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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 13

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1


The apostle again says that this is the third time he has

purposed to come and see them; and threatens that he will, by

the power of Christ, punish every incorrigible sinner, 1-4.

Exhorts them to examine themselves, whether they be in the

faith, 5, 6.

Prays that they may do no evil, 7.

And shows how ardently he wished their complete restoration to

unity and purity, 8, 9.

Tells them for what reason he writes to them, 10.

Bids them farewell, 11,

Gives them some directions, and concludes with his apostolical

benediction, 12-14.


Verse 2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you. — These words are nearly the same with those 2 Corinthians 12:14; and probably refer to the purpose which he had twice before formed of seeing them. But the latter clause seems to attach a different meaning to the passage; at least so it has been understood by some learned men.

Schoettgen thus interprets the whole: the first coming of the apostle to Corinth was when he personally visited them, and there founded the Christian Church. By his second coming we are to understand his first epistle to them; and, by his being now ready to come to them the third time, we are to understand this second epistle, which he was then going to send them. These were the two witnesses, and the apostle the third, which he gave to the Corinthians concerning the truth of his own ministry, or the falsity of the ministry of the pretended apostle.

Calmet contends that the apostle had been twice before at Corinth, and that he now purposed to go a third time; and that these visits were the two or three witnesses to which the apostle appeals.

Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the two or three witnesses were Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, sent to assure them of his coming. But this opinion cannot be supported.

With respect to the two or three witnesses establishing the subject, Dr. Whitby says. "Though these words seem to be cited from Deuteronomy 19:15, rather than from Matthew 18:16, it being rare to find this apostle citing any thing from the New Testament, without calling it an ordinance of the Lord, yet it is probable that he here alludes to the practice there prescribed for the reclaiming of offenders. And then his first epistle being written with this introduction: Paul an apostle, and Sosthenes; his second thus: Paul and Timotheus; may pass for two or three witnesses; and his presence the third time in person, to exercise his censures on those offenders, before the body of the Church, may bear a fair resemblance to our Lord's prescription in the above case: If thy brother offend," &c.-So far Whitby. Matthew 18:16.

Verse 2

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:2. I told you before, c.] As Calmet maintains that Paul had already been twice at Corinth, it is well to hear his reasons: "St. Paul came to Corinth the latter end of the year of our Lord 52, and remained there eighteen months, Acts 18:1, c. He came there a second time in the year 55, but stayed only a short time, as he had to return speedily to Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 16:7 hence it is that St. Luke makes no mention of this second journey in the Acts. Finally he determined to visit them a third time; as in effect he did about the year 57. Of his second voyage to Corinth, which is not mentioned in the Acts, he speaks expressly in this verse."

I do not see sufficient evidence to induce me to subscribe to this opinion of Calmet. I believe the apostle had been but once before at Corinth; and this matter is set in a clear point of view by Dr. Paley. See the Introduction, sec. xi.

I will not spare — I will inflict the proper punishment on every incorrigible offender. It does appear, from all the apostle's threatenings, that he was possessed of a miraculous power, by which he could inflict punishment on offenders; that he could deliver the body to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 4:21; 1 Corinthians 5:5. What he says he told them before probably relates to 1 Corinthians 4:21: Shall I come with a rod, &c.

Verse 3

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:3. Since ye seek a proof of Christ — The conversion of the Corinthians was to themselves a solid proof that Christ spoke by the apostle; and therefore he could, with great propriety, say that this power of Christ, far from being weak, was mighty among them.

Verse 4

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:4. For though he was crucified through weakness — It is true Christ was crucified, and his crucifixion appeared to be the effect of his weakness; yet even this was not so; he gave up his life, none could take it away from him; and in his last struggle, had he even been deficient in power, he could have had more than twelve legions of angels to support him against the high priest's mob, Matthew 26:53; but how then could the Scripture be fulfilled? And had he not died, how could the human race have been saved?

Yet he liveth by the power of God. — Though he appeared to be crucified through his own weakness, yet he now liveth by the power of God; exerting an almighty energy by which all things are subject to him.

We also are weak in him — Because we are on Christ's side we appear to you as weak as he did to the Jews; but it is not so, for we live with him-under the same influence, and partaking of the same life; manifesting by our preaching and miracles the power of God towards you. While I do not use the rod, I appear to you weak; I will use it, and then you shall find me to be strong.

Verse 5

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:5. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith — εαυτουςπειραζετε. Try yourselves; pierce your hearts; bore yourselves throughout; try yourselves by what I have written, and see whether ye retain the true faith of the Gospel.

Prove your own selves. — εαυτουςδοκιμαζετε. Put yourselves to the test, as you would try gold or silver suspected of adulteration. No more take that for Gospel which is not so, than you would take adulterated money for sterling coin. This is a metaphor taken from testing or assaying adulterated metals.

Know ye not your own selves — Are ye not full of wisdom and understanding? And is it not as easy to find out a spurious faith as it is to detect a base coin? There is an assay and touchstone for both. If base metal be mixed with the pure you can readily detect it; and as easily may you know that you are in the faith as you can know that base metal is mixed with the pure. Does Jesus Christ dwell in you? You have his Spirit, his power, his mind, if ye be Christians; and the Spirit of Christ bears witness with your spirit that ye are the children of God. And this is the case except ye be reprobates; αδοκιμοι, base counterfeit coin; mongrel Christians. This metaphor holds excellently here. They had a Judaizing Christian among them; such, presumptively, was the false apostle: they had received his Judaico-Christian doctrine, and were what the prophet said of some of the Israelites in his time. Reprobate silver, adulterated coin, shall men call them, Jeremiah 6:30. And thus, when they were brought to the test, they were found reprobate; that is, adulterated with this mixture of bad doctrine. There is no other kind of reprobation mentioned here than that which refers to the trial and rejection of adulterated coin; and, by way of metaphor, to the detection of false Christianity. This reprobation came of the people themselves: they, not God, adulterated the pure metal. Man pollutes himself; then God reprobates the polluted.

Verse 6

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:6. Ye shall know that we are not reprobates. — Ye have had, and ye shall have, the fullest proof that I have preached the true faith among you; and that God has confirmed it by his testimony; and thus that I am proved and manifested to be what I ought to be, and shown to be approved of God.

Verse 7

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:7. I pray to God that ye do no evil — That ye do not persist in that course which will oblige me to use the power of Christ, with which I am endued, to punish you. Some apply this prayer to the apostle himself: Now I pray to God that I may do YOU no evil-that I may not be obliged to use my apostolic rod, and inflict evil upon you.

Not that we should appear approved — We do not wish to give this proof that we are approved of God, by inflicting this punishment on the transgressors.

But that ye should do that which is honest — That ye may do that which is right and seemly, το καλον, though we should be, in consequence of that, as reprobates-as persons not approved of God; because your reformation will prevent the exercise of this power, which would otherwise have given an awful proof that we are approved of God.

Verse 8

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:8. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. — As we are the apostles of God, we cannot bring to you any false doctrine; and, as we profess to be under the influence of God's Spirit, we cannot do any thing that is opposed to that truth, or which might be prejudicial to it. On the contrary, what we say and do is for that truth, to propagate and establish it. The Gospel of Jesus is truth; and my testimony concerning it is truth also. In my coming, and in my rod, you have nothing to fear, if you retain and abide in this truth.

Verse 9

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:9. For we are glad, when we are weak — It will give me indescribable pleasure that I should still appear to be poor, despicable, and destitute of this extraordinary power with which God has clothed me, so that you be strong in all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.

And this also we wish, even your perfection. — We cannot be satisfied that persons, with such eminent endowments, and who have once received the truth as it is in Jesus, should be deficient in any of the graces that constitute the mind of Christ; such as brotherly love, charity, harmony, unity, and order. I have given the above paraphrase to this verse, because of the last term καταρτισιν, which we render perfection. καταρτισις, from κατα, intensive, and αρτιζω, to fit or adapt, signifies the reducing of a dislocated limb to its proper place; and hence, as Beza says on this passage: "The apostle's meaning is, that whereas the members of the Church were all, as it were, dislocated and out of joint, they should be joined together in love; and they should endeavour to make perfect what was amiss among them, either in faith or morals."

It is a metaphor, also, taken from a building; the several stones and timbers being all put in their proper places and situations, so that the whole building might be complete, and be a proper habitation for the owner. The same figure, though not in the same terms, the apostle uses, Ephesians 2:20-22.

The perfection or rejointing which the apostle wishes is that which refers to the state of the Church in its fellowship, unity, order, c. And perfection in the soul is the same, in reference to it, as perfection in the Church is to its order and unity. The perfection or rejointing of the soul implies its purification, and placing every faculty, passion, and appetite in its proper place so that the original order, harmony, unity, and purity of the soul may be restored; and the whole builded up to be a habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:22.

Verse 10

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:10. Therefore I write these things — I only threaten you now, by this epistle, to put you on your guard, and lead you to reformation before I visit you that I may not then have to use sharpness, αποτομια, a cutting off, employing thus my apostolical authority to inflict punishment; a power which God has given me, rather to be employed in your edification than in your destruction.

Verse 11

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:11. Finally — δοιπον. All that remains for me now to write is, to wish you all manner of happiness, and so to take my leave.

Farewell. — A good wish, from our old mother tongue, compounded of [Anglo-Saxon], to go, and [Anglo-Saxon], fairly, properly, or [Anglo-Saxon], with felicity; go on prosperously! This is the spirit of this good wish.

The Greek χαιρετε signifies nearly the same thing. χαιρω means to be very joyous; χαιρετε, be joyous and happy, be ever prosperous; this was among the last words which Cyrus, when dying, spoke to his friends.

Be perfect — καταρτιζεσθε. Be compact; get into joint again; let unity and harmony be restored. See the note on 2 Corinthians 13:9.

Be of good comfort — παρακαλεισθε. Receive admonition; for παρακαλεω signifies to admonish, beg, entreat, and also to comfort. Receive admonition, that ye may receive comfort. If ye take my advice, ye shall have consolation; if ye do not, ye will have nothing but misery and wo.

Be of one mind — το αυτο φρονειτε. Think the same; let there be no dissensions among you. Be of the same creed, and let disputes about that religion which should be the bond of peace for ever subside.

Live in peace — ειρηνευετε. Cultivate peace; or, as he says elsewhere, Follow peace, and pursue it, Hebrews 12:14. Cultivate a peaceable disposition, and neither say nor do any thing which has a tendency to irritate each other.

And the God of love and peace shall be with you. — While ye are full of contentions, dissensions, and discord, peace can have no place among you; and as to love, the fulfilling of the law, that worketh no ill to its neighbour, it has necessarily taken its flight. Love cannot live, neither exist, where there are brawls, contentions, and divisions. And where neither peace nor love is to be found, there God cannot be. And if HE be not there, yourselves and the devil make the whole assembly.

Verse 12

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:12. Greet one another with a holy kiss. — Use every means by which a good understanding may be brought about. Let the spirit of friendship live among you, and encourage its continuance by every friendly act. Romans 16:16; Romans 16:16.

Verse 13

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:13. All the saints — The Christians of Macedonia or Philippi, from which he wrote this epistle. In the primitive Church a saint and a Christian were the same thing; for the Christian religion calls every man to be holy.

Verse 14

Verse 2 Corinthians 13:14. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ — All the favour and beneficence that come from and through the Redeemer of the world; as the LORD, the ruler and governor of all things; as JESUS, the Saviour of all men by his passion and death; as Christ, the distributer of all that Divine unction which enlightens, comforts, harmonizes, and purifies the mind. May this most exalted, glorious, and all-sufficient Saviour, be ever with you!

And the love of God — GOD, your Maker, in that infinite love which induced him to create the world, and form man in his own image and in his own likeness, that he might be capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying him for ever; and God in the fullest manifestations of that love which caused him to give his only begotten Son, to the end that they who believe on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. May this God of love, and this love of God, be ever with you!

And the communion of the Holy Ghost — May that Holy Spirit, that Divine and eternal energy which proceeds from the Father and the Son; that heavenly fire that gives light and life, that purifies and refines, sublimes and exalts, comforts and invigorates, make you all partakers with himself!

κοινωνια, which we translate fellowship and communion, signifies properly participation; having things in common; partaking with each other. This points out the astonishing privileges of true believers: they have communion with God's Spirit; share in all its gifts and graces; walk in its light; through him they have the fullest confidence that they are of God, that he is their father and friend, and has blotted out all their iniquities: this they know by the Spirit which he has given them. And is it possible that a man shall be a partaker with the Holy Ghost, and not know it! that he shall be full of light and love, and not know it! that he shall have the spirit of adoption, by which he can cry, Abba! Father! and yet know nothing of his relationship to God, but by inference from indirect proofs! In a word, that he shall have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost with him, and all the while know nothing certain of the grace, as to his portion in it; feel nothing warming from the love, as to its part in him; and nothing energetic from the communion, as to his participation in the gifts and graces of this Divine energy! This is all as absurd as it is impossible. Every genuine Christian, who maintains a close walk with God, may have as full an evidence of his acceptance with God as he has of his own existence. And the doctrine that explains away this privilege, or softens it down to nothing, by making the most gracious and safe state consistent with innumerable doubts and fears and general uncertainty, is not of God. It is a spurious gospel, which, under the show of a voluntary humility, not only lowers, but almost annihilates, the standard of Christianity.

This text, as well as that, Matthew 3:16-17, and that other, Matthew 28:19, strongly marks the doctrine of the holy TRINITY. See the note on this latter text. And had not the apostle been convinced that there was a personality in this ever-blessed and undivided Trinity, he could not have expressed himself thus. And had not our Lord intended to be understood in this way, he would not have given such a commission to his apostles, to baptize the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The doctrine is the teaching of God, let men make of it what they please. And the genuine Church of God have ever received and understood it in this way.

Amen. — This word is wanting, as usual, in almost every MS. of authority. Amen seems to have been anciently added at the conclusion of books, exactly as we add the word, finis, both merely signifying the end.

As to the inscription, it is wanting, either in whole or in part, in almost all the ancient MSS. The principal forms in which it exists are the following:-

To the Corinthians, the second.

-The second to the Corinthians is completed.

-The second to the Corinthians is finished.

-To the Corinthians, the second, written from Philippi.

-Written from Philippi by Titus.

-Written from Philippi by Titus and Luke.

-By Titus, Barnabas, and Luke.

-The Second Epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi of Macedonia, and sent by Titus, SYRIAC.

-The End of the Epistle. It was written from the city of Philippi by Titus and Luke. Praise be to God for ever, ARABIC.

-In the VULGATE there is no subscription; nor in the ETHIOPIC.

-Written in Philippi of Macedonia, and sent by Titus and Luke, COPTIC.

-The Second Epistle to the Corinthians is ended; which was written from Philippi of Macedonia, by Titus and Luke, SYR. PHILOX.

It has been often remarked that no dependence can be placed on many of the subscriptions to the sacred books, which are found in MSS. and versions, because those subscriptions were not written by the authors of those books, but were afterwards added by the transcribers or copiers, who followed either tradition or their own judgment. It is generally allowed that this second epistle was written from Macedonia; and probably from the city of Philippi, in that province. See the introduction and preface to this epistle.

Finished the correction for a new edition, Dec. 13th, 1831. A. C.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/2-corinthians-13.html. 1832.
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