2 Corinthians 13:8-10,
それでは、パウロが祈っている「あなたがたが完全な者になること」とはどういうことでしょうか？「完全な者になること」と翻訳されているカタルティシスというギリシア語の名詞は、新約聖書の中でここにしか出てこない言葉です。しかし、同じような意味を表す動詞のカタルティゾーという言葉は、「何かをよく機能する状態にすること、秩序正しくすること、回復すること」という意味で何度も出てきます。「完全な者になること」というと、まったく罪のない完全な状態になることのように聞こえます。しかし、パウロがここで祈っているのはそういうことではないでしょう。むしろ、コリント教会の信徒たちが、キリストに対しても、パウロに対しても、そしてお互い同士の間でも、正しい関係を回復することを、パウロは願って祈っているのでしょう。英語の聖書を読みますと、私たちが用いている新共同訳聖書と同じ「あなたがたが完全な者になること」（NRSV: that you may become perfect）という翻訳以外にも、「あなたがたがまったく回復すること」（NIV 2011: that you may be fully restored）「あなたがたの回復」（ESV: Your restoration）「あなたがたの修正」（REB: your amendment）などの様々な翻訳があります。
Adults’ Sermon (5 February 2023)
2 Corinthians 13:8-10, “Authority to Build Up”
Each of our human bodies has its own constitution. For example, we may hear people say, “I am prone to catching colds” or “I am prone to headaches”, or other such constitutional problems. On the other hand, some people are born healthy and maintain a healthy constitution by balancing diet, sleep and exercise in their lives. It may be difficult to improve one’s constitution, but it is possible for the constitution to change gradually as the body changes with age and he/she changes the way of life. Some may change for the worse, but others may change for the better.
The church is said to be the ‘body of Christ.’ The Christian churches that have been built in different parts of the world and in different parts of Japan also have their own constitutions. There are churches where God’s Word is proclaimed in a solid way and the congregations are nourished and testify Jesus Christ to people, and there are churches where human thoughts dominate instead of God’s Word and there are always internal strifes. Where do such differences in the constitutions of churches come from? It probably has a lot to do with the culture of the land in which the church was planted, and the way of walking which the church took immediately after its birth.
The churches of New Testament times, planted by Paul’s mission, also had both good and bad constitutions. The churches with good constitutions are represented by the churches in the province of Macedonia, such as Philippi and Thessalonica. In Philippians 4:1, Paul refers to the Philippian church congregation as “my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown.” And in 1 Thessalonians 1:7, he refers to the congregation of the Thessalonian church as “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Of course, these churches were not perfect and had some problems, but it is fair to say that they still had good constitutions.
In contrast, the representative of the churches with bad constitutions was the church in Corinth, in the province of Achaia. Of course, the Corinthian church was also Christ’s church, where Christ was with them through the Holy Spirit. However, the fact that Corinth was a commercial city where people were looking for business success, and that there was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love, influenced the way of thinking and doing of the local people and cast a shadow on the constitution of the church that was planted there. And after Paul had preached the gospel in Corinth from the autumn of 50AD to the spring of 52AD, the arrival of Apollos, an evangelist with a different gift from Paul, and the subsequent arrival of false evangelists who preached a different gospel to that which Paul had preached, had led the Corinthian church to the formation of a congregation that did not follow Paul’s leadership. Therefore, before his third visit to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote in chapter 12, verses 20 and 21 as follows:
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
The bad behaviour that is still worryingly present in the Corinthian church could be divided into two main categories. One is mentioned in verse 20: “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” Another bad behaviour is mentioned in verse 21: “the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality.” There was a believer in the Corinthian church who was sleeping with his father’s wife (I Corinthians 5:1) and those who went to prostitutes even after they had been baptised (I Corinthians 6:15-16). It seems that Paul’s “Letter of Tears” brought many believers to repentance and punished him for his immoral behaviour, and they repented too. However, the human heart, even after repentance, still has a strong self-centredness at the root of its heart that opposes to God. Therefore, unless we continually repent, our repentance will only be temporary and we will do the same bad behaviour as before.
Therefore, Paul gives a stern warning in verse 2 of chapter 13: “If I come again, I will not spare them.” And in verse 5 of chapter 13 he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Paul may have written “unless indeed you fail to meet the test” with the nuance of a warning that if you do not continue to repent, “you may fail to meet the test!” And in verse 7, “But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” Paul’s desire was for the Corinthian church congregation to repent and do good rather than for himself to be seen as qualified to lead the church.
In verse 8 of today’s passage that follows, Paul writes: “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” If you read the Greek original text, the sentence begins with the word “gal,” which stands for reason. What are Paul’s thoughts on verses 7-8? In anticipation of his third visit to the Corinthian church, Paul wants the congregation in this letter to repent and turn away from evil and do good. But he is also prepared to punish them if there is no repentance. If the Corinthian church congregation is repentant, Paul will be gentle with them; if they are not repentant, he will be harsh with them. For the sake of truth, Paul can be harsh or gentle. But he cannot do either against the truth. In this light, we could say that “the truth” is obedience to Christ. Alternatively, we could say that “the truth” is the very gospel of Christ. For the sake of the gospel of Christ, Paul can be both harsh and gentle to the congregation of the Corinthian church.
The following verse 9 says: “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.” What does it mean that “we are glad when we are weak and you are strong”? Paul writes in the second half of verse 3: “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.” This means that Christ is the powerful one who can train the congregation of the Corinthian church rigorously by Paul. Then, when Paul says “when we are weak,” he is probably thinking of a weak state in which he cannot be used to train the congregation of the Corinthian church. And “you are strong” would refer to the state of the Corinthian church congregation in which they repent with firm faith and do good works. In other words, Paul is saying to the congregation of the Corinthian church, “We are glad if you walk in strong faith, even though we cannot wield strong authority over you.” Paul’s desire is not to wield his authority over them, but for them to live righteously as Christians.
So what does Paul mean “your restoration is what we pray for”? The Greek noun katartisis (κατάρτισις), translated “restoration”, is a word that occurs only here in the New Testament. However, the verb katartizo (καταρτίζω), which expresses a similar meaning, is a word that occurs many times in the sense of “to cause to be in a condition to function well, to put in order, to restore.” Paul is probably praying for the congregation of the Corinthian church to be restored to a right relationship with Christ, with Paul, and with each other. In English Bibles, we also read that “you may be fully restored” (NIV 2011), “your amendment.” (REB) The believers of the Corinthian church were fighting amongst themselves, rebelling against Paul, and being misled by false evangelists into turning away from Christ on the cross. It was therefore necessary that such states should be corrected and right relationships restored – towards Christ, towards Paul, and amongst each other. Paul must have been hoping and praying for that.
The last verse 10 of today’s passage says, “For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” Concerning to “these things,” there may be various ways of taking where in this letter it refers. I think it refers to Paul’s words of both severity and gentleness in chapters 12:19 to 13:9. In the second half of 12:19, Paul confides his feelings, “all for your upbuilding, beloved.” But alongside this, in the second half of 13:2, he warns, “if I come again I will not spare them,” and in the second half of 13:5, he sternly commands, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” Believers who have doubts about Paul’s authority may take this to mean that he is threatening them. So, in writing the concluding part of this letter, Paul may have emphasised that his authority is given by the Lord “for building up and not for tearing down.”
In fact, in verse 8 of chapter 10 of this letter, Paul makes a similar statement. It says: “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.” In other words, he encourages the congregation to voluntarily submit to Paul’s authority by saying, “I have been given authority by Christ, and the purpose of that authority is not to destroy you, but to build up you. “Not to destroy, but to build up” is a clear indication of the kind of gospel of Christ that Paul proclaimed. It was “Christ crucified” that Paul proclaimed. To proclaim “Christ crucified” on behalf of believers in order to give them forgiveness of sins, was to build up the character of believers, to build up the community of believers. It was not to destroy those who believe.
I began today’s sermon by saying that churches may have good constitutions or bad constitutions. Thus, when we study today’s passage, we can say that a good constitution of a church is one that obeys the authority of Christ, which is carried out through the evangelists he has sent. Such a constitution is created when the evangelist uses the authority given by Christ to build up the character of each believer and to build up the church as a community.
Now, after this letter, did the constitution of the Corinthian church change towards improvement or did it remain bad? In Acts 20:2-3, there is a very brief account of Paul’s third visit to Corinth: “He came to Greece. There he spent three months.” This account does not tell us in detail what the outcome of his third visit to Corinth was. But what we should bear in mind is that during the three months of this third visit to Corinth, Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. And in verses 23 and 24 of chapter 15 of that letter to the Romans, Paul writes of his future vision to visit the church in Rome and also to go on a mission to Spain. If the Corinthian church had remained in a bad state, such a positive outlook would not have been given. It can then be inferred that the constitution of the Corinthian church would have been in the direction of improvement.
If we think about it more broadly, the constitution of an organisation or group in general, is also something that is formed in its early years and lasts until later on. The constitution of a church, too, will last longer if it was formed early in the church’s formation. In that sense, this time when our church is moving forward to a self-support church, is a very important time. Let us form our church so that we can have a good constitution that Christ’s authority is carried out through the pastor whom Christ has sent. For this purpose, I would like to use the authority given by Christ to build up the character of each believer and the church community. And I hope that the congregation will walk humbly in obedience to that authority.