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INTRODUCTION TO 2 CORTHINIANS 13
In this chapter the apostle continues his resolution to come to the Corinthians, and to threaten with severity the incorrigible among them, giving the reasons of it; prays to God that they might so behave, that there might be no occasion for the exercise of it; and concludes the epistle with very useful exhortations, and hearty wishes of good things to them. He intimates to them again, that he intended this third time to come unto them, when he would not spare them, as they might expect he would not; partly because they had such repeated warnings, reproofs, and admonitions from him, 2 Corinthians 13:1 and partly because many of them had sinned before, and were stubborn and obstinate, and had not repented, 2 Corinthians 13:2 as also because they had tempted him, and demanded a proof of his power and authority, and of Christ speaking in him, 2 Corinthians 13:3 and whereas this sprung from the outward appearance of the apostle, whose bodily presence was weak, he observes to them the instance of Christ himself in human nature, who was crucified through weakness, and yet lives by the power of God; and so he and his fellow ministers were weak like Christ, and for his sake, and yet lived, and should live by the power of God; so that their outward appearance was no proof of their want of the power of Christ in them, 2 Corinthians 13:4 besides, he directs them to themselves for a proof of it; who upon examination would find, that they were in the faith, and Christ was in them; which was owing to the ministry of the apostle, as a means and instrument; and so they had a proof in themselves of Christ's speaking in the apostle, and being mighty in, and towards them, or else they must be reprobate, injudicious, and disapproved persons, 2 Corinthians 13:5 but whether they were such persons or not, he was confident that he would not be found such; but would appear to be in the faith, to have Christ in him, and to have power and authority from him, 2 Corinthians 13:6 however, the apostle's hearty prayer for them was, that they might be kept from evil; and that they might do that which is good, and so be approved of God and men; and there be no occasion to use any severity with them, when he should come among them, 2 Corinthians 13:7 otherwise he could do nothing against the truth, could not connive at error and sin, but must use the power and authority he had to crush everything of that kind, and defend truth, 2 Corinthians 13:8 and so far was he from glorying in his power, and priding himself with it, that it was a pleasure to him to have no occasion to make use of it, by which it might seem as if he was without it; and it rejoiced him, when they stood fast in the faith, and walked as became the Gospel, and so needed not the rod of reproof and correction; nay, he could even wish, that they were wholly perfect, and free from all blame, and every kind of charge, 2 Corinthians 13:9 and the end he had in the writing in the manner he did, being absent from them, was, lest when he should come among them, he should be obliged to make use of his power he had from Christ for edification, and not destruction; to prevent which, he wrote and admonished them, in order to bring them to repentance, that so he might have no occasion to use severity and sharpness, 2 Corinthians 13:10 and then he takes his farewell of them, by giving them some exhortations to harmony, unity, peace, and love among themselves, 2 Corinthians 13:11 gives the salutations of all the saints unto them, 2 Corinthians 13:13 and then his own, with which he concludes the epistle, which is a wish of all the blessings of grace from all the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13:14.
This is the third time I am coming to you,.... Or "am ready to come to you", as the Alexandrian copy reads, as in 2 Corinthians 12:14. Though he had been as yet but once at Corinth, and is to be reckoned and accounted for, either after this manner; he had been "once" with them when he first preached the Gospel to them, and was the means of their conversion, and laid, the foundation of their church state, of which there is some account in Acts 18:1 he came to them a "second" time, by writing his first epistle, when he desired to be considered by them, as though he was present with them, 1 Corinthians 5:3 and now a "third" time by this second epistle, in which he also speaks as if he was among them, see the following verse; or else in this way, he had been actually in person with them one time, and had been about to come in purpose and preparation a "second" time, but was prevented, and now was just ready a "third" time to set forward in his journey to them; see 2 Corinthians 12:14 and so the Syriac version reads it here, "this is the third time that I am ready to come to you", and which our version also favours. The Alexandrian copy and some others, the Complutension edition, the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, read, "behold, this third time", c. in order to raise and fix their attention to what he was saying, or about to say:
in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established referring to Deuteronomy 19:15 which he applies much in the same manner Christ does in Matthew 18:16 and which it is probable he had in view; signifying hereby, that he proceeded in a judicial way, according to due form of law, and in such a manner as Christ had directed; and that they were to look upon his several comings in the sense now explained, to be as so many witnesses, whereby the several charges exhibited against them were fully attested and confirmed, so that things were now ripe for judgment, and for a final sentence to pass upon them.
I told you before, and foretell you as if I were present a second time,.... He means, that he had in his former epistle faithfully told them of their evils, and admonished them for them; and now he sends to them a second time before his coming, and again admonishes them, as if he was upon the spot with them; so that they had, as before, three witnesses, also a first and second admonition; which, should they be without success, he must proceed further:
and being absent now, I write to them which heretofore have sinned; before he wrote his first epistle, of which he had information, and had faithfully reproved and admonished them; see 2 Corinthians 12:21.
And to all other; that might since be drawn into a compliance with sinful practices, through their example; or as the Arabic version renders it, "to the rest of the congregation"; who would be witnesses for him, and against them, that he had admonished them a first, and a second time: and by his present writing declares,
that if I come again; for, not knowing what might fall out to prevent him, though he was bent upon coming, and ready for it, nor what was the will of God about it, he does not choose to be positive in the matter; and therefore writes conditionally, and with a guard, and no doubt with a submission to the divine will:
I will not spare; this was the reason why as yet he had not been at Corinth, because he was willing to spare them; see 2 Corinthians 1:23 being loath to come to severities, if gentler methods would take effect; but now having used all proper means, he is at a point, aud determined not to spare, but to use his apostolical rod, or that power which the Lord had given him in an extraordinary way, as an extraordinary officer, to punish incorrigible offenders, in such manner as the incestuous person, and Hymenaeus and Philetus had been used by him.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me,.... This is the reason why he was determined, that should he come among them, he would not spare them, because they called in question his apostleship, and demanded a proof of it; which, of all men, they had the least reason to do; for they themselves were the seals of his apostleship, and the signs of an apostle had been done among them; they queried whether he was an ambassador of Christ, and was sent by him, and in his name; whether the message he came with was from him, and whether the Gospel he preached was his voice; and particularly whether he had such a power to punish delinquents, as he threatened them with the exercise of; a strange infatuation of the false apostles this, since Christ, who sent him, was with him, and spoke in him, and by him:
which to you-ward, says he,
is not weak, but is mighty in you; the Gospel of Christ, at the first preaching of it to them by him, was the power of God unto salvation to them; and was attended with divers signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost; and besides, they had instances of the power of Christ towards them in an awful way, in punishing sinners; as in the delivery of the incestuous person to Satan, which was done by his Spirit being with them when assembled; and by smiting many of them with sickness, diseases, and infirmities, and with death itself, who had sinned, 1 Corinthians 5:4. Wherefore, seeing after all these instances of the voice and power of Christ in him, they yet questioned his apostolical authority, and sought proof of it; and especially since this was not so much a tempting of him, as a tempting of Christ in him, he was resolved not to spare them.
For though he was crucified through weakness,.... Of the human nature; for the nature which Christ assumed was in all things like to ours, excepting sin; it was subject to all sinless infirmities; it was mortal, passible, liable to sufferings, and death, and so he came to be crucified; though not against his will, or without his previous assent; as God, he was able to have prevented his crucifixion if he would; he gave an instance of his power over men, at the time of his apprehension, by striking them down to the ground; and told Pilate his judge at his trial, that he could have no power to crucify him, if it was not given him from above; and he showed his superiority over devils when upon the cross, by spoiling principalities and powers; so that his crucifixion was not owing to want of power as God, but he became capable of it through his weakness as man:
but yet he lives by the power of God; he was raised from the dead by a divine power; by his own power as God, as well as by his Father's, and so was declared to be the Son of God with power; and he lives at the right hand of God as man and Mediator, vested with all power in heaven and in earth; though, in the days of his flesh, he appeared so weak, mean, and despicable: now the apostle mentions this case of our Lord's, to deter the Corinthians from despising him, on account of his outward weakness and meanness; and from hence buoying themselves up, and in which they were encouraged by the false apostles, that he had not, and could not exercise the power he talked of; they had observed what mean figure he made when he was among them; and whatever weight there might be in his letters, yet his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible; wherefore he sets before them the instance of Christ, who though he appeared very weak in his state of humiliation, yet he now lives in power, to assist and strengthen his ministers, in every branch of their work; and suggests, that as it was with Christ, it was, and would be in some measure with him, and his fellow ministers:
for we also are weak in him: like him, and for his sake, they were subject to infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, and distresses; carried about daily the dying of the Lord Jesus; bore a very great resemblance to him in his state of humiliation; were very much as he was in this world, and bore much for his name's sake; the Alexandrian copy and the Syriac version read, "with him"; being crucified with him, and dead with him:
but we shall live with him by the power of God towards you; which is not to be understood of being raised by Christ to an immortal life, and of living with him in glory; though this is a certain truth, that such who suffer with Christ, shall live and reign, and be glorified together with him; but of the life, power, and efficacy of the ministers of Christ, and of Christ in and with them, displayed in the lively ministration of the word and ordinances, in the vigorous discharge of all the branches of their office; not only in preaching, but in rebuking, admonishing, laying on of censures, and punishing criminals; and especially regards the powerful exertion and use of the apostolic rod; for this life is not only with Christ, or through Christ being in them, notwithstanding all their outward weakness, and by the power of God, which supports them under all, and enables them to perform their work, but is "towards you"; the Corinthians, to be exercised towards them, to be seen among them, and felt by them.
Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith,.... These words are to be considered in connection with 2 Corinthians 13:3 for seeing they sought and demanded a proof the voice and power of Christ in the apostle, he directs them to self examination, to look within themselves, to try, prove, and recognise their own souls; where if things were right, they would find a proof of Christ's speaking in him, to them: he advises them to examine the state of their own souls, and see whether they were in the faith; either in the doctrine of faith, having a spiritual and experimental knowledge of it, true love and affection for it, an hearty belief of it, having felt the power of it upon their souls, and abode in it; whether, as the Syriac version reads it, בהימנותא קימין, "ye stand in the faith", firm and stable; or in the grace of faith, either of miracles, or that which is connected with salvation; and which if they were in it, and had it, is attended with good works; operates by love to Christ and to his people; by which souls go out of themselves to Christ, live upon him, receive from him, and give him all the glory of salvation: and if this was their case, he desires to know how they came by their faith; and suggests, that their light in the doctrine of the Gospel, and their faith in Christ Jesus, as well as the miraculous gifts many of them were possessed of, were through his ministry as the means; and this was a full proof of Christ's speaking in him:
prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you; by which he means, that if they took a survey of things in their own souls, it would appear that Christ was in them; not as he is in all the world, filling heaven and earth with his presence; or as he is in every rational creature, as the Creator and author of the light of nature; but in a special and spiritual manner, by his Spirit and grace; the Father reveals him in his people, as the foundation of their hope of glory; he himself enters and takes possession of their hearts in conversion, communicates his grace, and manifests himself, and is formed there by his Spirit; his graces are implanted, his image is stamped, his Spirit is put within them, and he himself dwells by faith: and this upon inquiry would be found to be the case of the Corinthians,
except, says the apostle,
ye are reprobates; meaning not that they were so, as such may stand opposed to the elect of God; for persons may as yet neither be in the faith, nor Christ in them, and yet both be hereafter, and so not be left of God, or consigned to destruction; but that if they were not in the doctrine of, faith, then they were reprobate concerning it, or void of judgment in it; and if they had not the grace of faith, and Christ was not in them, then they were not genuine, but nominal professors, like "reprobate silver", counterfeit coin; which when detected, would be "disapproved", not only by God, but man, as this word also signifies, and so stands opposed to them that are "approved", 2 Corinthians 13:7 or if they did not make such an examination, probation, and recognition of themselves, they would be without probation: or as the Arabic version, without experiment. The apostle hereby brings them into this dilemma, either that if upon examination they were found to be in the faith, and Christ in them, which blessings they enjoyed through his ministry, then they did not want a proof of Christ speaking in him; but if these things did not appear in them, then they were persons of no judgment in spiritual things, were not real Christians, but insignificant and useless persons.
But I trust that ye shall know,.... Whether they were reprobates or not, the apostle would not pretend to say; that he left to themselves, and of which they were capable of making judgment for themselves: however, he hoped and believed, that he and his fellow apostles would give such proof of themselves, as that they should know certainly
that we, says he,
are not reprobates; men void of judgment in the doctrines of the Gospel, but have light, knowledge, and understanding in them; or useless and unprofitable in the ministry, but were the savour of life unto life to many; were ministers by whom others believed; were successful labourers in the Lord's vineyard, and builders in his house; and were made very useful for the conversion, comfort, and edification of many souls: or that they were not men disapproved either by God, or his people; since as they faithfully served Christ in the ministration of the Gospel, they were acceptable to God, and approved of men: or were not men without a proof of Christ speaking in them; they might assure themselves they would have too soon, for some of them, an evidence of that power and authority which Christ had lodged in them, to punish such as repented not of their evils.
Now l pray to God,.... A strong mark of the apostle's affection for them. For though they used him so ill, he took every way and method to do them good; he not only wrote to them, sent the brethren to them, but put up his supplications at the throne of grace for them: The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions, read, "we pray", c. And one of his petitions for them was,
that ye do no evil which, though impracticable and impossible, considering the situation of the people of God in this world, yet is desirable by every good man, both for himself and others; and was desired by the apostle, partly that their consciences might not be wounded, their souls grieved, their peace broke in upon, and their comforts lost; and partly that the name of God, and his cause and truths, might not be blasphemed; and chiefly that he might have no opportunity of exercising his apostolical rod for their correction:
not that we should appear approved. This was a clear case that he sought their good, and not his own credit, and the exercise of power; if they committed evil, his faithfulness would be seen in reproving, rebuking, and exhorting them; and if they continued impenitent, his apostolical authority would be manifest in their punishment, so that he would appear approved, or with a proof of the power of Christ in him; but this he did not desire, but most earnestly wished there might be no occasion for any such evidence:
but that they should do that which is honest; or "good", both in the sight of God and men, that which is according to the will of God, springs from love, is done in faith, and with a view to the glory of God; and the apostle's praying, both that they might be kept from evil, and do that which is good, shows the impotence of man's free will, the necessity of the grace of God to abstain from sin, and perform good works; and this the apostle earnestly desired,
though, says be,
we be as reprobates; weak and infirm persons, incapable of giving any proof of the power of Christ, and appear as such, who have no marks of apostolical authority. The apostle chose rather to be looked upon as a poor, mean, and insignificant person, than that they should sin, and require the exercise of his chastising rod, whereby he would be seen to be what they called in question.
For we can do nothing against the truth,.... The apostles had no power, nor could they, nor did they desire to exercise any against such who received the truth of the Gospel in the love of it; who continued in it, walked in it, and held it fast; who worshipped God in Spirit and in truth, and who walked uprightly, and as became the truth; for as the law is not made for such persons, but the reverse, so the authority the apostles had received from Christ was not to be exercised upon such:
but for the truth: for the sake of defending the truth against those that dropped, denied, and opposed it; and for the honour of it, by chastising, correcting, reproving, censuring, and punishing such, who either contradicted it, or caused it to be blasphemed and spoken evil of.
For we are glad when we are weak,.... Appear to be so, look like persons disarmed of all power and authority; the apostles rejoiced when they had no occasion of exerting themselves, and of exercising that high office, and extraordinary commission they had received of Christ Jesus:
and ye are strong; stand fast in the doctrine of faith, and are lively and active in the exercise of the grace of faith; are strong in Christ, and in his grace, and in the power of his might, to withstand every temptation of Satan, every corruption of their own hearts, and to perform every duty aright.
And this also we wish, even your perfection; or restoration, or jointing in again; a metaphor taken from the setting of bones that are dislocated and out of joint; for the church at Corinth was like a disjointed body, and the apostle's wish was, that their animosities might cease, their divisions be healed, their disorders rectified, and each member be in its proper place, behaving as became the Gospel of Christ; see 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Therefore I write these things being absent,.... Assuring them of his power and authority, expressing his concern for their welfare, earnestly desiring that they might be kept from evil, and perform good works; and that they might be in a more honourable, orderly, and comfortable situation, whilst he was absent from them, and before he came among them:
lest, being present, I should use sharpness; meaning severe reproofs and censures, or rather the exercise of the apostolic rod:
according to the power the Lord haft given me, to edification, and not to destruction; by striking persons dead, as Ananias and Sapphira were by Peter; or by delivering them up to Satan to have corporeal punishment inflicted on them, as were Hymenaeus and Philetus, and the incestuous person by the Apostle Paul; which, though it was for the destruction of the flesh, yet for the salvation of their souls, and for the good, use, and edification of the rest of the society, that they might take warning thereby, and shun the evils which were the occasion of such severity.
Finally, brethren, farewell,.... Or "rejoice", with spiritual joy in Christ, their Saviour and Redeemer; in his person, in whom they were accepted; in his righteousness, by which they were justified; in his blood, by which they were washed and cleansed; and in his fulness, from which they were supplied; and particularly, that they had such a faithful monitor, such an hearty well wisher of their souls' welfare, and who was so naturally and affectionately concerned for their good:
be perfect; seek after perfection in knowledge, grace, and holiness, and in the performance of good works: or "be restored"; or jointed and knit together, as before; see 2 Corinthians 13:9 let every difference subside, all breaches be made up, every member take and fill up his place, and all things be done decently and in order:
be of good comfort; or "exhort" one another to the diligent discharge of duty, to love and good works; or comfort one another in all distresses, inward and outward, both by words and deeds, according to the ability God has given; or take comfort, be of good heart, do not refuse to be comforted either by God or men.
Be of one mind; in religious sentiments, in the doctrines and principles of grace, and ordinances of the Gospel; for as there is but "one Lord" to be believed in, so there is, and ought to be, but "one" system of "faith" to be received, and "one baptism" to be administered in one and the same way, to one and the same sort of persons; which sameness of judgment, in faith and worship, is very necessary to church communion, and the comfort of it; for how can two, and much less more, walk comfortably together, unless they are agreed in these things?
Live in peace both with them that are without, and them that are within, with all men, and with the members of the church; which to do, is to the credit of religion, the comfort of church members, and the joy of Christ's ministers:
and the God of love and peace shall be with you; he who is love itself, and has loved his people with an everlasting love, and who is the author and donor of spiritual and eternal peace, and who has called his people to peace, and expects and requires it among themselves, and all men, will grant to such his gracious presence; than which nothing can be more grateful and desirable.
Greet one another with an holy kiss.
All the saints salute you. Being all interested in the same divine favour, redeemed by the same blood, and sanctified by the same grace, they have a common concern for each other's welfare;
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.... Meaning either the love of Christ; see 2 Corinthians 8:9 which is the same with that of his Father's, is as early, and of the same nature, being a love of complacency and delight; and which, as it is without beginning, will be without end. This is the ground and foundation of all he has done and underwent for his people; of his becoming their surety; of his incarnation, obedience, sufferings, and death in their room and stead; an interest in which, though they always have, yet they have not always an abiding sense of it with them, which is what the apostle here prays for: or else by the grace of Christ is meant the fulness of grace that is in him as Mediator; which is desired to be with the saints as the object of their trust and dependence; to be strong in, draw living water with joy out of, receive and derive daily from; not forsake it, and hew out broken cisterns, but continually apply to, and make use of it, as the fountain of gardens, the well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon; to be with them as a supply to their wants, to furnish them with every thing they stand in need of, and to enable them to do his will and work: or else the redeeming grace of Christ is particularly designed, and the intent of the petition is, that they might see their interest in it, and in all the branches of it; as that they were redeemed by his blood from sin, law, and wrath, had all their sins expiated and forgiven through his sacrifice, and were justified from all things by his righteousness.
And the love of God; the Father, as the Arabic version adds very justly, as to the sense, though it is not in the text; meaning the love of God to his people, which is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, free and undeserved, special and peculiar, is dispensed in a sovereign way, is unchangeable, abides for ever, is the source and spring of all the blessings both of grace and glory. Now when this is entreated to be with all the saints, it does not suppose that it is ever from them, or that it can be taken away from them, but whereas they may be without a comfortable sense of it, and a view of interest in it, the apostle prays, that in this respect it might be with them; that they might be directed into it, have it shed abroad in their hearts, and they be rooted and grounded in it, and comprehend for themselves the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of it.
And the communion of the Holy Ghost; either a larger communication of the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God, called "the supply of the Spirit", Philippians 1:19 necessary to carry on the good work of grace, and perform it to the end; or else that communion and fellowship which the Spirit of God leads the saints into with the Father, by shedding abroad his love in their hearts, and with the Son, by taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to them; and also that nearness which the spirits of believers have with the Spirit of God, when he witnesses to their spirits that they are the children of God, becomes the earnest of the inheritance in their hearts, and seals them up unto the day of redemption: all which is requested by the apostle, to
be, says he,
with you all; or "with your company", or "congregations", as the Arabic version reads it, with all the saints; for their interest in the love of the Father, in the grace of the Son, and in the favour of the Spirit, is the same, whatever different sense and apprehensions they may have thereof. This passage contains no inconsiderable proof of a trinity of persons in the Godhead, to whom distinct things are here ascribed, and of them asked, equal objects of prayer and worship. "Amen" is by way of assent and confirmation, and as expressive of faith in the petitions, and of earnest desire to have them fulfilled. According to the subscription at the end of this epistle, it was written by the apostle when he was at Philippi, a city of Macedonia, and transcribed by Titus and Lucas, and by them sent or carried to the Corinthians; which seems to be agreeable to what is suggested in the epistle itself, though these subscriptions are not to he depended upon. The Syriac version only mentions Luke; and some copies read, by Titus, Barnabas, and Luke.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25