2 Corinthians 13:11-14

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Comfort and Joy

In this final entry, we’re taken back to the beginning, to Paul’s initial theme of comfort. Along with that theme comes a list of other verbs that remind the Corinthians of their past and present division and ecclesiastical fragmentation. They are a divided family in need of communion with each other as they have it with the Triune God. Paul seeks to remind, exhort, encourage, and bless them with these finishing strokes of the stylus.

He concludes with “finally,” a typical Pauline way of calling his readers to attention, to take note of his last words in the letter, and even to summarize central themes in shorthand (cf. Phil. 4:8; 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:1). In fact, Paul’s words in 13:11 are almost identical to those found in Philippians 3:1 (“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord”). It’s not accidental or insignificant that Paul calls them brothers. He does so to show his confidence that they are his Christian siblings, fellow sons and daughters in the Son, and as such they are equally united to Christ and to one another as part of God’s family. This reminder is an encouragement for Paul, to be sure. It is also, however, a subtle exhortation for them to act as such. We’ve seen division throughout this letter (as not all division was eradicated after 1 Corinthians was delivered and applied), which division is unbecoming of followers of Christ. It’s understandable that those of Christ would be divided from those of Belial, but these things ought not to be so among brothers! They have a common Christ; they, together, belong to Christ, and must, therefore, love one another as Christ loves them. This, no doubt, is a reminder for us all, isn’t it? We are tempted to drive a wedge further into our relationships with Christian brothers and sisters when conflicts come our way, and when sin disrupts the relationship. Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, God has gifted us with the means by which to be restored.

The goal of restoration is put before the Corinthians one final time, but before it is, Paul commands them to rejoice, to be glad and joyful. Some say that the word “rejoice” should rather be translated “greetings” or “good-bye,” as it can be so translated. However, when we read just two verses earlier, we’re reminded of Paul’s own joy: “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.” In fact, verses 9 and 13 follow the same pattern: joy then restoration. Paul’s heart is glad because of his confidence in the Lord who enjoys bringing his children to himself and to each other in brotherly affection and care for one another. Paul, then, is saying here that since he rejoices over them, they, too, should rejoice. They follow the Lord of joy, the God of peace, the Holy Spirit of fellowship. They have every reason to rejoice.

Moreover, they have every reason to “aim for restoration.” The verb is actually a passive command (“be restored”), something Paul does elsewhere with the same word (1 Cor. 1:10: “be united in the same mind”). Here again Paul takes the Corinthians to verse 9 and his fervent prayer for their restoration. The Corinthian church has been attacked from without and from within; some Corinthians are false friends and super-apostles, whereas others are faithful followers of Christ. Some sadly have swerved and gotten off the path. The church needs restoration. Paul’s plea should not be applied only to the church in Corinth. We likewise can look at our relationships and seek restoration. That restoration may mean the excommunication of enemies in friends’ clothing. That restoration may mean confession of sin, repentance, and comforting forgiveness. Whatever it looks like in your context, it must be grounded in the absolute authority of God’s Word, for that is where God has wisely counseled his people in the ways of reconciliation. The only way the Corinthians and we can be of the same mind and agree with one another (13:12) is by being mutually committed to God’s Word (cf. also 10:2-7). The only way the Corinthians and we can be at peace with one another is to know the God of grace and peace (1:2). Are you seeking a godly greeting, a holy kiss from your brother or sister? That holy kiss is a sign that even though you may not be biologically family, you are covenantally family, a holied people belonging to the holy God (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26). Perhaps you should extend that holy-kiss greeting to someone from whom you’re estranged. The God of reconciliation will help you.

Paul’s command “comfort one another” is also passive, and should be translated, “be comforted.” Here Paul bookends his first and final chapters with the theme of comfort. Chapter 1 is full of “comfort” (1:4, 6). Comfort is a big deal in this letter, and he carries that theme in many of his chapters (cf. also 2:7; 7:6-7, 13). You may remember my definition of “comfort” at the start. Here’s how I defined the verb “to comfort”: to strengthen, embolden, encourage, and console someone with appeals to God’s strong presence, perfect providence, holy character, and infallible Word; and by extension with one’s very life that has been changed by the transformative work of God in Christ through the Spirit. If you read through 2 Corinthians again, you’ll see how Paul does that over and over. As he concludes his letter, therefore, he reminds them to be comforted. He gave them abundant reasons for which to be comforted. Reflect on them, and so be comforted. Before you put away 2 Corinthians for a while, read it one last time (all in one sitting), and be on the pursuit of comfort from God. You won’t be disappointed.

There’s no better way to conclude 2 Corinthians than the way Paul does in verse 14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship [communion] of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” He aptly summarizes the central themes of the letter, which are the central themes of the gospel: grace, love, and communion coming from the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This Triune blessing is not only evidence of the Trinity (one God, three persons, co-equal in power and glory), but a conclusion of immense comfort! If we have God, we receive his grace, love, and fellowship. What more could a people need or ask for? What more comfort could we have? We have it all, because God. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

     
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