my God will humble me; instead of rejoicing in the fruit of his labours, that they were not in vain, he signifies that he should have great sorrow of heart; and whereas he had promised himself much pleasure and comfort in visiting them, it would be the reverse; and inasmuch as he had boasted of them to others, he should be ashamed:
and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, or "before"; not before conversion, but before the writing of this or the former epistle; for nothing was more grieving, and occasioned more sorrow and humiliation to the apostle, than the unbecoming walk of professors; and nothing more sensibly affects a faithful minister of the Gospel:
and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication, and lasciviousness, which they have committed. The city of Corinth was famous, or rather infamous, for unclean practices; as fornication, adultery, lasciviousness in words and deeds, and other unnatural lusts; "Corinthian whores" was a common proverb; nor was it proper for persons to go to Corinth, there were so many snares for lust and uncleanness; there were said to be above a thousand prostitutes in the temple of Venus there (k); hence the very great impurities and wickedness, which many of the members of this church were guilty of, may be accounted for; some of them had repented, others not, which was the great concern of the apostle: and from hence we may learn, that gracious souls may be suffered to fall into great sins; and that when they are truly brought to repentance, they ought to be restored to communion with the church; but impenitent ones are to be cut off, and remain so, till brought to a due sense of their evils.
(k) Alex. ab Alex. Genial Dier. l. 4. c. 13. & 5. 15. & 6. 26.
INTRODUCTION TO 2 Corinthians 13
In this chapter the apostle continues his resolution to come to the Corinthians, and to threaten with severity the incorrigible among them, giving the reasons of it; prays to God that they might so behave, that there might be no occasion for the exercise of it; and concludes the epistle with very useful exhortations, and hearty wishes of good things to them. He intimates to them again, that he intended this third time to come unto them, when he would not spare them, as they might expect he would not; partly because they had such repeated warnings, reproofs, and admonitions from him, 2 Corinthians 13:1 and partly because many of them had sinned before, and were stubborn and obstinate, and had not repented, 2 Corinthians 13:2 as also because they had tempted him, and demanded a proof of his power and authority, and of Christ speaking in him, 2 Corinthians 13:3 and whereas this sprung from the outward appearance of the apostle, whose bodily presence was weak, he observes to them the instance of Christ himself in human nature, who was crucified through weakness, and yet lives by the power of God; and so he and his fellow ministers were weak like Christ, and for his sake, and yet lived, and should live by the power of God; so that their outward appearance was no proof of their want of the power of Christ in them, 2 Corinthians 13:4 besides, he directs them to themselves for a proof of it; who upon examination would find, that they were in the faith, and Christ was in them; which was owing to the ministry of the apostle, as a means and instrument; and so they had a proof in themselves of Christ's speaking in the apostle, and being mighty in, and towards them, or else they must be reprobate, injudicious, and disapproved persons, 2 Corinthians 13:5 but whether they were such persons or not, he was confident that he would not be found such; but would appear to be in the faith, to have Christ in him, and to have power and authority from him, 2 Corinthians 13:6 however, the apostle's hearty prayer for them was, that they might be kept from evil; and that they might do that which is good, and so be approved of God and men; and there be no occasion to use any severity with them, when he should come among them, 2 Corinthians 13:7 otherwise he could do nothing against the truth, could not connive at error and sin, but must use the power and authority he had to crush everything of that kind, and defend truth, 2 Corinthians 13:8 and so far was he from glorying in his power, and priding himself with it, that it was a pleasure to him to have no occasion to make use of it, by which it might seem as if he was without it; and it rejoiced him, when they stood fast in the faith, and walked as became the Gospel, and so needed not the rod of reproof and correction; nay, he could even wish, that they were wholly perfect, and free from all blame, and every kind of charge, 2 Corinthians 13:9 and the end he had in the writing in the manner he did, being absent from them, was, lest when he should come among them, he should be obliged to make use of his power he had from Christ for edification, and not destruction; to prevent which, he wrote and admonished them, in order to bring them to repentance, that so he might have no occasion to use severity and sharpness, 2 Corinthians 13:10 and then he takes his farewell of them, by giving them some exhortations to harmony, unity, peace, and love among themselves, 2 Corinthians 13:11 gives the salutations of all the saints unto them, 2 Corinthians 13:13 and then his own, with which he concludes the epistle, which is a wish of all the blessings of grace from all the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13:14.
in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established; referring to Deuteronomy 19:15 which he applies much in the same manner Christ does in Matthew 18:16 and which it is probable he had in view; signifying hereby, that he proceeded in a judicial way, according to due form of law, and in such a manner as Christ had directed; and that they were to look upon his several comings in the sense now explained, to be as so many witnesses, whereby the several charges exhibited against them were fully attested and confirmed, so that things were now ripe for judgment, and for a final sentence to pass upon them.
and being absent now, I write to them which heretofore have sinned; before he wrote his first epistle, of which he had information, and had faithfully reproved and admonished them; see 2 Corinthians 12:21.
And to all other; that might since be drawn into a compliance with sinful practices, through their example; or as the Arabic version renders it, "to the rest of the congregation"; who would be witnesses for him, and against them, that he had admonished them a first, and a second time: and by his present writing declares,
that if I come again; for, not knowing what might fall out to prevent him, though he was bent upon coming, and ready for it, nor what was the will of God about it, he does not choose to be positive in the matter; and therefore writes conditionally, and with a guard, and no doubt with a submission to the divine will:
I will not spare; this was the reason why as yet he had not been at Corinth, because he was willing to spare them; see 2 Corinthians 1:23 being loath to come to severities, if gentler methods would take effect; but now having used all proper means, he is at a point, aud determined not to spare, but to use his apostolical rod, or that power which the Lord had given him in an extraordinary way, as an extraordinary officer, to punish incorrigible offenders, in such manner as the incestuous person, and Hymenaeus and Philetus had been used by him.
which to you-ward, says he,
is not weak, but is mighty in you; the Gospel of Christ, at the first preaching of it to them by him, was the power of God unto salvation to them; and was attended with divers signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost; and besides, they had instances of the power of Christ towards them in an awful way, in punishing sinners; as in the delivery of the incestuous person to Satan, which was done by his Spirit being with them when assembled; and by smiting many of them with sickness, diseases, and infirmities, and with death itself, who had sinned, 1 Corinthians 5:4. Wherefore, seeing after all these instances of the voice and power of Christ in him, they yet questioned his apostolical authority, and sought proof of it; and especially since this was not so much a tempting of him, as a tempting of Christ in him, he was resolved not to spare them.
but yet he lives by the power of God; he was raised from the dead by a divine power; by his own power as God, as well as by his Father's, and so was declared to be the Son of God with power; and he lives at the right hand of God as man and Mediator, vested with all power in heaven and in earth; though, in the days of his flesh, he appeared so weak, mean, and despicable: now the apostle mentions this case of our Lord's, to deter the Corinthians from despising him, on account of his outward weakness and meanness; and from hence buoying themselves up, and in which they were encouraged by the false apostles, that he had not, and could not exercise the power he talked of; they had observed what mean figure he made when he was among them; and whatever weight there might be in his letters, yet his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible; wherefore he sets before them the instance of Christ, who though he appeared very weak in his state of humiliation, yet he now lives in power, to assist and strengthen his ministers, in every branch of their work; and suggests, that as it was with Christ, it was, and would be in some measure with him, and his fellow ministers:
for we also are weak in him: like him, and for his sake, they were subject to infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, and distresses; carried about daily the dying of the Lord Jesus; bore a very great resemblance to him in his state of humiliation; were very much as he was in this world, and bore much for his name's sake; the Alexandrian copy and the Syriac version read, "with him"; being crucified with him, and dead with him:
but we shall live with him by the power of God towards you; which is not to be understood of being raised by Christ to an immortal life, and of living with him in glory; though this is a certain truth, that such who suffer with Christ, shall live and reign, and be glorified together with him; but of the life, power, and efficacy of the ministers of Christ, and of Christ in and with them, displayed in the lively ministration of the word and ordinances, in the vigorous discharge of all the branches of their office; not only in preaching, but in rebuking, admonishing, laying on of censures, and punishing criminals; and especially regards the powerful exertion and use of the apostolic rod; for this life is not only with Christ, or through Christ being in them, notwithstanding all their outward weakness, and by the power of God, which supports them under all, and enables them to perform their work, but is "towards you"; the Corinthians, to be exercised towards them, to be seen among them, and felt by them.
prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you; by which he means, that if they took a survey of things in their own souls, it would appear that Christ was in them; not as he is in all the world, filling heaven and earth with his presence; or as he is in every rational creature, as the Creator and author of the light of nature; but in a special and spiritual manner, by his Spirit and grace; the Father reveals him in his people, as the foundation of their hope of glory; he himself enters and takes possession of their hearts in conversion, communicates his grace, and manifests himself, and is formed there by his Spirit; his graces are implanted, his image is stamped, his Spirit is put within them, and he himself dwells by faith: and this upon inquiry would be found to be the case of the Corinthians,
except, says the apostle,
ye are reprobates; meaning not that they were so, as such may stand opposed to the elect of God; for persons may as yet neither be in the faith, nor Christ in them, and yet both be hereafter, and so not be left of God, or consigned to destruction; but that if they were not in the doctrine of, faith, then they were reprobate concerning it, or void of judgment in it; and if they had not the grace of faith, and Christ was not in them, then they were not genuine, but nominal professors, like "reprobate silver", counterfeit coin; which when detected, would be "disapproved", not only by God, but man, as this word also signifies, and so stands opposed to them that are "approved", 2 Corinthians 13:7 or if they did not make such an examination, probation, and recognition of themselves, they would be without probation: or as the Arabic version, without experiment. The apostle hereby brings them into this dilemma, either that if upon examination they were found to be in the faith, and Christ in them, which blessings they enjoyed through his ministry, then they did not want a proof of Christ speaking in him; but if these things did not appear in them, then they were persons of no judgment in spiritual things, were not real Christians, but insignificant and useless persons.
that we, says he,
are not reprobates; men void of judgment in the doctrines of the Gospel, but have light, knowledge, and understanding in them; or useless and unprofitable in the ministry, but were the savour of life unto life to many; were ministers by whom others believed; were successful labourers in the Lord's vineyard, and builders in his house; and were made very useful for the conversion, comfort, and edification of many souls: or that they were not men disapproved either by God, or his people; since as they faithfully served Christ in the ministration of the Gospel, they were acceptable to God, and approved of men: or were not men without a proof of Christ speaking in them; they might assure themselves they would have too soon, for some of them, an evidence of that power and authority which Christ had lodged in them, to punish such as repented not of their evils.
that ye do no evil; which, though impracticable and impossible, considering the situation of the people of God in this world, yet is desirable by every good man, both for himself and others; and was desired by the apostle, partly that their consciences might not be wounded, their souls grieved, their peace broke in upon, and their comforts lost; and partly that the name of God, and his cause and truths, might not be blasphemed; and chiefly that he might have no opportunity of exercising his apostolical rod for their correction:
not that we should appear approved. This was a clear case that he sought their good, and not his own credit, and the exercise of power; if they committed evil, his faithfulness would be seen in reproving, rebuking, and exhorting them; and if they continued impenitent, his apostolical authority would be manifest in their punishment, so that he would appear approved, or with a proof of the power of Christ in him; but this he did not desire, but most earnestly wished there might be no occasion for any such evidence:
but that they should do that which is honest; or "good", both in the sight of God and men, that which is according to the will of God, springs from love, is done in faith, and with a view to the glory of God; and the apostle's praying, both that they might be kept from evil, and do that which is good, shows the impotence of man's free will, the necessity of the grace of God to abstain from sin, and perform good works; and this the apostle earnestly desired,
though, says be,
we be as reprobates; weak and infirm persons, incapable of giving any proof of the power of Christ, and appear as such, who have no marks of apostolical authority. The apostle chose rather to be looked upon as a poor, mean, and insignificant person, than that they should sin, and require the exercise of his chastising rod, whereby he would be seen to be what they called in question.
but for the truth: for the sake of defending the truth against those that dropped, denied, and opposed it; and for the honour of it, by chastising, correcting, reproving, censuring, and punishing such, who either contradicted it, or caused it to be blasphemed and spoken evil of.
and ye are strong; stand fast in the doctrine of faith, and are lively and active in the exercise of the grace of faith; are strong in Christ, and in his grace, and in the power of his might, to withstand every temptation of Satan, every corruption of their own hearts, and to perform every duty aright.
And this also we wish, even your perfection; or restoration, or jointing in again; a metaphor taken from the setting of bones that are dislocated and out of joint; for the church at Corinth was like a disjointed body, and the apostle's wish was, that their animosities might cease, their divisions be healed, their disorders rectified, and each member be in its proper place, behaving as became the Gospel of Christ; see 1 Corinthians 1:10.
lest, being present, I should use sharpness; meaning severe reproofs and censures, or rather the exercise of the apostolic rod:
according to the power the Lord haft given me, to edification, and not to destruction; by striking persons dead, as Ananias and Sapphira were by Peter; or by delivering them up to Satan to have corporeal punishment inflicted on them, as were Hymenaeus and Philetus, and the incestuous person by the Apostle Paul; which, though it was for the destruction of the flesh, yet for the salvation of their souls, and for the good, use, and edification of the rest of the society, that they might take warning thereby, and shun the evils which were the occasion of such severity.
be perfect; seek after perfection in knowledge, grace, and holiness, and in the performance of good works: or "be restored"; or jointed and knit together, as before; see 2 Corinthians 13:9 let every difference subside, all breaches be made up, every member take and fill up his place, and all things be done decently and in order:
be of good comfort; or "exhort" one another to the diligent discharge of duty, to love and good works; or comfort one another in all distresses, inward and outward, both by words and deeds, according to the ability God has given; or take comfort, be of good heart, do not refuse to be comforted either by God or men.
Be of one mind; in religious sentiments, in the doctrines and principles of grace, and ordinances of the Gospel; for as there is but "one Lord" to be believed in, so there is, and ought to be, but "one" system of "faith" to be received, and "one baptism" to be administered in one and the same way, to one and the same sort of persons; which sameness of judgment, in faith and worship, is very necessary to church communion, and the comfort of it; for how can two, and much less more, walk comfortably together, unless they are agreed in these things?
Live in peace both with them that are without, and them that are within, with all men, and with the members of the church; which to do, is to the credit of religion, the comfort of church members, and the joy of Christ's ministers:
and the God of love and peace shall be with you; he who is love itself, and has loved his people with an everlasting love, and who is the author and donor of spiritual and eternal peace, and who has called his people to peace, and expects and requires it among themselves, and all men, will grant to such his gracious presence; than which nothing can be more grateful and desirable.