2 Corinthians 13


Paul’s Request For The Corinthians Restoration And Perfection

‘This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you..’ 2 Corinthians 13:1-3

We have no record of the second visit other than what is said here and 2 Corinthians 12:14. The Mosaic Law authorized punishment of sins based on the testimony of two or three witnesses, Numbers 35:30 / Deuteronomy 17:6 / Deuteronomy 19:15.

Jesus and the apostles made this Mosaic principle binding on New Testament Christians, Matthew 18:16 / Hebrews 10:26-31 / 1 Timothy 5:19.

A ‘witness’, ‘marturon’ is used in a legal sense, one who is mindful, of what he has seen or heard or knows by any other means. Acts 7:58 / Matthew 18:16 / 2 Corinthians 13:1 / 1 Timothy 5:19.

The purpose of witnesses is given in Matthew 18:16, ‘that every word may be established.’ To ‘establish’, ‘histemi’ a matter is to bid to stand by, to cause a person or thing to keep his or its place, i.e. to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything, to validate, confirm, Matthew 18:16.

What connection is there between Paul’s coming a third time and having two or three witnesses verify sin? Paul’s ‘fear’ for the Corinthians was that he would arrive and find many in sin, 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.

Such a state would mean the judicial process in the church must proceed. Paul said, ‘I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others’. 2 Corinthians 13:2

Paul had clearly stated that he would not ‘spare’ those who had participated in the party spirit and lust of the flesh, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20 / 2 Corinthians 12:20-21. Apparently, the meaning is that a judicial process would take place. The time of longsuffering had ended for such ones.

Their insubordination to truth was not to be tolerated. Paul would not act as the church in Corinth’s judge, however, he would unashamedly and forcefully deliver to them divine principles that they may discipline the divisive and lustful members.

Paul handled the fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5, compare that verse to 2 Corinthians 2:5ff. The wording of 2 Corinthians 13:2 is strikingly similar to 1 Corinthians 5:3. Paul was not present, however, he judged based on the facts given.

These facts would be established by witnesses and the judicial process from that point would proceed. One thing we take careful note of is that Paul would not allow faction nor sin to reign in the church of Jesus Christ and neither should any today. Tolerance of brethren’s sins will only cause others to fall into sin, Revelation 2:18ff.

What application of these two verses can we make today? One may find himself or herself in a few situations. One may have knowledge of a brother’s sin through first-hand experience. One may have been sinned against by a brother.

Whatever the case may be, if I am charging a brother with sin, out of a spirit of love and concern for that brother’s soul, 1 John 4:10ff, I must back my accusations up with two or three witnesses.

If the witnesses are not in place, no facts are established. God will be the judge of said matters, John 12:48. If I choose to suborn false witnesses to get a brother in trouble with the church, I have caused the Lord’s anger to be kindled against me, Proverbs 6:19.

Brethren are not mind readers. If a false witness bears false testimony, he shall be punished by the Lord. An innocent one may suffer; however, the guilty will not go unpunished, Proverbs 19:5ff.

Paul Is Coming To Corinth

He will deal with each brother’s sins. The brethren are to get the witnesses together. The apostle Paul is about to the clean house, the church. The time of longsuffering and teaching had ended for these brethren.

The word ‘since’, ‘epei’ means from the time when, ever since. The Corinthians had sought after ‘proof’, signs, 2 Corinthians 12:12 that what Paul was saying was the words of Christ as an apostle ‘ever since’ the critics convinced them that Paul was not an apostle, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20.

These statements help us to determine the level of success the divisive false teachers were having among the Corinthians brethren.

Paul said ‘He is powerful among you.’ The ability to perform miracles was given to the Corinthians by Paul through the Holy Spirit and was not ‘weak, but powerful in you.’

The Corinthians, if honest, would have at this point said, ‘yes Paul, you’re right, we have these powers because of you and we saw these same powers in you. Forgive us of our doubting spirits. You do represent Jesus Christ.’

‘For indeed he was crucified by reason of weakness, but he lives because of God’s power. For we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you.’ 2 Corinthians 13:4

The power of God rested upon the Corinthians to do mighty works; however, this power came by the ‘weakness of Christ.’ How was Christ ‘weak’? Christ was weak in that He took on human flesh and blood, John 1:1 / John 1:14 / Hebrews 2:17.

Jesus was crucified, and killed, in this state of flesh and blood, Colossians 1:22. He arose from the tomb of death and thereby gave the most powerful proof that He was the Christ, Matthew 16:21 / Matthew 26:31-32 / Matthew 27:62-66 / John 2:18-22 / John 11:25-26.

All Christians today ‘shall live with him through the power of God toward you.’ How? By the power of God was Christ raised from the dead, and by the power of God are we justified from our sins, Romans 1:16 / Romans 4:25 / Romans 8:34 / 2 Corinthians 5:15.

There is, therefore, great ‘power’ in the resurrection of Christ and that power is our salvation. Paul said, ‘I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’. Philippians 3:10

‘Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless, indeed, you fail the test! And I hope that you will realize that we have not failed the test!’ 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

The Corinthians had tried Paul. Paul reminded them of the signs that they witnessed. The Corinthians were thereby left with no doubt as to Paul’s apostleship. Now Paul put the emphasis where it belongs. i.e., on the Corinthians.

They believed that Paul was on trial due to the words of his detractors. Paul effectively turned this around and indicated that it was the Corinthians’ faith that was on trial, 2 Corinthians 12:19ff / 2 Corinthians 2:9.

Paul’s words were the very commandments of God, 1 Corinthians 14:37. Paul thereby admonished the Corinthians to administer a test upon themselves to find out whether or not they were ‘in the faith.’

The phrase ‘in the faith’ is found 12 times throughout the New Testament and is indicative of one who is walking by the direction of divine revelation.

If therefore, Paul’s words were the commandments of God and the phrase ‘in the faith’ indicated one who conducted himself by the word of God, Paul was commanding the Corinthians to examine themselves alongside the words he preached and see whether or not they measured up.

We are reminded of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:9 when he said, ‘Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.’

Once the test was administered by individuals, they would know whether Christ was in them. If they examined their lives and found themselves faithful to the words of God, then they would know with confidence that Christ was in them, John 14:23.

If the Corinthians examined themselves and found that they were walking contrary to the teachings of Paul, of God, then they would have to conclude that Jesus was not in them and they were ‘failures’.

The word ‘fail’, ‘adikos’ means wrong-doing, unrighteous, or unjust. Here the matter of right, Paul’s words that were the commandments of God and wrong, the man conducting himself by his own standards is put forth.

Paul’s desire and expectation for the Corinthians was that they would recognize Paul’s teachings as of divine origin rather than being of his own thinking. This was the main thrust of Paul’s critics.

They claimed that Paul was preaching his own ideas as opposed to divine commandments, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 5:12 / 2 Corinthians 10:12.

The way for their confidence in Paul has been laid forth. Divine power has been experienced and witnessed in Paul and among themselves.

‘Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.’ 2 Corinthians 13:7-9

It was not Paul’s objective to have the Corinthians conduct themselves according to his teaching that he and his preaching companions might ‘appear to have passed the test’ before men.

Remember, Paul said, ‘Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?’ 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 / 2 Corinthians 4:15.

Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians was that they would walk by faith that their souls be saved even if he appeared to be a reprobate by his critics. Note the important thing that Paul prayed for the Corinthians.

Paul prayed that the Corinthians would ‘do what is right’. No man may be approved of God while walking in even one sin. This is the focal point of 2 Corinthians. The Corinthians would only enjoy eternal fellowship with the heavenly Father if they ‘do what is right’.

What benefit would it be to Paul if he should ‘come to the Corinthians with a rod’ of correction? 1 Corinthians 4:21. What benefit would it be to Paul if he should ‘mourn’ over the sins of the Corinthians? 2 Corinthians 12:21.

What benefit would it be to Paul if he comes to Corinthian and ‘spares not’ the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 13:2 and “deals sharply” with them? 2 Corinthians 13:10. All things thereby Paul preached and strongly admonished were done in truth for the sake of the Corinthians’ souls.

Paul was really ‘strong’ when ‘weak’ with injuries, 2 Corinthians 12:10. The Corinthians were ‘strong’ in faith when the power of Christ’s word rested within, 2 Corinthians 13:3-4.

Such a state caused Paul and his companions to rejoice. Paul had prayed that the Corinthians would not participate in evil, 2 Corinthians 13:7 and now prayed for the Corinthians’ ‘restoration.’

The word ‘restored’, ‘katartisis’ means training, education, discipline, to put back in place. Paul was simply saying that he continued to actively pray that the Corinthians would obtain a state of restoration to God. The implication was that at present many were not restored unto the Lord, 2 Corinthians 12:20.

‘Because of this I am writing these things while absent, so that when I arrive I may not have to deal harshly with you by using my authority – the Lord gave it to me for building up, not for tearing down!’ 2 Corinthians 13:10

Paul had given us the reason for writing the first epistle, 2 Corinthians 2:9 and now tells us the reason for writing this second epistle. He wrote to ‘restore’ the Corinthians’ faith and cause a ‘full restoration’ in their attitude toward truth because his detractors had derailed the faith of many.

If he succeeded, there would be no need to ‘deal harshly’ with any. To ‘deal harshly’, ‘apotomos’ means cut off, severe, relentless. This word indicated the urgency of the matter.

One year had passed between the writings of 1 and 2 Corinthians. The time had now come to deal sharply with those who continued in their error lest they lose their souls forever and sway others to lose their souls.

To deal so abruptly with the Corinthians was an act of the authority of Jesus Christ for the saving of the soul rather than its destruction. It was not Paul’s desire to so deal with people, however, they put themselves in positions where sharpness was the only recourse. No one likes to deal sharply with people but it must be done.

Final Salutation And Benediction

‘Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

It would not be long till Paul saw the brethren in the flesh; however, for now, he bid them farewell and gave some final admonition.

1. Paul requested that the brethren be ‘restored’, restored to the faith, 2 Corinthians 13:9.

2. Paul requested that the brethren be ‘encouraged’.

To be ‘encouraged’, ‘parakaleo’ means console. Their consolation was to be found in divine revelation as opposed to worldly wisdom, 2 Corinthians 1:17.

3. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to ‘be of one mind.’

Their restoration and consolation had as its foundation divine revelation. Thereby Paul exhorted the brethren to be united in this one true doctrine, John 17:17 / 1 Corinthians 1:10 / Romans 15:5 / Philippians 1:27.

4. Paul requested that the brethren ‘live in peace.’

To live in peace is to be at peace with God. To be reconciled and comforted by Him through our fellowship with the Father comes through our walking by faith and according to divine authority, Philippians 4:9.

Paul gave a condition upon the ‘God of love and peace’ being with the Corinthians. They needed to be reconciled to God and universally walk by that one divine standard, be of one mind.

When the brethren in Corinth would do such, the critics and false teachers would have no place and they would leave, 1 John 2:19.

To ‘greet’, ‘aspazomai’ means greetings to or remember me to. The ‘holy kiss’, ‘hagios philema’ means a kiss. What makes the kiss ‘holy’, ‘hagios’ as opposed to a normal kiss?

Consider The Following On The ‘holy kiss’

New Testament use of the word kiss, ‘philema.’ The word ‘philema’ is found in Luke 7:45 / Luke 22:48 / Acts 20:37 / Romans 16:16 / 1 Corinthians 16:20 / 2 Corinthians 13:12 / 1 Thessalonians 5:26 / 1 Peter 5:14.

The word ‘greet’ is synonymous with these verses. To ‘greet’ one was to greet, bid welcome, wish well. Consider 2 John 10. The apostle John commanded that Christians ‘give no greeting’ to those who refuse to walk in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The kiss then was a symbol of fellowship commanded by Paul and Peter through the Spirit for Christians. Should you and I, therefore, kiss each other today as a sign of fellowship and love toward each other?

Old Testament use of the kiss. Esau kissed Jacob as a sign of forgiveness, Genesis 33:4. When Joseph made himself known to his brothers in Egypt, he kissed them, Genesis 45:15.

Moses and Aaron kissed in the wilderness, Exodus 4:27. David kissed his best friend Jonathan when fleeing from Saul, 1 Samuel 20:41. After Samuel anointed Saul as king, he kissed him, 1 Samuel 10:1.

By this same kiss, the early Christians expressed the intimate fellowship of the reconciled community, the practice gradually died out in the West after the 13th century. Consider Galatians 2:9. Paul and Barnabas were given ‘the right hands of fellowship’ by James, Cephas and John, Galatians 2:9.

Conclusion Leads Us To Fellowship

Fellowship with brethren who held to the truths of Jesus Christ was outwardly expressed either through a handshake, Galatians 2:9 or a kiss, Romans 16:16 etc. The conclusion is obvious, when I shake my brother’s hand today I am expressing the same outward sign of fellowship as if I were to kiss him with a holy kiss, Romans 16:16.

Christians, in the UK, are more likely to shake another’s hand rather than kiss them. Whatever the expression, it is a sign of fellowship. The command to greet is an outward expression of one’s fidelity to God whether that is done by kissing or handshaking.

God forbid that we would shake hands with or give a holy kiss to one named a brother who will not hold to the teachings of Jesus Christ, Romans 16:17ff / 2 John 9-11.

The handshake and kiss are modified by the word ‘holy.’ It is not a breach of God’s laws of fellowship to simply greet one who is not a Christian or one who holds to different doctrines as a matter of courtesy, this, too, is a custom and not a law.

The idea is that I am not to give a greeting to one who stands opposed to the doctrine of Christ in a manner that indicates a spiritual approval. There is, it seems, a delicate difference, 2 John 9-11.

Paul told the Corinthians to give each other a holy kiss after his remarks regarding walking by the same mind. The connection is apparently one of fellowship.

2 Corinthians 13:13 clearly refers to all those who walk by the same mind in Christ Jesus while absent from them greet them for the same purpose. A ‘holy kiss’ would serve in their presence. Their greetings are given because of their like precious faith in the Lord.

Paul desired that the ‘grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ God’s grace is His unmerited favour of salvation to the one who is justified by faith in Christ Jesus, Romans 5:1-2. The Corinthians needed restoration and then they would have the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 13:9.

Paul desired that the ‘love of God be with you all.’ God’s love is with us when we keep His commandments, 1 John 4:12ff. The Corinthians needed to discard the derogatory statements made by Paul’s critics, regarding his having preached his own ideas, and accept Paul’s words as divine revelation.

Paul desired that the ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ What is the ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’? The word ‘fellowship’, ‘koinonia’ was found in 2 Corinthians 6:14 and means association, a person united with another or others in some action, enterprise, or business.

That which joins each Christian with the Holy Spirit is the Word of God, Galatians 3:2. The Holy Spirit dwells within each Christian as does God and Jesus, Romans 8:9-11 / 2 Timothy 1:13-14, as we abide in His doctrine.

Paul’s desire, therefore, was that the Corinthians be joined together in their understanding and life’s application of divine revelation.


Paul’s attitude toward divisive brethren, false teachers, false witnesses, and sinful men in 2 Corinthians comes to a close. With the close of the letter, Paul delivers the objective for writing.

Paul writes, ‘We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.’ 2 Corinthians 13:9-10

Paul’s objective was to perfect the saints before he arrived so that they may go on with the work of the Lord in peace. The Corinthians needed to be restored to a state of being recognized as sanctified, saints, and unreprovable, 1 Corinthians 1:2-8. Paul has clearly set forth God’s expectation of man’s perfection in this second epistle to the Corinthians.

The saints are those who are obedient in all areas of truth, 2 Corinthians 2:9. The saint is to be the mirror image of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The saint is to be cleansed from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1. The saint is to be presented to God as a pure virgin with respect to sin, 2 Corinthians 11:2. The saint of God is to ‘do what is right’, 2 Corinthians 13:7.

Paul has clearly outlined three areas of the Corinthian’s sins that needed correction.

1. The Corinthians had not yet forgiven the sinner mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:5-9 even though he had repented.

To be recognized by God as unreprovable in all areas of life the Corinthians would need to forgive the one who sought forgiveness.

2. The Corinthians had apparently gained an affection for the things of this world.

Their fellowship with sin put them in an unequal yoke with unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 6:11ff. These affections included the sins of impurity, sexual sin and debauchery mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.

3. The Corinthians had been swayed by many false doctrines and false accusations against Paul and needed restoration and reconciliation to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 12:19 / 2 Corinthians 13:3.

They had permitted the divisive to sway their minds from the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s coming to Corinth was to this end. He admonished them to get the witnesses of the sins committed in place, 2 Corinthians 13:1-2. He boldly stated that he would deal ‘sharply’, 2 Corinthians 13:10 with the erring and ‘will not spare’ them, 2 Corinthians 13:2.

These were not the words of a coward but the words of one who had a proper attitude toward divisive brethren, false teachers, false witnesses, and sinners alike, 2 Corinthians 10:10-11.

Paul loved his brethren and was not going to allow them to lose their souls.

What is our attitude toward the divisive, false teachers, false witnesses, and sinful men?