“We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:7-8 NLT).
The Biblical book of Revelation contains two chapters that consist entirely of letters from Jesus to seven churches that were active during the New Testament era. However, that portion of Scripture contains more than just a series of personal letters; it also holds some important truths for those who are willing to look more closely.
One such letter was addressed to the church that met in a city named Sardis. Unlike some of His messages to the other churches of Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus had nothing good to say to the assembly of Christians in that area: “…I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1 CSB).
If the church at Sardis were active today, it might be the kind of church that features a dynamic speaker, numerous activities, and a large and growing congregation. While each of those things are good in themselves, the Christians at Sardis had an external reputation for vitality when they were far from where God wanted them in reality. More importantly, Jesus saw the members of that church as they were and not as they seemed to be.
So what does this have to do with 2 Corinthians 13:7-8? Well, it would have been easy for Paul the Apostle to allow the church at Corinth to continue as a growing but spiritually dysfunctional institution. To be known as the founder of a large and growing church may have looked good on Paul’s resume’ but he had a different set of priorities: “We are not concerned with our appearing successful, but with your doing what is right, even if we appear to be failures” (CJB).
Paul wanted the Corinthians to do the right things for the right reasons. Whether Paul was vindicated in his criticisms of the church at Corinth was irrelevant to him. Instead, he was less concerned with external appearances and more concerned with the spiritual growth and maturity of those within the Corinthian fellowship. In doing so, he provides us with the right attitude to emulate both individually and corporately as well.