2 Corinthians Chapter Thirteen
I. Content of the Chapter
The Final Exhortation
A. Not spare those who commit sins (v.1
B. Be weak to live with Christ (v.3b-4);
C. Examine oneself (v.5-6);
D. Expect to be perfect (v.7-10);
E. Final words (v.11);
F. Greetings (v.12-13);
G. Blessings (v.14);
II. Verse by Verse Commentary
2Cor. 13:1 “This will be the third time I am coming to you. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."”
YLT: “This third time do I come unto you; on the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every saying be established;”
Meaning of Words: “establish”: stand firm, hold up;
Literal Meaning: “this will be the third time I am coming to you”. “The third time”, it repeats the words in 12:14. Paul had been there twice before.
“By the mouth of two or three witnesses”, according to the law of the Jews, the witness in the court can be effective only when there should be two or three witnesses (see Deut. 19:15). Not everyone can be “the” witness in the Scriptures. The word “witness” in the original sometimes can be interpreted as “martyr” (Acts 22:20; Rev. 2:13; 17:6). Therefore, the witness should have the spirit of self-sacrifice to stand up for the truth.
“Every word shall be established.” Every word of the witness should be true.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If there are not two or three witnesses, we shall not believe the words of others without consideration (see Matt. 18:16; 1Tim. 5:19).
2) If we want to bear witness to Christ, we shall ask other brothers or sisters to work together. Therefore, the witness will be powerful.
2Cor. 13:2 “I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare--”
YLT: “I have said before, and I say before, as being present, the second time, and being absent, now, do I write to those having sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again, I will not spare,”
Meaning of Words: “spare”: forbear, treat leniently;
Literal Meaning: “I have told you before … and now being absent I write”, “told you before”, it has a warning hue.
“And foretell as if I were present the second time”, “the second time”: it refers to the previous unpleasant visitation. We can infer that before Paul leaving them the second time he had warned them.
“To those who have sinned before, and to all the rest”, “who have sinned”: those who are mentioned in verse 21, chapter twelve. “All the rest”: those who are mentioned in verse twenty, chapter twelve.
“That if I come again I will not spare--”, Paul had spared them when he visited them the second time, or perhaps he had no chance to deal with these things because of the particular condition of the church in Corinth at that time, for the false apostles rose up against Paul. Therefore, many believers doubted Paul’s spiritual authority.
2Cor. 13:3 “since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.”
YLT: “since a proof ye seek of the Christ speaking in me, who to you is not infirm, but is powerful in you,”
Meaning of Words: “proof”: trial, trustiness; “mighty”: powerful, efficient;
Meaning: “since you seek a proof of
Christ speaking in me”, at that time, since believers in
“Who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you”, when the apostle Paul speaks to or works
among believers in
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) When believers in
2) When Christ speaks in His servants, He is mighty in believers who have heard His words and touches them. Therefore, believers can subjectively test whether Christ is speaking in His servant by touching Christ in them.
2Cor. 13:4 “For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.”
YLT: “for even if he was crucified from infirmity, yet he doth live from the power of God; for we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him from the power of God toward you.”
Meaning of Words: “power”: strength, mighty work, force;
Literal Meaning: “for though He was crucified in weakness”, such “weakness” is not the weakness in spirit, but the infirmity in the physical body. Christ is power in his divine nature, and yet he is willing to be incarnated and limited in the flesh in order to fulfill the redemption ---- this is His weakness. He was crucified because of this weakness.
“Yet He lives by the power of God”. Christ rises up from the dead according to the working of the might of God’s strength (see Eph. 1:20). Now He still lives by the power of God.
“For we also are weak in Him”, “weak in Him”: follow the example of Christ who is weak in the flesh and be willing to take up the cross and thus live the life of the cross with Him;
“But we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.” Apparently, the apostle Paul is weak to
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Since men do not know that the Lord Jesus has to die for men on the cross in a weak human form (see Phil. 2:8), they mock him that he saves others and yet cannot save himself (see Matt. 27:39-42). Actually, Christ seems weak and yet mighty in fact. If a man seems weak in the sight of others for the purpose of obeying the will of God, he is powerful in fact. However, if we have disobeyed the will of God, though we seem powerful, we are weak in fact.
2) “For though He was crucified in weakness”, it indicates that Christ is so faithful that he receives all the restrictions in humanity arranged by God. Therefore, He “lives” “by the power of God” so absolutely and completely. Many times, we are unwilling to obey the guidance of God that makes us weak and be weak with Him and be united with the death of Christ. Therefore, we can hardly experience “the power of God shown to us” and “live with Him” and be united with the glory of the resurrection of Christ.
3) The apostle Paul has shown his extreme
endurance (see 12:12) and also his absolute might ---- “shall not spare” (see
v.2) to believers in
4) The strength of the Lord is made perfect in weakness (see 12:9). If we are unwilling to “be weak” with Him, we cannot experience the power of God and “live with Him”. Therefore, we Christians can experience the power of God by boasting of our infirmity (see 12:9).
5) If we can be weak as the Lord, we have found the secret of obtaining power.
2Cor. 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.”
YLT: “Your ownselves try ye, if ye are in the faith; your ownselves prove ye; do ye not know your ownselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, if ye be not in some respect disapproved of?”
Meaning of Words: “examine”: prove, test; “test”: distinguish, discern, try; “disqualified”:;
Literal Meaning: “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith”. “Examine”: judge whether it owns something after test. Whether we have faith or not can be examined by ourselves. Faith is not imaginary or untouchable, but can be examined.
“Test yourselves”. “Test”: whether it is qualified or accepted after discernment and authentication. Whether our faith is right can be tested.
“Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.” “Disqualified”: cannot bear scrutiny or test and be judged as disqualification and worthlessness and thus regarded as reprobates; it indicates that if one is sure that Christ is in him, he has passed the examination and has part in the body of Christ ---- the church.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Since Believers in
2) Note that Paul asks them to “examine themselves” and “test themselves”. Therefore, whether one has faith or not is difficult to be judged by others, for we are not God and we can only see the appearance but not search out the inner reality. Therefore, no wonder the Lord asks us not gather the tares flippantly (see Matt. 13:24-30).
3) Once we have believed the Lord, we are accepted by God through the precious blood of the Lord and we have the Lord Jesus who abides in us and never departs. We should be assuredly confident that this is the center of our being favored.
4) The Lord said, “And him that comes to me I will not at all cast out.” (John 6:37). Since we believers have already come to the Lord, we have obtained the Lord Jesus and will never be cast out.
5) That we can be accepted by God is not because of our own merits but is because that Christ lives in us. As long as Christ are in us, we will never be cast out by God at all. We should not believer the lies of Satan, but believer the word of God.
2Cor. 13:6 “But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”
YLT: “and I hope that ye shall know that we -- we are not disapproved of;”
Meaning of Words: “trust”: expect, confide; “know”: be aware of, understand; “disqualified”: unapproved, rejected, castaway;
Literal Meaning: “but I trust that you will know”, the apostle Paul earnestly expects believers in Corinth to know one thing clearly, that is, he and his companions are those who have passed the examination of faith.
“That we are not disqualified”, “we” refer to Paul and his fellow workers.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) It is a common fault that one who has problem himself always digs over problems of others. We Christians are those who have “light” and are the light of the world, so we are supposed not to commit the same mistakes with those who are in the world.
2) It does profit believers by the assurance that the leaders who have spoken to them the word of God are true servants of God, thus believers shall not be carried away with various and strange doctrines (see Heb. 13:7-9).
2Cor. 13:7 “Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.”
YLT: “and I pray before God that ye do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do that which is right, and we may be as disapproved;”
Meaning of Words: “evil”: bad, wicked, worthless; “appear”: seem, be seen, shine; “approved”: tried, acceptable; “honorable”: good, fair; “disqualified”: disapproved, rejected;
Meaning: “not that we should appear
approved”, “approved”, be proved
acceptable after trial; Paul does not intend to show whether he can bear the
trial, for what he cares for is the condition of believers in
“But that you should do what is honorable”, “do what is honorable”, it points that the purpose of Paul’s writing to rebuke and exhort believers in Corinth is encouraging them to do what is honorable instead of justifying himself.
“Though we may seem disqualified”, it means that as long as you are in a good condition, you will not care about how others see us. Even though they criticize us and condemn us, it does not matter.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) That we do not “do evil” is not due to our cautiousness, but needs careful prayer before the Lord and needs intercessions of one another.
2) Paul would rather let himself be seemed disqualified in order to let others be favored. This is the spirit of Christ on the cross. Since he cried on that day, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34), we can cry “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).
3) What the Lord’s servants ask before God is the normal spiritual condition of the believers whom they serve. The estimation in the sight of others to them is not what matters.
2Cor. 13:8 “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”
YLT: “for we are not able to do anything against the truth, but for the truth;”
Meaning of Words: “against”: ; “for”: in order to, for the purpose of;
Meaning: “for we can do nothing
against the truth”, “truth”: the real content of faith; this verse
explains what is mentioned in the previous verse. If what Paul cares for is
whether he is accepted, not whether believers in
“But for the truth”, “for the truth”, it means that the truth shall be practiced among believers or believers can all walk according to the truth.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If the Lord’s worker walks for the purpose of showing off himself so as to become popular among believers, he is “against the truth”. However, if he walks in everything for the purpose of building up the church and perfecting the saints, he is “for the truth”.
2) If we walk according to the words of God spoken to us, we are for the truth. To the words of God spoken to us, if we avoid the important and dwell on the trivial or even keep in a roundabout way, we are just against the truth.
3) He who is against the truth may not oppose the truth directly. All that decrease the position of the truth in believers’ hearts or cause misunderstanding about the truth are against the truth.
4) Christians can not show partiality or cover up sins to oppose the truth, and we can only support those who stand on the side of the truth.
5) Many servants of God and the elders of the church often put aside the truth for the sake of human relationship when their own family members are stumbled. They help those who commit sins to cover what have happened and even use the words in the Scriptures to put down the saints who know the fact and show disapproval. Such conditions are against the truth.
2Cor. 13:9 “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.”
YLT: “for we rejoice when we may be infirm, and ye may be powerful; and this also we pray for -- your perfection!”
Meaning of Words: “strong”: powerful, mighty; “be made complete”: thorough equipment, perfection;
Literal Meaning: “for we are glad when we are weak and you are strong”. “weak” here means disqualified; “strong” means qualified; Paul here is glad when believers are strong, even though he himself seems weak in the sight of others.
“And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.” “Be made complete”: mend, prepare, restore to the orderly and
perfect condition, be perfect and be built up; what Paul prays for believers in
2Cor. 13:10 “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.”
YLT: “because of this, these things -- being absent -- I write, that being present, I may not treat sharply, according to the authority that the Lord did give me for building up, and not for casting down.”
Meaning of Words: “authority”: power, jurisdiction; “sharpness”: peremptorily; “edification”: building up; “destruction”: pulling down, extinction, demolition;
Literal Meaning: “therefore I write these things being absent”, it means that I write to you before coming to you.
“Lest being present I should use sharpness according to the authority which the Lord has given me”, it explains the previous words in this verse the purpose of Paul’s writing this epistle is to let believers in Corinth repent early and be restored to perfection so that he needs not to use sharpness according to the authority which the Lord has given him.
“For edification and not for destruction”, it gives the reason why he does not use the authority ---- for the Lord gives the spiritual authority for the purpose of positive usage, not for negative punishment or domination.
2Cor. 13:11 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
YLT: “Henceforth, brethren, rejoice; be made perfect, be comforted, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of the love and peace shall be with you;”
Meaning of Words: “complete”: be perfected, be filled;
Literal Meaning: “finally”, mention something not covered before or emphasize what has been mentioned previously;
“Brethren, farewell”, “farewell”: the joy of farewell is not out of
man’s natural life, nor any environmental elements, but is “in the Lord” (Phil.
3:1; 4:4; 1Tehss. 5:16). Therefore, Paul expects the spiritual condition of
“Become complete”; “complete”: it shares the same etymon and meaning with the words “be made complete” in verse nine.
“Be of good comfort”,
it means to experience the encouragement of
God is of all comfort (see 1:3-6); “of good comfort”: be encouraged and
exhorted in the original; therefore, Paul may also encourage believers in
“Be of one mind”, the worst weakness of believers in
“Live in peace”: live in peace with each other without contentions;
“And the God of love and peace will be with you.” The divisions and contentions among
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Both “farewell” and “be of good comfort” are “rejoice”, and “be of one mind” and “live in peace” relate to love. If a Christian desires to be perfect, joy and love are indispensible.
2) When the Lord Jesus brought His disciples to have the final supper, He had ever issued two commandments: a) you love one another (John 13:34); b) Let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1). These two commandments also talk about love and joy.
3) Joy is not obtained forcibly by us. We can rejoice only when we transcend the environment. Therefore, the secret of believer’s joy is “by the Lord” and “in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4).
4) The more we draw near the Lord, the more we will rejoice. The deeper our relation with the Lord is, the deeper our joy will be.
5) Christians should not be self-satisfied nor stand still, but shall seek “to be perfected”. Christians should seek “more abundant” life (see John 10:10) and seek the increase in spiritual virtues (see 2Pet. 1:5-7) and seek to be more “faithful” in service (see 1Cor. 4:1-2).
6) When we are troubled, we shall learn to be comforted by God or others so that we can also comfort others (see 1:3-6).
7) God asks us to consider one another for provoking to love and good works, and also asks us to encourage one another, and by so much the more as we see the day of the Lord’s second coming drawing near in the last days (see Heb. 10:24-25).
8) The real difficulty of the oneness of the church is not in our spirit, but in our minds ---- be of the different minds.
9) Only when believers let the mind of Christ in them can they be of the same mind. Therefore, we shall not attempt to persuade anyone to agree with our own opinions. What is really important is to seek the will of the Lord with one accord.
10) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps. 133:1)! The church bears witness before men in the world by loving one another, not by knowledge. If we have love among ourselves, all shall know that we are the Lord’s disciples (see John 13:35).
11) Our God is a God of love and a God of peace. The reverse side of love and peace is hatred and conflict. Where there is love, there is peace. Where there is hatred, there must be conflicts. If the church is full of the presence of God, there will be naturally filled with love and peace.
12) Many Christians seek the mighty God, and here Paul emphasizes that what the church really needs is the God who is love and peace, which may be least known among the common believers. Unless we have enjoyed the love and peace of God, what we have built will be far less than what we have destroyed.
13) Farewell, and become complete and be of good comfort are individual. Be of one mind and live in peace are corporate. No matter it is individual or corporate, we both need the grace of God as well as the love and peace of God.
2Cor. 13:12 “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
YLT: “salute one another in an holy kiss;”
Meaning of Words: “greet”: salute, welcome; “holy”: sacred, blameless;
The Background: the Westerners often greet by “kisses”, especially
the regions of the
Literal Meaning: “greet one another with a kiss”, in the early church time, the custom of men at that time might be applied ---- they greeted each other with earnest kisses. To the people at that time, kisses were more intimate than handshakes (see Gal. 2:9).
“A holy kiss”, “holy”: blameless without any defilement. What Paul emphasizes here is holy not kiss. The manners of greeting to believers differ because of different times and regions. However, what is mostly important is “holy”.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Believers should be kindly affectioned towards one another (see Rom. 12:10), and should also keep holy.
2) Holy is not coolly impersonal. Today, a lot of men misunderstand “what is spiritual” and think that the spiritual should be indifferent without expressing his affection.
2Cor. 13:13 “All the saints greet you.”
YLT: “salute you do all the saints;”
Literal Meaning: the saints everywhere at that time also entrusted the apostles or others to greet one another (see Rom. 16:16, 21-24).
2Cor. 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
YLT: “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, with you all! Amen.”
Meaning of Words: “communion”: fellowship, communication;
Meaning: “the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit”, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”, it refers to the salvation of Christ,
which is the foundation of believers’ enjoying all grace of God. “The love of God”, it indicates that the love of God is the
source of the redemption of Christ (see
Here, it mentions the Lord Jesus firstly, which does not mean He is the head of the Holy Trinity, but that the redemption He has perfected is the foundation of God’s granting grace. If there is not the great redemption of Christ, there will also not the enjoyment of God’s grace.
“The communion of the Holy Spirit”, the love and God and the grace of Christ are both substantiated into us by the Holy Spirit so that we can enjoy them.
“Be with you all. Amen.” They are with us according to the truth. However, according to our feeling and experience, they may be interrupted (see Song 3:1; 5:6) and are influenced by our spiritual condition before God. Therefore, we are responsible to maintain such presence.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The love of God the Father is the source. The grace of Christ is the content. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is the reality. Oh, the fullness of the Holy Trinity is filled in the minister and is also the persistent provision to the church.
2) The love of God the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit are three blessings of God. Love is the origin and grace is channel and fellowship is shedding into us. The church needs none other than the presence of the Holy Trinity.
3) In the fellowship of the Spirit, the love of
God and the grace of Christ become the real enjoyment of Christians. Therefore,
keep the good fellowship with the Spirit is the precondition of having
fellowship with all the fullness of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, we should walk
in the Spirit (see
4) All the true Christians are willing to obey the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit in them. Therefore, they will taste the love of God and the grace of Christ and thus manifest the beauty of the Holy Trinity in their life.
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
Groups of Men in the Church
A. Witness ---- believers who have spiritual knowledge and burden (v.1 see the commentary);
B. Those who have committed sins (v
C. The rest of them (v.2b);
Weakness and Strength
A. The weakness and strength of Christ:
1. He was crucified in weakness (v
2. Christ is not weak toward you (v.3) ---- mighty in the spirit;
B. The weakness and strength of believers:
1. We also are weak in Him (v.4b) ---- weak in the flesh;
2. We shall live with Him by the power of God (v
C. The weakness and strength of the workers:
1. Even though we are weak (v
2. We are glad that you are strong (v.9b) ---- hope that believers are mighty in spirit;
Three Main Tasks in Christians’ Life
A. Faith (v.5);
B. Virtues (v.7);
C. Knowledge (v.8) ---- in your faith have also virtue, in virtue knowledge (2Pet. 1:5);
A. The condition of the perfect one ---- Jesus Christ is in him (v.5);
B. The hindrance of the perfect one ---- do any
C. The qualification of the perfect one ---- do what is honorable (v.7b);
D. The help of the perfect one ---- the intercession of the Lord’s servant (v.9);
E. The motivation of the perfect one ---- with the aim of becoming complete (v.11b);
F. The manifestation of the perfect one ---- be of one mind, live in peace, be holy (v.11-12);
G. The power of the perfect one ---- the presence
of the Holy Trinity (v
H. The result of the perfect one ---- farewell,
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou