i warned those who sinned before and all the others, and i warn them now while absent, as i did when present on my second visit, that if i come again i will not spare them— since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. he is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. [2 corinthians 13:2-3]
i remember when i was young, and shared a room in the basement with my brothers, we would often stay up late and make noise. my dad would give us a warning that meant he was coming down if we didn’t stop messing around–he would throw a broom down the stairs. the wood clanking down the wooden stairs across the linoleum floor served a clear warning to us: if he had to follow the broom to get us to settle down, he would not spare us the discipline that we rightly deserved for our disobedience.
paul, speaking in the Spirit, is passionate about what God is passionate about–the holiness of God. he warns of what will happen if God is not taken seriously. yes, God is love. God is compassionate. but God is also a jealous God–he wants our hearts. if we are disobedient–because he loves us and wants us, he must administer discipline for sin, and he will pour out wrath upon all those who do not take refuge in his son Jesus.
but because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. [romans 2:5]
the corinthians who still refuse to repent and come to Christ, who continue to pursue worldly pleasure, division, gossip and false teaching are being warned: God sees through the facade of our false piety. he knows who we really are.
paul’s warning is winsome, and full of love. he doesn’t want judgement and damnation for them, so he “throws the broom” of warning for them–paul warns them the way he warns the galatians:
do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. [galatians 6:7]
mocking God always results in God’s wrath and judgement–and it will be dealt with–either at the cross, through repentance and taking refuge in Christ, or in the eternal separation from God in hell.
this sounds harsh, but because it is so serious, paul’s warning must be stern: “i will not spare them”. stories of the apostles bringing God’s swift judgement on those who did not fear him like that of ananias and sapphira [acts 5] or bar-jesus [acts 13] must have been known through the land–this was not paul’s warning that he would personally inflict physical and spiritual judgement, because that would just be temporal, and he was probably a physically unimposing guy–this is not of man but the infinite, terrifying power of God. when men and women see the righteous fury of God meted out, what always results is worship. like isaiah, when we truly see God, we cannot help but be undone!
paul would rather the corinthians worship without the negative consequences of this kind of judgement–hence the warning–but he is so passionate about God’s glory that he will do what is necessary.
being in God’s presence is so crucial here: when we regularly enter in, we see God for who he is: holy. glorious. now. we taste the sweetness of his patience, but also feel the urgency of his hatred of anything that is not “of” him. we will find ourselves warning others sternly, winsomely calling them to repentance rather than being apathetic of their future state.
love wins people to Christ, sometimes it happens through warning.
o that we might seek you–let us lovingly tell others of Christ–and when they do not turn to him, let us continue to warn them of the coming wrath of a righteous Judge! give us urgency o Lord! let us take refuge in you!
but let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
for you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield. [isaiah 5:11-12]
~ conor eastman