Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Just as there is more than one way to “have the Spirit”, there is more than one way to “receive” someone. The apostle Paul once spent eighteen months in Corinth ministering to the saints there, but even then, after all that time with him, those Corinthian saints were seduced and led away from the truth. When Paul became aware of what had happened to his beloved Corinthian converts, what did Paul write to them? That they needed to study the Bible more? No. That they needed to build a bigger church? No. That they needed to be more socially and politically involved? No. That they weren’t praying enough? No. Instead, Paul wrote them a simple plea. He said, “Receive us!” (2Cor. 7:2).
It is obvious that the Corinthians were well acquainted with Paul, for they had welcomed him into their midst previously, maybe more than once. But even after he had lived and labored among them for so long a time, they had not yet “received” him, according to Paul. That is, they had not yet come to know and have fellowship with the real Paul, the man that Jesus had created by his power and mercy. They were not walking in the light with the Paul who was walking with Jesus. They may have understood some of Paul’s doctrine, and they certainly were not lacking in spiritual gifts, but they had not yet really “received” Paul, God’s gift to them. And in not receiving the real person of Paul, they had also not yet received the One who sent him.
Had they received the real Paul, they would have received Paul’s humble spirit, and the great wisdom that was in it. They would also have received the love that was in him from Christ, and the steadfast faith which the real Paul possessed. They would never have brought a reproach on the name of Jesus, as they were doing, and they never would have been lured from the true faith, had they truly received Paul. Timothy received the real Paul, and because he had Paul in his heart, Timothy stood in the faith with Paul until the aged apostle died, even though almost everybody else had abandoned the old warrior by that time.
Over the years, God has placed in my care a few of His precious sheep, until Jesus, “the chief Shepherd”, returns. I cannot say to the Father what Jesus said to Him the night before he was crucified: “Of those you have given me, I have not lost one of them” (Jn. 18:9). Some of my sheep never received me. Some of them never really came to know me even after years of being with me. If they had received the real me, they would have received my spirit and the zeal for the Lord, the love, and the understanding that is in it. They would have received the me that Jesus created, and they would have known both him and me, and would have gladly continued in the work that God has gave us to do. But, as it was, they never came to know me. We never attained to real fellowship in the light with Christ, and they wandered off, going their own way and doing their own will. Today, I could write to them, as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “Receive us!” But it would probably make about as much difference to them as Paul’s humble plea made to the Corinthians.
We can receive one another on several levels, physically as well as spiritually, but the sweetest and best way to receive one another is to receive one another in spirit, to welcome into our hearts the person that Jesus has created one another to be, not the person the world sees in the flesh. In receiving one another, genuine fellowship is found. And where that sweet, holy harmony is found, there is God’s real family, with all its safety, wisdom, and hope.