On Paul’s Warm Conclusion to 2 Corinthians

Chris —  May 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

2 Corinthians is a wonderful book to read devotionally. I highly recommend Sam Storm’s 2 Volumes on 2 Corinthians: A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 1-6), Volume 1: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians
and A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 7-13), Volume 2: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians

Sunday I plan to preach on Paul’s warm, and wonderfully Trinitarian conclusion to 2 Corinthians found in 2 Cor 13:11-14. Here is the text with my custom indenting for the purpose of better seeing Paul’s emphasis:

[11] 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.

[12] Greet one another with a holy kiss.

[13] All the saints greet you.

[14] 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 ESV)

Paul packs six imperatives into these final verses. That is, he concludes by summarizing his marching orders for the Corinthians with 6 different commands. Our hearts should be so encouraged by the nature of the orders God’s Word gives His people:

  • rejoice,
  • aim for restoration,
  • comfort one another,
  • agree with one another,
  • live in peace,
  • greet one another with a holy kiss.

Yet, if we read Paul’s 2 Corinthians conclusion apart from an appreciation for the greater context, then we will hear Paul in a way that is too sappy and sentimental. Over the course of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, there has been a great deal of strain. The below table summarizes a proposed Paul’s communication with the Corinthians. If this reconstruction is right, then there are two lost letters that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to omit from the Canon.

Letter

Evidence For

Purpose or Circumstance

Letter A (now lost) Paul refers to another letter in 1 Cor 5:9-11 Paul warns the Corinthians against participation with the wrong people
Letter B (1 Cor) In our Bible! Paul fleshes out the content of (A) and encourages Corinthians to separate from false teachers
Letter C (now lost) See 2 Cor 2:4, 2:9, 7:8-12 The “Severe Letter”: Paul demands the punishment of the ringleader and others who opposed Paul’s apostolic authority
Letter D (2 Cor 1-9) In our Bible! Paul learns from Titus that the Corinthians have responded well and exalts (2 Cor 7:6-7)
Letter E (2 Cor 10-13) In our Bible! The sharp break with chapter 10 indicates some new circumstance. In the midst of writing (D), Paul learns that things aren’t really going that well and must be more forceful.

The conduct of the Corinthians forced Paul to confront the Corinthians at many points. Paul wasn’t all hugs and kisses! Yet, his warmth in conclusion means all the more given that Paul loved them enough to wound when necessary. If Paul had not been severe with the church at Corinth when their sin required severity, then he would not have had the right to truly encourage the Corinthians to rejoice.

Enough for now . . . I am really looking forward to Sunday’s sermon.

 

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