Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

2Corinthians 13 (web)


Dealing with Sinful Christians

13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you.
"At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word established."
13:2 I have said beforehand, and I do say beforehand,
as when I was present the second time, so now, being absent,
I write to those who have sinned before now, and to all the rest,
that, if I come again, I will not spare;
13:3 seeing that you seek a proof of Christ who speaks in me;
who toward you is not weak, but is powerful in you.
13:4 For he was crucified through weakness,
yet he lives through the power of God.
For we also are weak in him,
but we will live with him through the power of God toward you.
13:5 Test your own selves, whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves.
Or don't you know as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
--unless indeed you are disqualified.
13:6 But I hope that you will know that we aren't disqualified.
13:7 Now I pray to God that you do no evil; not that we may appear approved,
but that you may do that which is honorable, though we are as reprobate.
13:8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
13:9 For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong.
And this we also pray for, even your perfecting.

Authority to Build Up

13:10 For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not deal sharply when present,
according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for tearing down.

13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice.
Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
13:13 All the saints greet you.
13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think Paul plans to visit them again?
What kind of test do you suppose Paul was referring to in verse 5?
How do you know whether you are in the faith?
Is it possible to identify whether others are in the faith or not in the faith?
What do you suppose Paul's attitude would be if people misjudged him?
How do authorities in our life help to build us up?
How can we go about becoming of one mind?
What should Christian unity be based around?
How should it be practiced and how should it not be practiced?


Evidence that Demands a Verdict

2Cor 13:1 This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." (Deut 19:15b)

Where there is gossip and quarreling there are often baseless accusations. Paul doesn't want to hear it unless there are sufficient witnesses to back up an accusation. Here he shows an application of the Law of Moses. For while Christians are not under the regulations of the Law, we can learn from its principles. And Jesus himself used this verse in Deuteronomy to described the process of judging fellow Christians. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Mt 18:15-17 So, for example, "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses." 1Tim 5:19 

Examine Yourselves

2Cor 13:2-6 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

What "proof" was Paul speaking of here? I get the impression that he's speaking of a sort Ananias and Sapphira situation we read of in Acts 5. Paul's going to show up and people are going to start dropping dead. In fact in 1Corinthians 11 he spoke of the Corinthians abusing the communion service, "That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep." (That is, died) 1Cor 11:30

Though sinless perfection is not a measure of a Christian, there is an expectation that those born of God won't chose to live a lifestyle of sin, and thus behavior is a measure of whether one has been born of God. Speaking in a lifestyle sense, John writes, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 and Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35 These are the kind of tests Paul was alluding to. How do you measure up?

Do it for the Truth

2Cor 13:7-10 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority— the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

It is not that people are puppets, but prayer can have an influence, particularly among Christians, seeing as we are open to listening to him due to our regenerate nature. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 But Paul is not saying this because their obedience would validate his ministry. For he would rather be viewed a failure if it were for their good. Likewise those involved in ministry need to evaluate their own motivations. Consider whether or not you're doing ministry simply for yourself - serving your own ego. And whether you have a genuine concern for those to whom you are ministering, even at the cost of you being viewed as a failure. Consider Jesus. He purposely allowed himself to be subject to humiliation, being viewed as a failure, in order to secure the salvation of the elect.

As for Paul's determination along these lines, notice he says he "cannot" do anything against the truth. He doesn't say "will not". "Cannot", which uses the Greek word "dunamai", from which we get "dynamite", speaks stronger than that which is dependent on one's volition. He intention of doing what is right is a conviction of such magnitude that choice is no longer involved. There is no option along these lines. I recall when Jesus challenged his disciples with hard teachings in John 6 to test their level of conviction. It was written, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." John 6:66 Which is followed by Jesus asking, 'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' John 6:67-68

As for praying for their "perfection" (NIV) or "that they may be made complete" (NKJV), this word is also used in the sense of "restoring" (Gal 6:1) and "equipping" (Heb 13:21) He wasn't praying for their salvation, despite their imperfection, but rather for their maturity - their sanctification.

Aim for Perfection

2Cor 13:11-14 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you

Basically - get along with one another. The main problem in the Corinthian church was not doctrinal. The main problem was that Christians couldn't get along with one another. In fact some today who allegedly "aim for perfection" refuse to get along with fellow Christians whom they view as less than perfect. And thus perfectionism has been used as an excuse for not getting along with fellow Christians. Contrast that attitude,  giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Heb 10:25), because fellow Christians are not good enough for them, with Paul's attitude here of not leaving anyone behind, regardless of how imperfect they may be.

Perfection here is about being equipped to do effective ministry. And if you're not planning on doing ministry, you're still in diapers, far from complete.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020