2 Corinthians 13:5-14

Final Exhortations, Final Greetings, Final Benediction

In this last section, Paul finishes up the defense of his apostolic authority by turning the Corinthians’ demand for proof back on them as further proof of his authenticity. He then restates his purpose for writing, gives a few final exhortations, passes on greetings, and gives a final benediction.

5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

  • What examination or test is Paul talking about here?
  • In the faith. I believe Paul is talking about testing oneself for evidence of salvation.
  • Is Paul asking the Corinthians to each individually examine themselves, or is he asking them to examine themselves corporately?
  • Examine yourselves…Test yourselves. In both sentences here, yourselves is in a place of emphasis in the Greek. So, read aloud, it would be Examine yourselves…. Test yourselves.
    • Is there a difference between examine and test? I don’t think there is.
  • Rather than demanding proof that Christ was speaking through Paul (v3), the Corinthians ought to be examining themselves to find out whether they were continuing true to the faith.
  • It could be that Paul has in mind that the test to see if Christ is in the Corinthians will be their response to this letter and its call to repent.
  • Unless indeed you fail to meet the test! This is most likely an ironical aside or a hyperbolic statement. Paul knows that the bulk of the church in Corinth are truly believers.
    • It’s also possible that there’s an allusion here to some Corinthians that needed to be exposed as falsely professing Christians.

6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

  • Who is the we here? We discussed the necessity of identifying antecedents of pronouns back when we started the Great Digression (2Co 2:14-7:4) where it almost always pointed generally to those in apostolic or pastoral ministry, and only sometimes to all believers. The we here is probably pointing to Paul and his emissaries, Titus and others, who have ministered there at Corinth.
  • As in v5, I’m forced to ask: Is the we here individual or corporate? Again, I believe it’s individual.
    • Paul has already identified those he’s sent to them (Titus, the brother, Famous, Earnest) and he’s asked the Corinthians to answer questions about them individually.
  • I believe v6 implies that the Corinthians’ belief in the genuineness of their faith carried with it proof of the genuineness of Paul’s apostleship and Gospel.
    • Paul had become their father in the faith (1Co 4:15).
    • The Corinthians themselves formed the verification of his credentials (2Co 3:2-3).
    • The Corinthians would have to doubt their own salvation if they doubted Paul’s claim to be a true apostle of Christ (2Co 1:1).
    • If they did not fail the test, then neither did Paul.

7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.

  • Compare other translations.
    • Cf NET. Now we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong, not so that we may appear to have passed the test, but so that you may do what is right even if we may appear to have failed the test.
    • Cf HCSB. Now we pray to God that you do nothing wrong—not that we may appear to pass the test, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear to fail.
    • Cf NIV2011. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
    • Cf Jono’s paraphrase. But we pray to God that you may do no wrong—not so that we may look good in front of others and appear to have passed the test by being your founders and mentors, but that you may do what is right even if we appear to others to have failed that same test.
  • Paul’s chief desire and his prayer to God were not for his vindication but for their avoidance of all wrongdoing.
  • What wrong did Paul have in mind? I think Paul had all wrongdoing in mind generally, but specifically, perhaps a couple things.
    • Refusal to repent of sin (12:20-21).
    • Repudiate the visitors from Palestine.
  • Cf Ro 9:3 for a similar sentiment as we have in this verse. I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

8-9 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

  • Paul did not need to exercise his apostolic authority where truth—authentic Christian conduct—already existed, but he was able and willing, if necessary, to act decisively to reestablish truth, i.e., to work toward restoring the Corinthians to wholeness in attitude and behavior.
  • Your restoration is what we pray for.
    • Cf CSB. We also pray that you become fully mature.
  • Paul’s concern was to consolidate the truth of the Gospel (1Co 9:16), so he was happy whenever his converts gave evidence of robust and mature Christian character.
  • If the Corinthians were strong in Christ, Paul would have no need to exercise his apostolic authority harshly. He would be able to come to them in the weakness of a gentle spirit.
  • The Corinthians needed to be restored to…
    • Undivided and pure devotion to Christ (11:3)
    • Uninhibited love for Paul (6:12-13; 12:15)
    • Harmonious fellowship with one another (12:20; 13:11)

10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

  • For this reason. This verse is a purpose statement. This verse sums up one of Paul’s purposes in writing this letter.
  • If 2Co 12:20-21 expresses Paul’s fears about what he would find at Corinth on his arrival, 13:10 indicates his hope in this respect—to avoid severe, summary punishment.
    • 2Co 12:20-21. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
  • But even here is a veiled warning. While the Lord had not invested Paul with apostolic authority primarily or the negative work of tearing down, is destruction proved to be a necessary prelude to the positive task of construction, it would be reluctantly taken, and with the same authority.
  • Building up. See the notes on 2Co 10:8.

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

  • There are 5 commands here, but see significant differences in the NIV84.
    • ESV
      • Rejoice
      • Aim for restoration
      • Comfort one another
      • Agree with one another
      • Live in peace
    • NIV84
      • Good-bye
      • Aim for perfection
      • Listen to my appeal
      • Be of one mind
      • Live in peace
    • NIV2011
      • Rejoice
      • Strive for full restoration
      • Encourage one another
      • Be of one mind
      • Live in peace
    • Cf also KJV
      • Farewell
      • Be perfect
      • Be of good comfort
      • Be of one mind
      • Live in peace
    • Other major English translations don’t differ much from the ESV or the NIV2011.
  • The Corinthian believers were to rejoice in the Lord and to work together to achieve restoration/maturity for which Paul himself was praying (v9).
  • The God of love and peace will be with you. Two ways to see this.
    • If in this promise Paul is stressing love and peace as characteristics of God, the meaning will be this:
      • If you rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace, then the God of love and peace will be with you.
    • If, however, love and peace are seen as gifts of God—the God who imparts love and peace—then Paul is indicating the divine resources that will enable the Corinthians to follow the commands to rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

  • The versification of v12-14 in some English translations is according to the versification in the NA27 and UBS4 editions of the Greek text, i.e. they combine v12-13 into one v12, and v14 is labeled as v13 to end the letter. Some translations, however, like the ESV, break the material up into three verses, i.e., 12-14 (others include the NKJV, NASB, NIV).
    • The same material has been translated in each case; the only difference is the versification of that material. Nothing is missing or added.
  • Holy kiss. Usually reserved for special reunions among family members or formal greetings, extending such a public kiss to an entire group was a practice unique to the early church that signified their mutual acceptance as a family. See Ro 16:16; 1Th 5:26; 1Pt 5:14.
  • The holy kiss also exhibited the transcending of division based on gender, race, and status—the kiss was exchanged by male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free (cf Gal 3:28).

13 All the saints greet you.

  • Who are the saints that Paul is talking about?
    • Paul was in Macedonia (perhaps Philippi) when he wrote this letter, so the saints referred to here may well be the Philippians.
    • But the reference could be to believers throughout Macedonia, including those in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
  • No matter who these saints were specifically, Paul was reminding the Corinthian believers that he was not alone in seeking their welfare and that there were others to whom they were accountable.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

  • This is the only Trinitarian benediction in Paul’s letters, stressing that grace, love, and fellowship with one another come from God in Christ through the Spirit.
  • This verse is Paul’s concluding benediction and it sums up all the divine resources that would equip the Corinthians to fulfill his concluding exhortations of v11.
  • Paul’s wish is that they would always be fortified
    • By the grace that Christ imparts
    • By the love the Father implies
    • By their common participation in the life, power, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • This would all enable the Corinthians to rejoice in the Lord, work at their restoration, respond to exhortation, be united in attitude, and maintain harmony.
  • I think it’s important to keep in mind that it is through the grace shown by Christ (8:9) in living and dying for the benefit of humans that God demonstrates his love and believers come to share in the Spirit’s life and so form the community of the church.

Final notes:

J.A.D. Weima, in his book Neglected Endings: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings, has pointed out that all four of the customary elements in Paul’s letter closings are found in v11-14:

  • Exhortation (v11)
  • Peace benediction (v11)
  • Greetings (v12-13)
  • Grace benediction (v14)

Was Paul’s third visit to Corinth actually an unpleasant one? Though direct evidence is lacking, we have several indications that it was not unsuccessful.

  • First, during the visit (which lasted three months [see Ac 20:2-3], probably in the winter of AD 56-57) he wrote his letter to the church in Rome. This letter seems to reveal some apprehension for the future (Ro 15:30-31) but none for the present.
  • Second, Paul would hardly have planned to visit Rome and then do pioneer work in the West (Ro 15:24,28) if the church in the city he was writing from was in a state of disorder and disloyalty.
  • Third, it is clear from Ro 15:26-27 that the Corinthians heeded Paul’s appeal in 2Co 8-9 and completed their collection for the saints in Jerusalem. Twice Paul mentions that “were pleased” to contribute—scarcely an appropriate description unless the church in Corinth was in harmony with the promoter of the collection.
  • Fourth, the very preservation of 2 Corinthians (presumably at Corinth) argues in favor of the success of the visit promised in it.

Next, we’ll try to briefly summarize this letter.

 

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