II Corinthians 13
Concluding Appeals and Exhortations (vs. 1-14)
1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses
shall every word be established.” The quotation is from Deuteronomy 19:15. It has
been explained as a reference to examinations which he intended to hold on his arrival
Jewish Law and a natural dictate of judicial policy. What he probably means to say, is,
“I will not chastise any without proper evidence. I will not trust to rumors or
surmises; I will test every case myself, so that justice shall be done.
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,
(Namely, to those who, though they may not have fallen into gross sin, still rejected
Paul’s authority, and said that he was afraid to come in person – “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.” The spirit of Christ, in spite of all their shortcomings, had not
deserted them (see I Corinthians 1:6-7; 2:4).
4 For though He was crucified through weakness” - literally, out of weakness; i.e.
as a result of that human weakness of our nature which He took upon Him, and which
rendered Him liable to agony and death (ch. 8:9; Philippians 2:7-8; I Peter 3:18;
Hebrews 2:10-18) – “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.” This thought
of participation alike in Christ’s humiliation and His glory, alike in His weakness and
His might, was very familiar to Paul - (ch. 4:10-12; Ephesians 1:19-20), Here,
however, the following words, “toward you,” i.e.” with reference to you,” show that
the life of which he is thinking is the vigorous reestablishment of his spiritual
authority in Christ over the
that it dignifies the sufferings of those who partake their Leader’s spirit in self-
denying endeavors for the promotion of the salvation of their fellow men.
Without so perfect a crucifixion there could not have been so triumphant a resurrection.
Christ was perfect alike when He was in weakness and when He was in power. Had
there been any less “weakness” in the death, there had been less “power” in the resurrection.
The humiliation was, in its order, as truly glorious as the exaltation. So
with us — if we are abased with Christ here we shall be glorified with Him hereafter.
We have the cross — must have the cross — if we would have the crown.
5 Examine yourselves” - “Examine yourselves.” Self-scrutiny is at once a duty the
most urgent and the most neglected. Hence the universal prevalence of self-ignorance.
Even men who know a very great deal of the world without are ignorant of the world
within, the world of worlds – The matter of first importance to us is, not whether our
neighbor’s scales are true, but whether ours are. Paul was not what the Corinthians
thought he ought to be, because they were not what they ought to have been! A blind
man is a poor judge of colors. An unclean man denouncing uncleanness is no very edifying
spectacle. If we warn men against getting into the mire, they will expect us to come
out of the mire ourselves. Men are generally disposed to take too favorable view of
themselves, and of their importance to the world. Illusion often becomes delusion.
Our examination of ourselves should be carried out under the eye of the omniscient and
all-searching God. The standard by which we judge ourselves should be the high and
infallible standard of God’s own Word. (We should compare self with what the
Bible teaches and not self with others. Just because “everybody is doing it” will
not make for safety in numbers. [Matthew 7:13] – CY – 2010) - He who tests
himself thoroughly may come to the conclusion that his life is all wrong from the very
foundation. If this is so, it is well that it should be known, that a new basis for the
moral life may be laid in the truth and righteousness of God Himself. The process may
yield results partly gratifying and partly regrettable. If so, while there will be reason for
gratitude and encouragement, there will be a call to repentance, reformation, and
improvement. For a man to know his faults and errors is the first step towards what is
better and nobler. (Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24) “whether ye be in the faith” - The
momentous point to be tested in self scrutiny. “Whether ye be in the faith? Not
whether you have faith in you, for all men are more or less credulous, and have
some kind of faith in them; but whether you are “in the faith.” The faith here is the
gospel, or rather the Christ of the gospel; whether you are in Christ, in the character
of Christ. Intellectually and morally, all men are living in the characters of others. The
grand thing is to be in the character of Christ, in His principles, sympathies, aims, etc –
Christ is our Model of the interior as well as the exterior, Christian life - “I do always
the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) He was the perfect, obedient Son, in His
trust, and love, and devotion, and obedience, and freeness of communion with the
Father, giving us the very model and illustration of the state of rightness, of grace
and favor, into which He brings us - “prove your own selves” – “test your own
sincerity” – There is one point upon which we should be most desirous of testing
ourselves. This is — whether we are “in the faith.” Men test themselves frequently,
but generally upon points of secondary importance, like golf scores, bank accounts,
looks, etc. This is the question of questions:
done against God? Do we hate it, loathe it, desire to be freed from it?
receive Him as our Redeemer, and believe that His blood cleanses us from
all sin? Have we come to God by Christ and obtained His forgiveness?
our faith is not accompanied by works, it is no faith — we are “reprobates”
still, and hypocritical reprobates into the bargain. If we are “in the faith,”
we shall be subject to God, striving daily to do His will, living and laboring
to please him and to extend his glory in the earth. We may still be very
imperfect, but, having been “born again,” (John 3:7) we shall walk in
“newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
“Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you” - The momentous
conclusion to be reached by self-scrutiny. “Know ye not [emphatic] your own selves,
how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” If you are in the faith,
you are in His character, and He is in your. life; nay, your life itself. Should you find you
are not in the faith, ye are “reprobates,” counterfeits, spurious, not genuine; tares, not
wheat; hypocrites. Here, then, is a work for every man to do — “examine” himself,
introspect scrutinize, decide, and thus know his real moral condition. To this truth —
that the body of every Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit of Christ — Paul returns
again and again (Galatians 2:20; 4:19; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). We find the
same truth frequently John (John 15:4-5; I John 3:24). “except ye be reprobates?”
The Greek word ajdo>kimoi, — adokimoi — from the same root as the verb “to test” –
means tried and found to be worthless – castaway, rejected, reprobate - “Reprobate
silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:30). The
word is found almost exclusively in Paul (vs. 5-7; Romans 1:28; I Corinthians 9:27;
II Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16). The only other passage of the New Testament where it occurs
is Hebrews 6:8.
If we cannot stand the test, know that we are reprobates – rejected, castaways!
(May God deliver us through Jesus Christ from such a diagnosis! - CY – 2010)
6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.” My power and
faithfulness will be tested as well as yours, and I hope that it will stand the test.
7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved” –
do>kimoi, dokimoi – approved, tried- “but that ye should do that which is honest,
though we be as reprobates.” This is one of the intense expressions which, like
Romans 9:3, spring from the earnest and passionate unselfishness of Paul. His anxiety
is for them, not at all for himself. As reprobates; i.e. in the judgment of men.
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” I am powerless
against anything which is true, real, sincere; I can exercise no power except in the
cause of the truth. THE TRUTH IS UNINJURABLE! Man may quench all
the gas lamps in the world, but he cannot dim one star. The great ethical
and doctrinal truths embodied in the life and teaching of Christ are imperishable,
“Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall NOT pass away” –
(Matthew 24:35). Men can destroy the forms of nature, level the mountains, dry up
the rivers, burn the forests, but can do nothing against the imperishable elements of nature,
and these elements will live, build up new mountains, open fresh rivers, and create new
forests. You can do nothing against the truth. The false, hypocritical
friends of the truth have never succeeded in exterminating it. Their efforts have often been
insidious, and have often corrupted and ensnared individuals and even societies
(as the media and entertainment seems to be attempting today). But the pure truth
of God has survived, whilst these attempts have again and again been foiled.
9 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish,
even your perfection.” – rather – “your perfect union” - kata>rtisin - katartisin –
perfection - “the readjustment of your disordered elements.” A similar word occurs
in Ephesians 4:10, and the verb here in v. 11; I Corinthians 1:10; I Thessalonians 3:10.
It is also used in the Gospels for “mending nets” (Mark 1:19). [a modern terminology
might be “a tune up” – “hitting on all cylinders” – CY – 2010] Goodness is unpunishable.
“For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also
we wish, even your perfection.” Our natural feebleness does not hinder the victory
of the cause which we embrace. The ignorant, the poor, the young, the feeble, have
done and are still doing great things for the gospel. As at first, so now, God chooses
“the weak things of the world to confound the mighty,” (I Corinthians 1:27)
The efficiency of the truth depends upon its Divine origin and source. “If God be
for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Wherever God’s truth is
proclaimed, there God’s Spirit works and God’s power is felt.
Goodness is unpunishable:
punish those who are “strong” in goodness. And in truth there is no
authority in the universe, even God Himself, to punish goodness. The
stronger a man is in goodness, the weaker the power to chastise him.
Hence Paul wishes to find them “strong” in goodness when he comes
amongst them. He wishes this because goodness is their “perfection,” or
restoration. The way to paralyze all penal forces is to promote the growth
10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use
sharpness” - The word rendered “sharpness” - apotomwv –- apotomos – abruptly;
curtly - is an adverb, like our “abruptly” or “precipitately.” The only other passage of
the New Testament where it occurs is Titus 1:13; but the substantive apotomai -
apotomia occurs in Romans 11:22 for “severity.” -“according to the power which
the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.”
lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the
Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.” Its destiny is
“edification,” not “destruction;” building up, not pulling down. Moral
goodness is the restorative power in the universe.
Whoever teaches Christianity as God’s truth cannot fail to teach much else besides.
These verses are maxims of infinite wisdom. What man in authority, what
statesman in the affairs of a nation, what father at the head of a family, what
office holder in the Church, if he would bear his faculties so meekly and be thus
“clear in his great office,” would not be a providence of instruction and helpfulness
in the world! Decay of reverence for law begins in decay of reverence for men who
administer the law. Unhappily enough, this decline in reverence for law is one of the
growing perils of the age. It is peculiar to no form of government. It is spreading
everywhere as an atmospheric evil, and threatening like an epidemic to travel roared
the globe. Witness TERRORISM! Jesus said “Except those days should be
shortened there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days
shall be shortened” – (Matthew 24:22) Power to build up, not to destroy; this is Paul’s
idea of power divinely bestowed. A part of Paul’s work was to save the community
11 Finally, brethren, farewell.” – Paul’s concluding words are marked by great
gentleness, as though to heal the effects of the sharp rebuke and irony to which he
has been compelled to have recourse. “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of
one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Paul has a desire for unity - “be of the same mind” - Disunited, they would be
miserable and weak; united, they would be happy and strong. When we are drawn
nearer to Christ we shall be drawn nearer to the brethren; if we quarrel with the
members we shall soon quarrel with the Head. The Church has to fight united foes;
union should not be the monopoly of the servants of the devil. (Note the
cohesiveness of the liberal left and the ACLU’s attack on fundamental Christianity!
It is the modern equivalent of Psalm 2:1-4 and Acts 4:25-28 – CY – 2010)
12 Greet one another with an holy kiss.” When the letter had been read in their
hearing, they were, in sign of perfect unity and mutual forgiveness, to give one
another the kiss of peace.
13 All the saints salute you.” Namely, those in Philippi and
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Ghost” - This is the only place where the full apostolic benediction occurs,
and is alone sufficient to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. Paul seems to feel that the
fullest benediction is needed at the close of the severest letter - “be with you all. Amen.”
The word “all” is here introduced with special tenderness and graciousness. Some have
sinned before; some have not repented; yet he has for them all one prayer
and one blessing and one “seal of holy apostolic love! THE INTEREST OF THE
TRIUNE GOD IS THE SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING OF ALL MANKIND!
LET US TAKE CHRIST AS OUR “ALL IN ALL”!
Post Script: These are the last recorded words addressed by Paul to the Corinthian
Church. The results produced by the letter and by his visit of three months (Acts 20:
probably satisfactory, for we hear no more of any troubles at
his lifetime, and the spirit in which he writes the letter to
the Romans from
seems to have been unwontedly calm. He had been kindly welcomed (Romans 15:23),
and the collection, about which he had been so anxious, seems to have fully equalled
his expectations, for as we know (Ibid. v. 16; Acts 20:4), he conveyed
in person with the delegates of the Churches. We gain a subsequent glimpse of the
was addressed to them by St. Clement of
be turbulent, disunited, and skeptical (see ‘Ep. ad Corinthians,’ 3., 4., 13., 14., 37.,);
but still there are some marked signs of improvement. About A.D. 135 they were
visited by Hegesippus (Eusebius, ‘Hist. Eccl.,’ 4:22), who spoke very favorably of
them, especially of their obedience and liberality. Their bishop, Dionysius, was at
that time exercising a widespread influence (Eusebius ‘Hist. Eccl.,’ 4:23).
Paul’s miraculous gift as the apostle of Christ, was for “edification, and not to
destruction.” At the cost of personal humiliation, he would be “glad” if the
Corinthians were “strong,” and he “weak.” How like his Master he was! “Thinkest
thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more
than twelve legions of angels?” said Jesus. (Matthew 26:53) Had He waved His
rescue; but He was to be crucified in “weakness” that the “power of God” might be
the more gloriously manifested in His resurrection. Power denied in one of its uses,
to be more signally displayed in another and higher use, was the lesson Paul had
learned of his dying Lord. “I am crucified with Christ,” (Galatians 2:20) said he
on a subsequent occasion; but he shares that crucifixion word in one of its most
painful forms by withholding the exertion of authority to punish his enemies till all
other means had been exhausted. He preached Christ “the Wisdom of God,” no less
than Christ “the Power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:24) Under circumstances of
extreme hazard, reputation and influence and future success trembling in the balance,
flesh and blood supplying clamorous reasons for a self-asserting course and the swift
riddance of a most vexatious trouble, he abides with heroic fortitude by Christian
principle in its demands for self-crucifixion, and makes everything yield to
magnanimity in his ardent desire for the “perfection” of the Church at
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