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. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. – 2 Corinthians 13:7-9 ESV
The apostle Paul was always having to defend his apostleship. There was no shortage of individuals who would question his authority and criticize his claim to be speaking on behalf of Christ. But while Paul was not shy in defending himself, his greater concern was for the spiritual well-being of those who had come to faith in Christ through his preaching and teaching. Since his own salvation experience on the road to Damascus, Paul had dedicated his life to spreading the good news about Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. He traveled near and far to make known the gospel message and to see lives transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. And if he had to suffer in the meantime, he was more than ready. But he was not willing for anyone to question his authority or discount his message, because he had received his commission from Jesus Christ Himself.
In this, his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul finds himself defending his apostleship once again. He writes, “you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me” (2 Corinthians 13:3 ESV). But the greatest proof of Paul’s claim to being a spokesman for Jesus Christ was the very power evident in their midst that had made possible their transformation. “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you” (2 Corinthians 13:3 ESV). Lives were being changed. Hearts had been transformed. The message of new life in Christ had taken root and born fruit. But while Paul was away and absent from their midst, he prayed. He prayed with a purpose. He was asking God to produce fruit in the lives of the believers in Corinth. In other words, he was asking to see the byproduct of practical sanctification in their lives – as a form of proof of their salvation. Their faith in Christ should have been producing fruit. And it was for this that he prayed. “But we pray to God that you may not do wrong…” The presence and power of Christ within them, in the form of the Holy Spirit, should have been producing in them a growing desire to do what was right and to turn away from doing what was wrong. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit should have been producing holiness, obedience, and acts of righteousness. Paul told them that “your restoration is what we pray for.” The Greek word Paul used was katartisis and it means “a strengthening, perfecting of the soul.” It comes from root word that has to do with restoration or repair. It means to “make one what he ought to be.” Paul was praying that the believers in Corinth would be experiencing the transforming, restorative power of Jesus Christ in their lives. That power would be ample proof of Paul’s status as a messenger of Jesus.
Paul wanted to see lives changed. He wanted to see the power of God released in the lives of those who had come to faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. He desired to see those who had accepted Jesus as their Savior radically restored to a right relationship with God with lives that reflected their newly restored natures. Salvation is a wonderful thing, but it is just the beginning. Sanctification is an essential byproduct of a new relationship with Christ. Growth in Christ-likeness should accompany the presence of His Spirit within us. Paul prayed for proof of that presence. He wanted to see lives transformed. He wanted to see evidence of the saving power of Jesus Christ. Jesus had died, not just to make it possible for us to one day spend eternity with Him in heaven, but to radically reform our lives here on earth. And it was to that end that Paul prayed.
But do we pray for transformed lives? Do we long to see believers living radically different lives right here, right now? Or do we pray more for physical healing than holiness? Do we pray for freedom from trials more than we pray for a display of Christ’s righteousness in the midst of them? Are we so busy asking God to make our lives easier that we fail to recognize that Christ died to make our lives more righteous? Paul prayed for life change, not circumstantial change. He prayed for holiness and righteousness. He wanted to see the power of the presence of God lived out in the everyday lives of the people of God. In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, he had reminded them of just how far they had come since accepting Christ. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV). God had transformed them from what they once were to something new and radically different. But His work was not done yet. He was still in the process of changing them from the inside out. And it was to that end that Paul prayed. So should we.