(1) This is the third time I am coming to you.—The words may point either to three actual visits—(1) that of Acts 18:1; (2) an unrecorded visit (of which, however, there is no trace), during St. Paul’s stay at Ephesus; and (3) that now in contemplation—or (1) to one actual visit, as before; (2) the purposed visit which had been abandoned (see Notes on 2 Corinthians 1:16); and (3) that which he now has in view. The latter interpretation falls in best with the known facts of the case, and is in entire accordance both with his language in 2 Corinthians 12:14, and with his mode of expressing his intentions, as in 1 Corinthians 16:5.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.—There seems no adequate reason for not taking these words in their simple and natural meaning. The rule, quoted from Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15, was of the nature of an axiom of Jewish, one might almost say of natural, law. And it had received a fresh prominence from our Lord’s reproduction of it in giving directions as for the discipline of the society which He came to found. (See Note on Matthew 18:16.) What more natural than that St. Paul should say, “When I come, there will be no more surmises and vague suspicions, but every offence will be dealt with in a vigorous and full inquiry”? There seems something strained, almost fantastic, in the interpretation which, catching at the accidental juxtaposition of “the third time” and the “three witnesses,” assumes that the Apostle personifies his actual or intended visits, and treats them as the witnesses whose testimony was to be decisive. It is a fatal objection to this view that it turns the judge into a prosecutor, and makes him appeal to his own reiteration of his charges as evidence of their truth.
For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him.—The thought that underlies the apparently hard saying is that the disciples of Christ share at once in their Lord’s weakness and in His strength. “We, too, are weak,” the Apostle says; “we have our share in infirmities and sufferings, which are ennobled by the thought that they are ours because we are His; but we know that we shall live in the highest sense, in the activities of the spiritual life, which also we share with Him, and which comes to us by the power of God; and this life will be manifested in the exercise of our spiritual power towards you and for your good.” To refer the words “we shall live” to the future life of the resurrection, though the thought is, of course, true in itself, is to miss the special force of the words in relation to the context.
How that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?—On the last word see Notes on Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27. Here its exact meaning is defined by the context as that of failing to pass the scrutiny to which he calls them: “Christ is in you” (the central thought of the Apostle’s teaching; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27), “unless the sentence, after an impartial scrutiny by yourselves, or by a judge gifted with spiritual discernment, is that there are no tokens of His presence.” The ideas which Calvinistic theology has attached to the word “reprobate” are, it need hardly be said, foreign to the true meaning of the word, both here and elsewhere.
This also we wish, even your perfection.
Be perfect.—Better, as before, restore yourselves to completeness; amend yourselves. In the words “be of good comfort” (better, perhaps, be comforted, with the implied thought that the comfort comes through accepting his word of counsel—see Note on Acts 4:36) we trace an echo of what he had said in the opening of the Epistle, as to the “comfort” which had been given to him (2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:7). Paraclesis in its two-fold aspect is, in fact, the key-note of the whole Epistle. Taking the verb and the noun together, the word occurs twenty-eight times in it.
Be of one mind.—The phrase was one specially characteristic of St. Paul’s teaching (Romans 15:6; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 3:16; Philippians 4:2). His thoughts are apparently travelling back to the schisms over which he had grieved in 1 Corinthians 1-3, and to which he had referred in 2 Corinthians 12:20. What he seeks is the restoration of unity of purpose, and with that of inward and outward peace. If these conditions were fulfilled, the “God of love and peace would assuredly be with them,” for peace rests ever upon the son of peace (Luke 10:6).
The order of the names of the three Divine Persons is itself significant. Commonly, the name of the Father precedes that of the Son, as, e.g., in 2 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3. Here the order is inverted, as though in the Apostle’s thoughts there was no “difference or inequality” between them, the question of priority being determined by the sequence of thought, and not by any essential distinction. To those who trace that sequence here there will seem sufficient reason for the order which we actually find. St. Paul had spoken of the comfort brought to his own soul by the words which he heard in vision from the lips of the Lord Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He had spoken of that grace as showing itself in self-abnegation for the sake of man (2 Corinthians 8:9). What more natural than that the first wish of his heart for those who were dear to him should be that that grace might be with them, working on them and assimilating them to itself? But the “favour,” or “grace,” which thus flowed through Christ was derived from a yet higher source. It was the love of God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), the love of the Eternal Father that was thus manifested in the “grace” of the Son. Could he separate those divine acts from that of Him whom he knew at once as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ? (Romans 8:9-14; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 4:6.) Was it not through their participation, their fellowship in that Spirit (the phrase meets us again in Philippians 2:1) shedding down the love of God in their hearts (Romans 5:5) that the grace of Christ and the love of the Father were translated from the region of abstract thoughts or mere empty words into the realities of a living experience? The note, added by some unknown transcriber, though having no shadow of authority, is, probably, in this instance, as has been shown in the Notes on 2 Corinthians 8:16-22, a legitimate inference from the data furnished by the Epistle.
 The note, added by some unknown transcriber, though having no shadow of authority, is, probably, in this instance, as has been shown in the Notes on
And so the Epistle ends, not, we may imagine, if we may once picture to ourselves the actual genesis of the letter, without a certain sense of relief and of repose. It had been a hard and difficult task to dictate it. The act of dictation had been broken by the pauses of strong emotion or physical exhaustion. The Apostle had had to say things that went against the grain, of which he could not feel absolutely sure that they were the right things to say. (See Note on 2 Corinthians 11:17.) And now all is done. He can look forward to coming to the Corinthian Church, not with a rod, but in love and in the spirit of meekness (1 Corinthians 4:21). What the actual result of that visit was we do not know in detail, but there are at least no traces of disappointment in the tone of the Epistle to the Romans, which was written during that visit. He has been welcomed with a generous hospitality (Romans 16:23). He has not been dis-appointed in the collection for the saints (Romans 15:26) either in Macedonia or Achaia. If we trace a reminiscence of past conflicts in the warning against those who cause divisions (Romans 16:18), it is rather with the calmness of one who looks back on a past danger than with the bitterness of the actual struggle.