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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 13

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Verses 1-6

Examine Yourself

2 Corinthians 13:1. As Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 13:14 of the previous chapter, he was ready for the third time to visit them. It is evident that he held the Corinthian believers very close to his heart. His attachment to them was genuine and deep. He was not indifferent to his children’s development in their faith. He had heard enough of their substandard faith life. There was much that needed correction. But he could deal with them only on the basis of clear facts and evidences. Certain things came to his ears but he could not pronounce judgment based on superficial evidences. Facts must be brought to the discussion table and analyzed.

The witness statements are of great importance in each case of sin that happens in the church. God has set in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 19:15) that in the case of iniquity and sin conviction should be established only if there are two or three witnesses. There might be one trustworthy witness, but still there must be a second or even a third witness to establish the fact without leaving any room for ambiguity. If only the church had acted cautiously according to this prescription the amount of divisions wouldn’t have been that manifold as unfortunately is seen today. Paul, a man of great discernment who was well aware of all that happened in Corinth, wanted to stick to this biblical principle.

2 Corinthians 13:2. He does not want to spare those who sinned before. Once again he gives this warning. He did not want to come with a rod. What he wanted was a pleasant visit in which they would together rejoice over the great things the Lord had worked in their life. They would prepare themselves for this event if they listened to what he wrote in this letter. This letter played a preparatory role for his coming.

2 Corinthians 13:3-Deuteronomy :. In 2 Corinthians 13:3 he refutes the latest charge the false prophets pushed into his shoes. According to them Paul was a ‘nobody’, an insignificant person and therefore it was impossible that Christ could speak through him.

2 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 13:4 must be read as a parenthesis to see how Paul refutes this accusation. 2 Corinthians 13:3 continues in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Did they seek a proof of Christ speaking in him (2 Corinthians 13:3)? Well, then they must look at themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Could they say they were in the faith? Yes, they could. Then they have to admit the fact that Christ spoke through Paul because they came to the faith through Paul’s preaching.

Paul asks that they better check how they were saved. Were they saved because something they did themselves or because Christ had done something for them? Also here they must acknowledge that it was only because of Christ, and that Christ was preached to them by none other than Paul.

2 Corinthians 13:5 does not challenge you to check the proofs of your salvation. The intention is not to bring you to doubt the certainty of your salvation by examining your heart and life to make sure that you have brought forth enough fruit. Such a test is not mentioned here, but just the opposite. This verse confirms the assurance of your salvation. What is essential is that we are aware of the foundation of our faith. Is it founded on something in you or from you? Or is it founded on something that happened outside of you regardless of you or yours? The latter is the case.

The work of Christ was fully accomplished outside of you regardless of your feeling or experience. God expects that you simply accept it by faith. That afterwards the works of faith must be visible is also true and that is spoken of elsewhere in the Bible, as in the letter of James, but this is not the subject here. Beware of the ones who teach that you cannot know for sure if “you are in the faith”. ‘To be in the faith’ means that you are a believer. “Examine yourselves” means consider how it happened and not what is seen in your life. The one who says that Christ is not in him stands outside of salvation, and he is not a believer and therefore he has no part in the life of God.

In all it is seen that Christ spoke in and through Paul. Paul accepts that it is possible that he did not create any sensation in his ministry. In the parenthesis of the 2 Corinthians 13:3-Numbers : he explains the reason why he did so. First they had to know that Christ has not been weak toward them. What power went out of Him when they came in contact with Him! He turned their whole rotten life inside out. Their evil and dark heart came to the light. They came to know themselves and were converted in repentance to God and accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior. What a power!

But how did He make this possible? It was because He was crucified in weakness. Is there anything weaker than a crucified man? Can such a person ever do anything? Yet they placed their faith in Him, and rightly so. The power of God was needed to make Him alive, although He also rose in His own power – as the Lord Jesus is the Son of God at the same time (Romans 1:4). But here it is all about what people, including the Corinthians, saw in Him when He hung on the cross. Paul was pleased to be made one with such a weak Christ. That is the reason why his preaching was not with enticing words, and therefore he was weak in his outward appearance. He was weak in Christ.

But Paul also knew that one day he will live with Him indeed by the same power which had already worked out the new life in the Corinthians. Is it not something wonderful to see that he uses everything to win the hearts of the Corinthians and at the same time he keeps himself completely identified with Christ? He doesn’t say that he himself will live for Christ through the power of God, although it is true, but he applies the power of God to what happened to the Corinthians in their conversion.

2 Corinthians 13:6. There is nothing left for him except to express the hope that his explanation shows them that he is not disqualified. He just wanted to preach Christ and nothing else.

You have a good example in Paul that shows the way to deal with people who push false accusation into your shoes. You cannot do anything better than what he did to win the hearts of your opponents. Show Christ and show that you want to be one with Him in your preaching and in your whole life. If those who bring false charges against you are believers, then show them the privileges they have in Christ. That will shame them. It is not easy but that is the Lord’s way of victory.

Now read 2 Corinthians 13:1-6 again.

Reflection: What is meant by ‘prove yourselves’? Why is it said?

Verses 7-14

Prayers and Closing Words

2 Corinthians 13:7. Paul seeks the good of the Corinthians. First he says that he wants to prevent them from doing evil. All the evil a child of God commits casts a blemish on God and on Christ. You are surrounded by evil; you can be easily infected by it, and before you know you go with it. Our prayer should be that God protects us from evil. Also that should be our prayer for one another as Paul does here for the Corinthians.

The motive is not self-glorification though sometimes it happens in our life. For instance I may want to keep my children from doing wrong things to show what a good father I am. If that is my motive then nothing worthwhile comes out of it. My motive must be the welfare of my children. This should be in my heart. You can perhaps make a list of persons for whom you can pray that God will protect them from doing evil.

However preservation from evil alone is not enough. The one who does not do evil must begin to do good. Otherwise the greatest danger is that the void is filled with new and more evil. We see a connection between the good and the evil in Romans 12: “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Paul was so much for their good that he wanted to give himself up completely for that.

2 Corinthians 13:8. The only thing that interested him was the truth. It was impossible for him to conceal the truth or invalidate it. He certainly did not act against the truth nor withheld it from the Corinthians. What he wanted was just to bring the truth. He knew the truth of the word of the Lord Jesus: “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The truth of the Word of God breaks apart every fetter which shackles people, even believers. People can be trapped in an immoral life or caught in certain legalistic or philosophical systems. But the truth sets them free. By presenting the truth we can help produce the desired result in the lives of people.

2 Corinthians 13:9. Truth does not bother how strong a man or a woman who brings the truth is. Paul rejoiced in the fact that while he remained weak the truth made the Corinthians strong.

The second prayer he had in his heart for them was that they should be made complete or perfect. That is exactly the work of the truth. Whoever is busy with the Word of God will grow spiritually into maturity. ‘Maturity’ is one of the meanings of ‘completion’ or ‘perfection’. Paul’s desire to see them complete also refers to their completely being joined together. This is what is needed in view of the divisions in Corinth. That is why he writes to them. Now they have a letter in their hands in which instructions have been given to bring things into order in view of his coming.

Here one can draw a parallel with our situation. We also have a letter, the complete Bible, which contains instructions as to how we should live and bring to order the things which are not right. The Lord Jesus is coming back soon. How will He find us?

2 Corinthians 13:10. Paul did not want to deal with them harshly. He had the authority, but he did not prefer that method. He wanted to use his authority in a positive way to edify them and build them up instead of destroying the wrong things. He was like a father in a family. A father has the authority and the right to punish his children. He must do it if necessary. But if his day is filled with beating his children, then imagine how the home atmosphere will be. Every father would like to use his authority to contribute good things to his children and help them learn the right way of life for the glory of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 13:11. Now in his farewell address Paul is speaking some encouraging words which will help them to go the right way and in the right direction towards the ultimate goal of the Christian life journey:
1. The first is: “Rejoice.” You might ask how he could say this after writing so much about what was wrong in their midst. May be that is just the reason why he says it. His aim was not that they should lose heart. There were so many things about which they could rejoice and the same applies to you also.
2. Again follows the admonition to “be made complete” or “perfect” or be joined together. We need each other very much and should not fall apart in groups.
3. “Be comforted” sounds like an encouragement in the midst of so many things that can make us sad and depressed.
4. “Be like-minded” means to have the same desire together and to have the same zeal to reach the goal. Everyone should work for the interests of the Lord and not for his own interests.
5. The list ends with the admonition to “live in peace”. Where there is peace there is harmony. Peace is an atmosphere in which people feel well.

Therefore God is called the “God of love and peace”. Love is mentioned first, because God is love. Love is the source of all that is good. This God will be with us when we take these words of encouragement to heart and work towards its practical application. Can you imagine anything better than to have this God “with you” as your Companion?

2 Corinthians 13:12. When the believers in Corinth gathered together for a special meeting or for a birthday celebration (if they were celebrating such a day) they should greet one another with a holy kiss. It is not so much the form of greeting, like the kiss, that is the most important thing. In western culture believers shake hands. In the east people greet with folded hands. The point is that there is a sincere greeting, not an artificial or feigned one. It must be done in a sacred manner. Behind the kiss or the shaking or folding of hands should hide no unholy thoughts against a brother or a sister.

2 Corinthians 13:13. Paul also sends greetings on behalf of those who were with him. It was not the believers in Corinth alone who are related to one another. There are other believers in other places and Paul makes them feel the warmth of their fellowship also, despite the many wrong things among them.

2 Corinthians 13:14. The words of blessings with which he concludes this letter is unique among his letters. Nowhere do we see such an impressive farewell address. In it Paul brings the triune God to the Corinthians.
1. First “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is mentioned. Grace is necessary where we have screwed up. Wherever this awareness is present, the Lord Jesus Christ (you see His full name mentioned here) comes and gives in His grace what is needed. His grace is mentioned here for the second time. In chapter 8 we have come across the grace for lost sinners (2 Corinthians 8:9). The grace mentioned here is the means to restore a failing church.
2. Then he mentions “the love of God”. Love always seeks the good of others. God in His love gave His only begotten Son for lost sinners. The love of God is effective in bringing a deviant church back on the right path.
3. Finally “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is mentioned. Believers can relate to each other in the right way only when everyone allows the Holy Spirit to guide his life. To experience this communion, sin shall not find its way in the lives of believers, let alone be present. The Holy Spirit cannot have communion with sin.

We will receive a great blessing when we in the local church take the content of this letter to heart. God grant that we commit ourselves to that. This will be to His honor and glory and to our joy and peace.

Now read 2 Corinthians 13:7-14 again.

Reflection: What can you do to realize the encouragements of Paul.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Corinthians 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-corinthians-13.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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