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Theme: The execution and conclusion of Paul's apostleship
As an apostle, Paul had special authority and power from the Lord Jesus. When the apostles were not around, the only discipline there was, was that exercised by the church or by the saints jointly, and that seems to have been unsuccessful. There has to be discipline in God’s house, which is founded on well-established facts. So, when Paul came, he intended that every word should be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut.19:15; Mat.18:16; Heb.10:28). All would be sifted with fairness, so that if some reports were not based on fact, their falsehoods would be exposed, and that their weight would not fall upon the head of the accused but upon the head of the accusers.
Paul feared that some may have sinned by licentiousness (immorality); while others may have sinned by backbitings and whisperings of false accusations, because their hearts were filled with envy (2 Cor.12:20).
All would be made clear and judged, as we see in the opening verses of chapter 13. My friend, IF there were as much zeal today, in bringing discipline against the backbiters and whisperers as against immorality, it would better the spiritual health and well-being of the churches of God.
Paul’s authority as an apostle had been questioned, and the Corinthians had very foolishly and willingly listened to the questionings of these false ones who had sneaked into the congregation. The Corinthians were the last persons who should have done this, or should have had any doubts as to whether Christ had spoken through Paul. BUT, since they had entertained these doubts, an answer was needed, and Paul was able to give a very crushing one. He comes right to the point! Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Since they all were his converts, the fruit of his labor, they themselves were the proof . . . unless they were indeed reprobates, just worthless frauds. IF they were frauds or hypocrites, then certainly Christ did not speak through Paul; BUT . . . if they were true men of faith, He most certainly had.
Carrying out Paul's Apostleship (13:1-10)
2 Cor. 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (KJV)
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established . . . these words are nearly the same with those in 2 Cor.12:14. In the mouth of two or three witnesses . . . (Deut.19:15; Mat.18:16; Heb.10:28). This was what the law of Moses required. But in regard to its application here, commentators do not agree. Some think that Paul refers to his Letters which he had sent to them as the two or three witnesses by which his promise to them would be made certain; that he had purposed it and promised it two or three times; and that as this was all that was required by the law, it would certainly be established. Others think that Paul refers to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who would be witnesses to them of his purpose (1 Cor.16:17). No one should be condemned or punished where there were not at least two or three witnesses to prove the offence; but where there were, discipline would be administered, according to the nature of the crime.
2 Cor. 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: (KJV)
I told you before, and foretell you . . . that I would not spare offenders; that I would certainly punish them. He had said this before in the first Letter (1 Cor.4:21; 5:5). Paul was determined to punish every offender as he deserved.
As if I were present, the second time . . . his mention of the second time here proves that Paul had been with them just once before. He had formed the resolution to go to them again, but had been disappointed. The time when he had been with them is recorded in Acts 18:1. He now uses the same language to them which he says he would use if he were with them, as he had expected to be, 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 . . . (1 Cor.5:3). To them which heretofore have sinned . . . to ALL the offenders in the church. They had thought that he would not come to them (1 Cor.4:18), or that if he came he would not dare to inflict punishment (2 Cor.10:9-11). They had, therefore, given themselves greater liberty, and had continued their own evil course, regardless of Paul’s authority and commands. I will not spare . . . I will punish them. They shall not escape. 1 Cor. 4:21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (KJV)
2 Cor. 13:3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. (KJV)
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you . . . since they wanted proof of Christ speaking in Paul . . . the conversion of the Corinthians should have been solid proof that Christ spoke by the apostle Paul; and therefore he could, with great modesty, say that this power of Christ, was far from being weak, and was mighty among them. Paul had come to them in weakness, but the Word of God was mighty and it had transformed them in that sin-sick city. New birth, regeneration: (Jn.1:12-13; 3:3-8; Rom.6:4-8; 2 Cor.5:17; Tit.3:5; 1 Pet.1:3,23; 2:2; 1 Jn.2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,18)
2 Cor. 13:4 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. (KJV)
For though he was crucified through weakness . . . does it sound strange to hear about the weakness of God? What is this weakness? Jesus went to the cross and died. Jesus IS God! http://www.hisservants.org/is_jesus_god_h_s.htm When He went to the cross. THAT was the weakness of God. BUT . . .
Yet he liveth by the power of God . . . Jesus did suffer and bleed and die, and He was buried! But, He rose again by the awesome power of God! Jesus LIVES!!!
For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you . . . we is Paul and his co-workers, were weak in virtue of our connection with Him. We are subject to infirmities and trials; we seem to have no power; we are exposed to contempt; and we appear to our enemies to have no strength. Our enemies regard us as feeble; and they hate us. But we shall live with him . . . we shall show you that we are alive. By the help of the power of God we shall show that we are not as weak as our enemies pretend. We are endowed with power; and we are able to inflict the punishment which we threaten. This is one of the many instances in which Paul illustrated the case before him by a reference to the example and character of Christ. The idea is, Christ did not exert His power, and appeared to be weak, and was put to death. Paul says that he had not exerted his power, and seemed to be weak. But Paul says, Christ lives, and is clothed with strength; and so too we, although we seem to be weak, shall exert towards you, the power with which He has endowed us, in inflicting punishment on our foes. While I do not use the rod, I appear to you weak, but I will use it, and then you shall find me to be strong.
Paul now goes on to something that is extremely important. There is something that every Christian should check on regularly.
2 Cor. 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? (KJV)
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith . . . try yourselves, dig deep in your hearts, check yourselves throughout. Try yourselves by what I have written, and see whether you retain the TRUE faith of the Gospel. http://www.godcannotlie.org/saving_faith.htm
Prove your own selves . . . put yourselves to the test, as you would try gold or silver suspected of contamination. Stay away from false teaching that are supposed to take place of the Gospel, which is not so, nor can be. Stay away from false teachers and their damnable heresies: (Mat.15:9; Rom.16:18; 2 Cor.11:3; Eph.5:6; Col.2:4,8,18-22; 1 Tim.1:4; 4:1-3,6-7; 2 Tim.4:2-4; Tit.1:14; 3:9; Heb.13:9; 2 Pet.2:1,14; 1 Jn.2:26; 4:1-2; 2 Jn.1:7-11; Rev.22:18).
Know ye not your own selves . . . are you not full of wisdom and understanding? Is it not as easy to see a false faith as it is to detect a worthless coin?
How that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates . . . does Jesus Christ dwell in you? You have His Spirit (Rom.8:9), His power (Phil.4:13), His mind (1 Cor.2:16), if you are Christians; and the Spirit of Christ bears witness with your spirit that ye are the children of God (Rom.8:16). And this is the case except ye be reprobates. Reprobates = degenerates, rogues, rascals, scoundrels, miscreants, no-goods good-for-nothings, wrongdoers, troublemakers, sinners.
This symbol holds remarkably here. They had a Judaizing Christian among them; such was the false apostle. They had willingly received his mixed Jewish-Christian doctrine. Jer. 6:30 Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them. (KJV) . . . So, when the Corinthians would be brought to the test, they would be found reprobate. Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (KJV) . . . This is a big problem today. There are so may reprobates in today’s churches.
2 Cor. 13:6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. (KJV)
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates . . . you have had the fullest proof that I have preached the TRUE Gospel among you; and that God has confirmed it by His testimony; and thus that I am proved and manifested to be what I ought to be, and shown to be approved of God. Paul has made an inventory of himself, and he wants them to know that he is in the faith.
Escape Paul’s Severity by Reforming (2 Cor.13:7-14)
2 Cor. 13:7 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. (KJV)
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil . . . Paul did not want them to persist in an evil course which would force him to use the power of Christ, with which he was endued, to chastise them. Not that we should appear approved . . . Paul did not want to give this proof that they were approved by God, by inflicting punishment on the transgressors.
But that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates . . . Paul is saying that he just wants them to be the type of believers they should be, so that we will not have to display our authority when we come. Do the right thing before we come, even if that makes it look like we may seem to be failures.
2 Cor. 13:8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. (KJV)
Can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth . . . we who are under the influence of the Spirit of God, have been commissioned by Christ Jesus as apostles, can do nothing that shall be against the Truth of the Gospel which we have been appointed to spread and defend. Paul’s aim was to promote the Truth of the Gospel, and to do what was right. He could never do anything for a personal advantage, do what is wrong, or desire what is wrong in others. Paul wanted that which is only right to be done to others. This verse seems to qualify and confirm the sentiment in the previous verse, that Paul meant only to do right; that he wished that all others to do right; and that whatever might be the effect on his own reputation, or however he might be regarded, he could NOT go against the Gospel Truth which he preached. He certainly did not want that others should ever do wrong, even if it might in any way be for his advantage. It was a solid belief with him to act only in accordance with Truth; to do what was right.
Comment: This is another great truth we all should mark well. A TRUE believer must not do anything against the Truth of God! That is why I have deep heartfelt concern about people who disagree with, or blaspheme the Holy Word of God. They willingly go along with the devil (Jn.12:48; Rom.2:16; 1 Jn.3:10), butting heads with the Lord in disobedience. We should speak out the Word of God (Mat 28:19) in honor and pride! God does not ask us to defend His Word. He needs no help here! He asks us to declare it, be a witness to it, so that souls may be saved, and NOT condemned to an everlasting Hell. http://www.hisservants.org/hell_h_s.htm
2 Cor. 13:9 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. (KJV)
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection . . . even your perfection does not mean perfect as we usually think of perfection, but here it means maturity. Paul wanted them to be mature Christians. He wants them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus (2 Pet.3:18). Why don't you grow up? That is what Paul is saying to them. Grow up in Christ! . . . We also should pay heed to this!
2 Cor. 13:10 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. (KJV)
Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness . . . Paul says: I only threaten you now by this Letter, to put you on guard, and pray that you reform before I visit you that I do not then have to use sharpness, using my apostolical power to inflict chastisement; a power which God has given me. I would much rather be employed in your edification (helping you to grow in Christ) instead of admonishing you for disobedience.
2 Cor. 13:11 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. (KJV)
Finally, brethren . . . all that remains for me now to write is, to wish you all manner of happiness and joy, and so to take my leave.
Farewell . . . to go with happiness; go on successfully! This is the spirit of this good wish.
Be perfect . . . let unity and harmony be restored (verse 9).
Be of good comfort . . . comfort means to admonish, beg, entreat, and also to console. Receive admonition, that ye may receive comfort. If ye take my advice, ye shall have comfort; if ye do not, ye will have nothing but misery and woe.
Be of one mind . . . thinking the same; let there be no conflicts among you. Be of the same belief, and let disputes about that religion which should be the bond of peace forever subside.
Live in peace . . . cultivate peace; or, as it says elsewhere in Scripture, Follow peace, and pursue it (Heb.12:14). Cultivate (encourage, improve) a peaceable disposition, and do not say or do anything which has a tendency to irritate each other.
And the God of love and peace shall be with you . . . if you are full of contentions, dissensions, and discord, peace can have no place among you. And as to love, the fulfilling of the law that worketh no ill to its neighbor (Rom.13:10). Love CANNOT exist, where there are constant brawls, contentions and divisions. And IF there is NO peace or love to be found, there God is NOT there! (1 Jn.4:16). And if God is not there, you and the devil make up the whole congregation.
Again Paul says, grow up. Stop being baby Christians. This is something that should be said to many believers today. No matter who you are, where you are, or how you are, God wants to help you. He can help you through His Word by means of the ministering of the Holy Spirit.
What awesome verses these are. God is with us to comfort us. We are to grow and mature. We can do nothing against the truth, but everything FOR the truth. The peace of God passeth all understanding (Phil.4:7). It is this peace that God made through the Blood of Jesus on the Cross. We are to live in that peace today. We are to rejoice in our salvation. The God of love and peace shall be with you. You are NOT alone . . . God is with you today. Could it get any better than this? The God of love and peace . . . what an awesome Title for our God!
2 Cor. 13:12 Greet one another with an holy kiss. (KJV)
Greet one another with an holy kiss . . . greet each other with a deep Christian love. Let the spirit of friendship live among you, and encourage its continuance by every friendly act (Rom.16:16:16). We should greet each other in Christian love (the love of God).
2 Cor. 13:13 All the saints salute you. (KJV)
All the saints salute you . . . all the Christians of Macedonia or Philippi, from which he wrote this Letter. In the primitive Church a saint and a Christian were the same thing; for the Christian religion calls every man to be holy. Some churches today teach that man can make a saint. That is FALSE! Only God can make a saint! ALL God’s TRUE children are saints! . . . . . . . . . . . God’s TRUE children: http://www.godcannotlie.org/true_children_of_god.htm
2 Cor. 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. (KJV)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . grace is all the favor and goodness that comes from and through the Redeemer of the world; as the Lord, the Ruler and Governor of all things; as Jesus, the Saviour of all men by His passion and death; as Christ, the Distributer of all that divine unction which enlightens, comforts, harmonizes, and purifies the mind. May this most exalted, glorious, and all-sufficient Saviour, always be with you!
And the love of God . . . God, your heavenly Father, in that infinite love which induced him to create the world, and form man in His own image and in His own likeness (Gen.1:26), that he might be capable of knowing, loving and enjoying Him forever; and God in the fullest manifestations of that love which caused Him to give His only begotten Son (Jn.3:16), to the end that they who believe on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn.3:15-16). May this God of love, and this love of God, always be with you!
And the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all . . . may the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune God, comfort and refresh, make you all partakers with Himself!
Communion properly means fellowship and participation; having things in common; partaking with each other. This points out the astonishing privileges of TRUE believers. They have communion with God's Spirit; share in all His gifts and graces; walk in His light; through Him they have the fullest confidence that they are of God, that He is their Father and Friend, and has blotted out all their iniquities. This they know by the Spirit which He has given them (Rom.8:9-11).
When Paul says that the blessing of the Trinity should be with you all, I think that he includes us with the people in the church in Corinth. We all should rejoice in all that we have in Christ Jesus: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. We should bear witness not only to the world, but closer to home, to our own churches.
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