Connecting a couple of dots this morning from my readings. Somewhat in awe of Paul’s all-out commitment to the Corinthians. Why did he care about them so much? But then wondering, if at its core, it isn’t the same dynamic found in Psalm 108 where God seems to have ordained that His people’s good and His own glory would be inextricably linked together.
Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
(2Corinthians 12:14-15 ESV)
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me . . . but ready to go again for a third time? Hasn’t Paul done enough already? Multiple letters, multiple visits. The roller-coaster ride of two steps forward, one step back. And now, they’re listening to self-acclaimed super-apostles who slander not only Paul’s counsel, but his character, and even countenance, as well. I don’t know. At some point, wouldn’t you say, “I’m done?” Evidently not.
I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.
Paul is ready to contend for the Corinthians to the point of exhaustion. He is ready to empty himself if it means they would be filled again. He is ready to drain his tank if, by God’s enabling, it would fuel their fire.
He makes it clear. It wasn’t about defending himself, but about building them up (12:19). Not about answering the accusations and restoring his reputation, but about reminding them of Christ and wanting them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
How come? Why was Paul ready to “be spent” for their souls? Why care so much about their walk?
Something in Psalm 108 provides at least a partial answer, reminding me that what is ultimately at stake is God’s glory.
In Psalm 108, David opens with praise due God’s name (v. 1-4) but at it’s essence it is a plea for God’s help (v. 6-13). The enemy had gotten the upper hand and all their best efforts at saving themselves had failed (v. 12). Though they clung to the promises of God (v. 7-9), the presence of God seemed absent (v. 11). Yet David remains confident that with God they would do valiantly. For it was God, ultimately, who would show Himself mighty and “tread down” their foes (v. 13).
And in the middle of David’s song, linking the praise and the plea, there’s a clue, I think, as to why Paul so cared about the Corinthians.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth! That Your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
(Psalm 108:5-6 ESV)
God had tied His exaltation above the heavens to the deliverance of His beloved ones on the earth. The Sovereign had determined to wire His glory overall the earth to the salvation made known by His right hand. God had purposed to tie together the wonder at His name with the walk of His people. David knew that’s how it was to work in ancient Israel. Paul knew that’s how it would also work with Christ’s blood-bought people.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 3:8-10 ESV)
The exaltation of God, His glory known over all the earth — that’s what David saw as really being at stake with the battle against his enemies.
The manifold wisdom of God, the testimony to those on the earth, and those above the earth, of God’s multi-faceted nature and power — that’s what Paul knew was at stake with the Corinthians fidelity to Christ and to the gospel. And so, Paul was ready to be spent in contending for them for the sake of God’s glory.
Christ’s bride is worth the effort.
Because of God’s grace. That she might bring God glory.