Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, October 13

On the 13th of the month, we consider 2 Corinthians 13. (At least it's not a Friday!)
This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
This chapter, it seems to me, centers on self-examination. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!" Just as the people of the Corinthian church needed to do this, presumably we do, too. So, what are the criteria? What is true of me if I am "in the faith?" Well, if I am, then I have company; someone lives with "me," in my body and my soul, and that someone is the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. But that just moves the question: how do I know if I have the Holy Spirit? Is it a matter of how I feel? Couldn't I be entertaining some other spirit (generically, perhaps, the Unholy Spirit)? Time for the book of James, chapter 2, verses 14 - 19:
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
Does this mean salvation is produced by good works? Certainly not. It's like a stove and a thermometer. You're trying to heat some water. The stove is what heats the water; the thermometer tells you whether the stove's getting the job done, or not. Faith is what saves; the faith is what we must be "in;" faith is the stove. Our works are the thermometer, telling us whether we're in the faith.

So, to be in the faith, we have to be doing every good work, and no wicked ones? Again, not so. We're unfinished, and our lives show that. But we should be looking for the trend. In absolute terms, I'm dirty; but am I cleaner than I was last month? Last year? If the Holy Spirit lives here, He's at work, and stuff's getting fixed. If nothing's getting fixed, I have to wonder if the Spirit really lives here or not.

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