This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you — Or, as some understand it, am preparing to come: see on 2 Corinthians 12:14. For in the Acts of the Apostles no mention is made of his being at Corinth more than once before this second epistle was written. It must be observed, however, that that history by no means contains all the apostle’s transactions: and it is not improbable that, as Macknight supposes, during the eighteen months which passed from St. Paul’s first coming to Corinth, to the insurrection in the proconsulship of Gallio, the apostle left Corinth for a while, and travelled through Laconia, Arcadia, and the other countries of the province of Achaia, where he converted many, (2 Corinthians 1:1,) having preached the gospel to them gratis, as at Corinth, (2 Corinthians 11:10,) and founded several churches, referred to 2 Corinthians 9:2, and called Achaia, that is, churches of Achaia. If therefore the apostle made the excursion here supposed, and spent some months in it, his return to Corinth would be his second visit; consequently, the coming spoken of in this verse was his coming the third time to them. In the mouth of two or three witnesses — Agreeing in the attestation of any thing; shall every word be established — I will hold that to be true which shall be so proved.
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:2 Corinthians 13:2-4. I told you before — As you will remember; and foretel you now, as if I were present — That is, I declare what you ought to regard as much as if I spake it personally to you; and being absent — In body, not in spirit; now I write to them who heretofore have sinned — In any scandalous and aggravated manner, namely, before ye received my letter; and to all others — Who have sinned since, and have not repented; that if I come again I will not spare — As I have hitherto done, but am determined, by the divine permission, to animadvert with severity upon notorious offenders, by the exertion of that miraculous power with which God hath endowed me. Since ye seek, &c. — This verse appears to be connected with the preceding, and in that case the sense is, I will not spare, since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in, or by me. As if he had said, This course I am obliged to take, because you will not believe that Christ gives me authority for what I say and do, without some manifest proof of it; which to you-ward is not weak, &c. — But has manifested his mighty power in and among you by my ministry, in your conversion, gifts, &c., and will do it further by enabling me to punish you. For though he was crucified through weakness — As a weak, frail man, left to the impotence of human nature; yet he liveth — He rose from the dead, and is alive for evermore; by the power of God — Which hath exalted him to uncontrolled and universal authority; and this power you ought to stand in awe of in me his minister. For though we also are weak in him — And to them who regard only external appearances may seem contemptible, nevertheless we shall live with him; by the power of God toward you — Shall appear to be alive and powerful in and through Christ, being endowed with power from him to punish obstinate offenders.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
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.
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?2 Corinthians 13:5-6. Examine yourselves, &c. — You examine and try me, but let me admonish you to turn the search into your own hearts, that ye may know, with certainty, whether ye be in the faith — Whether ye possess true and saving faith in Christ and his gospel, and are therefore true Christians. For if, on a strict inquiry, you find that you are, you will therein find a proof of my being a true apostle, as it is by means of my ministry that you are become such. Prove your own selves — Whether ye be such as can, or such as cannot, bear the test, as the word δοκιμαζετε implies. Know ye not your own selves — By your own sense and feeling; that Jesus Christ is in you — By the enlightening, quickening, and sanctifying influences of the Spirit of truth and grace; is in you the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27; dwelleth in your hearts by faith, Ephesians 3:17; so that you are vitally united to him, have in you the mind that was in him, and walk as he walked. All true Christian believers know this by the witness and fruits of Christ’s Spirit, see John 14:20; Romans 8:9-16. Some translate the words, Jesus Christ is among you; that is, in the church of Corinth; and understand them of the miraculous gifts, and the power of Christ which attended the censures of the apostle. Except ye be reprobates — Αδοκιμοι, persons disapproved, or mere nominal Christians; and such as, whatever your gifts may be, will be finally rejected, as reprobate silver, that will not stand the touchstone. The reader will easily observe that this word, here rendered reprobates, and which, as has been observed, properly means persons disapproved, has no relation here, or anywhere else in Scripture, to any decree of God absolutely and unconditionally excluding a part of mankind from a capacity of salvation; but only denotes those who, through the rejection or abuse of divine grace, continue to render themselves unfit to be approved of God as his people, either now or at the day of judgment. “Thus they who, when they knew God, did not glorify him as God, but changed his truth into a lie, and worshipped the creature more than the Creator, are said (Romans 1:21-28) to be given up by God, εις νουν αδοκιμον, to a reprobate mind, which prompted them to do those things which God could not approve of, but abhor; and they who resisted the truth, through the corruption of their minds, are styled αδοκιμοι περι την πιστιν, that is, reprobates concerning the faith, 2 Timothy 3:8; that is, men whose faith cannot be owned or approved of by God. They also are in Scripture, as to their manners, styled reprobates, whose minds and consciences are defiled; so that though in words they profess to know God, yet in works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and to every good work αδοκιμοι, reprobates, that is, void, not of judgment only to discern, but of affection to approve of it, Titus 1:16. Thus that earth is styled αδοκιμος, reprobate, or rejected, which, after all the showers which fall upon it, brings forth only thorns and briers, Hebrews 6:8; and that silver, αργυριον αδοκιμον, reprobate silver, which, being falsely stamped or coined, will not be received, but rejected, Proverbs 25:4; Isaiah 1:22. And in this sense St. Paul saith, he kept under his body, lest while he preached to others, he himself should be αδοκιμος, disowned and rejected by God, 1 Corinthians 9:27.” — Whitby. But I trust, &c. — But whatever be the case of any of you, I hope ye shall soon know that we are not reprobates — Are not disapproved of God, have not lost our evidence of the divine presence and favour.
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
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.2 Corinthians 13:7-10. Now I pray God that ye do no evil — To give me occasion of showing my apostolical power; not that we should appear approved — I desire not to appear approved by miraculously punishing you; but that ye may do that which is honest — Το καλον, that which is beautiful, amiable, and good; though we should be as if we were disapproved —
Having no occasion to give that proof of our apostleship. For we can do nothing against the truth — Neither against that which is just and right, nor against those who walk according to the truths of the gospel. As if he had said, Walk as becomes the gospel, and you shall have no need to fear my power; for I have no power against those that so walk: but for the truth — In support of the gospel, and for spreading the knowledge of it; or, to encourage persons in the ways of piety and virtue, and to bring those into them that go astray therefrom. For we are glad when we are weak — When we appear so, having no occasion to use our apostolic power; and ye are strong — In gifts and graces; and this we wish, even your perfection — In faith, love, and obedience, that you may fully reform whatever is amiss, either in principle or practice; and that God would make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, Hebrews 13:21. Therefore I write these things — Thus largely, by way of counsel, caution, threatening, &c.; being absent — That you may reform; lest — If you do not, that, being present, I should use sharpness — Or severity; according to the divine and extraordinary power which the Lord Christ hath given me for the edification of his people, and not to the destruction of men’s lives and comforts.
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
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.
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.2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Finally, brethren, farewell — Χαιπετε, rejoice; be happy; be perfect — Aspire to the highest degrees of Christian wisdom and grace, of knowledge, holiness, and usefulness. Be of good comfort — Filled with joy and peace through believing, and abounding in hope of the glory of God, through the power of the Holy Ghost, Romans 15:13. Be of one mind — Desire, labour, pray for it, to the utmost degree that is possible. Or, as το αυτο φρονειτε may be rendered, mind, or pursue the same thing; or set your affections on the same great objects, namely, the glory of God, the success of his gospel, your own salvation, and the salvation of your fellow-creatures. Live in peace — One with another, and, as far as possible, with all men; and the God of love and peace shall be with you — Will graciously own you for his children, and fix his residence among you. And in token of this concord, harmony, and mutual affection, greet one another with a holy kiss — See on Romans 16:16. All the saints salute you — That is, the Christians in the place from whence I now write, or those who are now with me. The grace — Or favour; of the Lord Jesus Christ — By which alone we can come to the Father; and the love of God — Manifested to you, and abiding in you; and the communion — Or fellowship; of the Holy Ghost — In all his gifts and graces; be with you all — Continually, henceforth, and for ever. Amen — So may it be. It is with great reason that this comprehensive and instructive blessing is pronounced at the close of our solemn assemblies. And it is a very indecent thing to see so many quitting them, and getting into postures of remove, before this short sentence can be ended. How often have we heard this awful benediction pronounced! Let us study it more and more, that we may value it proportionably; that we may either deliver or receive it with becoming reverence, with eyes and hearts lifted up to God, who giveth the blessing out of Sion, and life for evermore.
Greet one another with an holy kiss.
All the saints salute you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.