|<< 2 Corinthians 13 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This closing chapter 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 of the Epistle relates to the following subjects.
I. The assurance of Paul that he was about to come among them 2 Corinthians 13:1-4, and that he would certainly inflict punishment on all who deserved His enemies had reproached him as being timid and pusillanimous; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:10-11. They had said that he was powerful to threaten, but afraid to execute. It is probable that they had become more bold in this from the fact that he had twice proposed to go there and had failed. In reply to all this, he now in conclusion solemnly assures them that he was coming, and that in all cases where an offence was proved by two or three witnesses, punishment would be inflicted; He assures them 2 Corinthians 13:2 that he would not spare; and that since they sought a proof that Christ had sent him they should witness that proof in the punishment which he would inflict 2 Corinthians 13:3; for that Christ was now clothed with power and was able to execute punishment, though he had been crucified; 2 Corinthians 13:4.
II. Paul calls on them solemnly to examine themselves and to see whether they had any true religion; 2 Corinthians 13:5-6. In the state of things which existed there; in the corruption which had abounded in the church, he solemnly commands them to institute a faithful inquiry, to know whether they had not been deceived; at the same time expressing the hope that it would appear as the result of their examination that they were not reprobates.
III. He earnestly prays to God that they might do no evil; that they might be found to be honest and pure, whatever might be thought of Paul himself or whatever might become of him; 2 Corinthians 13:7. Their repentance would save. Paul from exerting his miraculous power in their punishment, and might thus prevent the proof of his apostolic authority which they desired, and the consequence might be that they might esteem him to be a reprobate, for he could not exert his miraculous power except in the cause of truth; 2 Corinthians 13:8. Still he was willing to be esteemed an impostor if they would do no evil.
IV. He assures them that he earnestly wished their perfection, and that the design of his writing to them severe as he had appeared, was their edification; 2 Corinthians 13:9-10.
V. Then he bids them an affectionate and tender farewell, and closes with the usual salutations and benedictions; 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.
1This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
This is the third time ... - see the note on 2 Corinthians 12:14. For an interesting view of this passage, see Paley's Horae Paulinae on this Epistle, No. 11: It is evident that Paul had been to Corinth but once before this, but he had resolved to go before a second time, but had been disappointed.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses ... - This was what the Law of Moses required; Deuteronomy 20:16; see the note on John 8:17; compare Matthew 18:16. But in regard to its application here, commentators are not agreed. Some suppose that Paul refers to his own epistles which he had sent to them as the two or three witnesses by which his promise to them would be made certain; that he had purposed it and promised it two or three times, and that as this was all that was required by the Law, it would certainly be established. This is the opinion of Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, Grotius, Hammond, Locke, and some others. But, with all the respect due to such great names, it seems to me that this would be trifling and childish in the extreme. Lightfoot supposes that he refers to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who would be witnesses to them of his purpose; see 1 Corinthians 16:17. But the more probable opinion, it seems to me, is that of Doddridge, Macknight, and others, that he anticipated that there wound be necessity for the administration of discipline there, but that he would feel himself under obligation in administering it to adhere to the reasonable maxim of the Jewish Law. No one should be condemned or punished where there was not at least two or three witnesses to prove the offence. But where there were, discipline would be administered according to the nature of the crime.
2I 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:
I told you before - That I would not spare offenders; that I would certainly punish them. He had intimated this before in the First Epistle 1 Corinthians 4:21; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.
And foretell you - Now apprise you of my fixed determination to punish every offender as he deserves.
As if I were present, the second time - The mention of the second time here proves that Paul had been with them but once before. He had formed the resolution to go to them, but had been disappointed. The time when he had been with them is recorded in Acts 18:1 ff. He now uses the same language to them which he says he would use if he were with them, as he had expected to be, the second time. See the remarks of Paley on this passage, referred to above.
And being absent - see the note on 1 Corinthians 5:3.
To them which have heretofore sinned - To all the offenders in the church. They had supposed that he would not come to them 1 Corinthians 4:18, or that if he came he would not dare to inflict punishment, 2 Corinthians 9-11. They had, therefore, given themselves greater liberty, and had pursued their own course, regardless of his authority and commands.
I will not spare - I will punish them. They shall not escape.
3Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me - see the notes on the previous chapters. They had called in question his apostolic authority; they had demanded the evidence of his divine commission. He says that he would now furnish such evidence by inflicting just punishment on all offenders, and they should have abundant proof that Christ spoke by him, or that he was inspired.
Which to you-ward is not weak - Or who, that is, Christ, is not weak, etc. Christ has manifested his power abundantly toward you, that is, either by the miracles that had been performed in his name; or by the diseases and calamities which they had suffered on account of their disorders and offences (see the note on 1 Corinthians 11:30); or by the force and efficacy of his doctrine. The connection, it seems to me, requires that we should understand it of the calamities which had been inflicted by Christ on them for their sins, and which Paul says would be inflicted again if they did not repent. The idea is, that they had had ample demonstration of the power of Christ to inflict punishment, and they had reason to apprehend it again.
4For 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.
For though he was crucified through weakness - Various modes have been adopted of explaining the phrase "through weakness." The most probable explanation is that which refers it to the human nature which he had assumed Philippians 2:7-8; 1 Peter 3:18, and to the appearance of weakness which he manifested. He did not choose to exert his power. He appeared to his enemies to be weak and feeble. This idea would be an exact illustration of the point before the apostle. He is illustrating his own conduct, and especially in the fact that he had not exerted his miraculous powers among them in the punishment of offenders; and he does it by the example of Christ, who though abundantly able to have exerted his power and to have rescued himself from his enemies, yet was willing to appear weak, and to be crucified. It is very clear:
(1) That the Lord Jesus seemed to his enemies to be weak and incapable of resistance.
(2) that he did not put forth his power to protect his life. He in fact offered no resistance, as if he had no power.
(3) he had a human nature that was especially sensitive, and sensible to suffering; and that was borne down and crushed under the weight of mighty woes; see my notes on Isaiah 53:2-3. From all these causes he seemed to be weak and feeble; and these appear to me to be the principal ideas in this expression.
Yet he liveth - He is not now dead. Though he was crucified, yet he now lives again, and is now capable of exerting his great power He furnishes proof of his being alive, in the success which attends the gospel, and in the miracles which are performed in his name and by his power. There is a living Redeemer in heaven; a Redeemer who is able to exert all the power which he ever exerted when on earth; a Redeemer, therefore, who is able to save the soul; to raise the dead; to punish all his foes.
By the power of God - In raising him from the dead and placing him at his own right hand; see Ephesians 1:19-21. Through the power of God he was brought from the tomb, and has a place assigned him at the head of the universe.
For we also are weak in him - Margin, "with him." We his apostles, also, are weak in virtue of our connection with him. We are subject to infirmities and trials; we seem to have no power; we are exposed to contempt; and we appear to our enemies to be destitute of strength. Our enemies regard us as feeble; and they despise us.
But we shall live with him ... - That is, we shall show to you that we are alive. By the aid of the power of God we shall show that we are not as weak as our foes pretend; that we are invested with power; and that we are able to inflict the punishment which we threaten. This is one of the numerous instances in which Paul illustrated the case before him by a reference to the example and character of Christ. The idea is, that Christ did not exert his power, and appeared to be weak, and was put to death. So Paul says that he had not exerted his power, and seemed to be weak. But, says he, Christ lives, and is clothed with strength; and so we, though we appear to be weak, shall exert among you, or toward you, the power with which he has invested us, in inflicting punishment on our foes.
5Examine 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?
Examine yourselves - see the note on 1 Corinthians 11:28. The particular reason why Paul calls on them to examine themselves was, that there was occasion to fear that many of them had been deceived. Such had been the irregularities and disorders in the church at Corinth; so ignorant had many of them shown themselves of the nature of the Christian religion, that it was important, in the highest degree, for them to institute a strict and impartial examination to ascertain whether they had not been altogether deceived. This examination, however, is never unimportant or useless for Christians; and an exhortation to do it is always in place. So important are the interests at stake, and so liable are the best to deceive themselves, that all Christians should be often induced to examine the foundation of their hope of eternal salvation.
Whether ye be in the faith - Whether you are true Christians. Whether you have any true faith in the gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ, and in the promises of God through him, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a true Christian; and to ascertain whether we have any true faith, therefore, is to ascertain whether we are sincere Christians. For some reasons for such an examination, and some remarks on the mode of doing it; see the note on 1 Corinthians 11:28.
Prove your own selves - The word used here (δοκιμάζετε dokimazete) is stronger than that before used, and rendered "examine" (πειράζετε peirazete). This word, prove, refers to assaying or trying metals by the powerful action of heat; and the idea here is, that they should make the most thorough trial of their religion, to see whether it would stand the test; see the note on 1 Corinthians 3:13. The proof of their piety was to be arrived at by a faithful examination of their own hearts and lives; by a diligent comparison of their views and feelings with the word of God; and especially by making trial of it in life. The best way to prove our piety is to subject it to actual trial in the various duties and responsibilites of life. A man who wishes to prove an axe to see whether it is good or not, does not sit down and look at it, or read all the treatises which he can find on axe-making, and on the properties of iron and steel, valuable as such information would be; but he shoulders his axe and goes into the woods, and puts it to the trial there.
If it cuts well; if it does not break; if it is not soon made dull, he understands the quality of his axe better than he could in any other way. So if a man wishes to know what his religion is worth, let him try it in the places where religion is of any value. Let him go into the world with it. Let him go and try to do good; to endure affliction in a proper manner; to combat the errors and follies of life; to admonish sinners of the error of their ways; and to urge forward the great work of the conversion of the world, and he will soon see there what his religion is worth - as easily as a man can test the qualities of an axe. Let him not merely sit down and think, and compare himself with the Bible and look at his own heart - valuable as this may be in many respects - but let him treat his religion as he would anything else - let him subject it to actual experiment. That religion which will enable a man to imitate the example of Paul or Howard, or the great Master himself, in doing good, is genuine.
That religion which will enable a man to endure persecution for the name of Jesus; to bear calamity without complaining; to submit to a long series of disappointments and distresses for Christ's sake, is genuine. That religion which will prompt a man unceasingly to a life of prayer and self-denial; which will make him ever conscientious, industrious, and honest; which will enable him to warn sinners of the errors of their ways, and which will dispose him to seek the friendship of Christians, and the salvation of the world, is pure and genuine. That will answer the purpose. It is like the good axe with which a man can chop all day long, in which there is no flaw, and which does not get dull, and which answers all the purposes of an axe. Any other religion than this is worthless.
Know ye not your own selves - That is, "Do you not know yourselves?" This does not mean, as some may suppose, that they might know of themselves, without the aid of others, what their character was; or that they might themselves ascertain it; but it means that they might know themselves, that is, their character, principles, conduct. This proves that Christians may know their true character. If they are Christians, they may know it with as undoubted certainty as they may know their character on any other subject. Why should not a man be as able to determine whether he loves God as whether he loves a child, a parent, or a friend? What greater difficulty need there be in understanding the character on the subject of religion than on any other subject; and why should there be anymore reason for doubt on this than on any other point of character? And yet it is remarkable, that while a child has no doubt that he loves a parent, or a husband a wife, or a friend a friend, almost all Christians are in very great doubt about their attachment to the Redeemer and to the great principles of religion.
Such was not the case with the apostles and early Christians. "I know," says Paul," whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him," etc.; 2 Timothy 1:12. "We know.' says John, speaking in the name of the body of Christians, "that we have passed from death unto life;" 1 John 3:14. "We know that we are of the truth;" 1 John 3:19. "We know that he abideth in us;" 1 John 3:24. "We know that we dwell in him;" 1 John 4:13; see also John 5:2, John 5:19-20. So Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth," etc.; Job 19:25. Such is the current language of scripture. Where, in the Bible, do the sacred speakers and writers express doubts about their attachment to God and the Redeemer? Where is such language to be found as we hear from almost all professing Christians, expressing entire uncertainty about their condition; absolute doubt whether they love God or hate him; whether they are going to heaven or hell; whether they are influenced by good motives or bad; and even making it a matter of merit to be in such doubt, and thinking it wrong not to doubt?
What would be thought of a husband that should make it a matter of merit to doubt whether he loved his wife; or of a child that should think it wrong not to doubt whether he loved his father or mother? Such attachments ought to be doubted - but they do not occur in the common relations of life. On the subject of religion, people often act as they do on no other subject; and if it is right for one to be satisfied of the sincerity of his attachments to his best earthly friends, and to speak of such attachment without wavering or misgiving, it cannot be wrong to be satisfied with regard to our attachment to God, and to speak of that attachment, as the apostles did, in language of undoubted confidence.
How that Jesus Christ is in you - To be in Christ, or for Christ to be in us, is a common mode in the Scriptures of expressing the idea that we are Christians. It is language derived from the close union which subsists between the Redeemer and his people: see the phrase explained in the note on Romans 8:10.
Except ye be reprobates - see the note on Romans 1:28. The word rendered "reprobates" (ἀδόκιμοι adokimoi) means properly not approved, rejected: that which will not stand the trial. It is properly applicable to metals, as denoting that they will not bear the tests to which they are subjected, but are found to be base or adulterated. The sense here is, that they might know that they were Christians, unless their religion was base, false, adulterated; or such as would not bear the test. There is no allusion here to the sense which is sometimes given to the word "reprobate," of being cast off or abandoned by God, or doomed by him to eternal ruin in accordance with an eternal purpose. Whatever may be the truth on that subject, nothing is taught in regard to it here. The simple idea is, that they might know that they were Christians, unless their religion was such as would not stand the test, or was worthless.
6But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
But I trust ... - The sense of this verse is," Whatever may be the result of your examination of yourselves, I trust (Greek I hope) you will not find us false and to be rejected; that is, I trust you will find in me evidence that I am commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be his apostle." The idea is, that they would find when he was among them, that he was endowed with all the qualifications needful to confer a claim to the apostolic office.
7Now 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.
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil - I earnestly desire that you may do right, and only right; and I beseech God that it may be so, whatever may be the result in regard to me, and whatever may be thought of my claims to the apostolic office. This is designed to mitigate the apparent severity of the sentiment in 2 Corinthians 13:6. There he had said that they would find him fully endowed with the power of an apostle. They would see that he was able abundantly to punish the disobedient. They would have ample demonstration that he was endowed by Christ with all the powers appropriate to an apostle, and that all that he had claimed had been well founded, all that he threatened would be executed. But this seemed to imply that he desired that there should be occasion for the exercise of that power of administering discipline; and he, therefore, in this verse, removes all suspicion that such was his wish, by saying solemnly, that he prayed to God that they might never do wrong; that they might never give him occasion for the exercise of his power in that way, though as a consequence he would be regarded as a reprobate, or as having no claims to the apostolic office. He would rather be regarded as an impostor; rather lie under the reproach of his enemies that he had no claims to the apostolic character, than that they, by doing wrong, should give him occasion to show that he was not a deceiver.
Not that we should appear approved - My great object, and my main desire, is not to urge my claims to the apostolic office and clear up my own character; it is that you should lead honest lives, whatever may become of me and my reputation.
Though we be as reprobates - I am willing to be regarded as rejected, disapproved, worthless, like base metal, provided you lead honest and holy lives. I prefer to be so esteemed, and to have you live as becomes Christians, than that you should dishonor your Christian profession, and thus afford me the opportunity of demonstrating, by inflicting punishment, that I am commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be an apostle. The sentiment is, that a minister of the gospel should desire that his people should walk worthy of their high calling, whatever may be the estimate in which he is held. He should never desire that they should do wrong - how can he do it? - in order that he may take occasion from their wrongdoing to vindicate, in any way, his own character, or to establish a reputation for skill in administering discipline or in governing a church. What a miserable condition it is - and as wicked as it is miserable - for a man to wish to take advantage of a state of disorder, or of the faults of others, in order to establish his own character, or to obtain reputation. Paul spurned and detested such a thought; yet it is to be feared it is sometimes done.
8For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
For we - That is, we the apostles.
Can do nothing against the truth ... - That is, we who are under the influence of the Spirit of God; who have been commissioned by him as apostles, can do nothing that shall be against the great system of truth which we are appointed to promulgate and defend. You need, therefore, apprehend no partial or severe discipline from us; no unjust construction of your conduct. Our aim is to promote the truth, and to do what is right; and we cannot, therefore, by any regard to our own reputation, or to any personal advantage, do what is wrong, or countenance, or desire what is wrong in others. We must wish that which is right to be done by others, whatever may be the effect on us - whether we are regarded as apostles or deceivers. I suppose, therefore, that this verse is designed to qualify and confirm the sentiment in the previous verse, that Paul meant to do only right; that he wished all others to do right; and that whatever might be the effect on his own reputation, or however he might be regarded, he could not go against the great system of gospel truth which he preached, or even desire that others should ever do wrong, though it might in any way be for his advantage. It was a fixed principle with him to act only in accordance with truth; to do what was right.
9For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
For we are glad when we are weak ... - We rejoice in your welfare, and are willing to submit to self-denial and to infirmity if it may promote your spiritual strength. In the connection in which this stands it seems to mean, "I am content to appear weak, provided you do no wrong; I am willing not to have occasion to exercise my power in punishing offenders, and had rather lie under the reproach of being actually weak, than to have occasion to exercise my power by punishing you for wrongdoing; and provided you are strong in the faith and in the hope of the gospel, I am very willing, nay, I rejoice that I am under this necessity of appearing weak."
And this also we wish - I desire this in addition to your doing no evil.
Even your perfection - The word used here (κατάρτισις katartisis) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived (καταρτίζω katartizō) occurs often; Matthew 4:21; Matthew 21:16; Mark 1:19; Luke 6:40; Romans 9:22; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, et al.; see the note on 2 Corinthians 13:11. On the meaning of the word see Romans 9:22. The idea of restoring, putting in order, fitting, repairing, is involved in the word "always," and hence, the idea of making perfect; that is, of completely restoring anything to its proper place. Here it evidently means that Paul wished their entire reformation - so that there should be no occasion for exercising discipline. Doddridge renders it, "perfect good order." Macknight, "restoration." For this restoration of good order Paul had diligently labored in these epistles; and this was an object near to his heart.
10Therefore 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.
Therefore I write these things ... - This is a kind of apology for what he had said, and especially for the apparently harsh language which he had felt himself constrained to use. He had reproved them; he had admonished them of their faults; he had threatened punishment, all of which was designed to prevent the necessity of severe measures when he should be with them.
Lest being present I should use sharpness - In order that when I come I may not have occasion to employ severity; see the sentiment explained in the note on 2 Corinthians 10:2.
According to the power ... - That I may not use the power with which Christ has invested me for maintaining discipline in his church. The same form of expression is found in 2 Corinthians 10:8; see the note on that place.
11Finally, 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.
Finally, brethren - (λοιπὸν loipon). The remainder; all that remains is for me to bid you an affectionate farewell. The word here rendered "farewell" (χαίρετε chairete), means usually to joy and rejoice, or to be glad; Luke 1:14; John 16:20, John 16:22; and it is often used in the sense of "joy to you," "hail!" as a salutation; Matthew 26:49; Matthew 27:29. It is also used as a salutation at the beginning of an epistle, in the sense of greeting; Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26; James 1:1. It is generally agreed, however, that it is here to be understood in the sense of farewell, as a parting salutation, though it may be admitted that there is included in the word an expression of a wish for their happiness. This was among the last words which Cyrus, when dying, addressed to his friends.
Be perfect - See this word explained in the notes on 2 Corinthians 13:9, and Romans 9:22. It was a wish that every disorder might be removed; that all that was out of joint might be restored; that everything might be in its proper place; and that they might be just what they ought to be: A command to be perfect, however, does not prove that it has ever in fact been obeyed: and an earnest wish on the part of an apostle that others might be perfect, does not demonstrate that they were; and this passage should not be adduced to prove that any have been free from sin. It may be adduced, however, to prove that an obligation rests on Christians to be perfect, and that there is no natural obstacle to their becoming such, since God never can command us to do an impossibility. Whether anyone, but the Lord Jesus, has been perfect, however, is a question on which different denominations of Christians have been greatly divided. It is incumbent on the advocates of the doctrine of sinless perfection to produce some one instance of a perfectly sinless character. This has not yet been done.
Be of good comfort - Be consoled by the promises and supports of the gospel. Take comfort from the hopes which the gospel imparts. Or the word may possibly have a reciprocal sense, and mean, comfort one another; see Schleusner. Rosenmuller renders it, "receive admonition from all with a grateful mind, that you may come to greater perfection." It is, at any rate, the expression of an earnest wish on the part of the apostle, that they might be happy.
Be of one mind - They had been greatly distracted, and divided into different parties and factions. At the close of the Epistle he exhorts them as he had repeatedly done before, to lay aside these strifes, and to be united, and manifest the same spirit; see the notes on Romans 12:16; Romans 15:5, note; see the note also on 1 Corinthians 1:10, note. The sense is, that Paul desired that dissensions should cease, and that they should be united in opinion and feeling as Christian brethren.
Live in peace - With each other. Let contentions and strifes cease. To promote the restoration of peace had been the main design of these epistles.
And the God of love and peace - The God who is all love, and who is the Author of all peace. What a glorious appellation is this! There can be no more beautiful expression, and it is as true as it is beautiful, that God is a God of love and of peace. He is infinitely benevolent; He delights in exhibiting His love; and He delights in the love which His people evince for each other. At the same time, He is the Author of peace, and He delights in peace among people. When Christians love each other they have reason to expect that the God of love will be with them; when they live in peace, they may expect the God of peace will take up His abode with them. In contention and strife we have no reason to expect His presence; and it is only when we are willing to lay aside all animosity that we may expect the God of peace will fix his abode with us.
12Greet one another with an holy kiss.
Greet - Salute; see the note, Romans 16:3.
With an holy kiss - note, Romans 16:16.
13All the saints salute you.
All the saints salute you - That is, all who were with Paul, or in the place where he was. The Epistle was written from Macedonia, probably from Philippi. See the introduction, section 3.
14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. ‹‹The second epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ - see the note, Romans 16:20. This verse contains what is usually called the apostolic benediction - the form which has been so long, and which is almost so universally used, in dismissing religious assemblies. It is properly a prayer, and it is evident that the optative εἴῃ eiē, "May the grace," etc., is to be supplied. It is the expression of a desire that the favors here referred to may descend on all for whom they are thus invoked.
And the love of God - May the love of God toward you be manifest. This must refer especially to the Father, as the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the other members of the sentence. The "love of God" here referred to is the manifestation of his goodness and favor in the pardon of sin, in the communication of his grace, in the comforts and consolations which he imparts to his people, in all that constitutes an expression of love. The love of God brings salvation; imparts comfort; pardons sin; sanctifies the soul; fills the heart with joy and peace; and Paul here prays that all the blessings which are the fruit of that love may be with them.
And the communion of the Holy Ghost - compare note, 1 Corinthians 10:16. The word "communion" (κοινωνία koinōnia) means properly participation, fellowship, or having anything in common; Acts 2:42; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:9; 1 John 1:3. This is also a wish or prayer of the apostle Paul; and the desire is either that they might partake of the views and feelings of the Holy Spirit; that is, that they might have fellowship with him; or that they might all in common partake of the gifts and graces which the Spirit of God imparts. He gives love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith Galatians 5:22, as well as miraculous endowments; and Paul prays that these things might be imparted freely to all the church in common, that all might participate in them; all might share them.
Amen - This word is missing, says Clarke, in almost every ms. of any authority. It was however early affixed to the Epistle.
In regard to this closing verse of the Epistle, we may make the following remarks:
(1) It is a prayer; and if it is a prayer addressed to God, it is no less so to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. If so, it is right to offer worship to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit.
(2) there is a distinction in the divine nature; or there is the existence of what is usually termed three persons in the Godhead. If not. why are they mentioned in this manner? If the Lord Jesus is not divine and equal with the Father, why is he mentioned in this connection? How strange it would be for Paul, an inspired man, to pray in the same breath, "the grace of a man or an angel" and "the love of God" be with you! And if the "Holy Spirit" be merely an influence of God or an attribute of God, how strange to pray that the "love of God" and the participation or fellowship of an "influence of God," or an "attribute of God" might be with them!
(3) the Holy Spirit is a person, or has a distinct personality. He is not an attribute of God, nor a mere divine influence. How could prayer be addressed to an attribute, or an influence? But here, nothing can be plainer than that there were favors which the Holy Spirit, as an intelligent and conscious agent, was expected to bestow. And nothing can be plainer than that they were favors in some sense distinct from those which were conferred by the Lord Jesus, and by the Father. Here is a distinction of some kind as real as that between the Lord Jesus and the Father; here are favors expected from him distinct from those conferred by the Father and the Son; and there is, therefore, here all the proof that there can be, that there is in some respects a distinction between the persons here referred to and that the Holy Spirit is an intelligent, conscious agent.
(4) the Lord Jesus is not inferior to the Father, that is, he has an equality with God. If he were not equal, how could he be mentioned, as he here is, as bestowing favors like God, and especially why is he mentioned first? Would Paul, in invoking blessings, mention the name of a mere man or an angel before that of the eternal God?
(5) the passage, therefore, furnishes a proof of the doctrine of the Trinity that has not yet been answered, and, it is believed, cannot be. On the supposition that there are three persons in the adorable Trinity, united in essence and yet distinct in some respects, all is plain and clear. But on the supposition that, the Lord Jesus is a mere man, an angel, or an archangel, and that the Holy Spirit is an attribute, or an influence from God, how unintelligible, confused, strange does all become! That Paul, in the solemn close of the Epistle, should at the same time invoke blessings from a mere creature, and from God, and from an attribute, surpasses belief. But that he should invoke blessings from him who was the equal with the Father, and from the Father himself, and from the Sacred Spirit sustaining the same rank, and in like manner imparting important blessings, is in accordance with all that we should expect, and makes all harmonious and appropriate.
(6) nothing could be a more proper close of the Epistle; nothing is a more appropriate close of public worship, than such an invocation. It is a prayer to the ever-blessed God, that all the rich influences which he gives as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may be imparted; that all the benefits which God confers in the interesting relations in which he makes himself known to us may descend and bless us. What more appropriate prayer can be offered at the close of public worship? How seriously should it be pronounced, as a congregration is about to separate, perhaps to come together no more! With what solemnity should all join in it, and how devoutly should all pray, as they thus separate, that these rich and inestimable blessings may rest upon them! With hearts uplifted to God it should be pronounced and heard; and every worshiper should leave the sanctuary deeply feeling that what he most needs as he leaves the place of public worship; as he travels on the journey of life; as he engages in its duties or meets its trials; as he looks at the grave and eternity, is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the blessings which the Holy Spirit imparts in renewing, and sanctifying, and comforting His people. What more appropriate prayer than this for the writer and reader of these notes! May that blessing rest alike upon us, though we may be strangers in the flesh, and may those divine and heavenly influences guide us alike to the same everlasting kingdom of glory.
In regard to the subscription at the end of this Epistle, it may be observed, that it is missing in a great part of the most ancient mss., and is of no authority whatever; see the notes at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, and 1 Corinthians. this case, however, this subscription is in the main correct, since there is evidence that it was written from Macedonia, and not improbably from Philippi. See the introduction to this Epistle.