Summary: What kind of warnings do you listen to? Paul makes it clear in this chapter that talk is about over and action is about to take place.
2 Corinthians 13 - For the Third Time!
I remember being a child and hearing the ominous words from my mom or dad, "That’s the third time I’ve told you…" Whoever said, "Three’s a charm" was uninformed. Three can also mean big trouble! Paul says this twice in the final words of this letter. In 12:14 and here in 13:1 we hear the echo, "This is the third time I am coming to you!" The party is over. It’s time to clean up the wreckage. Paul says, "You’ve been looking for proof of the power of Christ in me… well if things there are like I hear they are, when I come, you will get plenty of proof of the power of God. So prepare yourselves.
Why is it this way? From time to time we all need a good dose of the power of God in the form of discipline, don’t we? It would be so nice if everyone walked in the Spirit of Christ and kept the faith and lived in loyalty to the will and ways of God and his word. But to do so requires internal discipline that is a precious and sometimes rare jewel. The making of maturity always includes the dispersal of discipline. There is something very powerful and motivating in pain and fear. Paul says in chapter 5:11, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…
I have come to believe that the love of God, properly and biblically defined includes the fear of the Lord in reverent respect of his punishing power against sin as well as his gracious forgiveness and mercy on us. Punishment is often a missing element in our society today. Particularly in modern child rearing, corporal punishment is out, positive reinforcement is in. Blind obedience to the authority of parents or teachers is out, careful communication so that the child understands why mommy doesn’t want little precious to throw her food, or why it’s not nice to bite, is in. Things have changed since I was young. Being paddled in school was just part of a well balanced school day when I was growing up. Today it is a recipe for a law suit for child abuse. Lack of discipline is destroying our society!
When it comes to spiritual discipline in the Bible, we discover that both careful communication and the power of God in punishment work together. We also see that the power of God in punishment can be a serious matter to be used only as and last resort. It can be very severe… Paul speaks of turning someone over to Satan so that their body may be destroyed, but their soul saved on the day of judgment. 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20. One of the most startling examples of discipline in the New Testament is in Acts 5 where a husband and wife fall down dead because of the sin of lying to the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the only time death is due to discipline. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 we read of God’s discipline on those who were taking the Lord’s Supper yet were walking in sinful ways. Paul says, "For this reason many among you are weak and sick and a number sleep." By sleep, he means they are dead. And of course the worst punishment of all against sin is hell, where all who know not God and obey not the gospel of Christ are destined to be punished with everlasting destruction.
Listen, the punishment of God against sin is real. It is sure. It is dreadful. Hebrews 10:26-31.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It protects us from evil and preserves us for life. To fear the Lord allows us to be bold and fearless in the world. The fear of the Lord gives us courage and character. We need to have the fear of the Lord deeply embedded into our hearts and minds for our own good and protection. One of the greatest fears is living in a world without the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is imparted by discipline.
But who is worthy to wield the sword of the Lord and deliver his discipline and instruct us and establish us in the Fear of the Lord? Who do you trust? Who will you allow to tell you the truth and hold you accountable to follow what is good? Until we have in place the positions of authority who can prayerfully and faithfully direct the discipline of God for the people of God, we can not be the church of God because we can not walk in the fear of God. Just as every child needs parents, every sheep needs a shepherd. Jesus is the good shepherd. His authority to guard and guide the sheep has been delegated to servants within the church who answer to him and to one another, and to whom we as members of the flock answer. These are men who the Bible calls shepherds or elders or overseers. Discipline and direction is part of their job description biblically. Interesting, we never read of elders in the church in Corinth.