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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

2 Corinthians 13

Verse 4


2 Corinthians 13:4. 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.

AMONGST the evidences of our holy religion, there are many which are of a recondite nature; and which, as superadded to those which are more obvious, are of great importance. The passage before us affords a strong proof that the Apostle Paul was no impostor. Suppose that he knew himself to have been acting the part of a deceiver, he would be extremely careful not to offend and irritate those who might detect his treachery. But behold, when he had occasion to reprove the Corinthians for their unchristian practices, he declared, that, if they persisted in them, he would exert his apostolical authority, and inflict upon them, in the Saviour’s name, some heavy judgment. Now, if he had not known that such an authority was delegated to him, and that the Lord Jesus Christ himself would uphold him in the exercise of it, he would not have ventured to utter such a threat as this; because it would, of necessity, lead to an exposure of his own weakness, and to the overthrow of that religion which he was endeavouring to establish.
The power of Christ, which he here asserts, must be considered by us in a twofold view:


As possessed by himself—

In his crucifixion, he appeared weak—
[He did indeed exhibit somewhat of his almighty power, in beating to the ground with a mere word all the soldiers who came to apprehend him. And at the bar of Pilate he declared, that his judge could have no power at all against him, except it were given him from above. He could, if he had seen fit, have had twelve legions of angels sent to rescue him. But he had previously determined to submit to all the indignities which they should offer him. In the prophetic writings concerning him it had been foretold, that he should give his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; yea, that he should go as a lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep before its shearers, not so much as open his mouth in murmurings or complaints. Accordingly, he submitted to every thing with such meek resignation, that he appeared to his enemies to be incapable of delivering himself from their hands. With this, the people around him taunted him, saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God [Note: Matthew 27:40-43.].” Thus, in apparent weakness, he died.]

But he still liveth by the power of God—
[In vain were all the precautions taken by his enemies: the stone, the seal, the guard, were not able to detain him a prisoner in the grave. At the time he had foretold, he burst the bonds of death, by which it was impossible he should be holden, and rose triumphant; and in due season ascended to the right band of his Father, far above all principalities and powers, whether in heaven or in hell. There He possesses all power in heaven and in earth: there are all things committed to his hands: there is He, in a more especial manner, made Head over all things to his Church, to every individual of which he imparts whatsoever is needful for him — — — And there will he reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet — — —]
In connexion with this must we contemplate his power,


As delegated to his ministers—

The Apostles were invested with miraculous powers: which, when moved to it by him, they exercised, sometimes in a way of mercy, and sometimes also in a way of judgment. St. Paul had, by the authority committed to him, delivered to Satan, Hymeneus and Philetus, and the incestuous Corinthian: and, with a similar judgment, he threatened to visit other refractory persons at Corinth, if they should persist in their contemptuous and profane conduct. Those powers have long since ceased in the Church: but others are transmitted to God’s faithful ministers in all ages.
Ministers are weak, like their divine Master—
[Paul himself was, in all his sufferings, conformed to his blessed Lord; and, in enduring them, appeared weak as He. And ministers at this day are exposed to the same trials, which they are to bear in the same submissive manner. And so weak do they appear, that persons of every description, the poor as well as the rich, the young as well as the old, will venture to insult and injure them — — —]
But, through Him, they also are strong—
[Every word which they speak in their Master’s name, supposing it to be really in accordance with the written word, shall be ratified in heaven: “what they bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and what they loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” In them the Lord Jesus Christ will evince his own almighty power. He will manifest it in them persanally; enabling them to sustain all their trials with fortitude, and to perform all their duties with fidelity [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.] — — — And he will manifest it by them ministerially, accompanying their word with power from on high, and enabling them to raise to newness of life those who were “dead in trespasses and sins.” There was not a miracle wrought by our Lord in the days of his flesh, which, in a spiritual sense, he does not yet work by all his faithful ministers. Their cause, too, will he maintain against all their adversaries; and he will, ere long, make it visible to all, that those who have persecuted them, have persecuted Him; and that they who have “touched them, have touched the apple of his eye.”]

Let me, from this subject, exhort you,

To look to the Lord Jesus Christ for all you want—

[Look not unto man, as though he were able to supply your wants. “Paul himself may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God alone that can give the increase.” The Lord Jesus Christ is “exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour.” He is the Head of all vital influence. He has a fulness of all things committed to him for you: and “out of his fulness you may receive, at all times, grace,” answerable to the grace that there is in him — — —]


Never to be discouraged on account of your weakness—

[You are weak; but “your Redeemer is strong:” yes, “there is help laid for you upon One that is mighty.” Conceive of yourselves as reduced even to as helpless a state as Christ himself was, when dead upon the cross, and buried in the grave. Shall you despair? No: your weakness shall only be an occasion for the more glorious manifestation of God’s power in the season of your greatest need. Only be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; and in due season the whole power of the Godhead, which was displayed in Christ in raising him from the dead, shall be displayed in you [Note: Ephesians 1:19.]; and you, like him, shall, in God’s appointed time, be exalted to his throne, and be a partaker of his kingdom for ever and ever.]

Verse 5


2 Corinthians 13:5. 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?

IT is generally, perhaps always, found, that they who are most forward to censure others, have most need of personal reformation. So it certainly was with those who laboured to injure the character, and undermine the influence, of the Apostle Paul. Whilst they accused him as a weak, ignorant impostor, pretending to a heavenly commission which he had never received, they were in reality no other than ministers of Satan, scattering the flocks which they pretended to feed. Hence they constrained the Apostle to declare, that his forbearance towards them had a limit, and that their defiance of him, if further persisted in, would terminate ere long in their own confusion. To prevent so painful an issue, he entreated them to examine themselves as to their spirit and conduct; and to beware lest, after all their boastings, they should be disapproved of their God at last.
But it is not to persons only who are so circumstanced that the exhortation ought to be addressed: it is of universal importance; and highly proper for our consideration at all times.
Let us then consider,


The duty to which we are here called—

Self-examination is a duty incumbent upon all. — — — But, instead of entering generally into the subject, we will confine our attention to two things:


The point more especially suggested for our inquiry—

[The great question for every man to have settled in his mind and conscience is, whether he be in the faith, or whether he be yet in unbelief? To ascertain this point, we should ask ourselves, whether we have ever come to Christ as sinners, pleading for mercy solely through the blood of his cross, and “desiring to be found in him,” accepted altogether through his meritorious death and passion? Yet, not content with this, we should prosecute the inquiry further, and ask, whether we be daily living by faith in the Lord Jesus, and receiving every thing out of his fulness? Nor must we rest, even though we should receive a favourable testimony from our consciences in this matter: we must examine yet farther the fruits of our faith, and see whether it produce such a life as proves it to be “the faith of God’s elect?” If our self-examination proceed not thus far, it will leave us as much under the power of self-deceit, as if we took no pains at all to investigate our state. These are the points which are of vital interest to every true Christian; and by them must the truth of our profession, and the safety of our state, be determined.]


The manner of conducting that inquiry—

[The words, “prove your own selves,” are not a mere repetition: they are intended to mark more particularly the care and accuracy with which the investigation should be made. The Apostle refers to the trying of metals, in order to find what measure of alloy or dross may be in them. Not to mention the care exercised by the refiner, we all know what care is taken in reference to gold, even when there are but a few pieces of golden coin to be received. We subject it to the closest inspection; we mark its colour, its sound, and, if there be any doubt, its size and weight, that we may not be deceived by counterfeits under the appearance of standard coin. Shall we then take so much pains about things of little value, and neglect the soul which is of more value than ten thousand worlds? Should not rather our care increase in proportion to the loss which we may possibly sustain? This then is the manner in which we should inquire into the concerns of our souls, and more especially into that on which beyond all others the welfare of our souls depends.]
To impress the more deeply on our minds this duty, the Apostle suggests,


The importance of discharging it with all diligence—

We ought to know our own selves—
[Each other we cannot know; seeing that both the best and the worst of every man is hid from human observation, and can be appreciated only by Him who searcheth the heart. But with “ourselves” we may be, and ought to be, acquainted. God has given to us an understanding, that we may know the quality of our actions; a memory, that we may trace them to their proper source; and a conscience, that we may pass sentence on ourselves according to our true character. Ignorance of ourselves is the worst of all ignorance: we may be ignorant of every thing else, and yet come to God in Christ Jesus with acceptance: but if we are ignorant of ourselves, we must of necessity be unhumbled and impenitent, and consequently objects of God’s utter abhorrence. The very manner in which the Apostle asks the question, “Know ye not your own selves?” shews, that self-ignorance is a just ground for self-reproach.]

Whatever we may think of ourselves, “if Christ be not in us, we are reprobates”—
[The term “reprobates” conveys a much harsher idea than is contained in the original. The Apostle, having bidden us prove our own selves as metals are tried and proved, tells us that, if in the issue we be found without Christ, we shall be regarded by our God as base metal, or as dross: we shall be disapproved, and rejected [Note: Jeremiah 6:30.]. And this is the very truth of God. If “Christ dwell in our hearts by faith,” it is well: but if he be not in us, by his Spirit, by his influence, by his grace, we are mere counterfeits, and no better; we may pass current here, if I may so say, but we shall be detected and discarded in the great day of account — — — And is this a truth unknown to us? Has not God expressly said, that “Christ is our life,” and that, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his?” How comes it then that this sentiment is ever doubted for one moment? Beloved brethren, neither the truth itself, nor its bearing on your own state before God, ought to be unknown to any of you. You ought to have the experience of it in your souls, and the evidence of it in your lives: nor should you ever cease to examine and prove yourselves till you are assured, on truly scriptural grounds, that “Christ has indeed been formed in you [Note: Galatians 4:19.],” and that you are so “joined to him as to be one spirit with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.].”]

Permit me, in conclusion, to urge upon you this duty, from two important considerations: Consider,

The danger of self-deception—

[The great mass of mankind deceive their own souls: the generality perform not this duty at all: and, of those who do, few carry it to a due extent. It is not sufficient to inquire into our external conduct: we must inquire into the life of faith upon the Son of God, and see how far that is realized in us. That, if we be tolerably right in external matters, we are apt to take for granted: but we must make that, above all, the subject of our diligent inquiry; because, if Christ be not in us, there is nothing in us that can ever be approved of by our God — — — O what a fearful thing will it be to be found dross at the last! — — — Remember, “Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:18.].”]


The comfort of a self-approving conscience—

St. Paul felt this in a very high degree [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.]; and we also may enjoy it, if it be not our own fault. Some deride the idea of marks and evidences, and maintain that the Christian has no need of paying any attention to them. But, how we are to “examine and prove ourselves” without them, is beyond their power to inform us, and of mine to conceive. We must bring ourselves to the test of God’s word: and if, from a diligent comparison of ourselves with the commands of God and the examples of his holy Apostles, we find that our experience is such as is required of us in the Gospel, then may we rejoice both in the retrospect of our past lives, and in the prospect of the future judgment: “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things: but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:20-21.].”]

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. Amen.

THE priests, under the law, were appointed to bless the people [Note: Numbers 6:22-27.]. The ministers of the Gospel also may consider this as a part of their office. All St. Paul’s epistles begin or end with an authoritative benediction: that before us is more full and comprehensive than any other.

We shall endeavour to point out,


Its meaning—

Various are the senses in which these words have been understood. We shall content ourselves with stating what we apprehend to be the best.
The “grace of Christ” is that grace which he communicates [Note: If we understand it as relating to his special favour, it will anticipate the meaning of the next clause.]—

[There is a fulness of grace treasured up in Christ [Note: Colossians 1:19.]: out of that all his people are to receive [Note: John 1:16.]; and all who depend upon it, shall find it sufficient for them [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9. 2 Timothy 2:1.].]

The “love of God” is a sense of reconciliation and acceptance with him [Note: It cannot import our love to him, because it is something which we are to receive from him.]—

[For this we are prepared by the grace of Christ; and by it we are brought to regard God as our Father and our Friend.]
The “communion of the Holy Ghost” imports the abiding influence of the Spirit—
[There are sublime communications of the Spirit, which the people of God receive. These are represented as a Spirit of adoption [Note: Romans 8:15.], a witness [Note: Romans 8:16.], a seal [Note: Ephesians 1:13.], an earnest of their eternal inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:14.]. By these they are enabled confidently to depend on God, and to delight themselves habitually in him; and by these they maintain continual fellowship with the Father and the Son [Note: 1 John 1:3.].]

That all of these might be enjoyed by the Christians at Corinth, was the earnest wish and prayer of the Apostle—
[They were not gifts peculiar to a few of the most exalted saints: they were the common privilege of “all” who truly believed; and are to be experienced now, as well as in former ages. We should therefore in the word, “Amen,” express our own fervent desire to partake of them.]
Having ascertained the meaning of this benediction, let us notice,


Its importance—

This will be manifest to all, if only we inquire,


What should we be without “the grace of Christ?”

[Beyond a doubt we should be “dead in trespasses and sins.” There is no other source of grace, but the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: John 6:68.]: there is no substitute for grace that can have equal efficacy [Note: Not reason, or education, or human strength.]: there is no life without grace to any soul of man [Note: Ephesians 2:5.].]


What should we be without “the love of God?”

[There is no medium between a state of friendship with God, or of enmity against him. If we be not objects of his love and favour, we must be of his just and heavy displeasure.]


What should we be without the “communion of the Holy Ghost?”

[There is no access to God but by the Holy Ghost [Note: Ephesians 2:18.]. If we be not brought to God by the Spirit, we must be afar off from him [Note: Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:17.]; and if we are without God, we are absolutely without hope [Note: Ephesians 2:12.]. Such a state is a prelude to that which will exist for ever [Note: Luke 16:23; Luke 16:26.].]

Can any thing more strongly mark the importance of this benediction than such considerations? But let us proceed to notice,


Its excellence—

In the text is comprehended all that is great and glorious—


It unfolds to us the deepest mysteries—

[All the persons in the ever-blessed Trinity sustain distinct offices in the work of redemption. The Christian has, as it were, distinct communion with each of these divine persons. From each he receives that which his state requires; and from their combined influence arises his full salvation. How unsearchable are the heights and depths of this stupendous mystery!]


It opens to us the most glorious privileges and blessings—

[What on earth can be compared with these blessings? Contemplate “the grace of Christ,” by which the dead are quickened, the vile are sanctified, the weak are made victorious. As for “the love of God,” say, ye glorified saints, what that means; or, ye damned spirits, who know it only by your hopeless bereavement. And who can declare what “the communion of the Holy Ghost” is, when the taste of it creates a very heaven upon earth? Would to God, that the words so often, and so carelessly repeated by us, were more deeply considered, and more richly experienced!]

Learn then from hence,

The proper object of a Christian’s ambition—

[Earthly honours and carnal pleasures are unworthy of his pursuit; he should be satisfied with nothing but the full attainment of these blessings.]


The benefit of fervent prayer—

[We may ask the smallest things of man, and be disappointed of our hope: we may ask all that the blessed Trinity can give us, without fear of disappointment [Note: Psalms 81:10.].]


The misery of those who are careless about religion—

[These blessings will not be bestowed unless we seek them; and, if we possess them not, we are poor indeed: if we die before we have attained them, it were better for us that we had never been born.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.