“Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification” (2 Corinthians 12:19).
Some members of the Corinthian church may have viewed themselves as judges who were presiding over Paul the Apostle’s testimony within this letter. But as Paul reminded the Corinthians, his intent to was to build them up, not subject himself to their approval. Unfortunately, it appears that some of the Corinthians didn’t get the message even though Paul had already addressed this topic in an earlier letter to them…
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).
This doesn’t mean that Paul was dismissive of their opinions or was uninterested in what the Corinthians had to say. However, Paul weighed the relative value of their judgment in contrast to the highest authority- the Lord Himself. In this instance, it appears that some in Corinth were not interested in listening, learning, and establishing a dialog with Paul on spiritual matters; instead they were intent on subjecting him to their own inflated opinions.
Although it may not appear obvious at first glance, Paul’s example provides us with a tool we can use to evaluate ourselves in this regard: “We speak before God in Christ.” If our words and actions are tempered by the realization that everything we say and do takes place in God’s presence, we can have confidence in responding to those whose words and actions are guided by other motives.
As mentioned earlier, this approach is summarized by the Latin term Coram Deo, a phrase that means “in the presence of God.” For Paul, this represented a double-edged responsibility. First, it involved edifying (or “building up”) the members of the Corinthian church. However, it also involved the need to communicate a number of difficult truths.
So just as a builder might renovate a home, Paul sought to dismantle the old, ungodly attitudes that existed within the church and build a new congregational mindset, one that honored God. To accomplish this, Paul had to correct the mistaken notion that he was a defendant and the Corinthians were his judges. This was not a trial and Paul was not seeking to exonerate himself. Instead, he was there to help them if they were willing- and that meant establishing a proper understanding of their relationship with him.