For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behaviour. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure. This is the third time I am coming to visit you (and as the Scriptures say, “The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”). I have already warned those who had been sinning when I was there on my second visit. Now I again warn them and all others, just as I did before, that next time I will not spare them. I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. Christ is not weak when He deals with you; He is powerful among you. Although He was crucified in weakness, He now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with Him and will have God’s power.2 Corinthians 12:20-13:4
Paul thought about how a third meeting with the Corinthians would work out. But he thinks it wouldn’t go well. It seems clear that Paul was still being kept informed, likely by Chloe and the others. He was certain he would find all the same issues still alive and on going as he had encountered before. He was convinced many of them continued with their sins and had not repented at all. Why did he begin the last chapter with the reference to Moses (Deut 20:16)? What was he referring to? There are those who feel he is talking about the two witnesses he had sent to the Corinthians, i.e. his letters. I personally feel Paul is more likely to mean the other option. Being there in person and confronting their practices it seems he intends to follow the injunction of Moses to confront their behaviour with two witnesses. Paul seems to infer he would be one of the witnesses along with either Stephanus, Fortunatus or Achaicus.
He made it clear to them that this time he will not spare them. This was in the context of “the painful visit”. Paul suggested maybe this visit would be worse than the painful visit. He had warned them before that if they didn’t forsake their old ways and repent of what they were doing then he would come again and not hold back. Remember this is a Christian church in the midst of all the sexual freedom of Corinth, where the term corinthianize meant to give free reign to sexual desire. Clearly this had come into the church and many were struggling. Paul warned them that he would confront them on what they were doing. Why, because Paul is just a mean spirited man who wants to ruin their fun (their impurity, sexual immorality and eagerness for lustful pleasure) and vent his anger? No, “so that when we deal with you we will live with him and will have God’s power”. You can see nothing has changed in regard to the sexual sin of many in the Corinthian church. But Paul suspects too that quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behaviour are still rife as well. In other words nothing has changed.
It is worth noting here that there are two possibilities of meaning subtleties on the last verse. Does Paul mean we (inclusive – “kita” in Indonesian) or we (exclusive – kami in Indonesian)? There are possible multiple meanings here dependent on who is being referred to. We (including you Corinthians) are weak or we (excluding you Corinthians) are weak (inference: because that is what you keep saying of us). But we (excluding your Corinthians) will be alive in Him and will have God’s power, I.e. when we deal with you. Or we (including you Corinthians) will be alive in Him and have God’s power, i.e. when the sin is dealt with and you are in Christ. Oh how important the little words are to the meaning of a passage. Unfortunately the Greek isn’t definitive and enable us to distinguish between the two. In Indonesian a choice has to be made between kita (inclusive) and kami (exclusive), it is not possible to sit on the fence with “we” which could be either. Oh the problems of translation. Which do you think the meaning is? I know what I think but I will leave the decision or the choice to you at this point. We have to learn to ask the right questions when it comes to understanding the text of the Bible.
Man’s way leads to a hopeless end; God’s way leads to an endless hope.David Pawson
Warning: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.Ian Vail
Warning: You ride in this car at your own risk. The driver could vanish at any instant. (A sticker we used to have on the dashboard of our first car when I was first a Christian which led to many conversations with hitch hikers.)Ian Vail