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The Apostle in closing his second Epistle, refers the Corinthians to the Testimony of the threefold Witness, in Confirmation of the Truths he had written to them, and ends with his Apostolical Blessing.
2 Corinthians 13:1
(1) This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
I take occasion from what Paul here saith of a two or threefold witness, in confirmation of general truths, to observe to the Reader; what a blessed testimony the Church of God hath everlastingly to rest upon in the Holy Three, which bear record in heaven, and which Three are One, 1 John 5:7 . All the Persons of the Godhead have set to their seal, of the truth as it is in Jesus. Three times from heaven, during our Lord's ministry upon earth, God the Father, by an audible voice, confirmed the glories of his Person, and the authority of his mission, Matthew 17:5; Matthew 17:5 ; John 12:28-30 . Jesus himself appeals both to his Father's testimony, and his own, in proof of the same thing: it is also written (saith Jesus) in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me, John 8:17-18 ; Deuteronomy 17:6 and Deuteronomy 19:15 . And God the Holy Ghost, by his descent at the day of Pentecost, according to Christ's most sure promise, as well as in the spirit of every child of God, beareth witness of Christ, Luke 24:49 ; Acts 2:1-4 ; Romans 8:15-16 . Reader what know you of this threefold witness to your soul's joy? Romans 15:13 .
(2) I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: (3) Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. (4) For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
I pause at this last verse, for it is a most interesting one, to consider for a moment how blessedly the Holy Ghost speaks of Christ's being crucified through weakness. Paul very likely meant it in allusion, to-himself; that as Christ, in the days of his flesh; appeared in all the poverty and humbleness with which his character was marked, and was, nevertheless, in the moment so appearing, just as much as ever God's dear Son; so Paul meant to tell the Corinthians, that his poverty and outward appearance ought not to have lessened him in their esteem, for he had fully proved the Holy Ghost's authority in their hearts, in sending him to them, to preach the Gospel. But I shall beg to call the Reader's attention to what Paul hath here said in relation to Christ's being crucified in weakness, to a much higher consideration, than in accommodating it to Paul's history.
It is in my view a beautiful portion of God the Spirit's gift to the Church, in teaching the Lord's people to behold immense blessings, held forth under slender appearances. Christ crucified through weakness is a comprehensive expression, alluding to the human nature of the Lord Jesus. In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren. The very nature he came to redeem, he must take into union with his Godhead. He must be made like unto sinful flesh. Like unto it. That is, sin only excepted, he must be the very same. Weak, and subject to all the frailties and infirmities his sinless nature could be the subject of, capable of sustaining sufferings and death. Hence, in that weakness he was crucified and died. But to demonstrate at the same time, that though Jesus endured those sufferings and death, for his body the Church, it was all voluntary, and as the Surety of his Church, for his divine power brake out through the vail of his body, in many acts which demonstrated his Godhead, both in the wonders of his cross, and his triumph over death in rising again. For, saith the Holy Ghost by Paul concerning him, he was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by his resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4 . Reader! are not these sweet views of Jesus? Is it not blessed, by the way, here; and there interspersed in the Apostle's writings, to find such blessed, testimonies, as God the Holy Ghost gives, of the precious union or God and man, in the Person of Christ?
(5) Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (6) But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. (7) Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. (8) For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. (9) For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. (10) Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. (11) Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (12) Greet one another with a holy kiss. (13) All the saints salute you.
I pass over everything of a private nature, which took place between Paul and the Church of Corinth, to attend wholly to such as concern the Church of God in all ages. What the Apostle saith of proving themselves and examining themselves, by way of ascertaining the reality of their Christian calling, is an employment suited to the Church of Christ, and to every member of Christ's body in every generation. The only caution to be observed in doing this, is, to form our conclusions by the Lord's standard, and not our own. Most are apt to err in their calculations for want of attending to this grand distinction. Our safety is in Christ, not in ourselves. And, hence I draw my conclusions of happiness in the Spirit's testimony from what I am to Christ, and Christ to me, and not from what I feel of those things. It may be at times, from various causes, my joys in those things are not at hand, but the things themselves are the same. Therefore, the unerring standard in proving ourselves is: God's manifestation of his love of his people in Christ, and not their sense of this love. There will be, there must be; a continual fluctuation between hope and fear, while men are looking to a somewhat within, instead of always looking off self unto Christ. It is his putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself, which is the sole cause of our salvation; our apprehension of Him, and his finished work by faith, is the effect. While believers prove themselves by this standard, they never fail to discover the state of grace in which they stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1 .
Reader! do not overlook with what sweet affection Paul closeth up the subject, however sharply he had found occasion to speak to the Corinthians, in a way of reproof: Finally, brethren, farewell! It is not the happiness of all faithful ministers, to be favored with an opportunity of a personal interview with their people, when taking an everlasting farewell upon earth of them; but, whether, in person, or by letter, nothing can be more suited than what Paul hath here said: Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you! What could Paul say, what ought he to have said beyond these precious things? Perfect (as he saith elsewhere) in Christ Jesus, Colossians 1:28 . All perfection is in Him. And his people have no perfection but in Him. All their acceptance, justification, sanctification; grace here, glory forever; all, and every portion is in Him, from Him, by Him. And, oh! what endless, uninterrupted comfort must arise in the soul, through the Spirit, from such views, and such a consciousness of perfection in Christ? One mind, one heart, one desire, one object, would mark the Church forever, when thus established. And very sure must be His presence among them; and in them, as the sun, in the centre of the world, diffusing life and light in every direction, where these blessings are found; because God, as the God of love and peace, who is Himself love, and the sole author and giver of love and peace to his people, cannot but be the fountain from whence the streams flow, and to whom they tend, and in whom they centre. The God of love and peace be with you!
(14) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
Here, like another Solomon, the Apostle comes to the conclusion of the whole matter, Ecclesiastes 12:13 . And, as Aaron, was commanded of God on this wise to bless the people; so Paul, Numbers 6:22 , to the end. Reader! take a leisurely survey of the wonderful expressions herein contained. In baptism, at the first introduction to the Church of Christ, no sooner brought from the Adam-nature of sin, and brought into the Portal of life in Christ, but we are baptized into the joint name of the Holy Three, agreeably to our Lord's appointment, Matthew 28:19-20 . And all along the pilgrimage way in Christ, the Church is blessed in the joint name, and refreshed, comforted, and strengthened in the joint blessing of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost! Oh! how blessed are the people thus blessed, who know the joyful sound, and walk in the light of the Lord s countenance!
I stay not in this place to enter into a particular and critical enquiry, concerning the difference (if any here intended) between the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God; and the communion of the Holy Ghost. I rather accept the sweet expressions, as altogether intended to convey to the Church everything that is blessed, and lovely, and loving. Neither do I desire to do more than merely to notice, at this time, the order in which these distinct blessings from the glorious Persons are spoken of. First, of God the Son; next, the Father; and next, God the Holy Ghost, See 1 Peter 1:2 . But I would beg to ask the Reader, or rather, I would beg of him to ask himself, whether by what is said of the communion of the Holy Ghost, is not implied conversation? The Reader should be told, that the word, which in this passage is rendered communion, is the same word, as in 1 John 1:3 , is rendered fellowship. And is not fellowship or communion, conversation, partnership, intimacy, familiarity? And if so, how sweetly doth this verse preach to the Church, of the Person, as well as the love, of God the Holy Ghost? And while preaching of his Person, how sweetly also doth it relate to us of his love, and his delight in holding communion with his people? So that, were I to say by letter, or by word of mouth, as Paul here wrote to the Church, of my prayer to God, that the Church might have the communion of the Holy Ghost; it is in effect, saying, I pray that God the Holy Ghost may sweetly and graciously converse with you, talk with you, commune with you, in all, his manifestations and love to the Church. Paul certainly had such views of the Holy Ghost; for, in his Epistle to the Philippians, he makes the fellowship of the Spirit, and the consolations of Christ, as one and the same, and arguments of the same weight, to enforce what he was going to say to them, Philippians 2:1 . And how doth Jesus, our Jesus, personally make sweet his consolations to us, but by his visits and conversation? And is not the Spirit's fellowship made known the same way? Revelation 3:20 . And are we not called upon to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, Revelation 3:22 . Oh! for grace to set our Amen to all the truths of our God, while our God so graciously sets His!
My soul! my Reader! let us both pause, and ponder well the sacred and sweet contents of this closing chapter of the Apostle. It opens with the assurances of two or three witnesses establishing every word. An, you and I, have the Three heavenly witnesses bearing record, that eternal life is in God's Son. And the chapter ends with the blessings of those heavenly witnesses, in their grace, and love, and communion with the Church while upon earth; thus confirming the whole in personal proof. Reader! what say you to such decided records, to the truth as it is in Jesus. Oh! for grace, seeing we are encompassed with such witnesses, to run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!
Farewell Paul! farewell for the present, while we thank thee, as the Lord's servant and minister, for those labors of love, with which, not only the Church at Corinth were blessed, but the Church of God, in all ages since, have been benefited, under the teaching of the Almighty Author of all scripture, God the Holy Ghost. Oh! for ministers of the Spirit, and not of the letter, and the faithful in every true Church of Jesus to be taught from those holy scriptures, by the continual unction of the Holy One, and to know all things? May it be the one language of the whole Church of God, in the common salutation of all saints: Brethren! the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16