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1. “ This third time I come unto you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” This has reference to the statements which follow. He had sent Timothy in the first place, who had labored faithfully to correct all of those troubles. Afterward he had sent Titus, who had done the same; both of them having held protracted meetings of reasonable prolixity, making all due and faithful effort to accomplish the end in view. Of course now when he goes down, he himself will be the third witness on the stand in favor of the prosecution of the guilty.
2. “ I have forewarned you, and I now forewarn you as being present a second time; even now absent, to those who have sinned hitherto, and to all the rest, that if I come unto you again I will not spare.” He has done his utmost to save them all, and now he is going to enforce the law of the New Testament and excommunicate all offending parties.
3. “ Since you seek the approval of Christ who speaketh in me, who unto you is not weak, but mighty among you. For indeed He was crucified from weakness, but He liveth by the power of God, who raised from the dead. For indeed we are weak in him.” i.e., we are weak physically and influential because in Him we have surrendered all temporal power, resources and availability, and hence in respect to these things we are weak and destined so to be. “ But we shall live along with Him by the power of God with respect to you.” Though we have forfeited all temporal power by our identity with Christ, who Himself permitted the world-powers to overcome Him and take His life, yet because we live in Him we participate the very power of God, so far as they are concerned. Hence, he wants them to understand that the disciplinary power he is going to bring into availability is none other than the power of God in Christ. We should all learn a valuable lesson here:
(a) Temporal power in church discipline is a misnomer, and of the devil. Hence, in this way the by-gone ages were deluged with martyrs’ blood.
(b) In the second place, we must make the fact that all disciplinary power in the Church of God is purely spiritual pursuant to the revealed Word, the only code of rules and regulations really authoritative in any matter of ecclesiastical discipline. here we see while he utterly disclaims all temporal power, he assures them that the discipline shall be summary and decisive in every case.
5. “ Examine yourselves if you are in the faith; prove yourselves; know you not yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you unless you are reprobates?” This verse is clear and unmistakable in the great problem of experimental Christianity, setting forth the fact that all are reprobates, i. e., mere counterfeits and pretenders, who have not Jesus Christ in them. While the Christ life is imparted in regeneration, the personal enthronement of Christ in the heart only takes place in entire sanctification. Paul in the highway saw Jesus without, shining into him, when lie was converted. Down in Arabia in his second experience (Galatians 1:15), God revealed His Son in Him, i. e., sitting upon the throne of his heart. The great work of the Holy Ghost is to reveal and honor Christ hence, when you receive the personal Holy Ghost as an indwelling Sanctifier and Comforter, He invariably reveals the glorified Savior and enthrones him in the heart. Hence, we see from this clear admonition that the only alternative is Christ within or reprobate.
6. “ I hope that you will know that we are not reprobates.” The better translation of adokimoi in this verse is “disapproved”; arising from the different attitudes occupied by the Corinthians and the apostles. In case of the former, disapproval or reprobate meant ejectment from Christ and the forfeiture of salvation, because their attitude was simply that of Christians. The case is quite different with the apostles, their Christianity not being in controversy, but simply their apostleship. Hence disapproval from the apostolic attitude still left them bona fide citizens of the kingdom, while disapproval from the attitude of saintship means ejectment from the kingdom of Christ and forfeiture of all hope.
7. “ But we pray unto God that you may do no evil; not that we may appear approved, but in order that you may do good and that we may appear as it were disapproved.” His chief desideratum is that the Corinthian saints may turn out all right, showing up and sustaining an irreproachable Christian character in the clear light of God’s Word, even though it may turn out that they “ may be as it were disapproved.” Of course, he knows that he is all right with God spiritually and apostolically. Hence he is resting perfectly easy with reference to himself. All his solicitude focalizes in the interest of the Corinthians.
8. “ We are not able to do anything against the truth, but in behalf of the truth.” Here is a grand case of church trial, clearly elucidatory of every problem and final in the settlement of every difficulty along that line. Shall we not profit by it? God help us. You see here the truth, i. e., the Word of God revealed in the New Testament is the only umpire in the case. Hence you see the solution of every question that has vexed the church through the ages. Every possible issue is here brought to a focus. The New Testament is a plain book, easily understood. It is plainer, more simple and perspicuous than any of the creeds, rules or regulations. Hence we have nothing to do but bring everything to the law of the Lord as we read it in His precious Word. Away with all human authority. It is all Divine, human agency simply recognizing and enforcing it. What a pity that church courts are not content to walk in the footprints of Paul, try their members according to God’s Word alone, making it the ineffaceable finale in every case. It would play sad havoc with the frolicking, worldly churches of the present day, turning out about nine out of every ten. But the angels would come down from Heaven to supply their places.
9. “ For we rejoice when we may be weak and you may be strong: truly we pray for this, your perfection.” You see Paul and his comrades were all a unit in Christian perfection, praying and working for it incessantly. This was the grand ultimatum in all the apostolic ministry. How any person can read the Bible and not see Christian perfection flashing and glowing from Alpha to Omega, radiating out in the prayers, and flaming in the sermons, and flashing in the exhortations and testimonies, we can not comprehend.
10. “ Therefore, being absent, I write the same things, in order that, being present, I may not use the severity which God gave me for edification, and not for destruction.” All true preachers of the gospel are successors to the apostles, so far as proclaiming the living Word and enforcing church discipline are concerned. Hence it is our imperative duty to declare all the counsel of God and to enforce New Testament law and discipline to the letter, fearlessly of men and devils. We are no better than Paul, and he here declares that he will use severity and not spare the guilty. Alas for the woeful delinquency in the discharge of duty, and the appalling maladministration in the churches at the present day! Where can you find a membership verifying the New Testament standard of Christian morality? Why do not the preachers dare to walk in the footprints of Paul in this matter? While the Word is plain and unmistakable, and we see millions flagrantly violating it, therefore disciplinary duty involving excommunication becomes the inalienable obligation of every pastor, yet we see from this Scripture that this power is given to us for “ edification, and not for destruction.” Therefore we should learn wisdom from the prudential procedure of Paul, firing on them at long range and doing his utmost to wheel them all into line before his arrival. In this he gloriously succeeded. I used to come to my circuit responsive to the appointment of my Conference, and find the majority of my members living beyond the dead- line, where it became my painful duty to excommunicate them. I always made it a rule to run a protracted meeting from the hour my feet rested on my territory till the expiration of the Conference year, by the help of God rolling the revival flame from shore to shore. The result was my unworthy members would get convicted and converted and go for holiness, and great hosts of outsiders would be gloriously converted. And, instead of reducing my membership by expulsion, I would go back to Conference with three times as many as I began with, seldom ever turning any one out of the church. Why? Because I turned on them the Pauline maneuver, doing everything in my power to get them saved before I proceeded to enforce the law in their excommunication. God wonderfully came to my relief in every case. But, mark it down, if they had not repented and got religion, I would have made a clean sweep like Paul said he would at Corinth. But, after all of these protracted meetings held by Timothy and Titus, and these powerful letters written, and the awful warnings given, we have no reason to believe that a single one became the victim of the preannounced severity; from the simple fact that they all heeded the warning, repented and got right before his arrival. So he came on late in the fall of 57, staying with them three months and writing that wonderful Book of Romans, and we have not an intimation of a single one expelled. On the contrary, they had a glorious hallelujah time and much edification.
11. “ Finally, brethren, rejoice.” This is the literal meaning of the Greek chairete. “ Farewell ” (E.V.) is neither literal nor suitable here, as he was not bidding them adieu, but saluting them on his speedily anticipated arrival. The idea, of course, is all rejoice in the Lord, which is quite a hackneyed phrase in Pauline parlance. “ Be perfected.” This verb is in the imperative mood, thus positively and explicitly commanding them all along the line of Christian perfection, the favorite theme of every apostle, and should be of every gospel minister. John Wesley exhorted his preachers: “ Preach Christian perfection constantly, urgently and explicitly.” “Be comforted,” i. e., be sure that you all receive the blessed Holy Comforter, that He may come into your heart and abide forever. “ Be of the same mind,” literally, “mind the same thing.” All sinners have the carnal mind only. All wholly sanctified people have the mind of Christ only. The unsanctified are intermediate between these two classes and double-minded (James 1:4; James 4:8); i. e., having the mind of Christ imparted by the Holy Ghost in regeneration, but still the carnal mind in a subjugated state dominated by the mind of Christ, but, like a prisoner in jail fearing the hangman’s rope, ready at any time to slay his keeper and make his escape. Hence this is simply another commandment on the same line on entire sanctification along with the preceding, thus adding more and more emphasis to the Divine requirement of Christian perfection. “ Live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” Jesus is recognized throughout the Bible as the Prince of Peace, and at the same time portrayed by the inspired writers as a mighty warrior, fighting and conquering sin, death and Hell. In conversion we receive peace with God, but in sanctification, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and is competent to keep our minds and hearts in harmony with our great Captain. Jesus is Prince of that peace which follows an exterminating war upon sin, without whose literal destruction there is no such thing as permanent and abiding peace.
12. “ Salute one another with a holy kiss.” This commandment is so frequent in the apostolic letters, and so positive, that I do not wonder the Holiness people in some localities are giving it the prominence it enjoyed in the apostolic age. Let us not be wise above what is written, and be very careful lest we criticize the Word of the Lord. The Greek word, phileema, here used, not only means a kiss with the lips, but a love-token manifested in a diversity of ways. Yet we must give Scripture its full force and not depreciate its literal signification.
13. “ All the saints salute you.” The facts favor the conclusion that this letter was written in Berea in Macedonia, where they enjoyed an exceedingly bright and beautiful Christianity, evinced by their ardent and enthusiastic appreciation of the Holy Scriptures. We do not wonder that they all send their loving salutations of Christian affection to the dear saints of Achaia.
14. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” While we find benedictions at the conclusion of every apostolic letter, some quite brief and unique, and others rather prolix, no one has ever attained the notoriety of the above, from the accidental fact of the prominence given it in the creeds of Christendom. The English language is rapidly spreading over the earth under the wonderful aggressive conquests of the British Empire, planting the national church of England in many heathen lands and opening the way for missionary enterprises generally. Consequently the Episcopalian ritual and formula have been extensively adopted by the Protestant churches generally in all the earth, carrying with them this soiled apostolic benediction, which multitudes recognize by that name, though it is no more apostolic than any of the balance. While we have no criticism for the free use of this benediction, to avoid monotony we would advise you to not use it constantly, but avail yourself of the variety furnished by all the apostolic officials. This is the great argument for the leadership of the Holy Ghost; He will never have you run in the same old rut till you lose the freshness and power, which is the objection to the constant use of the above benediction, or any other set and definite form in the worship of God. This is the great reason why the ordinary church services lose their power. Hence it is exceedingly unwise and grievous to the Holy Spirit to tie ourselves to any forms and routines, which will ere long assert their claims and actually become your idols, running you into the awful sin of idolatry before you are aware. The Holy Ghost is the founder, organizer, perpetuator and glorifier of the Church. Whenever you get away from His personal leadership you are already derailed and going fast into the devil’s mud, where you will stick and rot, while the New Jerusalem trains move by you at lightning speed. This benediction is a beautiful and significant exhibition, not only of the personal Trinity, but the reciprocal work of the Trinity in the gracious economy. The world is saved by the free grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, that grace super induced by the matchless and unutterable love of the Father, all culminating in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost indicated by the Greek koinoonai, which really indicates the matrimonial alliance. The Holy Ghost becomes our constant Companion, waking and talking with us, our loving Companion in holy wedlock.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24