2 Corinthians 13:11-14


With the adoption of the  Lutheran Worship  of 1982, which replaced  The Lutheran Hymnal  of 1941, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod speaks of  "Sundays after Pentecost." Formerly this Sunday was known as  "Trinity Sunday"  and all the remaining Sundays in the church year were known as  "Sundays after Trinity." 

It is suggested that on this day the Athanasian Creed be used instead of the Apostles' or Nicean Creed. It is found on pages 134-5 in  Lutheran Worship. In  The Lutheran Hymnal  it was found on page 53.

Note that Nestle, TEV and JB have thirteen verses for this chapter, whereas all the other translations divide verse 12 into two verses, thus giving us fourteen verses.

All of the Pauline Epistles end with a blessing. Our text, which comes at the end of 2 Corinthians, is unique. It finds its Old Testament counterpart at Numbers 6:24-26, which is known as the  "Aaronic Blessing."  The remaining twelve epistles of Paul conclude with the word "grace."  At the end of Romans 16, 1 Corinthians 16, Galatians 6, Philippians 4, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon we read  "the grace of our (or the) Lord Jesus (Christ)." 

In  Book of Books  by Schaller (page 204) we read the following concerning the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians:

From Titus Paul learned that his letter had produced the desired effect in most members of the Corinthian church, inducing them to admonish the brother who had sinned so grievously,2:5ff. But at the same time he was told that some members of the church disparaged his ministry , as though he were inferior to the other apostles, and had thus disquieted the whole church. 2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:5.13ff. In deep anguish of soul Paul now wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. After giving instructions as to the further treatment of the person who had been guilty of incest, but had responded to Christian admonition with true repentance, Paul first praises the efficacy and results of his ministry and admonishes his readers to strive after sanctification. Then he takes up the case of those who had blasphemed his work, defends his apostolic calling, and threatens severe measures against the impenitent.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

For "finally"  TEV and NEB have "And now."  JB reads:  "In the meantime"  which seems to imply that Paul would soon see the Corinthians.

Paul calls them "brothers" despite all their sins and the difficulties which Paul had with them. It is important for a pastor to remember that.

At this point we have five imperatives. The first three have evoked much discussion. We shall consider them individually.  "Rejoice"  (thus NASB) or  "farewell" (AAT, NKJV, KJV, RSV, TEV, NIV, NEB). JB translates it  "we wish you happiness." 

Bengel: Paul had written somewhat severely in his discussion; now he writes more gently, without however dismissing the subject itself. . . . we prefer 'Farewell.' . . . But the word 'rejoice' is appropriate here, as by it men are accustomed to bid farewell.

Lenski prefers "farewell."  Bernard translates  "Rejoice (as at Philippians 3: 1; 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and everywhere in the Pauline Epistles where the word occurs)." 

The second imperative has also caused some difficulty. AAT has "Keep on growing to be perfect."  NASB reads "be made complete."  NKJV has "Become complete."  KJV reads "Be perfect."  RSV:  "Mend your ways."  TEV:  "Strive for perfection."  NIV:  "Aim for perfection."  JB:  "Try to grow perfect."  NEB:  "Mend your ways." 

Tasker: He bids them, not so much to 'be perfect', but rather to make good their deficiencies.
Lenski: Let yourselves be completely fitted out.

At Gal. 6:1 the verb means "to restore"  or  "to repair."  Christians are always in need of restoration or repair. Paul does not limit the verb to certain people here but addresses the whole congregation.

Next we have "to admonish"  or "to comfort."  The translations reflect one of these two meanings. AA Treads:  "Take encouragement from me."  NASB has:  "Be comforted."  RSV:  "Heed my appeal."  TEV:  "Listen to my appeals."  Likewise NIV. JB translates  "Help one another."  And NEB:  "Take our appeal to heart." 

Tasker: He would have them 'be of good comfort' remembering that God, as he had reminded them in 1:3 is 'the God of all comfort.' It is possible, however, that the word has here its other meaning 'be exhorted.'
Lenski: Our versions think of being comforted; but Paul has been admonishing, and surely thus he asks the Corinthians to let themselves be admonished, i.e. to accept the admonitions which will enable them to fit themselves out completely.

Note the voice of the five imperatives. The first and the last two are active voice. The second and third are either middle or passive voice.

The translations "agree with one another."  Thus also RSV, TEV, and NEB. NASB:  "Be like minded."  NKJV and KJV have:  "Be of one mind."  It simply means that Paul exhorts them to be one in doctrine and practice. The ideal in a Christian congregation is unity in diversity. Though they are one in doctrine and practice, the individual members differ from each other in many ways.

For the last imperative the versions unanimously read: "Live in peace."  It should be obvious that this does not mean to be permissive, to condone sin. It means to be of a forgiving, loving spirit.

Note that all five imperatives are in the present tense, denoting a constant action or attitude. Note also that the last two especially deal with mutual attitudes and actions of Christians.  "Think the same things as other Christians do. Be at peace with one another." 

Finally, these five imperatives imply that the flesh of the Christian wants to do the opposite. Satan and our flesh try their best to keep us from rejoicing, improvement, comfort, united thinking and peaceful living.

The last sentence of verse 11 is not a wish, as LB makes it:  "And may the God of love and peace be with you."   "And" is not to be considered as resultative. Paul is not saying that if the members of the Corinthians congregation do as he says, then God will be with them. We must always translates on the basis of the context and the analogy of faith.  "And" is not purely conjunctive here because unequal elements are joined. Here it is something like "and don't forget that."  They can do the things required in verse 11 because the God of love and peace will be with them. Note the two adjectival genitives. They tell us what kind of God we have. He is a God of love and of peace and He promises that He will be with them.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Tasker: The holy kiss, with which they are accustomed to greet one another when they met for worship, must be no meaningless formality, but the outward and visible sign of that mutual charity born of a common response to the love of their Lord for them, which should characterize all Christian people.

This ancient custom is mentioned also at Romans 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:20. We no longer have this custom and therefore we do not sin if we do not do as Paul here commands. The important thing is the attitude. What does "holy" mean here? Evidently it implies that all immorality is to be avoided.

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints send their greetings.

Most of our versions divide verse 12 into verses 12 and 13. Note that verses 12 and 13 have a verb and an adjective in common. In verse 12 it is an adjective but in verse 13 it becomes a noun.

We do not know who these saints, who were with Paul, were. And, very likely, these saints were not personally acquainted with the saints in Corinth. The flesh is given to snubbing other people. To snub people is not Christian. Christians must always cheerfully greet each other.

Christians are saints, i.e. their sins are constantly forgiven and, by the grace of God, they do holy deeds by virtue of their faith. In heaven we shall be saints in the sense that sin, death and temptation will be forever gone and will no longer trouble us. Perhaps greetings will no longer be necessary either because we shall know each other completely. In this life we must be reminded constantly to greet each other with a Christian greeting.

2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Bengel:  Trinitate testimonium  which means 'wonderful testimony to the Holy Trinity.'

That is correct. With Matthew 28:19 we use this passage as a  sedes   for the teaching concerning the Trinity.

In verse 11 we read of "the God of love " and here we read about  "the love of God."  It must be remembered that these words were (and still are) addressed to Christians.

Bernard: It is a fitting conclusion to a letter addressed to a community agitated by faction and strife and jealousy (12:20).

True. Christians never reach the point at which they no longer need God's grace, love and communion. In fact, the longer they live the more they realize how much they need these gifts of God.

Note that we have three subjective genitives in this verse: The Lord Jesus Christ is gracious to us. Without any merit on our part He daily forgives all our sins. This grace of the Lord Jesus Christ leads us to the second of God's gifts: His love. And, thirdly, we are kept in the grace and love of God by the Holy Spirit Who causes our fellowship and communion with God.

However, we should not separate these three qualities from each other as if they were gifts of the individual persons of the Godhead only.

Tasker: In this wonderful closing verse, among the most frequently quoted words in the Pauline Epistles, the apostle adds his customary formal prayer that his readers may live in the atmosphere of that saving  "grace" , whose fount and origin is the redemptive death of the Lord Jesus Christ. But he does more than this. Here, and nowhere else in his extant letters, he prays further that they may experience  "the love of God" , revelation, and also that fellowship which the Holy Spirit creates among all who have stood beneath the cross and accepted Christ as their personal Saviour. As the first of the three genitives in this verse must be subjective, it is probable that the other two should be construed in the same way. It is not the Christian's love for God, nor his communion with the Holy Spirit that is here the dominant thought, but rather the love displayed by God and the fellowship achieved by the Holy Spirit. This verse provides part of the New Testament data for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; and the unusual order in which the three Persons are mentioned reminds us that in the thought of the early Church about the nature of God the redemption wrought by Christ had a primary place. There can be no adequate understanding of God's love apart from the cross; and the only lasting fellowship between men is the fellowship of sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Sundays After Pentecost Epistle Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1984, pp. 6-8. Used with permission.

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