Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 1:23—2:11. In these verses Paul gives the reasons for his delay in coming to Corinth.
In 1:23 Paul says, “But I call on God as a witness against my soul, that to spare you I have not yet come to Corinth.” For Paul to spare the Corinthians was to forbear. The apostle would not come to visit the Corinthian believers with a rod for discipline, but would come in love and a spirit of meekness for building (1 Cor. 4:21). In order to avoid any unpleasant feeling, he refrained from coming. He treated them leniently and would not come to them in sorrow (2 Cor. 2:1). He did not like to lord it over their faith, but longed to be a fellow-worker of their joy (1:24). This is the truth. He calls on God to witness this for him.
According to verse 23, Paul called upon God against his soul. The apostle called on God to be a witness against his soul, that is, against himself, if he was speaking falsely.
To call on God is not only to pray to God or ask Him to do something for us. To say, “O God,” or, “O Father,” is not just to pray; it is to call upon God. Many Christians today do not have a calling spirit, a strong spirit in which to call upon God. If the circumstances or situation allowed it, I would like to call, “O my Father,” or, “O Lord Jesus,” continually. There is a difference between calling and praying. For example, someone may pray like this: “Father God, You are faithful. You never change. Help me to be faithful and unchanging also. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.” Although this is a good prayer, it may not be very living. We may also pray to the Lord Jesus in a manner that is not so living. We may say, “Lord Jesus, I thank You that You love me. Lord, I also love You. But, Lord, You know that I am weak. Lord, please help me in my weakness.” Many Christians pray like this, but they may pray with little heart and with no exercise of the spirit. They may not even understand what it means to exercise the spirit in prayer. In John 4:24 the Lord Jesus said, “God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and reality.” Worshipping God includes praying to Him. Since to pray is to worship, and since the Lord Jesus says that our worship of God must be in spirit, then our prayer must be in spirit also. The words we use to express ourselves in prayer are secondary. The primary matter is that we exercise our spirit to contact God. When we pray, we need to call on God, exercise our spirit, and say, “O Father, O my God, my Father.” This is to call upon God.
God the Father is happy to hear us calling on Him. According to the Lord’s word in John 4, the Father today is seeking those who worship Him in spirit.
I do not know of a better way to exercise the spirit than to call upon God. It is not necessary to call aloud. Often it is not convenient or suitable to call aloud. For example, others may be working or sleeping, and your calling in a loud way would disturb them. Even by calling in a very quiet way, our spirit is exercised.
Paul wrote all his Epistles in a careful manner and with much consideration regarding the use of words. In 1:23 he did not say, “I ask God”; neither did he say, “I pray to God.” Instead, Paul said, “I call on God.” This calling upon God implies the exercise of the spirit. Paul was a person who lived in spirit and who worshipped God in spirit. If we do not live in spirit, it certainly will be difficult for us to worship God in spirit.
In verse 23 Paul called upon God as a witness against his soul. This means that he called upon God to witness for him in a negative way. Here Paul seems to be saying, “Brothers in Corinth, I did not behave in the soul. If I had done this, God would witness against me. I am not a person living in the soul and behaving in the soul. I did not resolve in the soul to come to you. If this had been my situation, God would be a witness against me.”
It is interesting that Paul did not say, “I call on God as a witness for my spirit to testify that I resolve in my spirit to come to you.” On the contrary, he called on God to witness in a negative way against his soul. He called upon Him to testify that he did not resolve anything in the soul, that is, in the self. God would witness against such a resolving in the soul. This kind of negative witness is sometimes stronger than a testimony from the positive side.
The reason Paul did not come to Corinth was that he wanted to spare the Corinthians. It was not because he was fickle and was saying yes and no at the same time. Paul did not want to come to Corinth with a rod to discipline them; rather, he wanted to spare them and come to them in love. He called upon God to witness of this concerning him.
Paul is a good example for us to follow. By the Lord’s mercy, we all need to learn of him and follow him. Paul was a wonderful person. He was spiritual, he was constituted of Christ, he was experienced, and he was mature in the riches of Christ. As such a person, he wanted to spare the Corinthians and for this reason had not yet come to Corinth.
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