Expositor's Greek Testament
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 13:1-10.
IF HE COMES AGAIN, HE WILL NOT SPARE: CHRIST IS HIS STRENGTH: LET THE CORINTHIANS SEE TO IT THAT HE BE THEIRS ALSO.
2 Corinthians 13:1. τρίτον τοῦτο κ.τ.λ.: this is the third time I am coming to you. “At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established.” That is, he will hold a formal enquiry in the strict legal way (see reff.) when he arrives. No evasions will be possible.
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. προείρηκα καὶ προλ. κ.τ.λ.: I have said beforehand (at chap. 2 Corinthians 10:6; 2 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Corinthians 12:21), and I do say beforehand, as when I was present the second time (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 12:14), so now being absent, to them that have sinned heretofore, i.e., before my second visit (as at 2 Corinthians 12:21), and to all the rest, i.e., any more recent offenders, that if I come again I will not spare. It was “to spare” them that he had paid hitherto no further visit after his second (2 Corinthians 1:23). He proceeds to give the reason why he will not “spare” if such a visit should be necessary; viz., they have challenged his Apostolic authority.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.2 Corinthians 13:3. ἐπεὶ δοκιμὴν κ.τ.λ.: seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me (cf. Matthew 10:20), i.e., a proof that I am really an “Apostle” with a “mission” from Christ to speak in His Name. This last thought leads him into a short digression. “He who has thus commissioned me is not weak, but strong, and this paradoxical strength in weakness is mine also” (2 Corinthians 13:3 b, 4).—ὃς εἰς ἡμᾶς κ.τ.λ.: who is not weak in relation to you, sc., as you think me to be (2 Corinthians 10:10, 2 Corinthians 11:21), but is powerful in your midst. And this is true for two reasons: (a) because of His Resurrection, as the Victor over Death; (b) because of the strength with which He empowers us in the discharge of our duty to you. Each of these reasons is now introduced by καὶ γάρ.
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.2 Corinthians 13:4. (a) καὶ γὰρ ἐσταυρώθη κ.τ.λ.: for He was crucified through weakness (cf. Php 2:8, 1 Peter 3:18; ἐκ indicating that it was His self-assumed ἀσθένεια which made the Passion possible), but liveth through (ἐκ again indicating the ultimate condition) the Power of God (see reff. and cf. Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:20, Php 2:9).—(b) καὶ f1γὰρ ἡμεῖς κ.τ.λ.: for we also are weak with Him (the reading ἐν αὐτῷ might be explained from such passages as 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; but it is so startling that we hesitate to adopt it, when the MS. evidence is so evenly balanced; σὺν αὐτῷ means simply “we are weak, as He was weak, in the world’s eyes”; see 2 Corinthians 12:10), but we shall live with Him, not only in the Resurrection Life of believers (John 14:19, Romans 5:10; Romans 6:8), but through the Power of God toward you, i.e., through the powerful sanctions with which He will confirm our exercise of Apostolic discipline at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5). The thought is that already expressed in 2 Corinthians 12:10. He now resumes the argument of 2 Corinthians 13:3 a, sc., you are claiming to test my claims: you should look to yourselves; your faith is a witness to mine—that Christ dwells in you is a proof that He dwells in me, who preached Him to you. Cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 3:2.
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. ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε κ.τ.λ.: try your own selves (πειράζειν generally has a sinister sense in the N.T. = “to tempt,” as at 1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 10:9, Galatians 6:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:5; but see reff.) whether ye be in the Faith, sc., the objective Christian Creed (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13); prove your own selves (δοκιμάζειν goes back to δοκιμή of 2 Corinthians 13:3; cf. also ἀδόκιμοι at the end of this verse). Or know ye not as to your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you? (cf. Romans 8:10, Galatians 4:19) unless indeed, sc., which is certainly not the case (for εἰ μή τι cf. Luke 9:13, 1 Corinthians 7:5) ye are reprobate. ἀδόκιμος is that which will not satisfy a test, and so = reprobus. Their own consciousness of the power of Christ’s grace is the best proof that his preaching to them was Divinely authorised; he “begat them in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 4:15).
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.2 Corinthians 13:6. ἐλπίζω δὲ κ.τ.λ.: but, however it may be with you, I hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate, that we can confidently submit to any testing of our apostolic authority.
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. εὐχόμεθα δὲ κ.τ.λ.: now we pray to God (for εὐχ. πρὸς cf. Numbers 11:2) that ye do no evil; not that ye may appear approved, i.e., the motive of his prayer was not that his ministry should be accredited by its success, but that ye may do that which is honourable (see reff. and mark the contrast between τὸ κακόν and τὸ καλόν), even though we be as reprobate. That is, his prayer was for their sakes, and it was sincerely offered although, if it were fully answered, there would be no occasion for the exercise of his apostolic authority, and so the δοκιμή or “proof” which the malcontents were asking for (2 Corinthians 13:3) would not be manifested. And he gives two reasons for this disinterestedness of his intercessions for them: (i.) he could not exercise his authority, even if he would, except in conformity with the facts (2 Corinthians 13:8), and (ii.) their moral growth is a real joy to him (2 Corinthians 13:9).
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.2 Corinthians 13:8. οὐ γὰρ δυνάμ. κ.τ.λ.: for we can do nothing, exhibit no Apostolic power, against the truth, i.e., against the facts of the case, but for the truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1 for the elliptical constr.). The principle here laid down is of far widen application than an accurate exegesis can assign to it in its context. It is a general principle, which Christian theology has not always sufficiently remembered, that to fight against truth, whether ethical or historical or scientific, is to fight against Him who is the Truth, and so is to court defeat. We can do nothing, even if we would, against the truth (cf. 1Es 4:38).
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.2 Corinthians 13:9. χαίρομεν γὰρ κ.τ.λ.: for we rejoice when we are weak and ye are strong, i.e., in Christian graces. The primary reference is to that weakness which the non-exercise of Apostolic authority would seem to suggest to them (2 Corinthians 13:4, 2 Corinthians 11:21), and of which his opponents were very ready to accuse him (2 Corinthians 10:10); but in all weakness of his he repeatedly declares his contentment, if it minister in any way to their edification (see 2 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 12:10, and cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10).—τοῦτο δὲ καὶ κ.τ.λ.: this we also pray for (and not merely rejoice in), viz., your perfecting (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11).
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.2 Corinthians 13:10. διὰ τοῦτο ταῦτα κ.τ.λ.: for this cause I write these things, i.e., this letter, while absent that I may not when present (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:3) deal sharply (we must understand ὑμῖν after χρήσωμαι, as at Esther 1:19; Esther 9:27) according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for casting down. The last clause is repeated verbatim from 2 Corinthians 10:8.
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 13:11-13. FINAL EXHORTATIONS, SALUTATIONS AND BENEDICTION.
2 Corinthians 13:11. λοιπὸν, ἀδελφοὶ κ.τ.λ.: finally, brethren (λοιπόν strictly = “from henceforth,” but is used vaguely, as in reff. for “finally”. “Well, then,” is its nearest equivalent as used in Modern Greek) rejoice (as at Php 3:1; Php 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and everywhere in the Pauline Epp. where the word occurs; the rendering of the A.V. “farewell” cannot be justified. “Farewell” would be ἔρρωσθε), be perfected (see reff. and cf. Lightfoot on 1 Thessalonians 3:10), be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and then the God of Love (this phrase is only found here in N.T., but cf. 1 John 4:8) and Peace shall be with you. In these exhortations we have a summary of the whole letter: (1) Rejoice in the grace you have received (2 Corinthians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 2:3) even as I do on your behalf (2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 7:9; 2 Corinthians 7:16, 2 Corinthians 13:9). (2) Be perfected, go on to perfection (2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 6:13, 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:19, 2 Corinthians 13:9), the word καταρτίζεσθαι being used as at Galatians 6:1 of gradual amendment after a grave fault. (3) Be comforted, the keynote of the early part of the Epistle (see on 2 Corinthians 1:4 and cf. especially 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7). (4) Be of the same mind, live in peace (2 Corinthians 12:20). With the whole may be compared 1 Corinthians 1:10, παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς … ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ.
Greet one another with an holy kiss.2 Corinthians 13:12. ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλ. κ.τ.λ.: salute one another with a holy kiss. This common form of Eastern salutation became at an early date part of the ritual of Christian worship, as indicating the brotherhood of the faithful in the family of God. So early as Justin (Apol., i., 65) we read of the “kiss of peace” in the service of the Eucharist.—ἀσπάζ. ὑμ. κ.τ.λ.: all the saints, sc., all from Macedonia where the Apostle was, salute you (cf. Php 4:22).
All the saints salute you.2 Corinthians 13:13. ἡ χάρις τοῦ κ. κ.τ.λ.: the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (his concluding salutation in Rom., 1 Cor., Gal., Phil., Philm., 1 and 2 Thess.), and the Love of God (see on 2 Corinthians 5:14), and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit (as at Php 2:1, and cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16) be with you all, even with those who opposed him. The ordinary conclusion of a letter of the period was ἔρρωσθε, as χαίρειν was the introductory greeting (see on 2 Corinthians 1:1). But St. Paul has a signature of his own, which he calls the σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ (2 Thessalonians 3:17); viz., he always ends with a prayer that Christ’s grace may rest on his correspondents, either in the form ἡ χάρις τοῦ Κυρ. Ἰη. Χρ. or in the abbreviated form ἡ χάρις (as in Eph., Col. and the Pastorals). Here, and here only, he fills it out so as to embrace the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Possibly the phrase the “God of Love” in 2 Corinthians 13:11 has suggested here mention of the “Love of God,” i.e., the love which God has for man; and a prayer for the “Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” i.e., the κοινωνία which is the Spirit’s gift, is a fitting conclusion to a letter addressed to a community agitated by faction and strife and jealousy (2 Corinthians 12:20). But whatever were the thoughts which suggested this triple benediction (cf. Numbers 6:23 f.), it remains, as Bengel says, “egregium de SS. Trinitate testimonium”. It offers a devotional parallel to the Baptismal Formula (Matthew 28:19); and the order of its clauses receives its explanation in later words of St. Paul: διʼ αὐτοῦ ἔχομεν τὴν προσαγωγὴν … ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι πρὸς f1τὸν πατέρα (Ephesians 2:18). It is the Grace of Christ which leads us towards the Love of God, and the Love of God when realised through the Spirit’s power promotes the love of man (1 John 4:11), the holy fellowship fostered by the indwelling Spirit.
πρὸς Κορ. κ.τ.λ. This subscription is found (in substance) in  , the Harclean and Bohairic vss. and in many cursives, but has no real authority. The mention of Titus and Luke is plainly derived from chap. 2 Corinthians 8:18. A few cursives add the name of Barnabas; the Peshitto mentions Titus only. The form of subscription in the best MSS.,    17, is simply πρὸς Κορινθίους Β.
 Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.
 Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.
 Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.