(2 Corinthians 13:1-4)
As Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians, he gives them fair warnings about sin and the consequences of continuing in sin.
He also advises them that the Lord is in the people and He is powerful in them, both to overcome sin and also to deal with the weaknesses of His people. But He will also be powerful in dealing with those who choose to continue in sin.
So how can this knowledge in these short verses help us today? In many ways, if we take the time to listen to His words and take heed, for too often the church today has lost it’s power. But even so, Christ is still powerful in His people and He continues to deal with them to bring them to the place He wants them to be.
Weakness In The Church
First, let us look at the weakness in the church today, for it has fallen flat compared to the early church.
After the initial disciples of the Lord and those who learned directly from them had died out, the church went into an age of darkness. Men changed the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ from one of freedom to a method of control.
Because of this, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ was lost for many years through the dark ages. Even the scripture was lost to most people as it was translated into the dead language of Latin so that only a handful of scholars and priests in the church could read it. What happened was as described in the following two verses:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)
By effectively closing access tot he gospel of Jesus Christ, the word of the gospel was lost and the power of the death of the Lord was emptied. The power we receive to become the sons and daughters of God came through the gospel and through Jesus Christ dying for our sins. When the gospel was lost in the dark ages, this power was lost.
The power of the gospel was instead replaced with a ministry of works, a ministry of lies and a ministry of bondage to things that were never meant to be part of the gospel. As a result, the grace of God was nullified because the church sought to go back into the law and to attempt to come to God through works of the law rather than keeping the faith of the gospel in Jesus Christ.
The church became weak and ineffective, and this situation did not begin to change until the time of the Reformation with the likes of Martin Luther who rejected the ministry of works and proclaimed that righteousness is by faith alone, and William Tyndale who translated and published the first English bible and distributed it freely to the common man.
Both these men stood against the established church at the time, and it cost Tyndale his life. But his work continued strongly and it is estimated that something like 85% of the King James bible was taken directly from Tyndale’s work.
And yet still the church remains weak today, for there is much myth, lies, half-truth and twisted scripture found in the modern church that has carried over from the dark ages. It is only by a detailed and rigorous study of the bible that these falsehoods that have weakened the church can be seen and dalt with.
The Power in Jesus Christ
In Jesus Christ there is power, and when Christ is in a person they receive His power. Power to overcome sin, power to overcome the weaknesses of the flesh and power to become the children of God.
But when we accept the falsehoods that have been passed down from generation to generation, this power is eroded and the work of the New Covenant and the gospel cannot be done effectively within us.
By accepting lies as if they are truth, we too “…nullify the grace of God…” And when we do that, Christ cannot be formed in us because we have hamstrung the Holy Spirit, preventing His work of transformation in us.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to transform each of us into the image of Jesus Christ, which He will do when we follow Christ according to the pattern as He taught the first disciples and as they wrote down for us in the Bible. One of the big differences that can be seen between the truth of the gospel and the falsity of the modern church is in the keeping of the law, not that it should not be kept, but how it is to be kept.
The modern church says you must be under the law and that we are under the Ten Commandments. But Jesus came to set us free from the law, including the Ten Commandments, to serve Christ not under the law, but under grace.
Should we then believe the church, or should we believe Christ? And how do we reconcile these things?
Well, first, we must believe Christ, because that is where the power of God will be found. Christ HAS set us free from the law so that we can be free from the power of sin, for the law IS the power of sin, as can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15:56.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
But the law also shows us the difference between right and wrong; what is good versus what is evil. And we know from other scriptures that the law is holy, just and good.
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. (Romans 7:12)
So how do we reconcile these positions? Quite simply, as Paul described. We KEEP the just requirements of the law, but we are NOT UNDER the law. You do not have to be confined under the law to do what is right.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
In fact as Christians we are called to a much higher standard than the law. We are being called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (See Matthew 5:48). And a perfect person does not need the law to do what is right because doing right is part of their nature, just as the Lord always does what is right because He is righteous.
Paul explained how we achieve and overcome this dilemma when he wrote:
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
But we cannot be perfected while we are under the law because knowledge of the law brings the knowledge of sin and no sinner will stand before God the Father. Recall well the scriptures in Galatians that say:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
By attempting to live UNDER the law so that you can be justified, or made righteous, through works of the law, you will cut yourself off from the grace of Jesus Christ. And that means you cannot come to perfection in Jesus Christ because you are no longer part of Him.
That is why God removed the law and sin through the death of Christ, so that He would be able to help us to overcome and become perfect as He is perfect, and so that we would not be cut off from God’s grace and would be able to receive the most powerful gift to lead us to perfection in Christ: the Holy Spirit.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into the image of Jesus Christ, who is in the image of God the Father, who is perfect.
When Jesus died and we entered into His death through baptism, sin was overcome. In Christ we die to sin and to the law as we take on His death as our own and believe in the power of God to remove our sins and set us free from the law.
But even though these things take place instantly when we are baptised and believe in Him, sinfulness, or the passions, lusts and desires within us still remain. We still suffer all of the greed, jealousy, envy, anger, wrath, and every other negative emotion that can lead us to do what is evil in the sight of God. We are fortunate that God gives us more and more grace to overlook these issues as we are being transformed into His image, for we are truly a work in progress.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to overcome sinfulness within us and also to remove the passions, lusts and desires within us that lead us into sinfulness. This is achieved when we learn to walk in the Spirit.
And that is why we need to find the truth and not fall prey to the false teachings handed down across generations within the church. If we blindly accept what is false, then we cannot be transformed. We have fallen into the trap of Satan who has twisted the truth into lies and half-truths so that the truth of the gospel cannot be easily found.
I believe this is also why Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, that the road to life will be hard and narrow and few there will be who find it. It is hard to find because we have to wade through the mass of lies that have pervaded the church and which the church holds so near and dear that they even think it to be heresy to speak against them.
That is why each of us as individuals must seek for ourselves and look to Jesus, not to any man in any church. Yes…listen to what they say, but weigh it up against the whole gospel to see if their words are consistent.
Seek the truth and you will find it. Ask and it will be given. Knock and it will be opened as Jesus taught in Luke 11:9. You must seek to be able to overcome sin if you are to enter the kingdom of God, because know and understand this well…no sinner will come into God’s kingdom.
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