Setting

Paul felt compelled to vigorously defend his apostolic ministry because his opponents tried to discredit him and win over the believers. Now, as he comes to the close of his letter, Paul no longer mentions the false apostles but focuses again on the Corinthian believers. As much as he hopes that the Corinthians would embrace the true ministers of the gospel, Paul’s ultimate concern and prayer is for the believers to do what is right and to let Jesus Christ always reign in their hearts.

Key Verse

(13:7)

Did You Know...?

  1. Paul’s third and final visit to Corinth took place during his three-month stay in Greece, which is mentioned briefly in Acts 20:1–3.
  2. “Two or three witnesses” (13:1): The basis of this legal ordinance is stipulated in Deuteronomy 19:15.

Outline

  • Sacrifice and Integrity
    (12:14–18)
  • Fear of Disappointment
    (12:19–21)
  • Warning and Christ’s Power
    (13:1–4)
  • Test and Restoration
    (13:5–10)
  • Final Words and Benediction
    (13:11–14)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    In what ways does Paul reveal his selfless love for the Corinthian believers in this passage?

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    1.Like a parent, Paul does not want to burden the believers but only seeks what is best for them (v. 14).

    2.He will most gladly spend and be spent for their souls (12:15).

    3.He has no ulterior motive for not burdening them (12:16–18).

    4.His vigorous defense of his ministry is for the sole purpose of building them up (12:19)

    5.From his fears and his warnings we can sense his reluctance in dealing with them harshly when he visits (12:20–21; 13:1–2, 10)

    6.His hope is for them to do what is right (13:7).

    7.He would gladly see that they be strong even if he is weak (13:9).

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Segment Analysis

  • 12:14–18

    1.

    How is Paul like a parent to the Corinthians?

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    Paul is always thinking about what is in their best interest. He has no desire to gain anything from them. Not only so, he makes sacrifices for them the way a parent would gladly do for his or her children.

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  • 2.

    How do the words “I seek not what is yours but you” (v. 14) serve as a good reminder for us in our ministry?

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    Our goal in ministry is to present the believers mature in Christ (cf. Col 2:28). We must not be tempted to seek any gain from the believers, be it their material goods, praise, or loyalty. Love for the souls of the believers ought to be the only motivation in our ministry.

     

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  • 3.

    How do we “spend and be spent” for the souls of people we love (v. 15)?

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    Spending for the souls of people we love involves using our time, skills, energy, and wealth to care for them and help them grow closer to the Lord. Being spent for others implies giving of ourselves completely even to the point of suffering loss for their good. Love often involves sacrifices beyond giving what we have. Sometimes we may even have to bear with their weaknesses, be wronged, or suffer humiliation.

     

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  • 12:19–21

    4.

    What is the reason for Paul’s defense of his apostolic ministry?

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    Paul defends his apostolic ministry for the upbuilding of the believers (12:19). Paul does not want them to be deceived by the false apostles and thereby forsake the truth of the gospel.

     

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  • 5.

    What is Paul’s fear? Why does what he describes make him fear?

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    Paul fears that things may turn out to be different from what he hopes. He fears that, instead of being in unity and love, the Corinthians are full of quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. He fears that instead of being repentant, those who have sinned continue in their impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality. His fear is due to his love for the them. He earnestly wishes that they do what is right and grow spiritually, and he certainly would not want to see the ones he loves be divided and ensnared in sin.

     

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  • 13:1–4

    6.

    Why does Paul now speak about being powerful rather than weak?

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    Unlike what we have seen in the previous passage, where Paul boasted of his weaknesses, Paul now tells the believers that in dealing with them he will live with Christ by the power of God. When it comes to using the authority God has given him to minister to the believers, Paul is not weak but strong. This authority is meant to build up the believers rather than tearing them down (cf. 13:10). But if necessary, he will use the power of Christ to rebuke and discipline the wrongdoers in the church.

     

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  • 7.

    How is Christ powerful among us and in us (v. 3)?

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    Having been baptized into Christ and buried with Him through baptism, we are no longer slaves to sin but are able to walk in newness of life just as Christ (Rom 6:3–11). Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:1–5). No one is able to condemn us because Christ Jesus lives and intercedes for us (Rom 8:34). Christ’s love compels us to live for him, and His love makes us more than conquerors in all our hardships. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35–39; 1 Cor 5:14–15).

     

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  • 13:5–10

    8.

    Why do you think Paul is asking the Corinthians to examine and test themselves?

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    All along in his letter Paul seems to have been on trial, defending his apostleship and his integrity. Now, Paul asks the Corinthians to also examine themselves instead of keep questioning him. Regardless of whether they judge Paul to be a true servant of Christ or not, what is ultimately most important is that the believers themselves stand blameless before Christ. This is also the very goal Paul hopes to accomplish as a minister to the believers.

     

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  • 9.

    How do we examine ourselves and test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (v. 5)?

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    In the context of this segment, the way for the Corinthians to examine whether they are in the faith and having Jesus Christ in them is to see if they are doing what is right and living according to the truth (cf. v. 7–10). True faith in Christ is expressed in a life that models after the examples of Christ, such as His holiness, love and humility. In our daily lives, we can ask ourselves questions such as “How much does the Lord factor into my lifestyle, my decisions, and my personal goals?” and “What would the Lord Jesus do?”

     

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  • 10.

    Explain Paul’s hope for the Corinthians, according to verse 7.

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    Paul prays to God that they may not do wrong but that they may do what is right. A minister’s goal is none other than to help believers live in a manner that pleases the Lord.

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  • 11.

    What does it mean that we cannot do anything against the truth but only for the truth (v. 8)?

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    The word for “able” is related to the word for “power” in verses 3 and 4. When we obey the truth, we are submitting to Christ’s power in our lives. Everyone who is of the truth hears the voice of Christ (Jn 18:37), and belief in the truth leads to salvation (2 Thess 2:13). But if we act against the truth, we will not succeed eventually because we act contrary to the will of God (cf. Acts 5:35–39; (2 Thess 2:10–12; Heb 10:26).

     

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  • 12.

    What is the restoration is Paul referring to (vv. 10, 11)?

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    The word for “restoration” denotes the process of perfecting and may be translated as “maturation.” [ref] When we consider the context of Paul’s words, we understand that Paul’s wish is for the believers to become mature and strong spiritually. Paul asks the believers to aim for restoration in the sense of seeking spiritual growth, living according to the truth and doing what is right.

     

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  • 13:11–14

    13.

    What concrete actions can we take to “comfort one another” (v. 11)?

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    Comforting someone involves providing him encouragement especially when he is weak or suffering. We can comfort one another by sharing the words of Scripture with each other, being kind and forgiving toward each other, supporting each other in word or deed, and praying for each other. See also Lesson 1, Segment Analysis, Question 6.

     

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  • 14.

    How do we resolve disagreements within the church?

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    The key to unity is humility. Humility manifests itself in several ways, including having no self ambitions, considering the interests of others, and regarding ourselves as servants to others (cf. Php 2:1–11). When we all learn to put the will of Christ and the good of other brothers and sisters above our own needs and wants, we would be much more inclined to agree with one another.

     

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