is your audience. The Corinthians were believers and from what we can tell by the beginning of this letter, also followers of Christ. They didn’t need a convincing argument to believe in Christ, they needed to be reminded of who they are. When we are in the moment, the fog of battle clouds our minds and some things that seemed so apparent and easy to remember suddenly we do not recognize. This is why it is so important to listen to our leaders intently and as leaders, constantly work to remind and refresh the message of God.
Too often we forget that the Gospel of Christ needs to also be preached to current believers. It isn’t about working until someone is saved and then toss them off the boat because you told them how to swim. It is about constant development and teaching. The battle rages on and so must our training. In the military, if we aren’t at war, we are preparing for war. As Christians, we are in the Army of God and must constantly be prepared and constantly be improving our efficiency as soldiers.
Are you ready for battle? Are those you are leading prepared for what lies ahead? Are you encouraging them and speaking so they can hear your voice in the fog of battle?
Listen to this song about remaining steadfast during the thick of battle and how important it is.