Sunday, 24 January 2016
Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction. 2 Corinthians 13:10
The words here are given with the greatest humility. They are not so much of an apology as many take them, but rather they are simply a statement of fact. “Therefore” is given as a summary of his words since verse 1 (and even inclusive of other verses where he has promised to use his authority if necessary). “I write these things being absent” shows that he truly intends for his words to be read, accepted, and acted upon before he comes. It is his hope that his words while absent will be sufficient to bring about all necessary correction within the church.
“Lest being present I should use sharpness” defines what will be necessary if the letter doesn’t have its intended effect. In this clause, the word translated as “sharpness” is an adverb. Therefore, Vincent’s Word Studies suggests that to give the force of the adverb, it should read “deal sharply.” If dealing sharply is necessary, it will be “according to the authority which the Lord has given me.”
This means his apostolic authority. It is based on his selection by Christ as the Apostle to the Gentiles and it will come with a demonstration of power and of the Holy Spirit. Paul is hoping that this will not be necessary, but should it be so, he will use it “for edification and not for destruction.”
It is neither the intent of Paul, nor the desire of the Lord, to destroy a church. Nor is it even to destroy those in the church who are not walking according to the word. Rather, it is always desirable to find correction and repentance within the body. The seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation make this abundantly clear. Only when such edification is not found will stronger actions be effected.
It is notable that what Paul says in this verse has already been addressed by him in chapter 10 –
“For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave usfor edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— 9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.” 2 Corinthians 10: 8-11
There he spoke of his actions being for “edification and not for your destruction” and he noted that the tenor in his letters was “weighty and powerful” but that when present he seemed “weak.” Paul has clearly shown that this will not be the case if it is necessary.
Life application: It is always preferable to build up and to edify rather than to destroy. This should be the goal in our lives for strained friendships, difficult work situations, trials within a church, and for other such reasons. Let us always endeavor to be peacemakers when possible.
Heavenly Father, help us to be people who will build up one another rather than tearing each other down. Too often, we find offense in things and seek to destroy fellowship rather than spending the extra time and effort to heal it. It is so much easier to simply walk away from a problem and let it implode, but in the end, nothing can replace a restored friendship and harmonious living. So help us in this Lord. Amen.