THE BATTLE FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP IN CORINTH ARC
Chapter 13 – PAUL’S FINAL WARNINGS AND GREETINGS
Chapter 13 concludes both the letter and the final arc of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In this arc, Paul addresses the rebellious Christians in Corinth who refuse to respect his leadership and prefer the super-apostles instead.
In this chapter, we can observe the shift in Paul’s tone from being on the defensive to the offensive. Paul is now the one throwing insinuations to the Corinthians. An insinuation that every believer must take seriously.
I. THE FINAL WARNINGS (v1-4)
“This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”
In this opening verse, Paul continues his shift on the offensive that he started in chapters 12:19-21. In this passage, Paul warns them that he will visit them for the third time. His first visit was when he established the church and his second visit was during the painful visit that he mentioned in 2 Cor. 2:1. And worst, this third visit will be of judgment. It can also be noticed in Paul’s words that he is serious in confronting them. This is perhaps to prove their accusation wrong that Paul is a “barking dog” who is only intimidating in his letters but not in person (2 Cor. 10:10). Paul is very clear in his warning: “that if I come again I will not spare them” (v2).
This passage also reveals the major issue that he will confront them with: the proof that Paul is really an apostle of Christ (“since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me” (v3)). In verse 4, he already explained himself briefly. According to Paul, just like him and the other apostles, Christ was also “in weakness” when He was crucified but He lived because of the power of God. So again, this means that weaknesses and sufferings are characteristics of the Christian life. Having weaknesses and sufferings doesn’t mean that one is a weak or incompetent leader like what they accuse Paul. And now, Paul warns them that just like Christ, he will deal with them with the power of God.
II. “EXAMINE YOURSELVES IF YOU ARE IN THE FAITH!” (v5-10)
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason, I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”
In this passage, Paul expounds on the “fear” that he was talking about in chapter 12:19-21. Just like he said, he is afraid to discover that the rebellious Corinthians haven’t truly repented from their sins (v21). Worst, he fears that they could not be genuine believers at all. This is why in this passage, Paul is inviting them to “examine” themselves. But first, it must be clarified that Paul believes that they are genuine Christians (“do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”). Therefore, Paul wants them to answer for themselves if they are true believers or not. It is only them who can tell it for themselves.
After this, Paul continues to explain that they didn’t fail this test. He also reiterates that they have a clear conscience and everything that they did and continue to do is for their sake. Paul wants them to be “restored” and explains this as the reason why he writes in such a way. And here, in this note, where Paul ends his letter. The reminder that everything that they do is for the good of the Corinthians.
III. THE FINAL GREETINGS (v11-14)
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
For his final greetings, Paul wants them to rejoice. This is not sarcasm. Paul wants them to rejoice for he wants them to be reminded that the whole point of this letter is for all of them to be reconciled. Even though he shifted to the offensive in this last part, he by no means intends to put them down. Paul wanted them to examine themselves so that they could discover what is preventing them from accepting and reconciling with Paul. This is why Paul advised them to aim for restoration, to comfort and agree with one another, and to live in peace. This advice summarizes all the wrongs that Paul can see in them. They do not agree with each and there is conflict among them. This is not the Christian fellowship that God wants for His children. Paul reminded them that God is the God of love and peace which is why he wants them to exemplify this to one another. Towards the end, Paul reminded them of the holy kiss, the Christian term for warm welcomes and embraces, and greeted them with his typical Christian greetings.
This is the end of Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians. Just like Paul said, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Thank you and God Bless!! 🙂