Community is a vital component of the Christian life, and being a part of a healthy, caring church is a joy. But anyone who’s been a part of a church can tell you no congregation is perfect. Still, one would be hard-pressed to find a church in as much turmoil as Corinth.
Based on 1 and 2 Corinthians, we know that the church struggled with an array of issues: sexual ethics, whether to eat food sacrificed to pagan gods, the status of spiritual gifts, and money management. At the root of many of these troubles was a concern for spiritual status, a festering problem that grew into a full-blown outbreak some time between the two letters. Paul’s own apostolic authority had come under attack by factions within the church who claimed that their own spiritual leadership was superior.
Paul spent the chapters leading up to today passage vigorously defending his own position as an apostle. And then in verses 5 through 10 he turned the tables and asked the Corinthians to defend their own positions. Paul was concerned that if the Corinthians continued or resumed denying his apostolic authority, they would undermine their faith in God’s plan for salvation.
At stake was not Paul’s pride, but the redemption of those who would deny that Paul was a divinely appointed representative of Jesus Christ on earth and therefore deny the gospel message Paul proclaimed. The situation was dire and so Paul turned to intercessory prayer, asking God that the Corinthians “not do anything wrong” (v. 7). Praying that our friends and family do no wrong is a powerful blessing, and in offering this prayer Paul modeled true leadership. He practiced what he preached in verse 10, “the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.”