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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 13

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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The tone of these concluding chapters is so very different from that of all that precedes them, that though it is impossible to doubt that both came from the same pen (only two or three of the wildest critics have ever alleged the contrary), yet probably some interval took place between the time when the preceding portion was written and that of these three chapters. Perhaps also disquieting news may have come from Corinth of the growing influence of the hostile party, rendering it necessary, as he was so soon to return to it (2 Corinthians 12:14, and 2 Corinthians 13:1), that he should assume the peremptory tone which we find here; for with the loss of his apostolic influence at Corinth, the very truth of that Gospel which he had brought them, and which had made that Church all that it was, would have been fatally affected there.

Verse 1

2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you. It is surprising that in face of so explicit a statement, repeated at 2 Corinthians 13:2, and of the one at 2 Corinthians 12:14, Paley (Hor. Paul. iv. 11) and other excellent critics should maintain that the apostle paid only two visits to Corinth, It is true that we have no record of an intermediate visit between the first and the third, but that is no reason for distorting the natural sense of the apostle’s own statement that he did pay two visits before this one.

At the mouth (on the testimony) of two witnesses or three shall every word be established. A judicial investigation of every charge, in such cases as referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21, was to be held under his superintendence. The Jewish law in judicial cases was very strict, requiring at least two witnesses for the condemnation of any one (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15). Our Lord directed the same rule to be observed in the exercise of church discipline; and here the apostle intimates his resolution to proceed on this principle at Corinth.

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 13:2. I have said beforehand (at my former visit), and I do say beforehand, as when I was present the second time, so now being absent, that if I come again, I will not spare. ‘The time for leniency towards convicted offenders is past.’

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 13:3. Seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me ‘since there are those among you who question my apostolic authority, and demand proof of it, they shall have it,’

who to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you ‘Ye are yourselves witnesses of what the Christ that is in me can effect. Was He “weak” in the marvellous transformation of so many of you? Was He not “mighty in you” then?’

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 13:4. for [1] he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth through the power of God. There was a great principle involved in the death of Christ, over and above its more immediate object. All that preceded and led to His death was a manifestation of voluntary weakness, culminating in His final ‘exinanition.’ He “emptied Himself becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). That “emptied” condition was a necessary step to His state of fulness the “weakness” to the “power” by and in which He rose. And this twofold condition, says the apostle here, is reproduced and realized in us, for we are also weak in him, but we shall live with him through the power of God toward you ‘and ye shall know this when I come.’

[1] The word “though” is not genuine here, and diminishes the force of the statement that follows.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 13:5. Try your own selves: ‘Ye talk of trying me, but ye do well to try your own selves,’ whether ye be in the faith or are Christians in name only; prove your own selves. What? [1] know ye not your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you? dwelling in you to very different results than I hear to be snowing themselves, unless, indeed, ye be reprobate. The word means ‘disapproved’ on trial, ‘rejected,’ and so, Christians only in name, of whom Christ will say, “I never knew you,”

[1] ῆ as in 1 Corinthians 14:36.

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 13:6. But I hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate that whether in making known the Gospel or in the exercise of faithful discipline we, at least, are straightforward and true to our Master.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 13:7. Now we pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do that which is honourable, though we be as reprobate: ‘My prayer is, that when I come I may find no occasion for the exercise of discipline at all, but may find you walking consistently and honourably as befits those who are called by the name of Christ; and this not to justify our Procedure towards you, but for the credit of that holy Name, whatever may be thought of us’ (comp. Romans 9:3).

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 13:8. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth: ‘For our one object is to promote and establish the truth; and that end attained, if with the exercise of discipline, all the better; for not to display our apostolic authority do we live, but to see the truth triumphant everywhere.’

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 13:9. For we rejoice when we are weak, and ye are strong when-in consequence of your strength in grace and well-doing as a church we have no occasion to put forth our strength among you, but in all our own weakness look on, “joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5), this also we pray for, even your perfection. See 2 Corinthians 13:11.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 13:10. For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not when present deal sharply, according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for casting down. He will not close without reaffirming his divinely-bestowed apostolic authority; but is careful to point out its beneficent end: ‘It was given me to build up, not to pull down; the less of it, therefore, that is needed, the better pleased shall I be; in fact, my whole object in writing in absence so severely as I have done, has been to make such severity unnecessary when I come amongst you.’

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 13:11. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect (‘perfected’). The word ‘adjusted’ (as a net put in order for casting), ‘thoroughly furnished,’ be of good comfort (‘comforted’); be of one mind, the want of which was the first thing he complained of in his First Epistle (2 Corinthians 1:10); live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you, compare Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 13:12. Salute one another with a holy kiss. Such a form of salutation is the common Eastern practice, but the word holy is designed to mark its Christian meaning, as the expression of that holy unity which their common oneness with Christ imparted. It long continued in the Eastern Church, and up to a pretty late period even in the Western, but gradually and properly died away as manners changed, and the significance of it ceased. 2 Corinthians 13:13. All the saints salute you.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 13:14. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. [1]

[1] The amen is not genuine here.

Remarkable it is that an Epistle written under a tempest of conflicting emotions, breathing in some places indignation, reproach, and sadness, at being driven to self-vindication against worthless detractors who should never have been listened to that precisely this Epistle is the one that closes with the richest and most comprehensive of all the benedictions in the New Testament, the one which the Christian Church in every land and of every age has found, and will find as long as the world lasts, the most available for public use, as a close to its worship. Nor does it except any one class in that Church, but embraces all alike in one common benediction. For, with all his complaints, he regards them as right-hearted but unwary, imposed upon, like the Galatian churches, by unprincipled zealots for a Judaized Christianity, destructive of the whole grace of the Gospel.

Observe the characteristic features in the agency of each of the Persons in the Godhead as here assigned them. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” stands first, because it is by it (as Bengel says) that “the love of God” reaches us. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth;” “and of His grace have we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:14; John 1:16). “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In two of his Epistles our apostle deems it enough to invoke “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” on those he wrote, as summing up all he could wish for them (Galatians 6:18; Philemon 1:25); for had not his Lord said to himself, “My grace is sufficient for thee?” (2 Corinthians 12:8) and the love of God that deep and exhaustless Fountain whence flows all “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” etc. (John 3:16). See also Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10, and the communion of the Holy Ghost not communion with the Spirit, but that “communion with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3), as also with all that are His (Philippians 2:1), which through His special agency is alone produced and maintained. From this subjective character of the Spirit’s agency in the economy of grace, it probably arises that the objective departments in that economy, which are assigned by Divine arrangement to the Father and the Son, have almost exclusive prominence in the statements of the New Testament; although nothing can be more clear than that, according to New Testament teaching, the same Personality and Divinity which are the properties of the Father and the Son belong also to the Holy Spirit; that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ here invoked is conveyed into the souls of men, and works out in them the fruits of righteousness, only through the operation of the Holy Spirit; and that all the blessed interchanges of aspiration and love and consecration on our part, with all the fulness of love and grace in return on the part of the Father and the Son, are carried on exclusively through His special Agency. This is that “communion of the Holy Ghost” which is here invoked. And this is that which alone explains those wonderful words of our Lord Himself, in His great Intercessory Prayer, that “they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). In view of this, the Fathers driven, by assaults in every form on the doctrine of the Trinity, to meditate deeply on all the aspects of the subject which the New Testament presents held that “the communion of the Holy Ghost” in the work of redemption is but a reflection and reproduction of the same communion in the Godhead itself; in other words, that all the interchanges of ineffable love between the Father and the Son are carried on by the active Agency of the Holy Ghost that He is the life, in short, of the Divine Life. It may be so; and the thought is certainly beautiful, and at least innocent. But the line between the “secret things which belong unto the Lord our God,” and the “things which are revealed” which “belong unto us and to our children,” is easily crossed and never with safety. On such a subject, therefore, speculation should be very reverent and cautious.

One word more. As Christ’s own parting command ere He ascended up where He was before, was that His disciples should be baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost comprehending all that the Father sent the Son to bring down and the Spirit to convey into the souls of fallen men so the benediction which closes this Epistle invokes all this upon all the saints that are in Christ Jesus; and the writer humbly echoes it.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/2-corinthians-13.html. 1879-90.
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