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SECTION 19. — UNLESS THE OFFENDERS REPENT, PAUL WILL RELUCTANTLY GIVE THEM SEVERE PROOF OF HIS AUTHORITY CHS. 12:19-13:10.
For a long time you are thinking that to you we are making reply. Before God, in Christ, we speak. But all things, beloved ones, are on behalf of your edification. For I fear lest in any way, when I come, not such as I wish I find you, and I be found by you such as you do not wish, lest in any way there be strife, jealousy, outbursts of fury, factions, evil-speakings, whisperings, self-inflations, disorders; lest again when I have come my God will humble me with regard to you and I bewail many of those who sinned-before and have not repented, about the uncleanness and fornication and wantonness which they practiced. This third time I am coming to you. “At the mouth of two witnesses and of three every word shall stand.” (Deuteronomy 19:15) I have said before and I say beforehand, as when present the second time and absent now, to those who have before sinned and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare. Since a proof you seek of Him who speaks in me, even Christ, who towards you is not weak but is strong in you. For indeed He was crucified through weakness, but He lives through the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him, through the power of God, towards you.
Try yourselves whether you are in faith: prove yourselves. Or, do not understand yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Except perhaps you are reprobates. But I hope that you will know that we are not reprobates. But we pray to God that you do nothing bad; not that we may be seen to be approved, but that you may do the good and we be as unapproved. For we cannot do anything against the truth but on behalf of the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak but you are strong. This we also pray, your full equipment. Because of this, these things while absent I write, that when present I may not act severely, according to the authority which the Lord gave to me, for building up and not for pulling down.
Paul’s boasting is now complete. He therefore returns to the matter which prompted it, viz. the misconduct of some whom he has already (2 Corinthians 10:2) threatened to punish. He writes fearing that there are evils at Corinth which will make his visit painful to him, 2 Corinthians 12:19-21: if the sinners do not repent he will give them severe proof of his authority, 2 Corinthians 13:1-4 : but he begs them to prevent this by self-examination and well doing, 2 Corinthians 13:5-10.
2 Corinthians 12:19. For-a-long-time: viz. while listening to Paul’s boasting, 2 Corinthians 11:1 to 2 Corinthians 12:18.
Making reply: anglicized into “apology”: same word in Romans 2:15; Acts 26:1-2; Acts 26:24; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11.
We: as in 2 Corinthians 10:2-11 : suggested perhaps by Paul’s defence (2 Corinthians 12:18) of Titus.
To you: emphatic: “your approval being my aim.”
Before God, in Christ, we speak: 2 Corinthians 2:17 : in the presence of God, and prompted by spiritual contact with Christ as the encompassing element of Paul’s life. Cp. Romans 9:1.
All things: all he says and does, including the foregoing boast.
On behalf of your edification: to help forward your spiritual development. Notice the triple reference of Paul’s words, before God, in Christ, for the spiritual growth of men. So 2 Corinthians 5:13 f. These three are ever united.
2 Corinthians 12:20-21. Explanation of the kind of “edification” Paul has in view in his self-defence. He has magnified his authority and has threatened to punish, to lead some guilty ones to repentance, lest he find them, and they him, other than he and they wish.
In any way: as in 2 Corinthians 11:3.
When I come: on the visit proposed in 2 Corinthians 9:4; 1 Corinthians 16:2 ff.
Be found by you: literally to you, as in Romans 7:10, denoting the influence upon them of this discovery.
Lest… lest… lest; expounds in full Paul’s fear. The second lest introduces two classes of sins which Paul fears that he will find but does not wish to find at Corinth.
Strife, jealousy, outbursts of fury, factions: same words in same order in Galatians 5:20. See under 1 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 2:8.
Evil-speakings, whisperings: Romans 1:29. Their place here reveals the evil of them.
Self-inflations: special failing of the Corinthian Christians: cognate to “puffed up,” 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18 f.
Disorders: 2 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 14:33.
2 Corinthians 12:21. Will humble] Nothing brings a Christian teacher into the dust so much as the defection of those whom he has looked on as fruits of his labor and as his crown of rejoicing. This humiliation Paul now fears.
Again: i.e. will again humble. Its conspicuous position allows no other connection. Thus understood it has almost tragic force. For it implies (cp. 2 Corinthians 2:1) that on a previous visit Paul had already been thus humbled. And, remembering that time, he now fears that it will be so again.
My God: as in (1 Corinthians 1:4,) Romans 1:8. It is a reverent acknowledgment that even the feared humiliation, though caused by man’s unfaithfulness, will be from God, i.e. taken up into His plan to work out His purposes of mercy for Paul. In regard of you, or in reference to you. Contrast 2 Corinthians 3:4; Romans 4:2.
I shall bewail: sorrow for the guilty will accompany Paul’s own humiliation.
Before-sinned: probably before Paul’s second visit, to which the word again refers. So “before-sinned” in 2 Corinthians 13:2. This does not necessarily imply that before Paul’s second visit they had committed the gross sins mentioned immediately afterwards, but simply that they had committed sin. He fears that he shall find that the sins he reproved long ago (2 Corinthians 13:2) had developed into these aggravated forms.
And have not repented: at the time of Paul’s expected visit, of which he is now speaking. Not all but many of those who had before sinned were, Paul fears, guilty of the gross sins mentioned below.
About the uncleanness etc.; may go with repented, but has more force as giving the specific matter of Paul’s sorrow about these unrepentant ones.
Uncleanness: general sensuality.
Fornication: a specific form of it, viz. intercourse with harlots.
Wantonness: insolent casting aside of all restraint. Same three words together in Galatians 5:20.
Which they have practised; gives vividness to, and lingers over, the picture.
2 Corinthians 12:21 forms with 2 Corinthians 12:20 a climax, touching what Paul fears he will find when he comes to Corinth. He has written for his readers’ good (2 Corinthians 12:19) strong words, because he fears there are at Corinth the evils enumerated in 2 Corinthians 12:20. He also remembers those who before his last visit had committed sins, and who have not yet repented. And he now writes fearing lest, touching many of these, he will find and will have to mourn over their gross sensuality and reckless insolence, sins far more terrible than those of 2 Corinthians 12:20. To find this at Corinth, will fill him with sorrow and smite him down to the very dust. Cp. 2 Corinthians 2:3. Therefore, seeking their edification, (2 Corinthians 12:19,) he has defended his own apostolic authority, which Jewish strangers have taught them to despise; that thus he may with more force reprove those who have sinned. He hopes thus to save himself from pain and humiliation. And the pain and humiliation which he dreads reveal the greatness of the sins he reproves.
2 Corinthians 13:1-2. Paul has already (2 Corinthians 12:20 b, 2 Corinthians 12:21) told his readers what sort of men he expects, but does not wish, to find them. He will now tell them what sort of man they will find him.
This third time; implies clearly that he has twice before been at Corinth. For the first coming was an actual visit. And Paul refers now to what will happen, not on his way towards Corinth, but after his arrival. With this he could not compare a never-completed second journey. Song of Solomon 2 Corinthians 12:14. He evidently wishes to recall, in view of a third visit, his conduct on two earlier visits.
I am coming: written from Macedonia on the way from Ephesus to Corinth. Cp. 1 Corinthians 16:5.
At the mouth etc.: word for word from Deuteronomy 19:15. When Paul comes, a church court will be held: and every charge will be judged, according to the Mosaic Law, on the evidence of two witnesses and, where available, of three. A similar quotation with the same purpose in Matthew 18:16. There is no indication whatever that, as some have suggested, Paul’s journeys were the witnesses; or that this word has here any but its common meaning of one who has seen and can testify.
2 Corinthians 13:2. Said-before; contrasts with his previous words on his second visit Paul’s present words by letter: say-before; contrasts his present words with their approaching fulfillment. Paul’s words by letter now when absent correspond with his words of mouth when present the second time, i.e. on his bygone second visit.
To those who before-sinned: i.e. before his second visit, as in 2 Corinthians 12:21. But his present words by letter apply of course to any who sinned subsequently. Before, reminds us that some had sinned long ago.
And to all the rest: all the church-members, by way of warning. The tone of uncertainty, if I come again, when Paul was actually on his way to Corinth, suggests that he here quotes his own words on the second visit.
He would then speak naturally of his next visit as coming again. Notice the emphatic prominence (cp. 2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21) of this word.
I will not spare; is more than exclusion from the church, and suggests bodily punishment similar to that of 1 Corinthians 5:5; Acts 5:5; Acts 13:11. The miraculous powers in the apostolic church made more inexcusable the case of those who by open sin set at nought such powers. And now this dread power is ready to fall in supernatural punishment on those who are continuing to treat it with contempt.
Of this INTERMEDIATE VISIT of Paul to Corinth, we have no express mention. But without it the conspicuous and emphatic word again in 2 Corinthians 2:1 and 2 Corinthians 12:21, and this third time in 2 Corinthians 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, are practically meaningless; whereas with it they have almost tragic force; and xiii. 2 would otherwise be uncouth. No doubt is cast on it by absence of reference to it in the Book of Acts. For, how much of Paul’s career is not mentioned there, 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 proves. That no reference is made to it in the First Epistle, is more remarkable; especially as on this unmentioned visit Paul found at Corinth the sins which in that epistle he severely condemns. (This objection is well put in Baur’s Apostle Paul pt. ii. ch. 2.) Certainly the visit cannot have been later than the First extant Epistle: or the explanation in 2 Corinthians 2:3 f about that epistle would be needless. But if it took place some time before the lost letter was written, the fact that by this letter Paul had given the Corinthians a later expression of his mind about sensuality might account for his silence about the visit: whereas his thoughts, while writing this second extant letter, about his approaching visit to Corinth would naturally and sadly recall his last visit It is much easier to suppose this than to reconcile the passages referred to above with the supposition that Paul had visited Corinth only once. Opportunities of going there would be frequent during his three years’ (Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31) sojourn at Ephesus: and his anxiety about the church at Corinth would be a constant motive for such a journey. It has been suggested that the unmentioned visit was a return to Corinth after a temporary absence during Paul’s eighteen months’ residence there But the lapse of time between his departure from Corinth narrated in Acts 18:18 and the writing of this epistle, which included three years at Ephesus, makes the other supposition more likely. The whole subject is well discussed in Conybeare’s St. Paul, ch. xv. Dr. Farrar (Life of St. Paul vol. ii. p. 118) silently agrees with Baur in rejecting an intermediate journey.
The silence of the Book of Acts, and the indications in this epistle, suggest that the visit was short. To Paul it was (2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21) painful and humiliating. But, instead of punishing at once those whom he then found guilty of gross sin, he threatened that, if they did not repent, he would do so at his next visit. And he now fears that; with similar sorrow and humiliation, he shall be compelled to fulfill his threat.
2 Corinthians 13:3-4. Since you seek a proof: reason why he “will not spare.” By punishing he will prove, to those who doubt it, his apostolic authority.
Proof of Him etc.: probably (cp. 2 Corinthians 9:13) proof afforded by Christ. But such proof is also proof that Christ speaks in Paul.
Not weak but powerful: and therefore able to give the proof sought.
Towards you: as influencing from without.
Among you: as working in the midst of you. A climax: Of Christ’s power towards and among the Corinthians, Paul has already given full proof, viz. (2 Corinthians 12:12) the miracles wrought in their midst and (2 Corinthians 3:2) the spiritual effects of the Gospel in their hearts. He will now add the more terrible proof of special punishment.
2 Corinthians 13:4. Proof of the (2 Corinthians 13:4 a) power of Christ (2 Corinthians 13:4 b) in Paul, in view of admitted human weakness. The crucifixion of Christ was a result of His human weakness. This involves, as does 2 Corinthians 8:9, the mystery of the Incarnation. And the dread reality of these words must not be set aside. We are here told expressly that Christ was crucified because He had not power to save Himself. Yet He is unchangeably divine, and had dwelt from eternity in infinite power. We must therefore conceive the Eternal Son as willingly taking upon Himself at His incarnation, in a mode to us inconceivable but divine, for a time and for our salvation, real human weakness; and as being in His dying moments forsaken (Matthew 27:46) by God, and powerless in the hands of His enemies. The ridicule of the Jews, (Matthew 27:42) “others He saved: Himself He cannot save,” was solemn truth. So in the garden (Matthew 26:53) the only way of deliverance which Christ mentions is prayer to His Father for angelic assistance. Thus “in all things He was made like His brothers”: Hebrews 2:17.
But He lives: upon the throne.
By the power of God: “who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory,” 1 Peter 1:21. The resurrection of Christ is ever attributed to the Father’s power: 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 15:15; Romans 4:24; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:11, etc. He who was so weak that He could not save Himself from the cross now lives by the outstretched arm of God. And the power thus manifested is proof that (2 Corinthians 13:3) Christ is “powerful” in His Church to save and to punish. For the power of the Father abides in those whom it rescues; even, we may reverently suppose, in the Risen God-Man. (Cp. John 5:26; John 6:57; Colossians 1:19.) Therefore the power of God which raised Christ is proof that Christ has power to inflict punishment in His Church.
2 Corinthians 13:4 b. Expounds “speaks in me”: as 2 Corinthians 13:4 a expounds “who is not weak.” It shows how Christ’s life by the power of God bears upon Paul and his readers.
Weak in Him: helpless amid peril, as Christ was and because the Spirit of Christ moves Paul to similar self-devotion for the salvation of men.
We shall live, on earth rescued from imminent peril by the power of God so as to minister for you. And, just as Christ’s rescue from death by the power of God is a proof of His present power towards and among His professed servants so Paul’s frequent and almost miraculous deliverance from impending death, from perils endured for Christ’s sake, proves that in him the power of God is enabling him to exercise apostolic authority. Compare and contrast 2 Corinthians 4:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 10:1 ff. Guilty men may well fear both Him who was raised from the dead and His servant who, even within the jaws of death protected by the arm of God, continues and will continue to live.
2 Corinthians 13:5. Direct appeal, coming with great force after the solemn words of 2 Corinthians 12:20 to 2 Corinthians 13:4.
Try, or tempt: put to the test, with good or bad intention. Same word in 1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 10:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 4:1; Matthew 16:1; Hebrews 11:17; James 1:13; Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5 : cognate to “temptation,” 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 4:14; 1 Timothy 6:9, etc.
In faith: i.e. having belief of the gospel promise of eternal life as the element of life. [The article presents this as a well-known and therefore definite object of thought.] Cp. “stand in the faith,” 1 Corinthians 16:13; “continue in faith,” 1 Timothy 2:15; “live in the faith,” Galatians 2:20. Paul has in mind men guilty of open sin. But such cannot (see under Romans 10:9) believe the Gospel. He therefore urges his readers generally to search their hearts whether they are continuing in faith; that thus the guilty ones may find that they have lost the condition of salvation and no longer belong to Christ, and may by this discovery be led to repentance.
Prove: a nobler word than try, only used of a trial with good intent: “find out, by testing, your own genuineness.” So 2 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 1 Corinthians 16:3. The addition of it here suggests a hope that the trial will be satisfactory. These words are very emphatic. “Yourselves, test ye: yourselves prove ye.”
Or do you not etc.: alternative appeal, which ought to supersede those going before. For, Christ in them is a proof that they are in faith. “Is it needful to make the examination? do you not read your own hearts and find there marks of the presence of Christ?
Christ Jesus in you: by His Spirit giving victory over sin, prompting filial confidence in God, and reproducing the whole mind of Christ. Cp. Romans 8:9 ff; Ephesians 3:17. This is a result of faith; and a proof that it is not vain.
Except perhaps etc.; adds force to this question by stating the only alternative.
Reprobate, or disapproved: rejected after trial. Same word in 1 Corinthians 9:27; Romans 1:28; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8.
2 Corinthians 13:6. A severe but disguised warning, in view of the foregoing alternative.
We: emphatic transition from the readers to Paul and his colleagues. Whether or not the Corinthians test themselves, their conduct will put to the proof Paul’s apostolic faithfulness. In this trial he will not fail. And he hopes that they will know this. That he refers to proof given by inflicting punishment, 2 Corinthians 13:7 shows.
Reprobate: as in 2 Corinthians 13:5, one who fails in trial: chosen in order to contrast Paul’s faithfulness with the faithlessness of some at Corinth. It also suggests that his faithfulness will compel him to punish. It is, like 2 Corinthians 13:3, a severe warning to those who question his authority.
I hope: 2 Corinthians 5:11. He desires that, in case of obstinacy, they may have, and may recognize, the proof.
2 Corinthians 13:7-9. A disinterested prayer for the readers, appropriately concluding the warning.
Pray to God: formal transition from the presence of men to the presence of God. Cp. 2 Corinthians 5:13.
May be seen to be approved: as is every teacher by the excellence of his pupils. Paul’s prayer that they do nothing bad is not prompted, as it might easily be, by a selfish wish to gain approval through their goodness, but simply by a desire that they may do what is good And their well-doing will deprive Paul of a proof of his apostolic authority, viz. that afforded by the punishment he would inflict. In this case, he will not be reprobate i.e. one who has failed in trial; but, as destitute of the proof afforded by inflicting supernatural punishment, he may speak of himself comparatively as unapproved: same word as reprobate, 2 Corinthians 13:5. (Similarly unscrupulous rulers have sometimes wished for a weak rebellion as an occasion for showing their power to crush it.) Paul thus reminds his readers that his prayer for their good behavior is not self-seeking, but self-denial. For their continued obstinacy would magnify his power.
2 Corinthians 13:8-9 a. The foregoing unselfish prayer traced to a necessity of Paul’s nature.
We cannot: because it would be contrary to our inmost disposition.
The truth: the word of God, which corresponds always with absolute reality. See under Romans 1:18. It is designed to mold men’s conduct in correspondence with God’s will, that thus they may “do the truth.” Consequently, to lead men into sin, is to act against the truth. This, to Paul’s renewed nature, was impossible. His powers like those of Christ, can be put forth only on behalf of the truth.
For we rejoice etc.: reason of this impossibility.
We, you: each emphatic.
Strong: capable of spiritual activity and endurance. Cp. Romans 15:1.
Weak: not spiritual weakness, which could not be a joy to Paul or help others to be strong. It is, as in 2 Corinthians 13:4, human incapacity for doing anything great. The spiritual strength of his readers was a joy to Paul: and this joy was not lessened by the fact that, in order to impart to them this strength, Paul himself went into positions of weakness. And this was with him an abiding principle. For the objects which give us joy determine our whole character. And this joy of Paul kept him back from doing anything to hinder the truth from molding his readers’ conduct; and compelled him to put forth his powers on behalf of the truth.
Consequently, since for their strength he was willing to be weak, he cannot wish them to persevere in sin that thus he may have an opportunity of showing his apostolic power. For this would run counter to his very heart, which rejoices in their spiritual strength. 2 Corinthians 13:7-9 a are full of terrible warning. So completely are the unfaithful ones in Paul’s power that selfish motives would suggest a wish that they would continue obstinate. Consequently, desire for their repentance is pure self-sacrificing love for them.
2 Corinthians 13:9 b. Leads us back to the starting point in 2 Corinthians 13:7.
Also pray: as well as rejoice when you are strong.
Your full equipment: in apposition to this. Paul prays that his readers be strong; or, what is practically the same, that they be fully equipped. Cognate word in 1 Corinthians 1:10. See note. He prays that they be thoroughly furnished with all gifts of the spiritual life, fitting them to do the work and fight the battles of God. For the fallen ones, this implied complete restoration. That of these Paul here thinks chiefly, is proved by foregoing and following warnings.
2 Corinthians 13:10. Concludes DIV. III., by giving its purpose, with a solemn warning; and by restating a principle of clemency which has been kept in mind throughout. It is thus an epitome of the whole.
Because of this: “because I rejoice in and pray for your spiritual strength and complete restoration.” This prompts him to write to them while absent. For the same reason (2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:4) Paul changed his purpose of coming to Corinth direct from Ephesus, and wrote his First Epistle. This implies that the reformation (2 Corinthians 7:11) wrought by the First Epistle was not a complete one. Even after its good results Paul finds it needful to add the severe words of DIV. III. of the Second Epistle.
That when present etc.; develops because of this, in view of the readers’ present state.
Severely: by inflicting punishment. Cognate word in Romans 11:22.
The authority which etc.: almost word for word as in 2 Corinthians 10:8. Even if Paul act severely, he will act according to his divinely-given authority. But he remembers that the purpose of this authority is not to pull down but to build up the church. Therefore, if he is obliged to pull down he will do so as little as possible. And these are his last words to the refractory church-members.
Building up, or edification; takes hold of 2 Corinthians 12:19, marking the completion of (19 there begun.
REVIEW. Throughout his long boasting, in 15-18 or 2 Corinthians 11:1 to 2 Corinthians 12:18, Paul has been appealing, in self-defence, to his readers. He now tells them, with the dignity of a true servant of God, that their approval has not been the aim of this self-defence. He has spoken before God, resting in and united to Christ. Not the approval, but the spiritual good, of his readers has been his aim. His fear about them prompts him to write, lest when he comes the gross and unrepented sins of some of them humble him into the very dust. His readers know him well. Already he has been with them twice. When he comes again he will fulfill his threat, and punish those who by sufficient witnesses are proved to be guilty. Those who call in question his apostolic authority will then have the proof they profess to seek. Just as Christ, though powerless to save Himself even from the cross, yet reigns now by the power of God, so they will find Paul, though apparently a poor weak man, but weak for Christ’s sake, yet armed with divine power. He bids them put themselves to the test whether they continue believing and whether Christ still dwells in them: else they are already rejected as unfaithful. They will soon find that Paul is not unfaithful. He prays for them with disinterested love. For their obstinacy will magnify his apostolic authority. But this he does not desire: for he cannot but wish for their highest good. He therefore writes these severe words, that thus he may be spared from severe actions, remembering that severity is not the purpose of the authority with which he has been invested by Christ.
DIVISION III. opens to us a terrible view of the church of Corinth in Paul’s day. As we look from our modern standpoint into the confusion which reigned then and there and into the strange mixture of diverse and mutually opposing elements, we distinguish two groups of opponents to Paul, each one with marked characteristics. One of these comes into view gradually, assuming greater definiteness as we watch it, until at last the features of its leaders are clearly seen. The second group startles us by its sudden appearance in distinct and dark colors. The former group was Jewish; the latter, probably Gentile. Doubtless both came under Paul’s warning at the outset of DIV. III. (2 Corinthians 10:2) to those who reckoned him as walking according to flesh. For, both they who openly disputed his authority and they who set it at nought by open sin looked upon the apostle as acting from merely human motives and as armed only with human powers.
Paul’s Jewish opponents were professed Christians: for they boasted (2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 11:23) that they belonged to Christ. He that comes (2 Corinthians 11:4) suggests that they were not inhabitants of Corinth, but arrivals from elsewhere. They claimed (2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 12:11) the highest rank in the Church, viz. to be apostles of Christ. Doubtless it was they who needed (2 Corinthians 3:1) commendatory letters. They professed to be disinterested friends (2 Corinthians 11:12) of the Corinthians: but their claim was (2 Corinthians 11:13) falsehood and guile. For they were bad men, doing Satan’s work, and on the way to perdition. they (2 Corinthians 11:20) ate up the Corinthian church and caught it unawares: they tried to bring it into bondage to the Mosaic Law, or rather to themselves: and treated it with insolence. They openly charged the apostle with being bold only at a distance, and powerless when present; and insinuated (2 Corinthians 12:16) that he had guilefully made others his instruments for plundering the Corinthians. Yet even these men were listened to and tolerated (2 Corinthians 11:19) in the church which owed its existence to the long toil and the dauntless courage of Paul. In Galatians 2:4 we find similar men in the birthplace of Christianity.
The second group of adversaries was guilty of gross sensuality. Such men, Paul was humiliated at finding (2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Corinthians 13:2) even on his unrecorded second visit. He forbore to punish them, but threatened to do so when he should come again if they were still unrepentant. This sensuality seems (1 Corinthians 5:9) to have prompted his lost letter. A very aggravated case of it, which Paul could not tolerate even while absent, he deals with (1 Corinthians 5:1 ff) in his first extant letter. And the general unfaithfulness was his chief reason (2 Corinthians 1:23) for writing that letter instead of coming, as he first intended, direct from Ephesus to Corinth. Although the letter moved the church generally to repentance, it failed to reach some of the worst cases of sensuality. And Paul wrote the severe threatenings of DIV. III. of this Second Epistle to avoid, if possible, severe discipline, painful both to them and to him, when he comes to see them.
Paul declared that these disorders at Corinth would, if continued evoke a proof of his apostolic authority. They have done so, in a way beyond his thought and to us most valuable. For Paul’s reproof of these disorders is an infallible mark of the genuineness of the Epistles before us. That against the Corinthian church we find charges of sensuality far more terrible than anything else we have from his pen, accords with the world-wide infamy of the city whose temple to the goddess of lust had once been served by a thousand impure priestesses. And certainly no forger personating the apostle after his death would venture to write thus about the early days of a church which in the second century was well known and important. The severity of these Epistles proves that they came from the only man who would have dared to write thus.
In dealing with these serious disorders Paul begins with an implied threat of punishment, which he supports by appealing to the supernatural results which his gospel has already produced in the hearts of his readers. And then, since his authority had been openly questioned by his Jewish opponents, he boldly contrasts himself with them. This leads to his long boasting, of which I have given a summary under 2 Corinthians 12:18. And this is followed by an explanation of his purpose in writing to them these bold words, an explanation full of warning and of disinterested love.
SECTION 20. — FAREWELL. CH. 13:11-13.
As to the rest, brothers, rejoice, be fully equipped, receive exhortation, mind the same thing, be at peace. And the God of love and of peace will be with you: Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the participation of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.
2 Corinthians 13:11-12. Concluding and cheerful words, the more welcome after severe reproof.
As to the rest: suggesting much else which Paul would like to say. In spite of many defects he still recognizes them as brethren in Christ.
Rejoice: Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4 : eight times in this sad epistle. All children of God we may bid rejoice, whatever be their circumstances: for all have abundant reason for joy.
Be-fully-equipped, or restored: more fully “undergo from day to day restoration or equipment.” [The present imperative seems to imply that only gradually are the depraving inward effects of sin removed and we fitted for the work of God.] It recalls the same word in 2 Corinthians 13:9; 1 Corinthians 1:10. While bidding them rejoice Paul cannot forget their great deficiencies, which must be removed before their joy can be full.
Exhortation; includes the ideas of encouragement and comfort. See under Romans 12:1. “Yield to my entreaty to be fully restored, an entreaty full of encouragement and comfort.”
Mind the same thing: a restoration which (1 Corinthians 1:10) had been greatly needed. Cp. Philippians 2:2; Romans 12:16; Romans 15:5.
Be-at-peace: same word in Romans 12:18. It is a pleasant result of being of the same mind.
God of love and peace: of whose nature love and peace are essential elements, and from whom they flow forth to His people’s hearts. Love is put first, as being itself the inmost essence of God and the source of peace. If we obey Paul’s exhortation to peace, the Eternal Fountain of peace, and of love the source of peace, will dwell with us. Cp. Romans 15:33; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 John 4:7-13; John 14:23.
Greet etc: as in 1 Corinthians 16:20; Romans 16:16.
2 Corinthians 13:13. Parting benediction, the most full in the New Testament, embracing conspicuously each Person of the Trinity.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 12:9 : put first because Christ’s favor towards men is the immediate source of all blessing, and the channel through which flows our salvation which has its ultimate source in the love of God. These last words trace up the channel to its source.
Participation of the Holy Spirit: cp. 1 Corinthians 10:16 : partnership with others in possessing the Holy Spirit. This is the inward result of the grace of Christ and the love of God, and the means through which they become practically known to us and thus abide with us. Cp. Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:12.
Participation; reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the common possession of all the children of God, uniting all in one. What others have, Paul desires his readers to share.
All of you: emphatic, including those now unrepentant. The smile which ever beams from the face of Christ the eternal love which fills the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit who fills the hearts of the children of God with consciousness of His eternal love, are to be our companions along the pilgrimage of life. And, if so, the sunshine of Christ’s smile, the unchanging love of God, and the guidance and strengthening of the Holy Spirit, will make our path, be it ever so rough, a path of peace and joy.
REVIEW OF THE EPISTLE. We notice at once that the matter of chs. viii., ix., viz. the collection for Jerusalem, is quite different from the rest of the Epistle, which is almost entirely apologetic. The Epistle thus falls into the three broadly marked divisions which I have adopted, and which may be called, the First Apology, the Collection, the Second Apology. The matter of the collection was inserted between the Apologies probably because Paul preferred to pass to it at once while full of the joy with which he concludes the First Apology, rather than after the warnings and threatenings and sorrow of the Second. The Apologies differ in that the First is general, addressed to the whole church, while the Second is directed against certain gross offenders, many of them of long standing, and against certain foreign and deceitful opponents. Each of the Apologies contains a long boast, which is its kernel. And the difference just mentioned between DIV. I. and DIV. III. is seen in that the earlier boasting (2 Corinthians 2:14 to 2 Corinthians 6:10) sets forth chiefly the grandeur of the office faithfully filled by Paul and his colleagues; whereas the second boasting (2 Corinthians 11:1 to 2 Corinthians 12:18) sets forth, with evident reluctance, Paul’s own personal conduct and hardships and claims, and this in direct contrast to specific opponents.
This Epistle was evidently prompted by (2 Corinthians 7:6 ff) the arrival of Titus and by the tidings he brought about the church at Corinth, tidings on the whole, but not altogether, very good. The earlier severe letter, which Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 2:4) in tears and afterwards (2 Corinthians 7:8) regretted having written, had produced most excellent results. The whole church (2 Corinthians 7:11) was moved to repentance for tolerating the gross criminal, and to an outburst of loyalty to the apostle. But there was still (2 Corinthians 12:21) among some church-members gross sin, which Paul feared would make his visit to Corinth humiliating to himself and painful to his readers: and there were false and boastful men who, though deliberate and probably professed enemies of the Apostle, yet had influence in the church. And the collection for Jerusalem was not making satisfactory progress. Paul must therefore write again; to express his joy at their repentance, to urge forward the collection, and if possible by warnings from a distance to bring the impenitent ones to repentance, so as to prevent the severity which he still fears he will be compelled to use when he arrives. And, now that he is sure of the repentance of the more part, he can tell them the reason of the postponement of his visit.
Paul writes under the influence of recent deadly peril. But to this he refers only in a song of exultant gratitude. Coming next to his change of plan, he appeals to his own straightforwardness; and then gives the reason of the change. He bids the Corinthian Christians receive back the now-repentant sinner condemned in the earlier letter. In glowing language he depicts the grandeur of the apostolic ministry. Then, preparing beforehand as usual a way to DIV. III., he urges his readers to separate themselves from all sin; and concludes DIV. I. by an outburst of joy at the tidings about the Corinthians which Titus has brought. This joy suitably prepares the way to the collection for the poor believers at Jerusalem. This he urges them, for their honor among the churches, to have ready in abundance when he arrives. And he concludes his reference to it by pointing out its great and good spiritual results.
Paul comes now to the most painful matter of his letter, reserved to the last. He quietly threatens punishment to some whose names he forbears to mention; and after doing so refuses to compare himself with his boastful and deceitful opponents. He then sets forth in contrast to them his own disinterested labors, his many hardships, and his wonderful revelations. As a counterpart to these last he mentions a severe personal affliction, and Christ’s promise in the midst of it. He appeals to his miraculous credentials, and strengthens his appeal by an expression of tender love for his readers; and concludes his long self-defence by rebutting an insinuation about his colleagues. From the vantage thus gained, he speaks again, rather by way of suggestion than of direct threatening, about the punishment he fears he shall be compelled to inflict; and begs his readers to make needless by self-examination this proof of his apostolic authority. He concludes his letter with a cheering salutation and a beautiful benediction.
This epistle preserves for us an episode in the life of Paul otherwise unrecorded, viz. a visit to Corinth, probably during his three years’ sojourn at Ephesus. It was to him (2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21) a painful and humiliating visit. For he found in the church men guilty of gross sensuality. He contented himself with warning them to repent, and threatening punishment at his next visit in case of continued sin. We are not surprised to find that some time after this visit he wrote (1 Corinthians 5:9 ff) a letter of warning against sensuality, and against intercourse with professed Christians who were guilty of it. At the time of this letter he intended probably (2 Corinthians 1:15) to go direct from Ephesus to Corinth, and then to Macedonia, and then back to Corinth. He changed his plan (2 Corinthians 1:23) because of bad tidings about the state of the church; for above all things he wished to avoid another painful visit to his beloved but unfaithful children. Instead therefore of coming at once, he wrote, in the spring of the year in which he left Ephesus, his First Epistle: and a few months later, with the purposes expounded above, he wrote the Second Epistle, which we now reluctantly close.
More than any other, this Epistle reveals to us the heart of the Apostle, the kind of life he lived, and the sort of people with whom he had to do. The hand which writes it trembles with fear, a fear which reveals the heroism of the man who in spite of it goes forward without a moment’s hesitation along his path of peril. We feel the tender love which prompts forbearance towards unfaithful ones, and fills his eyes with tears while he writes the condemnation of an outrageous offender and makes him afterwards regret the letter he has written, but which did not prevent him from writing it. Now love has its joys as well as its sorrows: and Paul’s joy at the good news brought by Titus has no bounds. Yet., in spite of his intense love and deep sympathy, he is still resolved to punish those who continue obstinate.
Upon these, though with a sad heart, his strong hand will fall. We have also in this Epistle the darkest picture extant of the continual and deadly peril of the apostle. That his life is prolonged, is little less than a constant miracle. Once it seemed to him that there was no way of escape: and the hero, saved so often before from imminent peril, prepared to die. The Epistle reveals also the irregular life of many of those lately gathered out of heathenism, and the gross sin of some who nevertheless continued to be members of the church; and the unscrupulous and deceitful hostility to Paul of others who had influence in the church. In short, we have here a picture, in most vivid colors, of an Apostle and his converts.
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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24