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

at Corinth.  Here is a rule quoted and endorsed by Christ (Matthew 18:16), an axiom of the

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 Church of Corinth.  It is the moral glory of Christianity

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:


  • Do we truly repent of sin? Do we grieve over evil as that which has been

            done against God? Do we hate it, loathe it, desire to be freed from it?


  • Have we a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we gratefully

            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?


  • Is the vitality of our faith demonstrated by the fruits of holy living? If

            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, dokimoiapproved, 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:


  • Because it is goodness. The best of men are too “weak” in authority to

            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

            of goodness.


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.”


  • Moral goodness is restorative. “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.” 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

of Corinth from degradation and destruction.  This is our job in our culture in the

USA today – to be “the salt of the earth” – (Matthew 5:13)



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 Macedonia.


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





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:

2-3) were probably satisfactory, for we hear no more of any troubles at Corinth during

his lifetime, and the spirit in which he writes the letter to the Romans from Corinth

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 it to Jerusalem

in person with the delegates of the Churches. We gain a subsequent glimpse of the

Corinthian Church, when some thirty-five years later, a letter, which is still extant,

was addressed to them by St. Clement of Rome, they were still somewhat inclined to

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

hand, Jerusalem would have been darkened by the wings of gathering angels for 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 Corinth.





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