2 Corinthians 13:1-14
This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
2 I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare—
3 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
4 For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
7 Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.
10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.
11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
By the mouth of two or three witnesses (v.1) — required by the law (Deuteronomy 19:15)
Verses 1 and 2 together indicate that Paul had visited Corinth a second time. We are not given details of this second visit, doubtless because we do not need to know, but it does appear that it had not been a pleasant visit. — Stam, page 230.
examine (v.5) = try, make a trial of, test for the purpose of ascertaining quality
disqualified (v.5, 6, 7) = failed to pass the test, not approved (like a counterfeit coin)
Paul’s prayer that the Corinthian saints might keep themselves from evil could have been motivated by the desire that he might appear approved, for when they fell into sin it did indeed bring reproach upon his name. Yet this was not the case. He would rather have them simply honest, though he be thought a reprobate. He knew that honesty, speaking the truth, would always prevail in the end. — Stam, page 231.
made complete (v.9) = strengthening, perfecting, making fit.
the authority which the Lord has given me (v.10) — 2 Corinthians 10:8
[Verses 3-10] … Since you are seeking a proof that Christ speaks in me, He who is not weak in relation to you [as you think me to be], but is powerful in your midst, for though He was crucified in [the] weakness [of His humanity], yet He lives by means of God’s power. And as for ourselves, we are weak [in company] with Him [as partaking of frail humanity], but we shall live with respect to you together with Him through God’s power.
Be putting yourselves to the test whether you are in the Faith. Be putting yourselves to the test for the purpose of approving yourselves, and finding that you meet the specifications, put your approval upon yourselves. Or, do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are those who are disapproved? But I hope that you shall come to know that, as for us, we are not disapproved.
Now, we are praying to God that you do not even one bit of evil, not, as for us, in order that we may appear as approved, but in order that, as for you, you may be doing that which is honorable, but as for us, in order that we may be as those who are disapproved, for we are not able to do anything against the truth, but for the truth. For, as for us, we rejoice when we are weak, but as for you, when you are strong. And for this we also pray, for your spiritual equipment. On this account I am writing these things when I am absent, in order that I may not deal sharply [with you] in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for casting down. — Wuest, pages 437-438.
There’s no doubt Paul would use his apostolic authority from God to discipline those in the Corinthian church who were continuing in their habitual sin. I don’t know what form that discipline would take, but I’ve always assumed it meant verbal scolding—Williams has decided views (below).
“I will not spare” (v.2), i.e., he would strike with sickness, or death, every member of the fellowship that by the testimony of two or three witnesses should be found guilty.
“heretofore have sinned” (v.2), i.e., continue to cleave to their old sins.
The Apostle knew he was inspired (v.3). He knew that Christ spoke through his lips.
“Which” (v.3), i.e., “Who”—that is, Christ. Christ spoke in and through the Apostle; He was not weak to the Corinthians but mighty among them; though crucified through weakness, yet He was energized by the living power of God. Paul (v.4) was weak in fellowship with Him, but was energized by the same living power; and he bade the Corinthians beware of it (v.2).
In verse 5 he overwhelmed them by pointing out that if he were a reprobate Apostle, then were they reprobate Christians for they were all his converts. He challenged them to examine themselves as to whether they were really Christians or not. They of course would promptly and proudly reply that they were, and so their confidence about themselves would admit and establish Paul’s claim to be a true Apostle.
The general belief that this verse (v.5) commands introspection on the part of Christians is quite mistaken.
In his self-denial and self-annihilation (v.7), Paul was indifferent as to what they thought of him so long as they advanced in Christian character, so he kept praying for them, and added that his Apostolic punitive power could not be used against the truth but for the truth (v.8). if they were free from blame, that power could not be used, and that they should be free from fault, was his loving prayer and desire. He did not wish (v.10) to use that power. …
Here ends this personal postscript. [Paul] had written what his heart, governed by the Holy Spirit, impelled him to say. He had poured out the love and anxieties of that heart upon them, and now, evidently wearied with the effort, he abruptly closes with these brief salutations. — Williams, page 909
holy kiss (v.12) — a common salutation in the East. holy = moral, pure, a sign of genuine love (see Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).
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