What’s the Bottom Line?
One on-line dictionary – devoted to the idioms of American English – defines “Bottom Line:” the most important aspect of something.
All apostles/prophets/evangelists/pastors/teachers (Ephesians 4:11) have important messages for people whose spiritual development are in-process. Their sermons might be given without an archival capture, but in this era, many are recorded for later consumption, digitally.
In the first generation of this expanding movement, many messages were sent in print to distant recipients; some of those were later recognized to be Inspired, and suitable for inclusion in the Scriptures. These letters – epistles – bore evidence of the Holy Spirit as the original source.
Seven of Paul’s letters made that short-list; all were full of valuable insights, from the first to the last words. But – in a style that marked the arguments of this insightful apologist – he often added a virtual Post Script that would capture the key thoughts emerging from the body of the missive.
In his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, his summation was rich: “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (13:11).
When Paul says “finally” and “good-by,” you can trust him to be wrapping-up. The main topics of his letter has been concluded, and his intentions in writing had been exposed. Both letters to the church in Corinth went from timeless and elementary theology to personal interventions and spiritual disciplines. They came from the loving heart of that church’s founding father: none other than Paul, during his second missionary journey.
First, he reminds them that they’re not just club-members: they’re family. God didn’t send Jesus to open up membership in another religious community; He sent his only begotten Son to enable the adoption of humanity’s orphans, who would become the new progeny of the Heavenly Father.
Then, get this: “Aim for perfection.” Following one’s birth into the spiritual family, God’s intention was for all mature toward alignment with the Father and the Son, to always be in process toward god-likeness. No longer willing to settle for human norms, Paul wanted them to be serious about their refinement toward righteousness.
His authority as an apostle is on display: “listen to my appeal.” Those leaders in the Church – the apostles / prophets / evangelists / pastors / teachers – are not just advisors with elective opinions. Rather, they are commissioned by the One who placed them in the church to speak for Him. Paul expected that his messages to them would be received as orders from Headquarters, calling for affirmative action.
God’s plan is always unity; the Enemy’s strategy is always division. “Be of one mind” doesn’t allow for differences of opinion that would result in separation and segmentation. God has always intended that unity in the community of the redeemed would be a compelling demonstration of His work among otherwise combative humans…
“Live in peace” is more than an inscription in a greeting card. Paul’s initial greeting in this letter – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – is bookended by his closing challenge: “Live in peace… and the God of love and peace will be with you.” The aura around true believers will always depict the shalom calm and confidence that flows from their settled conflict with God, and their settled tensions with one another.
What’s your “Bottom Line?”