2 Corinthians 13:1-13[14]

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2009-12-16 11:42.

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There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of Paul’s words, “This [is the] third [time] I am coming to you.” Many understand the reference to be to the third time the apostle would be visiting Corinth. There is a possibility, however, that it was the third time Paul had planned to visit the community of believers there, with circumstances having prevented him from going to Corinth as he had previously intended. (13:1)

The statement about the “third time” is followed by a legal principle based on Deuteronomy 19:15, “At the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter must stand.” In a legal case, a charge could only be substantiated by the testimony of two or three witnesses. One witness was not enough to establish the validity of a charge. If the legal principle applies to Paul’s having then intended for the third time to return to Corinth, it could mean that he thus solemnly declared that he would definitely arrive. Another possibility is that the legal principle served to warn the Corinthians that action would be taken against any who persisted in a sinful course. Believers in Corinth were familiar with Paul’s manner of expressing himself and would have had no difficulty in understanding what he meant. We today cannot be certain, but the exact significance of his words does not have the relevance for us that it did for the Corinthians. (13:1)

The meaning of the apostle’s next words depend on whether he had been in Corinth on two occasions. A literal reading of the Greek text is, “I have said before and say beforehand, as being present the second [time] and now absent, to those who previously sinned and to all the rest, that, whenever I should come again, I will not spare.” This could mean that, when for the second time with the Corinthians, Paul had warned them that he would not be lenient in dealing with those who had not repented of their sinful course; and then, before his planned third visit, he repeated this warning. (13:2)

Numerous modern translations make this significance explicit. “I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient.” (NRSV) “I warned those who sinned earlier and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not be lenient.” (NAB) “To those who sinned before, and to everyone else, I repeat the warning I gave last time; on my second visit I gave it in person, and now I give it while absent. It is that when I come this time, I will show no leniency.” (REB) The “rest” (“all the others”) may designate those among the Corinthians who condoned the wrongdoing, or all the others in the congregation who were not directly involved in the sinful course. (13:2)

In the event the apostle had not been in Corinth twice, the passage could be understood to mean that he expressed himself as if he were then present but was absent when he wrote. Certain manuscripts include the expression “I write,” and a number of translations include “I write” and add the word “if” in their renderings. (13:2) “I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare.” (NKJV)

By their wayward course of action or their wrong view of Paul, a significant number in the Corinthian congregation had challenged his authority. For this reason, he spoke of them as “seeking proof of Christ speaking in [him].” Christ is Lord, and believers are accountable to him for their attitude, words, and actions. So the proof of Christ’s speaking “in” the apostle or as his representative would be through the punishment Paul would impose on unrepentant ones, and this punishment would be based on the individuals’ serious failure to live up to what the Son of God required of his disciples. Paul indicated that he would be undertaking strong measures against unrepentant ones, for he reminded the Corinthians that Christ was not weak toward them but powerful among them. Accordingly, when Paul would function as Christ’s instrument in administering discipline to unrepentant ones, the Corinthians would see the evidence of Christ’s power. (13:3)

While on earth as a human, the Son of God could be spoken of as “weak,” and it could be said that “out of” this weakness (or by reason of it) he was crucified. Christ, however, is no longer weak (having the limitations of a human), but he is alive as the possessor of humanly incomprehensible power, for he was raised to immortal life. His living is “out of God’s power,” for as a consequence of a powerful act of his Father he rose from the dead. By implication, Paul thus made it clear that the Corinthians could expect a demonstration of Christ’s power among them if certain individuals continued to follow a wayward course. (13:4)

When referring to himself (using the editorial “we”) as weak “in” (other manuscripts say, “with”) Christ, Paul probably meant that, because he had not used his authority to administer severe discipline but had been patient and forbearing, he appeared to the Corinthians as a weak person “in” Christ (in a relationship of oneness with God’s Son). Indicating that this was subject to change, the apostle mentioned that he would live with Christ “out of God’s power” toward the Corinthians. His “living” would be through the full use of his apostolic authority to correct and punish. God was the source of this apostolic authority, and so the power that would be exercised toward the Corinthians would be God’s power. (13:4; see the Notes section.)

Paul admonished the Corinthians to “test” whether they were “in the faith,” putting themselves to the proof. This testing called for self-examination to determine whether they were living in harmony with their faith in Christ. Instead of putting the apostle under scrutiny (as many among them had done), they needed to evaluate themselves, making sure that their words and deeds harmonized with Christ’s example and teaching. Their being “in the faith” required that they conduct themselves as Christ’s disciples. (13:5)

That the self-examination related to their relationship to Christ is evident from the apostle’s question, “Do you not know that Jesus Christ [is] in you?” Only by being at one with the Son of God, living in a manner that demonstrates faith or trust in him and the cleansing effected through his sacrificial death can individuals be in a divinely approved condition. So Paul did not leave the question without qualification but added the essential condition for being “in” or at one with Christ, “If you are not disapproved.” (13:5) The apostle hoped that, upon examining themselves, the Corinthians would come to “know” or recognize that he was not in a disapproved state. (13:6)

If at all possible, Paul wanted to avoid having to take strong disciplinary action while in Corinth. For this reason, he prayed to God that the believers there would not do anything wrong. His prime objective in thus praying was not so that he would appear as approved or as one who had faithfully discharged his responsibility toward them, having aided them to come to be at one with the Son of God. His concern in their doing good or what is right was that they would reap the full benefit therefrom, being found divinely approved and coming to enjoy all the resultant privileges and blessings. In his great love for them, he wanted them to be approved even if that meant that he would appear disapproved or as having been a failure. This could include Paul’s seeming to be weak, as he would then not be exercising his apostolic authority to administer severe discipline. (13:7)

The use of his apostolic authority had as its purpose the advancement of the “truth,” with the focus being on the Son of God. So, in carrying out his commission as an apostle, Paul would not be doing anything against the truth but only for the truth or in the furtherance of the interests of the Son of God. (13:8)

Paul rejoiced whenever he was “weak” and the Corinthians were powerful. He would appear weak when he did not have to act forcefully against those who persisted in a wrong course, whereas the Corinthians, after having amended their wrong ways, would have been strong or powerful for what is right. Their commendable course would give the apostle reason for rejoicing. Understandably, therefore, he prayed that they would be restored to a proper state upon taking the needed corrective action. (13:9)

While absent from the Corinthians, Paul wrote forcefully, hoping that they would make the required changes. He desired to avoid acting with severity when with them but wanted to use the authority the Lord Jesus Christ had granted him to build up or to strengthen them and not to tear them down. If he had to deal severely with them, his visit would not have proved to be as spiritually uplifting as it otherwise could have been. The strong measures Paul would have been forced to take would have brought sadness to the community of believers in Corinth. (13:10)

When concluding his letter, the apostle encouraged his brothers or fellow believers to rejoice. They had sound reason for doing so, for through their faith in Christ they had been reconciled to his Father. As beloved children of God, they benefited from his tender care. Nevertheless, the community of believers in Corinth needed to take corrective action. For this reason, Paul admonished the Corinthians to mend their ways. (13:11)

Then the apostle used a form of the Greek word parakaléo, which (in this context) may be understood to mean that the Corinthians should allow themselves to be admonished. In its basic sense, parakaléo denotes to “summon” or to “call to one’s side” and can convey the thought of “exhort,” “encourage,” “admonish,” or “comfort.” (13:11) Translators have variously rendered the Greek expression as “listen to my appeal” (NRSV, NIV), “encourage one another (NAB, NJB), “take our appeal to heart” (REB), “pay attention to what I have said” (CEV), and “consider my advice” (J. B. Phillips).

The Corinthians needed to cease having divisions among themselves, shunning a party spirit, and to strive being of the same mind as fellow children of God. As members of the same spiritual family, they should have been united in love and concerned about being at peace with one another, not quarreling because of looking to men as leaders. (Compare 1 Corinthians 1:10-12.) By preserving unity and peace among themselves, the “God of love and peace” would be with them. They would then continue to experience his love and care. As recipients of divine aid, they would enjoy inner peace, well-being, or security. (13:11)

As in 1 Corinthians 16:20, Paul included the encouragement, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” By greeting one another in this manner, the Corinthians would have demonstrated their relationship to one another as beloved fellow children of God. (13:12) “All the holy ones” whose greetings the apostle conveyed would have been fellow believers from the various congregations where he had ministered. (13:12[13])

The apostle concluded his letter with the prayerful words, “The favor of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy spirit [be] with all of you.” As beneficiaries of the gracious favor or unearned kindness of the Son of God, the Corinthians would enjoy all the blessings that he made possible by laying down his life for them, and they would continue to have his aid and guidance. Reconciled to God on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death, they would have God’s love extended to them as his children and could rest assured of his kindly concern for them. Upon putting faith in Christ, the Corinthians had received the holy spirit and so shared in the spirit as the activating and motivating power in their lives. The fellowship of the holy spirit could also have included the mutual enjoyment of the uniting bond of love that their yielding to the guidance of God’s spirit produced. (13:13[14]; see the Notes section.)


From verses 4 through 9, the first person plural “we” and the first person plural forms of verbs are used editorially. Then, in verse 10, Paul speaks of himself in the first person singular. These changes from first person plural to first person singular are to be expected in a dictated letter that has not been edited.

In verse 13[14], certain manuscripts, including fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, omit Christ, and P46 (c. 200 CE) does not include “holy” before “spirit.” Many manuscripts conclude with “Amen.”