Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.Ch. 2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 12:14. For the Greek present in the sense of an intention see 1 Corinthians 16:5.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established] This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 19:15, and is an intimation of St Paul’s intention to enter upon a full investigation of the condition of the Corinthian Church, if such a step be rendered necessary by their conduct. He will assume nothing, take nothing for granted of what he has heard, but will carry on his investigation on the principles alike of the Old Testament and of the New (Matthew 18:16).
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. I told you before, and foretell you] Literally, I have spoken beforehand, and I say beforehand (I seide bifor and seie bifor, Wiclif. Similarly Tyndale and Cranmer). The repetition is for the sake of emphasis. Cf. Galatians 1:9. See also 1 Corinthians 4:21.
as if I were present the second time] Some, supposing that St Paul had already visited Corinth twice, would render ‘when present the second time.’ But the rendering in the text is more literal.
and being absent now] The word now belongs to being absent, not, as in the A. V., to what follows. The meaning is that though now absent (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3), the Apostle speaks as he will find it necessary to speak when present, with decision and sternness, unless (ch. 2 Corinthians 12:21) the offending persons repent.
them which heretofore have sinned] The same words as were translated have sinned already in ch. 2 Corinthians 12:21.
and to all other] Literally, to all the rest, inasmuch as some of the Corinthians derided the idea that St Paul would act with firmness, and the whole Church needed some assurance to that effect. See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:23.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.3. since ye seek] They had demanded a proof of his power, and he would not fail to give it.
a proof of Christ speaking in me] Literally, of the in-me-speaking Christ. The delicate shade of meaning here can hardly be rendered into English. Perhaps ‘of a Christ who speaks in me’ would be the nearest approach to it. Our version hardly conveys a sufficient idea of the perpetual indwelling of Christ in His members and of the inspiring influence which He constantly exerted on one so devoted to Him as St Paul. See Matthew 10:20. For proof see ch. 2 Corinthians 2:9, 2 Corinthians 8:2. The connection of this verse with what precedes and what follows is to be found in the fact that everything St Paul did, whether in the exercise of his Apostolic power, or in any other way, was done to produce in their lives a conformity to that of Christ. Cf. ch. 6.
which to you-ward is not weak] Rather, Who to you-ward. St Paul continually (see ch. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11, and ch. 11, 12.) identifies himself with Christ, in his weakness as well as his strength. He is going (see next verse) to point to the weakness of Christ as united with his own. But he prefaces this remarkable statement with the observation (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11) that at present the Corinthians knew little of communion with Christ in His weakness, much of His power to change the heart and life. Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 2:5. Also ch. 2 Corinthians 10:4.
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.4. For though he was crucified through weakness] Chrysostom observes that these words were a great difficulty to the weaker sort. But he explains them by John 11:3-4; Php 2:27; 1 Timothy 5:23, where the word in the original is the same as, or cognate to, that employed here. There is another reading here, which by omitting ‘though,’ or rather ‘if,’ in the original, strengthens the Apostle’s statement. There need be no difficulty. Our Lord assumed our human nature with all its infirmities (Hebrews 2:10-18; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:2-3; see also ch. 2 Corinthians 8:9, and Php 2:7-8), although they were the result of sin. He bore all those infirmities, death itself included. And then He shook them all off for ever when He rose again ‘by the power of God.’ Cf. Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 1:24.
For we also are weak in him] In this present life the Apostles of Christ were like their Master. Upborne by the power of God within, they had nevertheless to bear the load of human infirmity, to ‘take up their Cross and follow Him.’ See notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, and cf. Galatians 6:17. And not only so, but the words ‘in Him’ shew that it was a necessary part of their union with Him that they should be partakers of His tribulation, before they were translated into the fulness of His glory. See 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7; 1 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:10.
we shall live with him] Not, as the following words shew, hereafter, but in the Apostle’s ministry to the Corinthians. Cf. 2 Corinthians 13:3. Also Romans 1:16; John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 1:18, and ch. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, and note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:14. The Gospel was a power which enabled men to change their lives, in that it was a ministering to them of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Compare ch. 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8-9 with Romans 8:9-10 and Php 1:19.
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?5. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves] The words rendered (1) examine and (2) prove have the sense (1) of testing (the word is often translated tempt) and (2) subjecting to a process the result of which is satisfactory. See for (2) 1 Corinthians 11:28. The words yourselves are in each case emphatic. The connection with what has gone before would seem to be as follows. The Apostle had been among the Corinthians in weakness (1 Corinthians 2:3; cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10). He had boasted of nothing but his infirmity (ch. 2 Corinthians 11:30, 2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9). So that many of them had come to regard him with contempt. But the Gospel, he says, is a power. He appeals to the testimony of their own Christian experience on the point, as in ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 6:4. ‘Is it not a power?’ he says. ‘Look at yourselves. Do you not feel it to be so in your own hearts? Does not Jesus Christ dwell in you, at least in all who are not finally cast off by Him, and does He not make manifest His power in the subjugation of the natural man within you? Could this have taken place unless the Gospel were a real power of God? And then to whom, humanly speaking, do you owe this power? Is it not to him of whom you are ready to believe that he is no true Apostle of Christ?’
whether ye be in the faith] i.e. whether “Christ be present and actively working within you, the certain result of all true faith.” Meyer. Cf. John 15:1-7; John 17:21-23; Romans 6:23 (in the Greek), 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 8:10; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 3:16-19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 3:1-4, &c.
except ye be reprobates] Rather, unless indeed ye be rejected. The word translated reprobates (see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 2:9, and 2 Corinthians 13:3) signifies those who have been tried and found wanting. See also Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; and Hebrews 6:8, where the word again occurs.
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.6. But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates] i.e. I trust that you will find that we have not lost this Divine power of Christ dwelling within us, but that you will find it as mighty to confront and to subdue the obstinate resistance of evil, as it was to implant the first strivings after good.
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.7. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil] St Paul’s whole heart is set upon the desire that the power of Christ which dwells in the Christian body should be displayed in the victory of his converts over evil, and this not for any personal ends of his own—not even in order that he might manifest the high estimation in which God holds him—but simply for the sake of Him Whose minister he is, and for their sakes to whom he ministers Him.
approved] The opposite to reprobate, or rather rejected. See also ch. 2 Corinthians 10:18.
honest] Rather, what is noble, right.
though we be as reprobates] St Paul carries his self-denial a step further. Even if he were regarded as rejected himself, his object would be attained, and he would be quite satisfied, if the Corinthians did what was right in the sight of God. It was for what they did, not for what they thought of him, that he labored.
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.8. For we can do nothing against the truth] The original carries on the idea of power of which St Paul has been speaking above. If we are endued with any power from on high, it is not that we may exercise it on our own behalf, and against the truth of God. We can but use it for the purpose for which it was given us, namely for the glory of God and the increase of His kingdom.
but for the truth] More literally, on behalf of the truth.
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.9. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong] This passage is very similar to 1 Corinthians 4:8-10. At present none of the burdens, but many of the blessings of the Gospel, have fallen on the Corinthians. St Paul rejoices that their immature faith is not subjected to the severe strain of persecution and affliction, while as respects himself, he rejoices in sorrows (ch. 2 Corinthians 12:10), regarding them as proofs of the ascendency of the life of the Spirit over that of the flesh. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 4:10-16. The word translated am glad is somewhat stronger in the original—rejoice. And the word translated strong is cognate with that translated mighty in 2 Corinthians 13:3. See also ch. 2 Corinthians 10:4. It refers to the inner strength of spirit with which the believer in Christ is endued. It is also to be observed—and the Greek here displays it more clearly than the English—that St Paul does not say that the Corinthians are strong, but that he rejoices when they are so.
and this also we wish] More literally, pray. St Paul rejoices when the Corinthians are strong, but whether they are so or not, he does not cease to pray for their advancement in holiness.
perfection] The word is not that usually rendered perfection in our translation, i.e. the fulfilment by any creature of the end for which it was designed. It rather signifies the fitting together of a number of souls as the pieces in a mosaic. Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10, where the cognate word (see 2 Corinthians 13:11) is used of unity of mind and judgment; Hebrews 10:5, where it is used of preparing a body for Christ; Mark 1:19, where it is used of mending nets; Galatians 6:1, where it is used of restoring a sinner. The first and last of these meanings are probably combined here.
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.10. lest being present I should use sharpness] See ch. 2 Corinthians 1:23, and 2 Corinthians 13:2.
power] Rather, authority, as in ch. 2 Corinthians 10:8.
to edification] See note on 1 Corinthians 8:1. Also ch. 2 Corinthians 12:19, and especially 2 Corinthians 10:8, the words in which St Paul here repeats.
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.11–14. Conclusion
11. farewell] Or perhaps rejoice (ioie ye, Wiclif; gaudete, Vulgate). Cf. Php 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Joy (Galatians 5:22) was one of the foremost fruits of the Spirit, and ought to be the natural result of the sense of our favour with God through Christ See John 15:11; Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17; Hebrews 13:17; James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 John 1:4, &c. Our translation follows Tyndale here.
Be perfect] See note on perfection in 2 Corinthians 13:9, where the Greek word is a derivative of the word used here.
be of good comfort] The word is the same as in ch. 2 Corinthians 1:4. Our translation here follows Tyndale. Wiclif, following the Vulgate, renders excite ye.
be of one mind] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10, and observe the close connection of ideas there between unity of spirit and the word translated be perfect above. The literal rendering is think the same thing. See also Romans 12:16.
the God of love] It would have been impossible even in the 16th century to render here ‘the God of charity.’ The Vulgate here has dilectionis, not caritatis. Caritas and charity seem to have been used for the human reflection of God’s love, to the grievous obscuration of the great Christian fact that all love is His love, whether manifested by Him or in man. It may be asked whether in order to think the same thing and be at peace, we do not first need the God of love and peace to be with us. Undoubtedly, but if we do not follow His promptings while with us, we drive Him away. Therefore if we wish Him to abide continually with us, we must walk according to the Spirit which He hath given us.
Greet one another with an holy kiss.12. Greet one another with a holy kiss] See note on 1 Corinthians 16:20.
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.14. The grace of the Lord] This is the fullest form of any of the benedictions given by St Paul, and it comes fitly at the end of the harshest of his Epistles. It must be regarded as the overflowing of a loving heart, conscious of the severity of the language the Apostle has been compelled to use, yet deeply penetrated with a sense of its necessity for the well-being of the flock. The benediction is invoked upon all, the slanderers and gainsayers, the seekers after worldly wisdom, the hearkeners to false doctrine, as well as the faithful and obedient disciples. In regard to its form. we may remark that it was the grace or favour of Jesus Christ in condescending to visit us, through which we received the revelation of the love of God, and that it was through that love that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in our hearts by faith, and thus to knit us into one body in Christ. For communion or fellowship (a rendering familiar to us through the Prayer Book, being that of Tyndale and Cranmer) see note on 1 Corinthians 1:9. The form of this benediction has always been regarded as a proof of the essential unity and equality of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.