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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 13

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Verses 1-10


2 Corinthians 13:1-13.—[Good paraphrase, exhibiting connection of thought, from Stanley: “Once, twice, thrice, as in the Mosaic Law of the three witnesses; by my first visit—by this Epistle, as though I had accomplished my second visit—by the third visit, which I now hope to accomplish [this personifying the three (?) visits as three witnesses, somewhat forced and fantastic]—I warn you that I shall not spare my power when I come. You are always seeking for a proof of my Apostleship; you shall have it. For Christ who speaks in me, though in the weakness of humanity He died the shameful death of the cross, in the strength of God He lives and acts still; and in Him, weak and poor as I seem to be, I shall still live and act towards you. But why do I speak of myself? You yourselves, my converts, are the best witnesses of my Apostolical power; and long may you be so! If, indeed, you should have lost this best proof of my Apostleship in the reformation of your own lives, then indeed you shall have the proof of my severity. But my earnest prayer is that there may be no occasion for it. May my power and the proof of it perish if you prove that you do not need it. Against a true and blameless life the highest Apostolical power is powerless; and if you have this power of truth and goodness, I am well content to part with mine. It is to draw you to a sense of this that I write this whole Epistle, in the hopes that my Apostolical authority may be turned to its fitting purpose of building up, not of pulling down.”

2 Corinthians 13:1.—Strong presumption in this verse of two actual previous visits; second unrecorded in Acts; opportunity for it during the long stay at Ephesus (Acts 20:31). Quotation from Deuteronomy 19:15. “Prepare for a calm, thorough, judicial inquiry when I come, into the facts of all these ugly reports about you which reach me.”

2 Corinthians 13:2. Before, foretell, heretofore; only by prefixes to the verbs. Note, as to first case, R.V. margin; a very possible rendering. Better: “Before my second visit I said; and now, before my third, I say.” Choice between: “As if I were,” etc., and “When I was,” depends on view taken as to two, or three, visits. (Best discussion of this is Conybeare and Howson, chap. xv. Also see Introduction.) Heretofore, repeated from 2 Corinthians 12:21; i.e. “up to now, and to the rest, if they be inclined to follow the bad lead of these first sinners.” Cf. “I spare you” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Omit, “I write.”

2 Corinthians 13:3. In me.—Emphatic in position; q.d. “My opponents say He speaks in them, and that He does not speak in me. You ask my proof that He does.” Observe the style of an ancient prophet. Paul is the mouthpiece of Christ, and, further, Christ is the Inspiring God (cf. 2 Samuel 23:2). (Observe “who,” not “which”) Similarly Ananias and Sapphira “sought a proof” of the Holy Ghost speaking in Peter. Notice “toward you” and “in you.”

2 Corinthians 13:4.—An unfaithful convert thought: “Not much to fear from this Christ; Himself He could not save (cf. Luke 23:35); us He cannot punish.” [Cf. διά, Galatians 4:13; ἐξ here.] Weakness.—“As you call it, and His enemies esteemed it. As we know it, He was so crucified, under conditions of humanity and its physical limitations which He had chosen to assume and submit to; He died as part of the ‘emptying’ of Himself. He chose not to draw upon His Divine reserve of power.” We also.—2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul’s familiar thought; shares with our Lord in His redemption history. We have our weakness, our crucifixion, our resurrection, our strength as of a heavenly, enthroned life.

2 Corinthians 13:5. Connect, “proof” (2 Corinthians 13:3); “examine” (here); “reprobate” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6); “approved”; all cognate in root; evidence during trial; act of trial; rejected after trial; approved and accredited, as result of standing the trial well. “Whether they had suggested this word, or the Apostle only attributed it to them, … it certainly had seized his mind, and he dwells upon the idea, after his manner, with all kinds of variations. This one word ‘proof’ is the key to the whole passage, and solves every difficulty.” (Pope, Prayers of St. Paul, 168.)] [Good illustration of “approved” in Romans 16:10 : “Apelles approved in Christ,” i.e. a man in Christ (= a Christian) who has been tried by trials, by labours, by persecutions, by time (hardest test of all, to some!), and who has come forth, not “reprobate silver” (Jeremiah 6:30) or gold, but (to coin a parallel word) approbate, a vessel on which the Great Assay-master can set His hall-mark “Approved.”] Your (own) selves.—Not me (2 Corinthians 13:3). “If you want such a proof, the test will be that you should turn out able to stand examination.”

2 Corinthians 13:6. I trust.—“Hope.” Partly: “I should like to think that your self-examination will so end as to be the best proof that I am an apostle.” Partly, and more sternly: “I shall in any case, if you compel me, hope to show you that I have an apostle’s power and authority.”

2 Corinthians 13:7.—“The bearing of your self-examination upon me personally is, however, a small matter. Let me be ‘approved’ or ‘reprobate,’ I care not; what I do care about is, that you may really be such as need fear no scrutiny.” Self would say: “I hope they may be shown up badly; and may so vindicate me, and give me a chance of punishing.”

2 Corinthians 13:8. As Stanley above.

2 Corinthians 13:9. Perfecting.—Not the τέλειος word, but καταρτίζω word. Trace it from (literal) “Mending the nets” (Mark 1:19). “A body … prepared Me” (Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 11:3); through, e.g., Galatians 6:1 (“replace the dislocated member of Christ”) to 1 Thessalonians 3:10; [a fearful use, in Romans 9:22] 1 Corinthians 1:10 = Restoration to corporate perfectness. “Perfect restoration to ecclesiastical order, and … perfect recovery of moral purity; the corporate or Church idea predominating in the word, as its etymology … indicates” (Pope, Prayers St. Paul, 169).

2 Corinthians 13:10.—Note R.V.; very clear. Repeated from 2 Corinthians 10:8.

HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—2 Corinthians 13:1-10

Three antitheses:—

A. Present and absent (2 Corinthians 13:1-2; 2 Corinthians 13:10)

B. Strong and weak (2 Corinthians 13:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:8-9).

C. Reprobate and approved (2 Corinthians 13:5-7).

A. I. How hard to get at truth! We may be intentionally deceived, or undesignedly misled. It is not enough to go upon what the “household of Chloe” reported. Very natural, in the (honourable) revolt against such sin as they described, to rush into an emphatic judgment, which may prove, when more facts are known, too strong or unwarranted altogether. Yet it is very hard to recant, especially if we have published our judgment to the world. No hasty, impulsive judgments; especially in apostles or persons responsible for the discipline and purity of a Church. Nor on mere hearsay evidence. Judge gives the presumption on the prisoner’s side, until he hears all. Weigh, wait, watch for new facts; inquire patiently. “Against an elder,” etc. (1 Timothy 5:19). Eliminate thus the personal, in regard to the testimony, and to the verdict. The “two or three witnesses” were rather jury, assessors to the judge, than witnesses in modern judicial sense. Good rule also for private conduct, as well as for official and disciplinary. “First, tell him his fault, between thee and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Get face to face with the man, and, as far as possible thus, with the facts. “Then take with thee one or two more,” etc. (ib.).

II. When truth is ascertained, then action must be decisive. Sin is in itself a grievous evil, and damaging to the Church; a cancer eating its inner life, a leprosy making it offensive to the outer world. Faithfulness to God—the Holy—and faithfulness to men, require prompt, decisive action; faithfulness to the faithful membership, to the unfaithful member (who may thus be made to see his sin, and be led to repentance; it is no kindness to the sinner to deal with his offence with unholy tenderness), and to the outside world (to which it is important that “the Salt” should have its full and unmixed “savour” of grace and holiness) requires it. Remedial measures, if it may be; excision (Galatians 5:12) if nothing less severe will suffice. As of the magistrate, so of the Church discipline: “Wouldst thou have no fear of the power?” etc. (Romans 13:3). And all this in the presence of the offender, if possible. (The Apostle is a “Visitor” in the old Church and college sense; to inquire into abuses, or offences, and to remedy or punish.)

III. Note how all this reflects God’s method. “Swift to hear” [knowing everything that can be said for the wrong-doer; giving full, loving, gracious weight to it; perhaps, now and then, judging more leniently than even the awakened conscience itself does]. “Slow to wrath” [Paul’s “longsuffering”—his reluctance to hasten to Corinth until all wrong was put away—“leading them to repentance” (Romans 2:4)]; “waiting” if so be He, “may be gracious” (Isaiah 39:8). Paul did, God does, we should, “lay the axe at the root of the trees”; for use, if it must be; but also rather that the tree may take heed and make the axe needless. But in the “day of visitation” (as above) He too will “use sharpness.” “If He come again (in that day) He will not spare.” [I. Christ absent; II. Christ present.] The “wrath” of the tenderest natures; the indignation against wrong which is born of the deepest loyalty to, and love of, right (as in Paul); are the most “sharp” and terrible. [“Wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).] In all that Paul says, in the lines on which he acts and proposes to act, we see “Christ speaking in him.”

B. Paul is “in Christ.—

1. He lives Christ’s life over again: “Crucified with Christ.” And his crucified life is modelled on the lines of his Lord’s; it was “weakness” to suffer Himself to be crucified; it seems to the wrong-doers at Corinth “weakness” in Paul, whom they may ignore or defy, that he does not come as in the First Epistle he had said he would, but holds his hand from executing the punishment he threatened. [So men think and speak of God and His Christ in this the day of forbearance. “Weakness!” “Sentence … not executed speedily” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). “Thoughtest … such a one as thyself” (Psalms 50:21). He suffers them “to crucify Him afresh and put Him to an open shame”; yet generally “makes no sign.” Intellectual revolt against His Divine Authority, heart revolt against His holy Law; political refusal of recognition of Christian principle in legislation; He sits, above them all, “keeping silence.” World grows defiant; Church grows impatient and fearful. But no! Don’t misinterpret the weakness!]

2. Notwithstanding the seeming weakness, behind and beneath there is reserve strength in Paul. Comparable to His Who even now “lives” again—the day of His humiliation and “weakness” over—through the power of God [“through,” for this raised Him (e.g. Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31, “by” and “at”), and dwells in Him, inherent, native, His own] Comparable to, and also really derived from, connected with, it. “We shall live” (in the like strength) “with Him” (if we come to Corinth to punish). The executive hand is “strong” or “weak,” according as the whole body, the whole man, is “strong or “weak.” A twofold reserve in Christ: “wrath treasured up against day of wrath” (Romans 2:5) [as if in a huge reservoir, gathering behind the dam of His forbearing, longsuffering mercy in Christ; to burst some day in sweeping, overwhelming might, carrying all evil away before it]; and a fulness of “the power of God,” for the defence of His Church and His Truth, for the support of His servants in their conflicts, for the vindication of the needful authority of Church discipline, and for “bringing forth the judgment” between Him and “the world” “unto victory.” A very real “moral” support all this to the loyal, righteous party in Church and world. They may count on Him and His strength. The day of His “weakness” is really also a day of His Divine might.

3. This present-day “power” He would rather make remedial; “weak against you; strong in you, if you will”; would rather “edify” than “destroy.” The one supreme concern to Paul, to Christ, to all who are responsible for the government, the purity, of a Church, is “that ye do no evil,” but “do that which is honest”. No Jonah-like “anger,” if all the threatenings end in nothing, turned aside by reformation of Nineveh, or Corinth. “We are content to be ‘weak,’ helpless, on these conditions. Do you do ‘the truth,’ and then we can do nothing. In that way you can make us ‘powerless.’ ” The very heart and purpose of God are seen here! “Not willing that any should perish, but,” etc. (2 Peter 3:9). “This we wish: Your perfection.” “Behold the Goodness and the Severity of God” (Romans 11:22).

C. Reprobate or approved.—(See Separate Homily on 2 Corinthians 13:5.)

1. Can the ministry stand its trial, and the challenge of friends or foes? Yes, if the people can! Does Christ speak in the ministry? Well, answer by another question,—Is Christ in the people! And are they in the faith? A living Church is the best credential of a real ministry.
2. A faithful minister will, laudably, desire to be evidently “approved”:
(1) Before God, Who knows his heart, and observes his conduct, and tries his work.
(2) In the knowledge and conscience of his brethren and his people,—by the power which accompanies his word, the immediate success which crowns his efforts, and the abiding fruitfulness which follows them.
3. He will not allow himself or his people to have their attention diverted to other so-called tests: “Good financier”; “Capital with young people”; “See the numerical increase”; “During his pastorate the Church has raised so much, has spent so many thousands over building”; “Great influence in the city”; “What an intellectual or wealthy and important congregation gather round him.” All good, in varying degree; every one in excellence which may be laid under contribution to do admirable service for Christ; all efficient equipments, if thoroughly consecrated, for a minister of Christ. Yet they may only be “proofs” of an “able” man. No true minister will be satisfied to gather round him a mere aggregation of hearers at a popular preaching centre, with hardly sufficient community of interest or life to make them a congregation; and still less to gather anything but a real Church, whose members are by his ministry being led to a life of which the secret is that they “are in the Faith,” and that “Christ is in them.” All other may be “proofs” of secular, “natural” success unsatisfying to a “spiritual” man, or to the “spiritual” judgment. Perish everything; even let him be accounted “reprobate” [“a poor preacher; ought never to have entered the ministry!”], if only, “strong” in Christ’s “strength,” he gather and train an “approved” people!


2 Corinthians 13:5. The Faith.

I. “In the Faith” may come only to mean that men accept the Creed. (Fides quœ creditur.) Do not be satisfied unless you are in the bonds of the community whose unity rests on the Faith which saves into, and in, Christ. (Fides quâ creditur, and more.)

II. Test of this true faith is: “Is Christ in you?” Evidenced, to your own consciousness, and to the observation of others. All articles of the Creed centre finally in Him. Does an indwelling Christ make all the articles living truths, which you know and believe, because you have lived, and are living, your way into knowledge and faith. Are they each verified by your experience?

2 Corinthians 13:5. Self-examination.

I. Paul’s immediate point is self-examination.—[So, in Galatians 6:4, we have:

1. Scrutiny of self;
2. Joy in self;
3. Responsibility for self.] Corinthians were ready to put him to “proof.” General rule: More ready to sit in judgment upon others than upon ourselves. [Look at 1 Corinthians 11:31; Matthew 7:1.] This ministers to curiosity, love of gossip, tends to a subtle self-complacency after comparison of others with ourselves. Yet really the harder thing. We do know some, if not all, the facts about ourselves; are, or may be, cognisant of even our most secret motives, know all that would tell against, and all that would tell for, us, if others knew us so far “completely” as we ourselves do. We cannot know all the facts about others. Every man is a problem to himself; how much more to others who only know what he chooses to allow to come to the surface in character and life. Sometimes this scrutiny of others is merely one of many forms of occupation for a mind afraid to begin seriously to examine itself. How often does fuller, subsequent light show how useless our judgments of others were, and how wrong our conclusions; what waste of time over our inquiry, and what waste of words and of “heroic” display of virtuous indignation and condemnation! Utterly beside the mark, and a great sin against the Spirit of Christ. Cannot help knowing many facts about others; cannot help passing judgment upon, and drawing conclusions from, the facts. But we shall remember how incomplete our data, how imperfect our methods, how little we often are really concerned in the matter. Self-examination very profitable; mere curious examination of others very perilous to the soul.

II. What is self-examination?—Two words here found significantly together: “examine,” “prove” (πειράζω, δοκιμάζω). [Good article on them in Trench, Syn., lxxiv.] First is the common word for “tempt,” in the original, neutral sense (both in Greek and English; so in Malachi 3:10; Malachi 3:15 “prove” and “tempt” are same word), as well as with the evil associations which have gathered (accidentally) around it. Second is the technical word in classical Greek for putting money to the proof; the foundation idea being to prove whether a thing is worthy to be received or not. In New Testament use, latter generally implies a successful endurance of the proving, and, indeed, a desire and hope and purpose on the part of the person testing, that such should be the issue; the former predominantly (evidently not so here) suggests endeavour and hope to discover, awake, strengthen, existing evil. [Familiar illustrations of πειράζω are: boring to examine strata, or find water or minerals or gold; putting in the cheese-taster (“taste” and “test” are akin). Cf. δοκιμάζω, which suggests the fire and crucible of the goldsmith, “the refiner and purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3), to show purity, or to secure it by removal of dross or alloy; the periodical Trial of the Pyx at the Abbey, Westminster; the testing of chains or springs at the factory before sending out for use; not in order to discover or make flaws or weakness, but to vindicate soundness or strength.] Q.d. “Bore down into your life-strata; see what your foundation is, what store of worth and goodness grace has put within you. Try your quality and your gracious ‘flavour,’ ‘savour.’ See whether you be the genuine article, according to the name upon you ‘Christian’; by this time the fine metal, or at least getting purer by the sanctifying effect of the processes of Providence and Life. Try your strength for resistance and for weight-carrying, for the service of man and of Christ.”

III. Need of it.—

1. Same need, as in business, for going over stock, balancing moneys, watching wear and tear. Many (spiritually) trading long after insolvent. Going on, keeping up the business name: “A. B., a man in Christ”; dealt with by others, employed in the Church on that basis, long after original capital—the grace of acceptance into Christ and the Family, of regeneration after Christ—has been sinned away by the man himself, or has been, in his negligence, stolen away by the world, or by secret, heart sins which grieved the Spirit. Constant wear and tear, lass and gain, going on in the religious life. No headway is ever made without perpetual, unrelaxing effort. [All our progress is against stream; against all the current of tendencies within and of influences from without. Cease rowing vigorously; your boat slackens, stops, is borne backward and downward.

“Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Remigiis subigit; si brachia forte remisit,
Atque illum in praeceps prono rapit alveus amni.”

Virg., Georg., I., 201–203.

Status quo is not maintained without constantly new grace given, and constant, watchful, prayerful effort. Old impressions fade; old motives lose power; old vows are not felt with old obligation. Ever-wakeful Enemy, ready to “pounce,” or to enter by a long-disused, almost forgotten entrance of susceptibility or liability.

2. Easier, more natural, to lie, like lotus eaters, idly in our boat and drift, not even noticing the drift. “Drifting” the subtlest, commonest danger of the ordinary Christian life. To be holy or earnest, even to maintain one’s status in Christ, means taking trouble. No inherent grace; any implanted grace must be renewed unceasingly; no possibility of accumulating a capital stock of grace [and then “retiring from business,” “living on the dividends” of the accumulated grace and work of earlier Christian life. Many seem trying to do so]. Yet “deceitfulness of sin,” indolence, pride, fear to know the unwelcome, half-suspected truth, incline a man to slur over or to avoid altogether any examination of present position, the only one worth anything before God. Liability to ignorance and error, dangerous in their practical consequences, to be reckoned with. “Know ye not?” Forgotten? Not examined lately?

IV. Methods and tests

1. Supreme one this: You prove me to see whether Christ speaks through me. Look within: Does Christ dwell in you? (cf. Romans 8:9-10), i.e. by His Spirit? Have you the “witness”? (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6-7). Have you the “fruit”? [N. B. one and indivisible; not “fruits”; a cluster of grapes on a branch of the Vine; not so many independent figs or apples.] “The hope” (Colossians 1:27, = “Christ in you,” or in-separable from it).

2. The Word is an objective test; our memory and Consciousness supply facts on which Conscience sits as judge (2 Corinthians 1:12; you need the objective standard, unaffected by any “personal equation” of mood, or prejudice, or bias—1 Corinthians 4:4, “I know nothing against myself, yet,” etc.). Experience will often interpret Scripture to a man; Scripture will always interpret and value experience for him.

3. Should be done with prayer for Divine light upon Self and Scripture. Neither can be understood without the other. [Woollen manufacturer, examining cloth, wants a north window with clear, open, steady light; brings cloth to the window.]
4. Should be done in solitude, if possible; soul alone with God. The true and useful element in “retreats.” “As of God, in the sight of God speak” to ourselves in examining and judging ourselves (2 Corinthians 2:17). Humbling ourselves before Him; holding ourselves ready to hear all He has to tell us, and to act upon it, following it in any direction, to any length of consequence.

5. “Any time is no time.” Some need a fixed rule and fixed times. Some best avail themselves of (say) birthdays, times of sorrow, or of blessing; some of the quiet of the House of God.

V. There are dangers attending.—Unwilling heart, or worldly, exaggerates these as “reasons” for discontinuance. Real danger: lest it grow

(1) mechanical, as when done by “a Method,” with scheduled questions for self-examination, or, as to time, become a mere bit of routine, done without heart or earnestness; or

(2) morbid, a very common liability to the most sensitive souls, of tender, but not very enlightened, conscience; e.g. they set up an impossible standard, not found in Scripture, drawn from their (perhaps mistaken) interpretation of what they hear or read as the “experience” of others; forget (as their profoundly reasonable Lord never does) the differences of temperament, of training, and in the sense of value of words; scourge themselves needlessly because they do not exactly correspond with their self-imposed standard. Or they are distressed because they do not see distinct “progress” as between the examination of one evening and that of the next. [This like looking to see growth in child or plant after every few minutes. Rather measure the rising of the tide after some little interval, and by the test of some definite mark upon the shore—some definite habit or point of character; e.g. can they at a year’s end discover a manifest increase of self-control by grace of God?] Yet greater danger, and more ordinary, is not to examine at all. Also, the broad lines which mark and identify a Christian are recognisable at any moment. It is also to himself a matter of direct and immediate knowledge whether or not a man have “the love of God shed abroad in his heart.”

VI. If we will not.—

1. May wake up in eternity finding ourselves bankrupts; with no true foundation on the Rock. May be “reprobate” when God tests finally, “castaway” (same word) when we come before the Judge hoping for a crown.

2. Short of this extreme issue, the Adversary will do his “trying,” with his evil intention. Not to “tempt” ourselves (so literally) invites him to “tempt” us.

3. Also God must put us to proof, finally using “fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12, δοκιμάζω) upon work whose quality we would not ourselves test; sending, before that, many sharp providences which are the acids and other reagents of His Divine chemistry, to test or purify what, though sadly alloyed, is really gold. (As Apelles, Critical Notes.) [“Deus tentat, ut doceat; diabolus, ut decipiat” (Augustine). “Da, Domine, ut per tentationem probemur, non reprobemur” (Abelard, on Lord’s Prayer).]

2 Corinthians 13:8. Nothing against, Everything for, the Truth.


1. Paul’s immediate meaning.—“Corinthians who can endure the self-applied, or God-applied, tests; who have ‘come forth as gold’ when tried, ‘true’ according to standard, have nothing to fear from me. My Apostolic power is for ‘building up’ (2 Corinthians 13:10). My work, my Master’s design, is constructive, not destructive. If I do ‘destroy’ (‘cast down,’ R.V.), it is only to prepare for construction. I am a helper of all good men; it is their fault if I seem against evil ones.” Every minister should so bear himself amongst his people that they feel this; he should plainly be to them a rallying-point and a support of “true” men and women, whoever may “bear hard upon” them. They should feel that he will never, at any rate in intention, frown upon, or discourage, persons, character, work, that are “true.” Will help it, sympathise with it, encourage it, guide it, train it, but never check it. God and Truth are on the same side. The Pastor and Truth should be on the same side, too.

2. Rise higher. “We are of the truth;” therefore even the Law of the True God will not condemn, but justify, us. [Justification is pardon in conformity to the requirements of the Christ-satisfied law.] “Law not made for—does not lie against—a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9). We were by nature false to God’s ideal of manhood, and in life a living negation of His righteous requirement. In Him Who is “the Truth” we are being brought into fuller and fuller accord with the Law of Righteousness—being made “true.” In the Day of Christ the very Law will say, “I can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”

II. Principle so stated as to be of wide, general application.—

1. True of truth in art, natural science, every embodiment of the true. There are fashions in music or form; there is the music, the painting, the poetry of an age, and of that only. Author, painter, composer, each hits the fancy of his age, because he wears its “dress” and speaks its thought in its dialect. All this passes away with the age, or the country for there are localisms in all these fields of work. Out of every country, and every land, out of every true artist’s work, there emerges for permanent survival at least one thing that survives because it is of no one age or country or individual. It is universal, true. New fashions come and go, but they can “do nothing against” these slowly emerging, accumulating masterpieces, which command the allegiance and growing admiration of all qualified to judge, age after age. Time can do nothing against them. So in our knowledge of the natural world. Hypotheses and theories are exalted or hardened into the dogmas of a century (or of a decade). Hastily formed, too eagerly accepted; the acceptance itself being a fashion, or a “craze.” They are challenged in their turn, discredited (perhaps unduly, and without discrimination), succeeded by others as crudely true or altogether baseless. Or, more often, are modified substantially, as new facts reward close observation. (Hardly any entirely baseless hypothesis ever gets wide, even though temporary, acceptance; generally it is a stammering endeavour to speak out “truth”; a blunderingly tentative groping after truth, stretching blind hands into darkness, grasping mingled truth and error.) After, and out of, challenge, discussion, modification, rejection; out of too eager triumph of opponents, too hasty fears of supporters; whatever is truth emerges; a growing corpus of ascertained truth accumulates. Nothing that was really true perished in the process; the accidental, the experimental which did not stand verification, the temporary, the idiosyncrasy of the observer or the theory-maker, passed, and left Truth. Could do nothing against it; indeed, all worked for it. Christian should remember this, even when Science or some scientists may seem arrogantly, aggressively, perilously antagonistic to Revelation. Christian can do nothing against what is true in Science; Science also can do nothing against what is true in Religion.

2. Note this last. The lesson of the experience of the ages. The Bible emerges from the special attack of each century with undiminished, increased authority and acceptance. Whatever is Truth in its statements about God or man, or the relations between them, emerges age after age, with a new claim to acceptance in the very fact of its newest survival. In any new challenge of even the historicity of the record, the presumption derived from the past is that “as the last time, only more so,” will again be the end of the battle. Each new century sees it win the allegiance of a new set of hearts. Human hearts say, “That book is true; it finds me; it is a key whose correspondence with my heart and the facts of my life, argues that it was made to unlock me.” Repeatedly has attack upon historical details only ended in new verification, perhaps at that very point. Unfair treatment; unwise, untenable defence of it by too hasty friends; open attack of enemies; subtle or traitorous assault; have—as matter of fact—never done anything against the Truth as embodied in Bible; have all worked for the Truth. So the great doctrines of Christianity emerge time after time unharmed from the fiery testing of inquiry and assault. They take temporary fashions of statement, adapted to the need or to the assault of their time or age; now one, now another, aspect of them needs emphasis; always with the peril of undue emphasis, and of discrediting, or decrying the complementary aspects, seen and needed by other Churches or ages or men. Every Church creed or confession gains something, loses something, after every controversy. Truth, as God sees and knows it, loses nothing, always gains. God is taking care of the Truth. All truth of every kind is of Him. [With deep significance, worth expanding, one may borrow, and say:] “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” Often we can do nothing but “stand still and know that He is God,” as we see Him taking the defence of Truth out of the hand of the Church, or of a (sectional) Church, and Himself vindicating it. Enemies and friends may say: “We can do nothing against,” etc. [May borrow again, with no remote connection,] “All things work together for good to” the Truth of God, as a whole, and for every partial embodiment of it. Pre-eminently true of Him Who is The Truth. “Whosoever shall fall upon this Stone” (by way of assault) “shall be broken.” Psalms 2:0. shows dramatically God and His Anointed sitting above the tumult of revolt, and “laughing.” “Yetyet—I have set My King, “etc.

This shall be the issue of the last and most daring endeavour against Him (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). “Magna est Veritas—artistic, scientific, Biblical, dogmatic, Christ—et prævalebit.” [

(1) This conviction always is a strong presumption, fairly based on the past.
(2) It is also rooted in the reason of the thing. Whatever is part of God’s Truth, in any special aspect, may be overlaid, disfigured, by temporary accretions, or erroneous additions, by the mistake, or the enmity, or the misjudged, misdirected support of an Age, a Church, a Man; but it is there, and will survive, to stand clear when all of temporary has disappeared. [Cf. Egyptian temples surviving, and standing clear of, the less permanent domestic edifices once built around them. Man goes, cities go; they stand.]
3. Whatever meets the perennial need of man’s intellect, conscience, heart—especially those of sinful men—vindicates itself anew perennially, as having Truth in it. E.g. freedom of will; sense of Sin (no mere passing or personal access of emotion); existence of a Creator and Moral Governor; the objective value of Prayer; an objective efficiency in the death of Christ to procure pardon; Vicarious Sacrifice; possibility of falling finally; all these, and others, may have their temporary, local, ecclesiastical, imperfect way of being stated. They may be unwisely defended. But they meet, under all the varying fashions of statement, the need of the universal heart in man. They have their root deep in the instincts and conscience of universal man. They “are of God,” and cannot be overthrown (Acts 5:38-39). They are Truth.] [Renan avows: “Quant au vrai Dieu de la conscience humaine, celui-là est inattaquable. Il a sa raison d’être dans une foi invincible et non dans les raisonnements plus ou moins ingénieux.” Similarly he does not consider religion “une duperie subjective de notre nature,” but believes “qu’elle répond à une réalité extérieure.” Therefore Religion also is really un-assailable. (Les Apôtres, Introd.) So Emerson, in his dialect, says: “The World-spirit is a good swimmer, and storms and waves cannot drown him.”]

Verses 11-14


2 Corinthians 13:11.—Calm sunset after a stormy passage! Observe margin (better). Perfected.—As in 2 Corinthians 13:9. Comforted.—With the fuller meaning found, e.g., in “Paraclete.” Live in peace.—“Peacing it together,” like “truthing it” (Ephesians 4:15).

2 Corinthians 13:1-13.—[Good paraphrase, exhibiting connection of thought, from Stanley: “Once, twice, thrice, as in the Mosaic Law of the three witnesses; by my first visit—by this Epistle, as though I had accomplished my second visit—by the third visit, which I now hope to accomplish [this personifying the three (?) visits as three witnesses, somewhat forced and fantastic]—I warn you that I shall not spare my power when I come. You are always seeking for a proof of my Apostleship; you shall have it. For Christ who speaks in me, though in the weakness of humanity He died the shameful death of the cross, in the strength of God He lives and acts still; and in Him, weak and poor as I seem to be, I shall still live and act towards you. But why do I speak of myself? You yourselves, my converts, are the best witnesses of my Apostolical power; and long may you be so! If, indeed, you should have lost this best proof of my Apostleship in the reformation of your own lives, then indeed you shall have the proof of my severity. But my earnest prayer is that there may be no occasion for it. May my power and the proof of it perish if you prove that you do not need it. Against a true and blameless life the highest Apostolical power is powerless; and if you have this power of truth and goodness, I am well content to part with mine. It is to draw you to a sense of this that I write this whole Epistle, in the hopes that my Apostolical authority may be turned to its fitting purpose of building up, not of pulling down.”

HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—2 Corinthians 13:11-14

I. “Brethren!”—After all he has had to rebuke, to threaten, to denounce. If we wait for ideal men, or Churches, shall never have any Christian fellowship. In even the most imperfect embodiment of the Church ideal, or the ideal of Christian manhood, Christ sees, and the Christlike heart and judgment do not undervalue or overlook, possibilities of better things. Only Death is hopeless; imperfect life may be healed, trained, perfected. Ourselves are not ideal; we need that other “brethren” should be patient with, helpful of us; let us say and feel, to even the most imperfect: “Brethren.” Christ knew, when He first accepted them (and us), and still knows, whilst He continues to accept them (and us), very much more that is evil, than they or we know of each other or of ourselves. How patient He is; remembering what (Corinthian) training has been, and (Corinthian) surroundings are. Not tolerating, or conniving at, sin; yet not disowning or casting off (until all help is refused, all remedial grace spent in vain) His “brethren!” It will do us good, and will often enable us to help others better, to overlook, or underlook, the Actual, and believe in, and see, and work with, the Ideal in them. [See how taking the best for granted is made to regenerate the Earl in Little Lord Fauntleroy.]

II. Yet this charity to persons will not be laxity in regard to principles.—The Ideal must be held up in all its beauty—imperiously, exactingly, demanding that we should “obey” its truth (Galatians 3:1). Christian or Church well-being means nothing less than, nothing lower than, Peace.

1. A peace within, in the renewal of our own natures. No “peace” without “holiness” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; He who “sanctifies” is “the God of peace,” as here). “Peace” is only absolute when reached through “perfection.” [An artist says that beauty in his work includes and rests upon a perfect balance and harmony between its parts, nothing jarring or discordant; corporate unity (so to speak) is secured in the picture.]

2. Peace with the fellow-members. “Be (imperative) of one mind” [men can choose to be of one mind, if they will, to a larger extent than they do and are]; “one hope,” the Same “Comforter” in them all; one aim; one heart.

3. Peace with the three-one God, through grace, by love, in fellowship. There must be Personal Experience, Unity with the Church, Fellowship with God through His grace. (See Separate Homilies on 2 Corinthians 13:14.)


2 Corinthians 13:11. “The God of peace.”—The names of God in Paul’s prayers are never chosen at random—however true in themselves—but always with a close relation of appropriateness to the blessing asked or the work He does. So here. What a name! No heathen divinity ever wore, or at any rate deserved to wear, it. God of Truth, of Power, of Holiness, of Peace.

I. Characteristic of His very being.—“Internal,” absolute harmony and rest, because of absolute holiness. The “peaceful” God. [God could not give His peace to, or plant it within, an unholy nature. Circumstances are not the root-disquiet of our life; our own hearts and their pride, or selfishness, etc., give us all our real trouble.]

II. He loves peace.—[Profoundly significant that we “like” what is “like” us.] He is grieved at, and can hardly “be with,” a Church that is not “of one mind.”

III. He works for peace.—All the drift of His providential and redemptive government of the world tends to, aims at, this. The Gift of Christ is the supreme witness to His heart in this respect. [So the “peacemakers” are pre-eminently “the children of God,” the Great Peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).]

IV. He gives peace: to our hearts by the Atonement of His Son, and by the Work of His Spirit. It is the “peace of God” which is to “guard heart and thoughts through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, R.V.).

2 Corinthians 13:11. “Be perfected.”—Prayer for restoration to corporate perfectness.

I. Negatively.—Perfect recovery which would result from “not doing evil,” “doing what is honest” (2 Corinthians 13:7). The vices which infected Corinthian Church exhibit in epitome those which have been the bane of the Church of Christ generally from the beginning.

(1) Fundamental disorder was rebellion against the supreme authority of the Divine Revealer and the Divine Inspirer and their Apostolic representative. Paul’s aim is “to bring … into captivity,” etc. (2 Corinthians 10:5). His final appeal, in the hearing not only of Corinthians, but of Christendom to the end of the world, is “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Scriptures of revelation contain this. Rebellion against Paul—against these Scriptures—is a virtual rejection of Christianity. “As a principle in the individual, this is fatal to religious stability and growth. As a principle in the Church, it is the root of all disorganisation; and it must be put away, with all its forms of manifestation, before the community bearing the name of Christ can put on its ‘perfection.’ ”

(2) A direct result of
(1),—a lax maintenance of some of the vital doctrines of the Christian confession.” [E.g. in 1 Corinthians 15:0, with its bearing upon the Atonement, and the whole basis of Christian hope and salvation.] “It was not without reference to corruptions of doctrine that the dejected Apostle expressed his fear (2 Corinthians 12:20). His vehement desire to preserve them ‘a chaste virgin to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 11:2-4), undefiled by doctrinal error, as he himself explains its meaning, gives a peculiar tremulousness and tumult to his diction.… The integrity of their faith was in his thought when he ‘prayed that they might be perfect’ ” [James 1:4, a good equivalent of the word].

(3) “Neglect and irreverence in the Divine service invariably follow hard upon laxity of doctrine.” Disorganisation in worship … to an extreme almost inconceivable by us; the supper of the Lord so desecrated as to call down upon the Church such visitations as sickness and death. Second Epistle shows “the same leaven at work in other directions; and the final prayer included the removal of the spirit of disorder and the observance of all that was ‘honourable.’ ” Two kinds of dishonour are actualities, or perpetual liabilities, in Divine service: To take away its simplicity, and discern in the ordinances more than they have to show; to rob everything external and symbolical of its true value, and reduce religious ceremonial to the level of mere human arrangement. Both equally distant from Church “perfection.”

(4) Closely connected is the spirit of faction. He sets no limit to his righteous indignation against the disturbers of the unity of the Church. The first paragraphs of the First Epistle and the last in the Second Epistle unite in this. The strong references to his severity as the minister of the Saviour’s wrath … explained by his resentment at this deadly sin.

(5) Violation of Christian morality. In xii. there is obvious reference to those two classes of moral offence from which 2 Corinthians 7:1 exhorted them to cleanse themselves. Sins “of the spirit” are summed up here (2 Corinthians 12:20) more completely than anywhere else; and here only as marking the conduct of professing Christians. The true, only means of recovery were neutralised by infidelity and the haughty spirit of Rationalism.

II. Perfection positively considered.—His good wish is not to be limited to the removal of the “evil” marring “perfection”; he longed for their attainment of all the completeness that may belong to a Church. Note the wonderful fact that such a Church should be thought capable of perfect amendment, a restoration to soundness not at some distant time, but as it were immediately, and by an energetic co-operation with Divine grace.… Certain it is that for a season the Corinthian Church enjoyed great prosperity.

1. The bond of Church perfectness is … a compact organisation vivified and kept in living unity by the Holy Spirit. One regimen and discipline; factions suppressed, divisions abolished; all the Corinthian Christian sections one corporate body. To-day, whilst recognising the great divisions of Christendom, each section should cultivate this unity within itself. Perfection means that lawlessness within a Church, and bitterness toward other Churches, are gone.

2. A certain standard of perfection even in order of worship. This not unattainable, or of slight importance.

3. “Perfection” includes a noble theory of mutual help in the Christian fellowship. Corinthian Epistles a complete depository of the social principles of Christianity, and of the preceptive details of its system of mutual edification. This the purpose and beauty of chap. 13, “Charity.” “Every member of the body must in his vocation and stewardship render back to Christianity all that in Christianity he receives, and give to the community the fullest advantage of whatever talent he as an individual may possess.… A perfection not attainable by the community on earth, but the nearer the approach to this, the nearer the Church to the realisation of its calling.… No Apostolical test of ‘perfectness’ in the Church community more easily applied, or more generally forgotten.”

4. High standard of morality. “The Church that does not prosecute to [ecclesiastical] death every capital offence against its purity is very far from ‘perfection.’ But the more effectual discipline is a high standard in the common sentiment of the people through the sedulous instruction of the ministry.”

5. Strong spirit of charity in the community. Note the fulness of detail, and the great interest, Paul gives to the “collection.” The “corporate” is only worked out through the “personal.”—Condensed from Pope, “Prayers of St. Paul,” vii.

2 Corinthians 13:14. Final Benediction.—In homiletic use the stress may either be laid upon the threefold grace invoked, or upon the personal names and their theological suggestions. Accordingly two lines of treatment are suggested.


1. Verse like a coin which often needs calling in and reminting, in our thought and heart. In constant, current use, much of the clearness and sharpness of the impression upon it, and something of the weight and value, are worn away and lost. We tend to use it also without much thought; as we pass a coin from hand to hand, without very distinctly adverting to its pattern or value.
2. An important text in point of doctrine (see next homily). This and the baptismal formula are the two most definitely orderly statements of what little we know [and perhaps could be told] about the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons in the Oneness of the Nature of God. [They are lamps in our hand flashing light backward upon, and downward into, obscurities in the Old Testament, which otherwise must have remained dark.] Many texts guard us from thinking of three or of many Gods; these two gather up into a focus rays of teaching found scattered and separate elsewhere, and give us three personal names; equal, or their co-ordination here would be blasphemous; Divine, for each is here prayed to to give His characteristic blessing; and yet, One standing mysteriously first amongst three equals, as if having Godhead so peculiarly His own, that He is specially called not “the Father,” but “God.”

II. Christ’s gift, grace.—

1. Bearing in mind the close connection always found between the doctrine of Trinity and the life of the soul, it is easy to see why “grace” specially associated with Christ. We might, we do, call the love of the Father grace, for it is free, unmerited favour to sinners who only deserved penalty and “wrath.” We do call the “communion of the Holy Ghost” grace. We might, with propriety, speak equally freely of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, of communion with, and in, the Son or the Father.

2. But Paul, like John (2 Corinthians 1:17), specially associates grace with Christ. A double antithesis in John (loc. cit.); not only between grace under Christ taking the place of law under Moses, but between “was given” and “came.” Moses only “gave,” he did not make, nor do more than hand on, as any other man appointed ad hoc might have done, what he had received from God. But grace, though originating in the Father’s “good will to man,” in as true a sense sprung from the Son’s tender compassion for our lost and unhappy case. He did not simply convey, He wrought grace, as only He could have wrought. Moses was not indispensable to the Law; Christ is indispensable to Grace.

3. Sin meant alienation, separation, antagonism. Christ reconciled, bridged the gulf, made peace. To appreciate His grace, suppose Him and His whole work eliminated from the conditions of man’s life as related to a holy God. There must have been despairing certainty of wrath, instead of hope; helplessness, instead of moral power, which is from its earliest beginnings, through all its growth and activities, to its perfection, a thing entirely a gift ab extra, grace. To Him we owe days of grace, in a kingdom of grace, a life in an atmosphere of grace. He is pre-eminently the Lord and Giver of Grace.

4. Peculiar emphasis of blessing in all this to the ex-Israelite, Paul, remembering, and sympathetically understanding, his Israelite brethren’s case under the yoke of the law. “Good news for you weary and heavy laden men of Israel. A yoke and a burden for you still, indeed, easy and light. Rest to your souls in Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus the Messiah, in His grace.” [This is the primary connection of thought between Matthew 11:28, and the preceding part of chapter.]

5. For Gentiles, slaves of their sins, haunted by conscience, fearing the worst in regard to the unknown, dark future, morally impotent and condemning vainly their own impotence, he had no higher wish than: “I pray that Jesus Christ may show you, in all their fullest reach, all the possibilities of His Gospel of grace; that they may be the elements of your habitual life. Power, perfect and continuous; peace, perfect and undoubted; holiness, perfect and continuously growing, till grace merges in, broadens into, glory.”

III. The Father’s gift, love.—

1. Observe the significant, necessary order. The “grace of …, [then] the love of,” etc. Picture broad valley lying parched, scorched, beneath fierce sun-rays of weeks of unclouded, unbroken, midsummer weather. Picture high up in hills at head of valley huge reservoir, full of water, which would save and fertilise all below. But no outlet; dam is strong; doors are closed; waters cannot flow. “Thy love unknown has broken every barrier down, … O Lamb of God.” Illustration so far applicable as this, that though, naturally and unhindered, the “gravitation” of that love would have meant an eager outpouring of itself down to our level, the full heart of God could only (so the matter is revealed to us) empty its fulness upon a perishing, dying world through the work of Christ, which broke down the twofold “dam,” of God’s holiness and law, and of man’s sin. Now, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, in all its Divine fulness, may flow down in free unstinted abundance into our needy life.

2. Now: “May God give you the wealth, the honour, of His love in all its lavish fulness, according to your need, ‘according to His riches’; His love in every form that it can assume or that you may require that it shall,—comfort, or rebuke, or guidance, or relief in difficulty, or solution of perplexities. God puts Himself, in all that His love can be or do, at the call of your necessity, to bring all He has into operation for your welfare, if need be.” [Paul says, “My God” (Philippians 4:19).] The soul may say: “All He has, and is, is mine. Beyond the love I had from Him when I was forgetful and rebellious, I have the love of God.”


1. The “grace,” and the “love,” are personal blessings; a man may enjoy them alone. The Spirit’s gift, fellowship, reminds of a brotherhood in the love of God, a common sharing in the grace of Christ; no selfish isolation in the heritage of blessing.

2. This is more than a prayer that all fellow-Christians may share together in the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Not merely are they persons who have received the like gifts and blessings; not merely children sitting at same table, enjoying each a like portion; the bond is closer. All Paul’s and Christ’s teaching about the unity of the branches of a vine, the limbs and parts of a body, all is in concentrated implication in this: “The communion of the Holy Ghost.” “The selfsame Spirit who is in me is Himself also in you. You and I are members of the same ‘Christ,’ each of us alive, not with a similar life,—even exactly similar,—but with one and the same Life-giver, thrilling in you, stirring in me. [When your light shines, and mine, it is not as in old days of candles and lamps, each a co-ordinate, independent source of precisely similar light, but as now, when the basis of the light-giving is concurrently derived from one common reservoir and source, one common element distributing itself into each of us, without division of itself. (Illustration to be used with caution in presentation.)] If further, e.g., you love souls and I love them, it is the manifestation and working of the same Holy Ghost, and consequently the same ‘love in the Spirit’ (Colossians 1:8).”

3. Happy fellowship, closer, and binding closer, than common interests, temperaments, sympathies, tastes, affections, blood, so that they who have it are really nearer to strangers who have it, than to their very kin if these have it not. Wonderful the common understanding it sets up, and the oneness of instinct, love, purpose, He creates amongst these in each and all of whom He dwells.
4. What a remedy for Corinthian factions, jealousies; for all class or social divisions in any Church. Hand cannot hurt, and must help, hand in the same body. Foot and head must feel and work together for each other’s life and good.
5. In a family no unity like this; no such bond, no other absolutely secure bond between husband and wife, parents and children, employers and servants, but this common sharing in the indwelling of the same Holy Ghost.
6. Amidst all “conditions of membership,” whether proposed or actually employed, this is to be presupposed. It underlies all. It over-rides all other methods of Church discipline. He is admitted into the Church who has a part in the fellowship; he is automatically excluded who loses it; however the imperfectly accurate, imperfectly administered, arrangements of any particular Church may affect him.

Or thus: the occasion of a Homily upon The Trinity and Redemption.

I. Why do men hold the doctrine?—Because we believe it. We believe it because we find it in the Bible. It is, on our part, entirely a case of Faith in what, in the other, is a matter of pure Revelation. But for the Bible we should know nothing about the question. We know nothing of it except what we find in the Bible. No man can be expected to receive it to whom the Bible is no final authority. No man can be compelled to believe it to whom the Bible is not supreme. No argument can be held at all, unless on the common understanding that the disputants are not to go behind the Bible. The question is always, not “What thinkest thou?” but, “What readest thou? What does the Book—God, through the Book—say?” [And, Do read. Do not take beliefs on authority. And do not take doubts on authority, either! Be neither a believer nor a sceptic, merely as relying on some human teacher.]

II. What do we hold?—

1. First, we find the Bible very express in the sense: “One God, one only.” The Old Testament made “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4), the creed of an Israelite. To this day it is nearly the first lesson in the instruction of a Jewish child. In the midst of a world given up to multiplying its gods—and degrading itself and them, as they were multiplied—very nobly, in its later history particularly, did Israel uphold that truth as its testimony. It is the emphasised part of the whole truth in the Old Testament. In this the Old Testament bore its witness against Israel itself. When the world’s danger was polytheism, and when Israel itself was always ready to descend to idolatry, this was the side of the truth which needed prominence and emphasis.

2. This Old Testament testimony has never been withdrawn or qualified. When we come to the New Testament we find just as clearly its doctrine, “To us … one God,” etc. (2 Corinthians 8:6). Yet in our text it is the same Paul who has given to the Church of Christ its benediction, beneath whose sweet spell the child is baptized, the Christian man and woman are wedded, the dead are buried, the assembly for Christian worship is dismissed. This verse, with Matthew 28:19, gives the most complete and explicit summary form of the Bible doctrine.

3. In the clearer light of the New Testament we see that Old Testament believers mainly knew God in Him Whom we call “the Father,” now that we have seen and known “the Son.” And, in fact, three names have come into view, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” Three, not more, not fewer. Here they stand all, side by side. They were for the first time ranged thus in significant co-ordination when Jesus spoke the words above quoted (Matthew 28:19). What are we to think of them? God; a man; an influence, which is not even a person? Is that likely? Or possible? Or are we to think of the third as “personal,” as really as the first and second? And the second and third, are they as truly Divine as the first? A believer in “the Trinity” thinks he finds this Book often speaking of each of the three as we speak of other personal names, and as we speak of the Divine Person Whom we call “the Father.” Not always: but a good reason can in every instance be found for that.

4. So, then, here is the fact: From end to end this Book says, “One God; one only”; whilst more and more clearly as the revelation draws near to its close, there emerge three Names, each a person, each God. Questions start up; speculations multiply; a child can see difficulties; every responsible teacher of the doctrine has had to see and discuss every one of them. His position is that he bows before this Book, with its two groups of statements. Without it he knows nothing; with it he does not know much, but he knows that much. 5. “Do not understand their relations to each other?” Nor does the believer in the doctrine. But he finds express statements, and teachings by the help of mutually supplementary, mutually complimentary analogies, which make it reasonable to say: “Begotten of the Father,” “Proceeding from the Father (and the Son).” Imperfect expressions, and needing guarding and qualifying exposition; all very obvious to criticism. But they have emerged from the controversies of the early centuries, surviving because found on the whole the fittest. “Person,” e.g., is confessedly a very imperfect summary expression of the facts it is connected with. But where we find a personal name, self-knowledge, and a will which can will and can do as it will,—the best word we have is “person,” though not in this particular case perfectly applicable all round.

6. Very many of our creed statements are only negations of assertions which overstate one aspect of the whole Truth, or which omit to take into account some group of Scripture sayings or facts. “You make three Gods?” No; for Scripture which reveals the Three, insists also upon the One. “One person, and that one He Whom in the flesh we know as Jesus Christ,” says the Swedenborgian form of the old Sabellianism, varying from its ancient model in making the Second, and not the First of the Three, that of which the others are aspects or relational presentations. No; for He says, “The Comforter, Whom the Father will send in My name,” as one person may speak of two others, not himself. The heart of the matter is there.

III. Why do we care to hold the doctrine?—“What does it matter?”

1. Generally, it may be said that Scripture never tells us anything as matter of mere correct doctrine, and of right information; but always so much, and in such a manner, as may be of practical service to our spiritual life.
2. The doctrine under notice is bound up most closely with (a) our distinctively Christian Worship, and (b) our Christian Experience. (a) The Mahometan and the Jew come in worship to our one God. The latter will not have our Mediator; the former accepts one who is (he thinks) a prophet come from God to reveal His will, but who is no priest to go in for him to God to make atonement for sin. The Scheme of Christian Worship is: “Through the Son we have our access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Isaiah and John both heard the threefold note in the heavenly worship (Isaiah 6:0; Revelation 4:0); earthly and heavenly worship agree in this. The old congregations were dismissed with a threefold blessing (Numbers 6:24-26); as our text has for ages been the best formula whose lingering sound may die away last of all that has been said, into silence and peace, when a Christian congregation breaks up, and departs to suffering, service, life. (b)

1. The most nearly external and relative initiation into the Christian life is stamped with the Name—three, and one (Matthew 28:19). And if the doctrine be not true, our Mediator is only a creature, perhaps only a man; our Sanctifier is only a figure of speech, the creation of our poetical faculty.

2. But, most of all, it is not upon a text here or there that the doctrine rests. The three names pervade, permeate, give form and colour to, whole passages of the Epistles. Look for them, and we find all the experimental work and language of the New Testament wrought with their golden thread running through all.
3. Nearly all the statements culled out, and urged against the doctrine, are explained by this fact: We are told next to nothing as to what, in the inner being of God and the manner of His existence, lies behind these three names, and the analogies which indicate or suggest the relations between them; everything is exhibited in connection with the working out of Redemption. With the slightest exceptions we only see the gracious work in process: “Let us make man anew in Our image.” “The Son says, ‘The Father is greater than I.’ ” So He is, in the same sense as a son, admitted by his father into a subsidiary partnership in his father’s work, must say it; because so far as he is acting under orders, to that extent he is only an employee of his father. As to manhood and manhood, father and son are equal. As between senior, managing partner, and junior, executant partner; the father is greater than the son. As to Godhead and Godhead, Father and Son are equals; as executant of “not His own will [independently, or possibly divergently] but the will of Him Who sent Him,” and as effectuating our Redemption, the Son yields precedence to the Father. And the Spirit reveals Himself more clearly in, and to, the soul He sanctifies, than He does in those Scriptures where His self-suppressing work is to exhibit and glorify Christ. We scarcely know anything of the Trinity except as active in the work of Human Redemption.

4. Our salvation, therefore, and our experimental life depend most intimately upon, and are most closely interwoven with, the specific offices of each “Person” of the Trinity. Our experimental life is full of the Trinity. Experiment shows that, as a rule, the doctrine has maintained, and been associated with, the fullest, freshest, most widely accepted hymnology, devotional literature, and religious life. For that reason, as well as for its truth, does the Church care to hold the doctrine.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-corinthians-13.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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