Paul feared that he would find quarreling among the Corinthian believers. We know that there was quarreling, because he mentioned it earlier in these letters. He also feared discovering among them jealousy, outbursts of anger, and factions (dividing up into exclusive groups). We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that factions had indeed occurred in Corinth. There he wrote, “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ’ ” (1 Cor. 1:11-12).
Paul also feared finding slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder among the Corinthian believers. His fear stemmed from the fact that, if the Corinthians were actually acting in those ways–if their lives were truly showing quarreling, jealousy, anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder–how was anyone to believe that they had really been born again at all?
Later in the letter Paul challenged the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether they were truly in the faith. He wanted them to test themselves to see whether Christ Jesus was really in them. That is what he was concerned about. So as he struggled spiritually with these Christians at Corinth, he struggled not for a limited time, but to the very end, because at stake was not merely the health of the local church, but the salvation of the people who, apparently up to this time, had been professing Jesus Christ.
I said earlier that the reason Paul did not give up was because God does not give up. I want to return to that now. God does not give up with us. But even more importantly, God does not give up in us. It is the fact that he does not give up on us that keeps us going and enables us to be strong.
Back in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 10, verse 13, Paul wrote about temptation. He wrote, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” Well, that includes the temptation to quit our efforts. Paul himself undoubtedly experienced such temptation. But as he said, God is faithful. We are not faithful; we would quit. But “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13). That is why Christians do not quit. They persevere to the end in spite of difficulties, because God provides the way. He strengthens them and enables them to stand even in the most severe trials of daily life.