2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4
23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. 2 1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
These verses pick up from verse 17 where Paul has outlined the change to his plans to visit the church in Corinth and other parts of Greece.
The false teachers who had taken hold in these churches saw Paul’s change of plans as an opportunity to criticise and challenge his authority and trustworthiness, presumably something along the lines of “you cant trust the word of a man who changes his mind.”
I find Paul’s reaction quite surprising in two ways. Firstly, the focus is not on himself and the need for them to follow him, rather it is on Jesus and their faith. He knows that once he is no longer with them, they must be able to stand firm in their faith, resting not on him but on God.
Secondly, he encourages. He shows love (v23 “in order to spare you”) and concern for their “joy.” Paul encourages their joy and faith. The power of encouragement cannot be over-stated. It always speaks louder than rebuke, it lifts and builds and can bring strength.
Paul’s words in Colossians 2:2 really show the riches encouragement can bring:
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ.”
What a great reminder today to be an encourager.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me use words of encouragement to build and strengthen your church, but also others I know and meet. Words that show your heart of love, words that build. Holy Spirit guide my words. Amen
Written by Claire Moore