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.

Jude

As is the case with James, the identification of Jude has caused much debate. Jude and Judas were popular names honoring the great tribal patriarch, Judah. However, because Jude called himself “THE BROTHER OF JAMES” (Jude 1), with no clarification of which James, it is best to see this as a reference to the most well-known James at that time, Jesus’ half-brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. This would also make Jude Jesus’ half-brother. (The other two named in Matthew 13:55 were Joseph and Simon, also named after patriarchs.)

Although Jude’s letter was never officially rejected by the Early Church, some were hesitant to recognize it as inspired, primarily because of his references to other Scripture (2 Peter) and extra-biblical literature. His reliance on the book of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15 and the reference to the body of Moses in Jude 9 has caused some to question its integrity. However, Paul quoted Greek poets, philosophers, and traditional sayings multiple times within his inspired letters, so this is not automatically cause for disqualification. In fact, except for the specific account in Jude 9, there is nothing in Jude that contradicts other Scripture or creates new doctrine. Ironically, it is instead a short, yet strong, reminder of our need to maintain doctrinal accuracy.

Jude had intended to write a longer letter on the doctrine of salvation, but the influx of false teachers in the church (Jude 4; likely the same ones Paul and Peter warned about earlier) caused him to set that aside for a quick memo on doctrinal integrity. Specifically, he wrote, believers must “CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH” (Jude 3). It is important that we do not simply “believe” or “uphold” the faith. We must fight for it, knowing that our opponents will certainly fight for their side. Jude seems to quote 2 Peter 2:1 when he referred to those “WHO DENY OUR ONLY MASTER AND LORD, JESUS CHRIST” (Jude 4).

Showing a penchant for cadence in his oratory, Jude created four lists to describe these false teachers. First, he compared their coming judgment to the plagues of Egypt, the angels of Genesis 6, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7). Second, he compared their attitude toward God to Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 11). Third, using visuals from nature, he compared their activity to dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wayward stars (Jude 12-13). Fourth, describing their spiritual state, he called them divisive, worldly, and devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19).

In contrast to this dangerous threat to local churches, Jude provided two lists for believers as well (Jude 17, 20-21 and Jude 22-23). First, regarding ourselves, we must: 1) remember this was prophesied; 2) pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) maintain ourselves in God’s love; and 4) anticipate Christ’s mercy. Second, regarding others, we must: 1) have mercy on those wavering in the truth; 2) rescue some from the fire; 3) have mercy on others, while paying attention to ourselves (see Galatians 6:1).

Jude’s final exhortation reminded his readers – and us – that succumbing to false teaching is not inevitable. Not only can God keep us from falling, but he can also cause us to stand, “REJOICING, WITHOUT BLEMISH BEFORE HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE” (Jude 24) for eternity.

2 Peter 3

Chapter three begins with the same phrase as in 2 Peter 1:13. Peter’s goal was to “STIR UP” his readers “BY WAY OF REMINDER,” cementing in their minds the correct method of spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:5-7), the source of truth (2 Peter 1:20-21), and the dangers of being weak in truth (2 Peter 2:1-22). In wrapping up his letter, Peter noted that standing firm for the truth of Scripture would draw the attention of those who mock the truth (2 Peter 3:3-4). Similar to Paul’s assessment in Romans 1:18-19, Peter wrote that this mocking comes from a deliberate suppression and rejection of the truth that God has made clear to everyone (2 Peter 3:5).

One of the arguments the mockers will use is that nothing seems to change, 1 that God does not seem to move so he must not truly exist, and believers are simpletons for believing such nonsense. Peter comforted his readers by reminding them that God is not bound by time, and, because of his infinite longsuffering and desire for all to be saved, he will hold off his judgment until just the right time (2 Peter 3:8-9). However, when that time does come, his judgment will be swift and strong, and nothing will be able to stand against it. This should cause all believers to follow the path of spiritual growth God has given us, as we await the fulfillment of his promises (2 Peter 3:10-13). Peter mentioned that even Paul’s letters were already being misused and misunderstood, just like the other words given by God. By saying this, Peter publicly acknowledged Paul’s apostolic authority and placed him on the same level as the Hebrew prophets who spoke from God (2 Peter 1:21). He closed with a final encouragement to hold fast to the truth and a command that we should grow in both the grace and knowledge of Jesus, a balance that is not always well-maintained.

Notes:

  1. This is the same argument used by evolutionists today called “uniformitarianism.” They hold that “the present is the key to the past,” so whatever is happening today must have always occurred the same way. It is this belief, ignoring the miraculous events of an instantaneous Creation and catastrophic global Flood, that allows them to promote a theory that the Earth is billions of years old and that evolution accounts for what we observe today.