2 Corinthians 13

Chapter thirteen concludes this letter with Paul urging the Corinthians to examine themselves before God before Paul arrived so that his fears (2 Corinthians 12:20-21) would not be realized (2 Corinthians 13:1-3). He warned them that he would not be timid in using his apostolic authority to discipline any of them who rejected his letters and teaching, choosing to continue in their sin. He challenged them to make sure they were truly “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), probably a reference both to initial salvation and sanctification and to the orthodox teachings of Christianity since he did not specify just “in Christ.” Even believers can “fail the test” of obedience (2 Corinthians 13:5) and be disqualified from serving Christ (1 Corinthians 9:23-27), something Paul did not want for them. Even if it seemed that Paul failed, he did not want them to fail (2 Corinthians 13:6-9).

Paul claimed that this letter, no matter how harsh it was from time to time, was actually a demonstration of his great love for them (2 Corinthians 13:10). Solomon wrote that wounds from a friend can be good (Proverbs 27:6), and Paul chose to wound them from a distance so that they could enjoy each other in person.

The final verse 1 is an inspired acknowledgment of the Trinity. Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance (2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-16), Paul referred to the three members of the Godhead as individual persons who are co-equal with each other. Although the word Trinity never occurs in Scripture, passages like this teach this doctrine clearly.

Notes:

  1. English translations have it marked as either verse 13 or 14.

2 Corinthians 11

Chapter eleven continues Paul’s defense of himself to the Corinthian believers. Many of them had been on the verge of rejecting him, but his previous letter brought them back a little. Now he wanted to stop their retreat once-and-for-all. This chapter contains some of the harshest words we have recorded from Paul’s hand toward believers or unbelievers (other examples include 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 5:1-5; 11:17-18; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:12; Philippians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:20). Reminiscent of a courtroom, at this point in his self-defense he presented four accusations against his prosecutors.

First, he accused the Corinthian believers of embracing anyone and anything except Paul and his message (2 Corinthians 11:1-4), including those who would abuse them (2 Corinthians 11:16-21). Second, he accused them of scorning him because of his gentle demeanor and graciousness (2 Corinthians 11:5-6). Third, he accused both the Corinthians and the false teachers of dismissing his service for Christ, including taking support from other churches instead of Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:7-9) and experiencing great suffering for his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Fourth, he accused his critics of being agents of Satan who were working undercover, only pretending to be apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Although this was harsh and even full of sarcasm and contempt for those against him, Paul made sure to show his love and concern for the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:1-3, 9-11). This was not as much an attack on them as it was their sinful actions and those who led them astray. However, even at this Paul still had the court’s attention, and he was not done yet.

2 Corinthians 8

Chapters eight and nine contain some of the most well-known passages on giving in the New Testament. When churches hold giving campaigns and pastors preach on tithing, these chapters are likely to come up. “They gave according to their means and beyond their means” (2 Corinthians 8:3). “Make sure you excel in this act of kindness, too” (2 Corinthians 8:7). “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). These and others seem to teach that giving to the church is important, and it is. The problem, however, is that was not Paul’s point when he wrote.

In reality, one of Paul’s missions, while he preached the gospel and planted churches, was to raise support for other struggling believers, especially those in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Romans 15:25-29). Thus, the giving that Paul asked the Corinthians to do was not for their own church; he was encouraging them to give generously for the benefit of others. He noted that the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) continued to give, even sacrificially, during a difficult period (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). When Titus went to Corinth, Paul instructed him to make sure they did the same (2 Corinthians 8:6-9). It was especially important to Paul that they gave toward this mission because they had already promised that they would and had begun putting money aside for it (2 Corinthians 8:10-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3). As he would explain further in chapter nine, Paul was less concerned with the amount they gave as he was that they gave. However, he did want them to consider their better financial situation as an opportunity to serve, since it may not always be that way. One day they might find themselves on the receiving side, subject to someone else’s generosity or lack thereof (2 Corinthians 8:12-15).

Titus and another brother were going back to Corinth again, carrying this letter with them and planning to accept the financial gift from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:16-19). Paul noted that, especially with the accusations still swirling about him, he would not accept the gift personally, so as to not add fuel for his accusers (2 Corinthians 8:20-24). As if that were not enough, Paul sent yet another brother with them – for a total of three trustworthy men – to accept the money and return with it, so they could distribute it as necessary. Not only was there great wisdom in having multiple men traveling together for protection, but Paul was also right to “recuse” himself from showing up at Corinth for what could be construed just for money.