Becoming A Paul

Becoming A Paul

by Sarah Jones

For context to 2 Corinthians 7:8-13a we’ll quickly look in two places - Acts 18:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 2:4. In Acts 18, we see Paul plant the Corinthian church. Verse 11 says that he stayed there with them for a year and half, “teaching the word of God among them” (CSB). We can assume Paul knew these people, invested in all of their lives, poured into them, and loved them with a fatherly and Christ-like love. His heart was for them, and we definitely see his heart in his letter to them. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to rising issues of sin within the church. He confronted the sin and called the community to action. The church became infested with false teachers seeking to defame Paul and his teachings. Paul visited the church in Corinth again, only to be disappointed by how they received him. He went back to Ephesus, and from there he wrote the church a letter that has since been lost. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 Paul refers to this letter, noting that he wrote it with anguish and tears, “not to cause [them] pain, but that [they] should know the abundant love [he has] for [them]” (CSB).
From here we turn to 2 Corinthians 7:8-13a. 2 Corinthians is in part a reply to the church’s response to the missing letter. They received the letter as Paul had hoped: with repentance and grief. In these five verses Paul reveals his joy in their repentance and his hope for their obedience. Developing relationships with people for long and tiring periods of time, only to be slapped by their disobedience, is an exhausting experience. However, Paul’s boldness to call out sin in these people’s lives and call them to holiness is a boldness every believer should seek.

The action that sets Paul apart in his boldness is his obvious love for the church. He grieved while waiting for their response. If Paul is anything like me, he was fearful of losing the relationships he had spent so long building. However, he proclaims that even in his grief he did not regret speaking out against their sin. Why? “Because [their] grief led to repentance…For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (vv. 9-10). Paul proclaims an encouragement to them as he has witnessed the growth in their lives as a result of their repentance. Their hearts are changed for the better, for their goodness and holiness, and for God’s glory. I can feel Paul’s joy and thankfulness as he writes such a personal letter to his children in the faith.

I look in my own life especially in the past. My heart goes out to any person who has had to be a Paul for me. When sin runs rampant in my heart and I am blind to my disobedience, the Pauls in my life have shown up to call me to repentance and seek out my righteousness. They do not hate me; they grieve for me. The burden of calling out sin is a heavy one but one that only benefits in the long run. In repentance I get to experience the joys and encouragements of having Pauls in my life. They rejoice with me and walk beside me in our holy calling, seeking the best in me and pointing me to Jesus in all things. They are my friends, my mentors, and my parents in the faith. I am thankful to have had and continue to have them. So as for you, be humble to receive the lashing and humble to know that the lashing comes from love.

Becoming a Paul really brings this experience into full light. The greatest joy in my life thus far is getting to be a mother-in-the-faith to multiple wonderful young women. However, one of my greatest fears is to do something to lose that relationship with them. Yet, I have been called to righteousness and to uphold righteousness. It has grieved me to call out sin, and I have grieved the notion of losing relationships with them. However, I trust in the plans and faithfulness of God to draw them nearer to Himself and to bring them to repentance. My work is done when I call out their sin and bring darkness into light. I have lost relationships I hoped to keep forever, and I have had the privilege of seeing young girls become godly young women and to continue to walk beside them. I’m thankful for every experience and to be used by God for the gospel.
Whether today you are like the Corinthians or tomorrow you get to stand like Paul, do not let sin and fear overtake you. Stand firmly on the gospel; know that reconciliation is just ahead and has already been attained for those who call on the Lord. Do not worry about the lives of those you call out, and do not worry about your own life. Trust in the Lord’s faithfulness to save and forgive those He calls.

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