2 Corinthians 1:23-24 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul now shifts back from giving the theological basis for his decision to the criticism from the Corinthians about his change of travel plans. It is significant that he calls God as witness. This statement is added to emphasize Paul’s truthfulness, sincerity, and clear conscience. He did not act on his own whim, but prayerfully listened to God’s direction about his travel and ministry. To claim God as witness is a significant claim. Paul did something similar in his earlier letter in 1 Corinthians 4:4. By aligning himself with God, he basically leaves the Corinthians defensively about their criticism of him.

Paul’s motives were pure. He did not want to cause the Corinthians problems by coming earlier. Verse 24 suggests that the delay was in order to give the Corinthians an opportunity to grow up in their faith and not be pushed by Paul or anyone else. They needed to stand on their own. They needed to respond to Paul’s earlier letter and the various situations they faced. Growth does not take place so well when someone else intervenes in the struggle. Paul is not the ruler of the Corinthians’ faith. They are on their own. Each person must give an account before God. Paul cannot be held accountable for their lack of growth or their complaints. They must choose the best path for themselves. They must be able to call God as their own witness of how they are living.

However, Paul does not want to leave them alone. He wants to come along side of them, to work with them and encourage them. This letter is the clearest evidence of this. Even though he could not be there in person, he does his best by either sending an emissary or letter. The tense of “stand firm” is perfect, suggesting that they have been doing well but need to continue to grow. This letter is a challenge for them not to give up but to keep going.

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