This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Verse 1. - This is the third time I am coming to you. I have thrice formed the intention, though the second time I had to forego my plan (2 Corinthians 1:15-17). In the mouth of two or three witnesses. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 19:15. It has been explained as a reference to examinations which he intended to hold on his arrival at Corinth. It is much more probable that St. Paul is representing his separate visits as separate attestations to the truths which he preaches.
I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
Verse 2. - I told you before; rather, I have told you before. As if I were present, the second time. The meaning seems to be, "You must understand this announcement as distinctly as if I were with you, and uttered it by word of mouth." And being absent now I write; rather, so now being absent. The verb "I write" is almost certainly an explanatory gloss. And to all other; rather, and to the rest, all of them. Namely, to those who, though they may not have fallen into gross sin, still rejected St. Paul's authority, and said that he was afraid to come in person. I will not spare (2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:19, 21).
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
Verse 3. - Of Christ speaking in me; rather, of the Christ who speaketh in me. Which; rather, who. But is mighty in you. The spirit of Christ, in spite of all their shortcomings, had not deserted them (see 1 Corinthians 1:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 2:4).
For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth 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.
Verse 4. - For though. The "though" should be omitted. Through weakness; literally, out of weakness; i.e. as a result of that human weakness of our nature which he took upon him, and which rendered him liable to agony and death (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:7, 8; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 2:10-18). But we shall live with him... toward you. This thought of participation alike in Christ's humiliation and his glory, alike in his weakness and his might, was very familiar to St. Paul (2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Ephesians 1:19, 20), Here, however, the following words," toward you," i.e." with reference to you," show that the life of which he is thinking is the vigorous reestablishment of his spiritual authority in Christ over the Church of Corinth.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Verse 5. - Prove year ownselves. In other words, "test your own sincerity." Jesus Christ is in you. To this truth - that the body of every Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit of Christ - St. Paul returns again and again (Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). We find the same truth frequently in St. John (John 15:4, 5; 1 John 3:24, etc.). Except ye be reprobates. The Greek word adokimoi - from the same root as the verb "to test" - means tried and found to be worthless. "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them" (Jeremiah 6:30). The word is found almost exclusively in St Paul (2 Corinthians 13:5, 6, 7; Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16). The only other passage of the New Testament where it occurs is Hebrews 6:8; and the reader must not read Calvinistic horrors into an expression which gives no sanction to them.
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
Verse 6. - That we are not reprobates. My power and faithfulness will be tested as well as yours, and I hope that it will stand the test.
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
Verse 7. - Approved (dokimoi). The opposite of "reprobates." Though we be as reprobates; rather, [I pray] that ye may do what is excellent, and that we may be as reprobates. This is one of the intense expressions which, like Romans 9:3, spring from the earnest and passionate unselfishness of St. Paul. His anxiety is for them, not at all for himself. As reprobates; i.e. in the judgment of men (comp. Romans 9:3).
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
Verse 8. - We can do nothing against the truth. I am powerless against anything which is true, real, sincere; I can exercise no power except in the cause of the truth. Be true to the gospel, and you will be mighty and I shall be powerless, and (as he proceeds to say) I shall rejoice at the result.
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
Verse 9. - When we are weak, and ye are strong (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:8-10). Strong; "powerful (2 Corinthians 10:4). We wish; rather, we pray. Your perfection; rather, your perfect union; "the readjustment of your disordered elements." A similar word occurs in Ephesians 4:10, and the verb in ver. 11; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, etc. It is also used in the Gospels for "mending nets" (Mark 1:19, etc.).
Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.
Verse 10. - I should use sharpness. The word rendered "sharpness" is an adverb, like our "abruptly" or "precipitately." The only other passage of the New Testament where it occurs is Titus 1:13; but the substantive apotomia occurs in Romans 11:22 for "severity."
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Verse 11. - Finally, brethren, farewell. His concluding words are marked by great gentleness, as though to heal the effects of the sharp rebuke and irony to which he has been compelled to have recourse. The word may also moan "rejoice" (Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4). Be perfect (see note on "perfection" in ver. 9). Be of one mind; literally, think the same thing (Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 12:16, 18). Be at peace (Ephesians 4:3).
Greet one another with an holy kiss.
Verse 12. - Great one another. The verb, being in the aorist, refers to a single act. When the letter had been read in their hearing, they were, in sign of perfect unity and mutual forgiveness, to give one another the kiss of peace. With a holy kiss (see on 1 Corinthians 16:20; comp. 1 Peter 5:14).
All the saints salute you.
Verse 13. - All the saints; namely, in Philippi or Macedonia.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
Verse 14. - The grace of our Lord, etc. This is the only place where the full apostolic benediction occurs, and is alone sufficient to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. St. Paul seems to feel that the fullest benediction is needed at the close of the severest letter. With you all. The word "all" is here introduced with special tenderness and graciousness. Some have sinned before; some have not repented; yet he has for them all one prayer and one blessing and one "seal of holy apostolic love? The superscription, though of no authority, may here correctly state that the letter was written at Philippi, and conveyed thence to Corinth by Titus and (possibly) Luke (see 2 Corinthians 8:16-22). These are the last recorded words addressed by St. Paul to the Corinthian Church. The results produced by the letter and by his visit of three months (Acts 20:2, 3) were probably satisfactory, for we hear no more of any troubles at Corinth during his lifetime, and the spirit in which he writes the letter to the Romans from Corinth seems to have been unwontedly calm. He had been kindly welcomed (Romans 15:23), and the collection, about which he had been so anxious, seems to have fully equalled his expectations, for as we know (Romans 16:18; Acts 20:4), he conveyed it to Jerusalem in person with the delegates of the Churches. We gain a subsequent glimpse of the Corinthian Church. Some thirty-five years later, when a letter, which is still extant, was addressed to them by St. Clement of Rome, they were still somewhat inclined to be turbulent, disunited, and sceptical (see 'Ep. ad Corinthians,' 3, 4, 13, 14, 37, etc.); but still there are some marked signs of improvement. About A.D. they were visited by Hegesippus (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 4:22), who spoke very favourably of them, especially of their obedience and liberality. Their bishop, Dionysius, was at that time exercising a widespread influence (Eusebius 'Hist. Eccl.,' 4:23).