Wanting To Do The Truth
These verses may seem a little strange, considering the rebuking tone of most of this letter. He now prays that the Corinthians will not do anything wrong. Some might say, they have a track record of sin, so surely they will continue in that habit. But Paul is confident in the Lord's ability to change their hearts following his rebuke. He knows the power of God over the heart of a rebel, because he himself had been violently opposed to Jesus and the gospel until the Lord confronted him (1 Timothy 1:13). Then Paul gladly submitted to Christ's rule and chose to obey Him (Acts 26:19). So, Paul was right to pray boldly that their hearts and behaviour would change.
However, he also needed to clear up a misperception, that some thought he wanted them to become like him in order to justify his claim of apostleship. His interest in their holiness was not to boost his own reputation or ego. He wanted them to be holy because the Lord had commanded it (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). Even though his critics thought he was a failure, Paul's confidence was in the Lord to work holiness into His people – even those who have had a track record of sinful rebellion.
Paul's motivation was to tell the truth about Jesus, His gospel and His kingdom – not to preach about himself (2 Corinthians 4:5). There was no other reason why he put himself in so many situations which caused him to suffer as he did (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He did whatever was necessary to help people come to salvation (1 Corinthians 9:22). Although he was weak in their eyes, he prayed for them to become like Christ. It was the only thing he could do: his letter and the visits were to inform them about the truth, explain it and apply it to their lifestyles – but only God could change their hearts from the inside, as He had changed Paul's.
Only God can enable our cold and stubborn hearts to produce righteous living, as we let Him work on us and in us. Our own experience alone should teach us that. It is not our discipline alone which keeps us on track but His grace, and our willingness to cooperate with Him (1 Corinthians 1:8). For those who are Christian leaders, do not worry when people do not speak well of you – flattery was usually given to false prophets (Luke 5:26). Do your best to teach the truth as potently as you can, but remember that only God can change hearts. So do not cease praying for those you teach and serve (Ephesians 6:18).
© Dr Paul Adams