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2 Corinthians 13

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Final Warnings and Greetings Coming with Authority A Call for Self-examination
and Amendment
Final Warnings and Greetings Paul's Fears and Anxieties
    (12:19-13:10)   (12:19-13:10)
13:1-4 13:1-6 13:1-4 13:1-4 13:1-4
13:5-10 Paul Prefers Gentiles 13:5-10 13:5-10 13:5-10
  13:7-10      
  Greeting and Benediction Conclusion   Conclusion
13:11-12 13:11-14 13:11-12 13:11 13:11
      13:12a 13:12
      13:12b  
13:13   13:13 13:13 13:13

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:1-4
  1This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 2I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, 3since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. 4For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

13:1 "This is the third time I am coming to you" This gives textual credence to the theory of Paul's painful visit to Corinth between the writing of I and 2 Corinthians (cf. 12:14). This visit is not recorded in the book of Acts.

▣ "every fact" This begins a quote from Deut. 19:15 (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16; I Tim. 5:19), which deals with court procedures. To what does it refer in this chapter? There are two possibilities.

1. It refers to the church's evaluation of Paul. He had been there twice and shared with them. They were responsible and would be held accountable as hearers of the truth.

2. It refers to church discipline related to a group within the church.

a. the factious groups of I Cor. 1-4 (cf. 12:20)

b. an immoral group (cf. 12:21)

c. the "super apostles" or false teachers with connections to Jerusalem and Judaism (chapters 10-13, especially 11:13-15)

 

NASB"is to be confirmed"
NKJV"shall be established"
NRSV"must be sustained"
TEV"must be upheld"
NJB"is required"

The form of this verb is a future passive indicative (cf. NKJV), but Barbara and Timothy Friberg, Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 573, say it is functioning as an aorist passive imperative (cf. NRSV, NJB). See Special Topic: Stand (Histēmi) at I Cor. 15:1.

13:2 "those who have sinned in the past and all the rest as well" This seems to relate to two groups. The first "who have sinned in the past" (perfect active participle), must refer to those believers at Corinth who heard Paul twice, but still rebelled against his leadership. This would be the factious groups of I Corinthians 1-4 or an immoral group (cf. 12:20-21; I Corinthians 5).

The phrase "and all the rest" seems to relate to those who were not present both times, possibly the false apostles from Jerusalem and their supporters, which are the focus of chapters 10-13. However, both groups/all groups are put on notice that Paul wants them to deal with the problems, but if they do not, he will!

▣ "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, but it is used in the sense of "when" (cf. John 16:7 and I John 3:2).

▣ "I will not spare anyone" Paul uses this term in a positive sense in I Cor. 7:23 and II Cor. 1:23, but in a judicial sense both here and in 12:6 (cf. 10:11).

13:3 "proof" This concept of testing is recurrent in this context. There is a sustained word play between the connotations of two Greek terms, dokimazō and peirazō.

1. v. 3, proof - dokimē (cf. 2:9; 8:2; 9:13; 13:3)

2. v. 5, test - peirazō (cf. 13:5)

3. v. 5, examine - dokimazō (cf. 8:8,22; 13:5)

4. v. 5, fail the test - adokimos

5. v. 6, do not fail the test - adokimos

6. v. 7, approve - dokimos (cf. 10:18)

7. v. 7, unapprove - adokimos

For the full word study see Special Topic at I Cor. 3:13.

▣ "of the Christ who speaks in me" Some at Corinth were challenging Paul's authority. They were "testing" Paul! In v. 5 Paul will "test" them! Christ's presence in Paul had been confirmed (cf. 12:12).

▣ "is not weak" Weakness is God's way to victory as illustrated in Jesus' life (cf. v. 4) and Paul's life (cf. 10:1,11; 12:9; 13:9). No human being will glory before God for spiritual accomplishments that are a direct result of who God is and not who we are. It is God's resources which accomplish spiritual results! Believers must allow His power to flow through their need and helplessness. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEAKNESS at II Cor. 12:9.

Verses 3-4 are the summary antithesis of the rhetorically arrogant false teachers. They claimed a superiority from

1. racial lineage

2. personal charismatic experience

3. superior Sophistic, rhetorical training

4. personal comparisons

 

"toward you. . .in you" This plural "you" shows that Paul is referring to a congregational experience, not personal experience (cf. v. 5). Possibly the TEV translation, "among you," catches the flavor.

13:4 "crucified" Paul uses several terms to describe Jesus' death:

1. death (cf. Rom. 5:6ff; 8:34; 14:15; I Cor. 8:11; 15:3; II Cor. 5:15; Gal. 2:21; I Thess. 4:14; 5:10)

2. blood (cf. Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:20)

3. cross (cf. I Cor.1:17-18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12,14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20; 2:14)

4. crucifixion (cf. I Cor. 1:23; 2:2; II Cor. 13:14; Gal. 3:1)

 

"yet He lives because of the power of God" It is phrases like this that caused so many Christological controversies in the early church. Is not Jesus God also? Does the human Jesus live by the power of a separate deity (i.e., YHWH)? One cannot build a systematic understanding on one verse or selected verses, but must try to unify all of the theological concepts into an integrated whole. See Special Topic: Monotheism at I Cor. 8:4.

Usually the terminology of this verse is used to affirm that God the Father, as an act of approval, raised the Son (cf. Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 1:4; 6:4,9; 8:11; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; I Thess. 1:10). However, there are other inspired texts that affirm that (1) the Spirit raised the Son (cf. Rom. 8:11) or (2) the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18).

"we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him" Paul's understanding of Christianity was an identification of the believers in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As He lived a humble, gentle, and misunderstood life, so will we; as He died in service to others, so should we; as He was raised, so are we (i.e., new life now) and will be (i.e., resurrection body at the Second Coming).

This identification theology is so evident in Romans 6. Paul wrote Romans while he was dealing with Corinth. Paul's systematic understanding of Christianity (i.e., Romans) was fleshed out while he was working with this dysfunctional church.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:5-10
 5Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test? 6But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. 7Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. 8For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. 9For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. 10For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

13:5 "Test yourselves" This is a present active imperative. This is the word peirazō, which means "to test with a view toward destruction." See full note at I Cor. 3:13. They had tested Paul; now they must be tested themselves!

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true. Paul is not doubting their faith, but challenging them to wake up!

▣ "the faith" The Greek term "faith" (pistis) is translated into English by three terms: faith, believe, or trust. See Special Topic at I Cor. 2:4. Faith is used in three senses in the NT: (1) as personal acceptance of Jesus as the Christ of God; (2) as faithfully living for Him; and (3) as a body of truths about Him (cf. v. 3; Gal. 1:23; 3:23-25). Mature Christianity involves all three senses.

▣ "examine yourselves" Paul repeats his command (i.e., another present active imperative), but uses the other term (i.e., dokimazō) for testing, which implies to test with a view toward approval. See Special Topic at I Cor. 3:13.

▣ "recognize" This is the Greek term epigniōskō (i.e., present active indicative), which usually denotes experiential full knowledge.

▣ "Jesus Christ is in you" As v. 4 focused on the corporate aspect, this phrase (using the same preposition and plural pronoun) may refer to a more individual aspect. Christ is surely among His people, but also in each of His people! The ministries of Jesus and the Spirit are so closely linked that often the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9; I Pet. 1:11). Jesus is even said to indwell believers (cf. John 14:23; Rom. 8:10; Col. 1:27. Also notice Matt. 28:20). See SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS AND THE SPIRIT at II Cor. 3:17.

▣ "unless indeed you fail the test" This phrase is parallel to "if you are in the faith" in v. 5. Paul has asserted in several ways (i.e., first class conditional sentence in v. 5 and the use of dokimazō) that he believes his readers are believers, but not all of them. There is a contingent of false teachers who do not know Christ (see SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at I Cor. 6:9). This clause relates to them.

This clause does not relate to sinful believers because Paul addresses them in 12:20-21. They need to repent, but the false teachers need Christ (cf Matthew 7).

Paul used this very same term in I Cor. 9:27 as the reason why he struggled to keep himself under God's control. Paul did not want to be "disqualified" or rejected. Believers are challenged to check up on themselves (cf. Phil. 2:12).

13:6 Paul is asserting that he and his helpers have passed the test (i.e., not counterfeits, adokimos, cf. v. 7), especially in relation to the church at Corinth. If they have the indwelling Christ, then Paul's ministry was effective.

13:7 In a sense a strong, orthodox Corinthian church would affirm Paul's leadership and Apostolic credentials. He is more concerned that they do what is right and appropriate because of God and the gospel, not just to show Paul's credentials or affirm his leadership (cf. v. 9).

▣ "approved. . .unapproved" Paul continues this word play on dokimos and adokimos.

13:8 The truth in this context refers to the gospel as a person (i.e., Jesus the Messiah), as a message (i.e., the gospel about Jesus), and as a lifestyle (i.e., emulation of Jesus' life).

SPECIAL TOPIC: "TRUTH" IN PAUL'S WRITINGS

13:9 "we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong" This is Paul's paradox. He knows that spiritual power is released through human weakness (cf. 12:10; 13:4). Therefore, he wants to remain weak. However, for the Corinthian church to be strong, she too, must become weak. This is so opposite of the way people evaluate life. The false teachers have asserted strength through education, lineage, experience, but Paul asserts strength through Christ's example (cf. v. 4).

▣ "that you be made complete" The noun form of this term is found only here in the NT. The verb means "to knit together." Paul used the verb form in I Cor. 1:10, which calls on the Corinthian church to end its factious divisions. Now at the end of 2 Corinthians he returns to this mandate (i.e., unity which will result in spiritual adequacies).

Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 680, asserts that artios (i.e., complete, adequate, fully equipped for the assigned task), with all its different prepositional compounds (i.e., epi and kata), are all synonyms (cf. Luke 6:40; II Cor. 13:9,11; Eph. 4:12; II Tim. 3:17).

Paul wants a functioning, unified, loving church in Corinth (cf. v. 11). For this to occur there must be forgiveness, reconciliation, and church discipline (cf. Gal. 6:1).

13:10 Paul did not want to make another painful visit to Corinth (cf. 2:3-4). He did not want to come wrapped in his Apostolic authority, but in parental love. However, the response of the church determined how he must act.

"with the authority which the Lord gave me" This exact phrase appears in 10:8. This Apostolic authority, whether in personal presence or from afar (cf. I Cor. 5:4), has Christ's authority (cf. 12:19; 13:3). This authority was given to Paul in the Damascus road encounter (cf. Acts 9,22,26).

"building up" See Special Topic: Edify at I Cor. 8:1.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:11-13
  11Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13All the saints greet you.

13:11 "Finally" Literally this is "for the rest" (cf. Gal. 6:17). This is a characteristic concluding phrase for Paul (cf. Eph. 6:10; Phil. 3:1; 4:8; II Thess. 3:1). It usually marks a transition to a closing point.

▣ "brethren" What a beautiful and comforting way to close this difficult letter to a problem church. It also functions as a literary device to signal the transition to a new subject.

There is a series of five present imperatives.

1. "rejoice" (present active imperative). Paul often uses this term in 2 Corinthians (cf. 2:3; 6:10; 7:7,9,13,16; 13:9,11). This term can mean "good bye" (cf. Phil. 3:1; 4:4), but this does not fit a series of imperatives.

2. "be made complete" (present passive imperative). This speaks of unity and service (cf. v 9).

3. "be comforted" (present passive imperative). Paul uses this term often in 2 Corinthians (cf. 1:4,6; 2:7,8; 5:20; 6:1; 7:6,7,13; 8:6; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8,18; 13:11).

4. "be like-minded" (present active imperative). This Greek term has many connotations (cf. Louw and Nida, vol. 2, p. 259), but in this context it is parallel to "be made complete." This refers to unity for the sake of the gospel. This is not asserting that believers must agree about every issue, but that they must disagree in love and that the gospel should always have priority over personal opinions or preferences!

5. "live in peace" (present active imperative). This surely reflects I Corinthians 1-4 and 2 Corinthians 10-13. It is uncertain how these problems relate, but both caused disunity and contention. Paul commands peace, not by compromise, but by Christlikeness. The God of peace (cf. v. 11) will help us in our weakness!

 

▣ "the God of love and peace" What a wonderful descriptive title for YHWH. YHWH is often connected with "peace" (cf. Rom. 15:33; 16:20; I Cor. 14:33; Phil. 4:9; I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20). He is called the "Lord of peace" in II Thess. 3:16. Love and peace are both mentioned in Eph. 6:23.

Believers must emulate these characteristics in their relationships with one another.

13:12 "Greet" This can be translated "bid farewell" (cf. Acts 20:1; 21:6). It conveys an attitude of acceptance and cooperation. The opposite attitude is expressed in Matt. 5:47.

Just a comment about the numbering of these last two verses. Some English translations combine vv. 12-13 (TEV, NJB, RSV, NRSV), while others break it into two verses (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV).

▣ "holy kiss" This custom (i.e., between family members and friends) was later stopped because of pagan misunderstanding (i.e., erotic kissing). In the early church the men kissed the men and the women kissed the women (i.e., following the custom of the synagogue, cf. Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 16:20; I Thess. 5:26). See note at I Cor. 16:20.

This is an imperative. Does this mean that Christians must greet each other in this specific manner? Here is a good example of how culture and future situations must affect interpretation. The form is not the issue, but the attitude. Believers are a family.

13:13 "All the saints" This phrase refers not only to Paul and his missionary team, but "all the saints" (i.e., all of Paul's other churches). There was a tension between Corinth and these other churches. There was an air of superiority about this church. Paul addressed this issue by mentioning several times the standards he taught in all the churches (cf. I Cor. 4:17; 7:17; 11:16,34; 14:33). Corinth must be a part of the family, not a privileged, elite member. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at I Cor. 1:2.

In their current crisis, all of the congregations started by Paul sent their greetings, which implies fellowship, concern, cooperation, prayer, and acceptance.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:14
 14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

13:14 Paul always closes his letters in a prayer or benediction, but this one is unique. It combines three aspects of God's character with the three persons of the Trinity. It is also unusual that Jesus is mentioned first. For the full notes on "Trinity" see the Special Topic at I Cor. 2:10.

The three aspects of God: grace, love, and fellowship, are for "all" believers at Corinth. This is a crucial part of the prayer. Paul wants to restore unity among believers yet recognize and reject false believers.

Paul used a scribe to write his letters, but probably took the pen himself to write the last prayer personally (cf. II Thess. 3:17). Paul loved this church!

▣ "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" See Special Topics at I Cor. 1:9 and 12:11.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How do believers test themselves?

2. Why does Paul speak so often in chapters 11-13 of his weakness?

3. How is assurance related to perseverance?

4. How can God be one and three at the same time?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods