In the text of the New Testament, we find the apostle Paul had written to many different congregations of the early believers. In his writings to the congregation at Corinth, we have an example of a preliminary communication and a secondary, follow up letter, as well.
One of the things that becomes obvious is that the tone of the first letter expresses frustration over their apparent careless attitude and shallow understanding of message of the gospel of Messiah. Yet, the second letter delves into matters with more depth and a demonstration of their overall growth in their spiritual development.
This can be shown by how they were dealing with those who were conducting flagrant sin within the congregation. In his first letter, Paul had learned that one of their members was a man who was having a relationship with his step-mother.
1 Corinthians 5:1-2 – It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is intolerable even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and have removed from your fellowship the man who did this?
This type of relationship was forbidden by Torah, and yet the congregation was not taking it seriously.
Leviticus 18:8 – ” ‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.
This was just one specific instance of their casual approach to maintaining their purity and abiding by the Torah, or instruction, of God. Yet, in the second letter, we find that the upbraiding they had received from Paul had actually caused them to regather their spiritual senses and become vigilant in their earnestness to be obedient and holy.
Proverbs 15:5 – Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; but whoever learns from correction is wise.
Paul, acting as their parent, had the difficult task of outlining correction for them. And yet this upbraiding had its desired effect; so much so, in fact, that he praises them for their taking his instruction to heart and following through in taking their faith more seriously. The Amplified Bible captures the sense of his parental pride:
2 Corinthians 7:11 – For [you can look back and] see what an earnestness and authentic concern this godly sorrow has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves [against charges that you tolerate sin], what indignation [at sin], what fear [of offending God], what longing [for righteousness and justice], what passion [to do what is right], what readiness to punish [those who sin and those who tolerate sin]! At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in the matter.
From these insights, we can learn that sometimes we need to be confronted with our shortcomings so that we may understand what course corrections we may need to take. When we begin to take our favored status as believers in the one true God for granted, we can become lax in our conduct and our interactions with one another. We can become dismissive of the instruction of God and the high standards God has for his people. However, for those who are truly seeking God, being made aware of inadequacy will typically fuel a driving desire to become more diligent in our walk.
While the Bible teaches we are accountable to one another, the primary way that God reminds us of our present state is through his Spirit and his Word. By faithfully and prayerfully seeking to understand him more, he can provide the deepest level of guidance and correction through his Word. If we are wise, as the proverb says, it is up to us to demonstrate with all that we are and all that we do that we are learning from his correction. Our goal is to become more like him and to become earnestly vigilant in whatever he requires of us to become his representative people.
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