Focus Scripture – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NKJV)
In the 2 Corinthians letter, Paul warns that a third visit will be a painful time for those who continue to harm the community. To put it in the vernacular of my grandmother, it was almost as if Paul were saying to the church: “Don’t have me come over there a third time! It won’t be pretty!” Well, not only did Paul have to issue this warning, he also had to lay out some expectation for change.
So, in preparation for a third visit, Paul takes an opportunity to give the church community some pre-visitation guidance: That guidance included sending them the evaluation criteria ahead of time, pointing out areas of growth since the last evaluation, and recommending actions for additional growth and change.
Paul provides evaluation criteria for his next visit
Evaluation Criteria (5:14-17, 18b, 20, NLT)
14 … Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.[d] 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 … And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. … 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.”
So, in other words, Paul is telling the church, when I come back to see you on this third visit, this is what I expect to see:
- I expect you to remember that we have all died to our old life.
- And those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves but will live for Christ.
- I expect you to stop evaluating others from a human point of view, but see the Christ in everyone.
- I expect you to stop judging people for what they used to be, for anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
- I expect you to stop counting people’s sins against them.
- And I expect you to start acting as if you were one of Christ’s ambassadors, for God is making an appeal to other people through us.
Highlighting Growth Since Last Evaluation Visit (7:8-13, NLT)
The last time Paul conducted an evaluation visit with the Corinthians, we had to reprimand them harshly. The severity of the reprimand was painful for both Paul and the people. But what is important is that they learned something in the process:
As a result of Paul’s harsh reprimand.
- The Corinthians repented and changed their ways.
- They came to feel sorrow, and that sorrow led them away from sin and toward salvation.
Paul observed that he believed they were on the road to making things right in the community and right with God. The next segment presents additional recommendations for improvement.