Now we pray to God that you not do wrong in any way, not that we are seen as approved, but that you do what is good, even though we are seen as though unqualified. For we are not able to do anything against the truth, but rather only for the truth. For we rejoice whenever we are weak, but you are strong, and we pray for this: your maturity.2 Corinthians 13:7-9 LEB
My children, for whom I am having birth pains again, until Christ is formed in you!Galatians 4:19 LEB
I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of real Christian formation. With that in mind, I noticed 2 Corinthians 13:7-9 and read it in a new light. Paul has been vigorously defending his apostolic ministry, and particularly his role as apostle to the church at Corinth. In his closing comments, he mentions how he is praying for them. I was struck by his emphasis on their well-being, not his own position. He prayed for their spiritual development, no matter what they decided about him. It reminded me of his comment to the Galatians, who were also resisting what he had taught them. He told them he was in labor, agonizing for them in prayer until Christ is formed in them.
Paul prayed for these congregations that were challenging him and what he preached:
- He prayed that they would live right. It’s important to have good doctrine, no question. But it’s also important to live like what we believe. The word “church” means a people who are called out of the world and into Christ. I pray you live a life that’s noticeably different.
- He prayed that they would grow up. Christian maturity is something we don’t talk enough about. If we’re still having emotional tantrums when we don’t get our way or we’re being moved by every “new” revelation that comes down the pike, then we’re not there yet. One function of the five-fold ministry is to bring us to a stable, effective maturity. I pray you let them do their job.
- He prayed that Christ be formed in them. The language used refers to something internal, the Holy Spirit, working in the believer to reflect Christ (The Messiah) in their manner of life. The plural address (children) also implies that he is praying for the church as a whole to be representative of the risen Messiah. They are “the Body of Christ,” and are His visible representation in the earth. I pray we can corporately fulfill our God-given, Christ-reflecting mission.
As we head to church today, pray for your church body that they live right, that they grow up, and that Christ be increasingly visible in and through them. Won’t that be a great day!