Archive for December, 2012

Galatians 1 (day 1092) 27 December 2012

          Here is a list of the ways in which Paul starts his letters.

Romans: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…”

1 Corinthians: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes…”

2 Corinthians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…”

Galatians: “Paul an apostle – sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers who are with me …”

Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”

Philippians: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”

Colossians: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother …”

1 Thessalonians: “Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy …”

2 Thessalonians: “Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy …”

1 Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope …”

2 Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus …”

Titus: “Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness …”

Philemon: “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother …”

1-5: As you can see from the above list, the greeting in the letter to the Galatians is markedly different from all the rest, and in the very first verse Paul seems to take on a defensive and argumentative tone. He wants to insist from the very beginning that his ministry is directly commissioned by God, not by any human authority. Galatia was a Roman province in central Asia Minor (Turkey) established in 25 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Iconium, Derbe and Lystra, three towns in the south of the province, are mentioned in Acts (14:1-23) as places Paul visited and perhaps established churches, but the letter is not specifically addressed to any of these or others which Paul might have started. There is no way to satisfactorily correlate the account of Paul’s travels in Acts with references in the letters to various places and events.

6-9: This is the place in the letter where we expect Paul to give thanks for his readers (see, for example, Romans 1:8-15; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9), but instead the letter takes an unexpected turn as Paul immediately begins accusing them of “turning to a different gospel.” We will learn later that the “different gospel” is that other preachers have convinced many of them that they must be circumcised if they are to be saved (see 5:3, 6). Paul has insisted from the beginning that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation, and curses those who disagree.

10-12: Now there follows the question of authority: who has the authority to determine which position is correct? Paul insists that the gospel he proclaims comes directly from Jesus Christ, and thus his authority should not be questioned.

13-17: He recounts the story of his own conversion, emphasizing that he knew as much about Jewish traditions as anyone, but his encounter with God’s Son led him to proclaim the gospel. Again he insists that what his teaching came from no human source but directly from God. By the way, Paul’s three year sojourn in the wilderness of Arabia is mentioned only in verses 17-18. That part of his experience was left out of the Acts account.

18-24: Following his hermitage in Arabia Paul says he went to Jerusalem where he met with Cephas (Peter) and James, then was off to Syria and Cilicia. His point is that the gospel he has proclaimed was not compromised by contact with other sources in Judea.

 

Galatians 2 (day 1093) 28 December 2012

1-10: His meeting with the leaders in Jerusalem is apparently the one mentioned in Acts 9:26-30. He insists that there was a general understanding that circumcision was not required and that he, Paul, would be the apostle to the Gentiles.

11-14: The confrontation between Paul and Peter in Antioch is not recorded elsewhere. Paul says that he challenged Peter for his duplicity regarding Jewish dietary restrictions.

15-21: Paul’s favorite theme is presented here again: we are justified by faith, not by works; that is, not by keeping the Law of Moses. His logic is summarized in verse 21: “If justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”

 

Galatians 3 (day 1094) 29 December 2012

1-5: Paul reminds them that when they first heard the gospel they received the Holy Spirit, and tells them that if now they depend on being circumcised they nullify the Spirit’s influence. They are going backwards, he says, from spirit to flesh.

6-9: In a rather incredible leap Paul links Christians to Abraham. He will make this point in a number of places. The gist of his argument is that Abraham lived in a time before the law, and therefore God’s choosing of him had to do with faith, not law.

10-14: The blessing of Abraham is mediated through Jesus Christ who became a curse by dying “on a tree.” Thus, Christ is condemned by the law, but through his condemnation God’s salvation is made available to Gentiles.

15-18: The way to get right with God is through faith, not through law; that is a point Paul continues to emphasize. He wants to show that faith predates the law, and illustrates that point by using Abraham as his example. In this paragraph he uses the argument from Genesis 17:7-8 that God’s promise was to Abraham and his offspring, which in the Biblical text is a singular noun. Paul says the word offspring in that passage is not a reference to the Jewish people, but rather a reference to a single person, Jesus Christ. The covenant with Abraham thus skips over the law to Christ, making the law null and void as a means of entering into a right relationship with God.

19-20: So, why did God give the law in the first place? Paul says it is because of transgressions; that is, the purpose of the law is to define sin. The law, furthermore, was given through angels (a late rabbinic idea that God, being holy, did not directly give the law but transmitted it through angels) by a mediator, Moses. A mediator is one who stands between two parties, and a covenant based on law is broken if the law is broken. But a promise depends only on one person. God makes the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ, and that promise is held by God’s grace through faith.

21-22: Ergo, the law cannot be the basis on which eternal life is granted; faith, however, can be and is.

23-29: Of course, the faith of which Paul is speaking is faith in Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the recipient of the promise given through Abraham, faith in Christ supersedes the law which was given as an interim guide for living within the covenant.

 

Galatians 4 (day 1095) 30 December 2012

1-7: Paul likens the law to trustees assigned to govern the behavior of a minor child until the time comes for the passing of the inheritance. In Christ we have been redeemed from allegiance to the law and now have the status of children of God, inheritors of eternal life through faith in Christ.

8-11: Paul grieves that the Christians in Galatia have “fallen back” into slavery to the law. The requirement of circumcision has been mentioned before and will be again. Here Paul also mentions that they are keeping the observance of special days and seasons; apparently the teachers who have convinced them of the necessity of circumcision have also laid on them the burden of keeping the Jewish festivals.

12-20: His tone takes on a personal timbre as he recalls the time he spent with them. He refers to an infirmity, the nature of which we are never to learn, but he has mentioned suffering with a “thorn in the flesh” on another occasion (2 Corinthians 12:7). He urges them to “become like I am,” meaning to give up their new allegiance to the legalists who have turned them away from relying on faith. He recalls how tenderly they had treated him before and wonders what has become of their good will towards him.

21-31: Back to Genesis. Abraham had two sons; one by Sarah’s maidservant Hagar, the other by Sarah. Hagar’s child was Ishmael, Sarah’s was Isaac. The covenant promise was of course carried through Isaac, not Ishmael. In Biblical lore Ishmael was sent away from Abraham’s family and married an Egyptian woman (Genesis 21:20-21). In a curious twist, Paul now identifies Hagar and Ishmael with Jerusalem because she, having been a slave, represents slavery to the law, while Isaac represents the church because he is the child of the promise (born to a barren woman to whom God promised a child). Abraham was told by Sarah to drive Hagar out (Genesis 21:10), and God supported her in that demand (Genesis 21: 12). Paul is actually telling the Gentile Christians in Galatia that they are symbolically the spiritual children of Abraham/Isaac, while the Jews are symbolically the legal descendants of Abraham/Ishmael.

 

Galatians 5 (day 1096) 31 December 2012

1: Christ has set us free from the onerous requirements of the law. I think that’s what he means.

2-6: His argument is that it is not possible to be justified by the law, but only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. His conclusion, that circumcision voids the grace of God, is nonetheless unconvincing, it seems to me.

7-12: Nevertheless, he pronounces doom on those who are trying to persuade the Galatians that circumcision is necessary for their salvation. He carries their argument to the extreme; if cutting off a little flesh is good, why not go all out and castrate themselves? I doubt he meant that as a joke.

13-15: The freedom to which we are called in Christ is not unbridled freedom, however. It is freedom to be servants to each other through love.

16-21: It is interesting that Paul, though insisting on freedom from the law in terms of circumcision, should be so interested in cataloguing all the ways in which our failure to abide by the restrictions of the law in terms of behavior should lead to our condemnation. But he is not talking about circumcision here; he is returning to his theme of the separation of flesh and spirit which he began in chapter 3. Living according to the flesh leads to the kinds of corruption listed here.

22-26: Living according to the spirit, on the other hand, leads to the attitudes listed here.

 

Galatians 6 (day 1097) 1 January 2013

          Happy New Year!

1-5: This is a confusing passage. I think it means something like this: Those who transgress are to be gently restored, taking care to avoid any temptation to join them in their transgression. In other words, don’t do what they do, but do take up the burden of correcting their mistake, otherwise they might think more highly of themselves than they ought. On the other hand, don’t take pride if you succeed in their restoration; that is their victory, not yours. Be proud instead of what you yourself might accomplish.

6: This is one of those places where I picture Paul pacing back and forth dictating the letter and losing his train of thought for a moment to throw in something that just popped into his head. It is good advice, perhaps, but feels out place.

7-10: Do what is right and work for the good of all – that is how one “sows to the Spirit.”

11: Paul concludes the letter with his own handwriting. Scholars love to speculate as to why he wrote with big letters. Some think his eyesight was poor. Some say his dependence on secretaries to whom he dictated resulted in his penmanship being so unpracticed that his handwriting resembled that of a child just beginning to learn to write.

12-16: A final swipe at the troublemakers who think they all should be circumcised.

17: And now, he says, don’t bother me anymore, please.

18: And finally, to emphasize the other main point of his letter, he prays the grace of Jesus Christ to be not with them, but with their spirit.

2 Corinthians 1 (day 1079) 14 December 2012

          Scholars are divided over whether 2 Corinthians represents one letter or is an amalgamation of several letters. These are questions that need not concern the casual reader but is an interesting debate for those who wish to dig deeper. The primary difference between 1 and 2 Corinthians is that 2 Corinthians is primarily concerned with what is going on inside the church, while 1 Corinthians was deeply concerned with the relationship the believers have with those outside the church.

          1-2: A standard salutation begins the letter. At the end of 1 Corinthians Paul had begged them to send Timothy on to him should he pass through Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:10-12). Now we find that he and Timothy have indeed been reunited.

3-7: The greeting continues with a word of gratitude for God’s involvement in the lives of the believers (compare Romans 1:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 1:4-9). Paul hints that he has been enduring much suffering since last they communicated, and he understands that they, too, have had some difficulties. He emphasizes God’s great heart of compassion and consolation to comfort them as well as him.

8-11: Indeed, it would seem that he and his companions have truly been put upon to the point of discouragement. It is impossible to match these verses with any specific occasion of persecution in Paul’s ministry – there were so many of them!

12-14: As to his relationship with them, his conscience is clear. He is convinced that all he has done on their behalf has been motivated by his determination to serve only God. He hopes that they can boast about each other when Jesus returns.

15-22: Paul had planned to make two visits to Corinth, but decided against it. He has apparently received some criticism for this, and defends himself, saying that he was not vacillating. His intentions were always positive towards coming to them, for it was God who brought them together.

23-24: What changed his mind about visiting them was the fear that his visit would not be a happy one.

 

2 Corinthians 2 (day 1080) 15 December 2012

          1-4: The reason he thinks a visit might be painful is because he realizes that his last letter was hurtful, although he insists that it was written out of his love for them.

5-11: Here is another tantalizing hint of inner conflict at Corinth about which we can only guess. Notice, though, how different is the tone of this letter from the first one. In 1 Corinthians Paul was ready to excommunicate opposition willy-nilly. Now, however, he urges them to “forgive and console” someone who not only opposed but insulted him! Even the great “Apostle to the Gentiles” must continue to grow in love and in Christlikeness.

12-13:Troas, a coastal town at the westernmost point of Asia Minor, is mostly remembered as the place where the young man Eutychus fell asleep during Paul’s sermon and toppled out of a second-story window (Acts 20:7-12). It is not clear why he mentions Troas and his visit to Macedonia at this point in the letter, but Paul remembers that his reason for leaving Troas, in spite of opportunities there (“a door was opened for me in the Lord”), was his disappointment that he could not find Titus.

14-17: The “triumphal procession” has two comparisons. First, to his Greek readers, it is an image of a parade for a general and his troops who have triumphed in battle. Second, from his Jewish heritage, it is an image of the glad procession to the temple to celebrate God’s acts on behalf of God’s people. Regardless of anything that happens, he says, Christians are to celebrate the triumph of Christ. For those who oppose Christ, Christians are likened to the smell of death, but for those who believe, they are the fragrance of life. Who can handle such a responsibility? He answers the question by contrasting his tent-making ministry with that of those who profit from their preaching.

 

2 Corinthians 3 (day 1081) 16 December 2012

1-3: We cannot escape the impression that Paul has a very high opinion of his missionary work. Unlike other evangelists, he says, he doesn’t need a letter of introduction to them. They themselves are his letter of introduction.

4-6: As usual, though, after his elevated opinion of his own work, Paul demurs by giving all credit to God for any success he has had and any abilities he has exhibited, and reiterates that the new covenant is a covenant of the Spirit (which is administered by God), not of the letter (the Law, which is administered by human beings).

7-11: In Exodus 34:29-35 we find the account of how Moses’ face shone after his encounter with God on Mt. Sinai where he was given the 10 commandments engraved on stone tablets. Paul refers to the Law as the “ministry of condemnation,” in keeping with his insistence that the Law has no power but the power to condemn. The gospel, on the other hand, is the “ministry of justification” (see Romans 5:16). The glory of the gospel is greater than the glory of the Law.

12-18: In the Exodus account Moses wore a veil because his shining face frightened the people. Paul uses that as a metaphor to illustrate how those Jews who have rejected Jesus as the Christ are unable to “see” the glory revealed in Christ and in his followers. Turning to Christ, he says, is like having the veil removed so that we clearly see the glory of Christ. He makes the extraordinary claim that the followers of Christ see the glory of Christ reflected whenever they look in a mirror! To prevent confusion over who is reflecting who, he makes it clear that we Christians are a reflection of Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 4 (day 1082) 17 December 2012

1-6: Continuing with the image of Moses’ face being veiled because it shone with the glory of God, Paul asserts that he and Timothy (see 1:1) have not tried to veil the gospel. If there is anything hidden in the way he has presented the gospel it rests in the unbelief of those who refuse it. Just as Moses’ face reflected God’s glory, the gospel reflects the glory of Christ who in turn reflects the glory of God.

7-12: The “treasure” refers to the reflection of Christ in the gospel. The bearers of the gospel – Paul and Timothy – are not perfect reflectors, and so the power that enters the lives of those who believe does not come from them but from God. Indeed, bearing the gospel is an act of dying to oneself so that the recipients may have the gift of life.

13-18: Even so, the cost is worth the reward of eternal life with Christ, and the suffering he and Timothy endure is merely a “slight momentary affliction.” That which “can be seen” is temporary; that which “cannot be seen” is eternal.

 

2 Corinthians 5 (day 1083) 18 December 2012

1-5: Verse 1 is often part of funeral litanies. The “earthly tent” is the physical body of the believer. The soul, the spiritual body, is the eternal “house not made with hands.” And yet, Paul sees this transformation not as a replacement for our current existence but rather an addition to it. We are “not to be unclothed, but further clothed.”

6-10: While we are in this earthly existence we are “away from the Lord” because what is yet to be cannot be seen except by faith. The goal of the Christian is to please God in this life and in the life to come, because that is the basis on which we will be judged.
11-15: It is the heart that counts, not the outward appearance. The Corinthians can “boast” of Paul and Timothy that their hearts are in the right place. Verse 13 is perhaps a reference to ecstatic utterances during which one might appear to be “beside oneself.” Verse 15, “he died for all,” is a foundational verse for John Wesley’s insistence that all can be saved – in other words, God does not predestine anyone to be lost.

16-21: The new life in Christ is not something we have to wait for, but rather something that faith in Christ immediately conveys. In Christ the world is reconciled to God, and the message of that reconciliation is entrusted to Paul and Timothy – and all who belong to Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 6 (day 1084) 19 December 2012

1-10: Paul uses Isaiah 49:8 as a springboard to an assurance of God’s saving grace. Now is the time, he says, to accept the grace of God, and he assures them God’s grace is not accepted in vain. He and Timothy have done everything in their power – both active (“purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,” etc.) and passive (“hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments,” etc.) – to remove every obstacle from anyone’s acceptance of Christ.

11-13: Yet, he senses some resistance on their part, and entreats them to return the affection he and Timothy have for them.

14-18: Paul cautions them about associating with unbelievers, for they are as separate as night and day. “Beliar” in verse 15 is the only occurrence of the name in the Bible. It is a Greek term that refers to the devil and means “worthless” or “wicked.” Believers have no more in common with unbelievers than Christ has with the devil, in other words. Believers are temples in which God resides (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), he says, and cobbles together several passages from the Old Testament (Leviticus 26:11-12, Ezekiel 37:27 among others) to illustrate the point.

 

2 Corinthians 7 (day 1085) 20 December 2012

1: Isn’t the prospect of God claiming us as his children enough to make us want to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit?” Paul obviously thinks it is.

2-4: Again Paul insists on his and Timothy’s purity of intent in all their dealings with the Corinthians, and claims great pride in them.

5-12: There is no real consensus among scholars as to whether the earlier letter mentioned in this passage became what we know as 1 Corinthians or another letter that has not survived. 1 Corinthians was a bit judgmental and Paul may well have regretted writing some of the things that are in it. In any case Titus was apparently dispatched to monitor the situation in Corinth and brought the news to Paul in Macedonia that the Corinthians, though dismayed by the letter, had eventually taken it to heart and had repented of some of charges Paul had made. Titus, of course, was an important student and companion of Paul’s, as was Timothy. Most commentators hold that he is not the Titius (or Titus) Justus of Corinth mentioned at Acts 18:7, but it seems to me that there are no irrefutable arguments against such a conclusion. We know in any case that Titus was a Gentile Christian and that he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem on one occasion (see Galatians 2:1, 3). Although Paul’s letter to Titus is preserved as part of our Bible, 2 Timothy 4:10 hints that there may have been a rift between Paul and Titus at one point.

13-16: Nevertheless, at the writing of this letter Paul and Titus are congenial companions.

 

2 Corinthians 8 (day 1086) 21 December 2012

1-7: Among other things, Titus had been engaged in fund raising in Corinth for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. Paul urges them on by complimenting the response of the Macedonians who have given generously in spite of their own poverty. Paul knew that generosity begets generosity – that’s why matching gifts are successful as a fund raising technique.

8-15: This is an excellent passage on stewardship and generosity. The abundance of some can be used to overcome the poverty of others, and that generosity may very well be one day returned should their fortunes be reversed. Paul reminds them that Christ gave everything for their sake. In God’s economy there is always enough to go around. The quote in verse 15 is from the story of manna in Exodus 16:16-18.

16-24: Along with Titus Paul is sending two others who are unnamed. The purpose of sending the three was to protect Paul from being accused of commandeering some of the collection for himself. It’s always good in the church to have more than one or two people handle the money. There has been much speculation about the identity of the two, particularly the “brother who is famous among all the churches.” Most ancient scholars believed that to be a reference to Luke, but recent scholarship is more divided with the majority simply refusing to attempt to identify either of the two.

 

2 Corinthians 9 (day 1087) 22 December 2012

1-5: Just in case they’re not motivated enough, Paul adds a little additional motivation: He has bragged about them to the folks at Macedonia, and he may bring some of the Macedonians with him to Corinth to witness their generosity firsthand! So, he sends Titus and the others to make sure their offering is ready before Paul gets there.

6-9: Moreover, he reminds them, generosity and abundance go hand in hand. I have to wonder if Paul is recalling what his friend Luke records as a saying of Jesus, that the “the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38). Paul backs up his assertion with the bold claim that “God loves a cheerful giver.” God provides so that we can give to others, so that through us God provides for them, too. The quote in verse 9 may be from Psalm 112:9.

10-15: Paul’s theology of generosity is based on a simple fact of nature: God provides the seed. We may keep it for ourselves (eat it) or give it away (sow it in the field). The portion we give away is returned to us many times over in the harvest that follows. It is indeed an indescribable gift. Thanks be to God!

 

2 Corinthians 10 (day 1088) 23 December 2012

1-6: Paul is self-effacing here (uncharacteristically!). The harsh letter to which he referred earlier is completely out of character with his meek demeanor when he is face to face with them. He hints that if their offering does not reflect the generosity he thinks they should display he can come down hard on them, especially on those who are found to be wanting in the “obedience” of the church – that is, on those who don’t give generously. I wonder how successful Paul would be as church fund raiser today.

7-11: He wants to be sure that they understand that he can be as demanding in person as he is in his letters.

12-18: He will not bother to compare himself with those who commend themselves, declaring that such jockeying for position shows a lack of good sense. He, however, has authority that none of them have in that he is the one who first brought the gospel to them. Furthermore he intends to use his credentials with them as a springboard to other mission fields beyond. Paul was always looking ahead to the next frontier.

 

2 Corinthians 11 (day 1089) 24 December 2012

1-6: Paul is hearkening back to a charge he made earlier (see 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4-5) about the Corinthians’ gullibility – their willingness to buy into the teachings of whoever happens to come along. Some of them, he charged, claimed allegiance to Apollos and some to Cephas, whom he casts here as “super apostles.” He defends his own status among them by insisting that, although he may not be as eloquent as some he is certainly knowledgeable about the scriptures.

7-11: Still, his sense of inferiority to those who actually walked with Jesus causes him to seek other ways by which to justify himself. One of his favorite means is to suffer more than the others and to deny himself more than they. So, he has not received any support at all from the Corinthians, but has accepted support from the Macedonians so that the Corinthians would have the benefit of his knowledge without cost.

12-15: But there are also those who have corrupted the gospel message to their own ends. One thing they will not do, however, is work for free, and that Paul has done on the Corinthians’ behalf and will continue to do.

16-21: His opposition, however, is not insignificant. That is evident from the amount of space Paul dedicates to them. He and his companions, he says, were too weak to appear before the Corinthians as anything special, but chose to be weak that the gospel might be elevated even more. Still, if they are impressed by boasting, Paul can boast, by golly.

22-29: He is just as Jewish, just as Israelite, and just as much a child of Abraham as they. Furthermore, he is an even better ambassador for Christ because he has suffered more than any of them, and gives a lengthy catalogue of all the ills he has endured.

30-33: His boasting, he says, is about things that prove that he is weak. The story of his escape from Damascus is at Acts 9:23-25; it is not clear why he mentions that particular episode here unless it is to illustrate his helplessness in having to be lowered over the wall by others.

 

2 Corinthians 12 (day 1090) 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

1-10: Paul hints that he has had an experience of being given a glimpse of heaven – scholars generally agree that the “man” he claims to know is a reference to himself. His humility allows him to tell the story, but not to go so far as to make it clear that he himself is the one who was “caught up to the third heaven.” Then, as if to balance that lofty experience, he speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” which God refuses to free him of. You have to admit it is a clever approach, to boast by emphasizing the negative things!

11-13: Still, his primary reason for asserting his position as an apostle is simply that he has not burdened them in any way. The other apostles by contrast accepted wages of one kind or another from the congregation in Corinth.

14-18: Preparing to visit them for the third time, he entreats them to consider his past dealings with them and the conduct of Titus and others he has sent to them.

19-21: Paul outlines his fear and anxiety about what he might find when he arrives in Corinth. He fears he will discover among them a whole host of problems – quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder, impurity, sexual immorality and licentiousness – the very things which he has counseled them against throughout his letters to them.

 

2 Corinthians 13 (day 1091) 26 December 2012

1-4: Previously Paul had chastised them for putting up with sexual immorality in their community and for their bent toward litigation (see 1 Corinthians 5 and 6). He will not drop those charges, he says, but for their own good he will “not be weak in dealing” with these sins. We do not know what authority Paul had in any of the churches other than the authority they grant him by dint of his knowledge of scripture and his relationship with Christ. He is depending on his reputation to be all he needs to whip them into shape, so to speak.

5-10: He urges them to engage continually in self examination; he does not wish to use the authority God has given him except for the purpose of building them up.

11-13: The letter ends rather abruptly with an exhortation that they should live in peace with one another and “greet one another with a holy kiss,” a practice in the early church which we have regrettably abandoned. The benediction in verse 13 is one still used in church services around the world today.