2  Corinthians 13:11-14 – A Final Exhortation and Blessing

“Finally,” Paul writes. He has come to the end of the letter. In this letter, he has attempted to (1) help the Corinthians understand both the importance and nature of the ministry of reconciliation inaugurated by a crucified but risen Messiah, (2) encourage the Corinthians to renew their commitment to sharing their wealth with the poor saints in Jerusalem as they had promised they would, and (3) confront the claims of the super-apostles and warn the Corinthians that Paul’s third visit will test their commitment to the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah.

Paul’s letter ends with optimism, loving intent, and blessing. That seems rather strange in the light of what immediately preceded these final words, but it signals Paul’s authentic intentions. He does not want to beat up the Corinthians. Rather, the final exhortations reach back into the letter and invite the Corinthians to respond positively to Paul’s message, the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

Final Exhortations

These final exhortations—including six imperatives (commands) and two indicatives (declarative statements)—summarize how Paul hopes the Corinthians will respond to his lengthy letter. These statements are not throw-away, meaningless formulaic endings to a letter but an invitation to embrace the message Paul has attempted to communicate.

It is rather typical for Paul to conclude his letters with a series of admonitions (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22), but they seem to relate, in some way, to the content of the letter—almost like a summary of sorts.

Six Imperatives.

Rejoice! Though some translations render this word “farewell,” Paul has just used this same word in 2 Corinthians 13:9, and it appears in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 at the head of a list of brief imperatives with the meaning “rejoice.” Though Paul’s ministry is filled with suffering, it is his joy that the Corinthians are strong though he is weak. The ministry itself is a source or joy rather than gloom and despair. The ministry of reconciliation is an occasion for joy. Paul works for their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24; cf. 2:3; 7:4, 13; 8:2). Joy, deep-seated peace and calm, arises from the reconciling ministry of God at work in Christ.

Put Things in Order! Just like “rejoice,” this word also occurs in 2 Corinthians 13:9 where Paul prays for their sufficiency, competency, or even restoration. Some render it, “mend your ways,” or “be restored” to God (as in “Be reconciled to God” in 2 Corinthians 5:20). It seems to refer to a sense of wholeness or completeness. Paul wants the Corinthians to embrace God’s restorative and transformative work in their lives, which is effected through faith and repentance but dependent upon God’s reconciling work.

Listen to My Appeal! Either Paul is asking the Corinthians to listen attentively to his letter, or perhaps he is asking to them to find encouragement from what he has said. Perhaps the language is sufficiently ambiguous to include both so that Paul has a fuller meaning here:  listen and be encouraged! Paul’s letter is filled with the language of exhortation or encouragement. He uses this verb in 2 Corinthians 1:4, 6, 2:7; 5:20; 6:1; 7:6, 13; 8:6; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8, 18. Paul does not intend to destroy but to edify and encourage. He calls the Corinthians into relationship, repentance, and renewal. His continuous call to encouragement throughout the letter receives its final mark here at the end of the latter.

Have the Same Mind! This is the only time Paul uses this verb in 2 Corinthians, though he did use it in 1 Corinthians 13:11 where he describes how Christian growth entails moving beyond a childish mind toward a mature one. This is a key point in Philippians: believers are called to have the same mind as Jesus and unite in thinking the same way about discipleship and life in the kingdom of God (Philippians 1:7; 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; 4:2, 10). This does not mean there is absolute conformity in terms of opinions and varied understandings, but it is a shared approach to life in Christ, particularly where we have the same mind Jesus had (that is, the one who was rich became poor so that we who are poor might become rich). It is a life of service and care for others; it is living worthy of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, who emptied himself in order to become a servant.

Live in Peace! Paul uses this verb in three places: here, Romans 12:18, and 1 Thessalonians 5:13. Peace is something the Corinthian church lacks, it appears. Perhaps it is improving as Titus’s report to Paul in Macedonia indicates. But the church is still disturbed. Peace is an essential quality for the living church of God but one it often lacks due to internal strife, disagreements, and varied practices. Yet, peace is not found in conformity but in being conformed to the life of the Messiah.

Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss! This is also a common imperative in Paul’s benedictions or endings to his letters. It appears in three other letters: 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 16:20; and Romans 16:16 (see also 1 Peter 5:14). The kiss is a holy (non-erotic) greeting—a sign of peace and welcome between family members. It is a sign of fellowship and communion.

Two Declarations.

The God of love and peace will be with you! Paul uses “God of peace” often (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 15:33; 16:20; Philippians 4:9), and this is the only occurrence of the phrase “God of love” in Scripture. This is not a wish prayer but a promise. God responds with love and peace to communities that embrace the way of the gospel and pursue the ministry of reconciliation  with joy, peace, and restorative practices. Paul assures the Corinthians that God has not abandoned them but is still at work among them as they seek reconciliation and peace.

All the saints greet you! The Corinthian congregation is part of a larger community. They are not alone in the world, and it is important to remember that we are joined together in mutual welcome, love, and peace through mutual greeting.

Blessing, or Benediction

In English, we supply the verb to 2 Corinthians 13:14 (in some translations, the final verse is 13). There is no verb in the Greek sentence. It is legitimate to supply the verb “to be” as in “to be with” or to be present with, even to be overwhelmed by. It is about our existence in the life of the Triune God who is active and engaging. The Triune God is pouring out love, grace, and communion (fellowship). God’s activity is constant and dynamic. This sustains our relationship with the Triune God. We enjoy, experience, and are empowered as well as enriched by the life of the Triune God as that God pours into us grace, love, and communion.

In other words, by supplying the  verb “to be” we see the empowering and enriching presence of God’s mighty acts among us, the God who loves, the Christ who graces, and the Spirit who communes. This divine presence is “with us all”—a constant and abiding presence that secures our hope, empowers our ministry, and enriches our lives. This is Paul’s blessing, even benediction, for the Corinthians and all believers in Christ.

In Paul’s benediction, grace is associated with the Lord Jesus the Messiah, love is associated with God the Creator, and fellowship (koinōnia) with the Holy Spirit. This language, of course, is not unique to each because we can also speak of the “love of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 3:19; Romans 8:35), or the “grace of God” (2 Corinthians 1:12; 6:1; 8:1; 9:14), or the “love of the Spirit” (Romans 15:30).

Nevertheless, though this language is not exclusive, perhaps Paul reminds us of the economic (the way the Triune God manages the world) work of the Triune persons in the world for the sake of the world. The love of God is the source of all redemptive work, the grace of Jesus is the means by which God accomplishes this work, and the fellowship of the Spirit is how we experience this redemption in both community and in our own lives.  This is the activity of the Triune God, the tri-personality of God (for the Threeness of God, see Galatians 4:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Ephesians 2:18; 4:4-6).

The divine work is sourced from God the Creator, given through the Messiah, and poured out into our lives by the Spirit who unites us with God and the Messiah. Perhaps one way of saying this, without any attempt to be exhaustive, is the following hymn-like expression of the work of the Triune God.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

  • Forgiveness for our transgressions
  • Mercy in our brokenness
  • Compassion for the poor and sick
  • Liberation for the oppressed
  • Peaceful reconciliation between enemies

The love of God

  • The source of creation and redemption
  • God’s delight in our belovedness
  • The unspeakable gift of Jesus for the life of the world
  • An unrelentingly pursuit to include us in God’s own loving community
  • Passion to form us into God’s own loving image

The communion of the Spirit

  • God’s love poured into our hearts
  • God experienced in the communion of community
  • The mercy and forgiveness we extend to each other by the power of the Spirit
  • A rich shared life together in the Spirit
  • The Spirit who groans with us and plants hope in our hearts

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Paul began this letter with a reminder that the God who raises the dead is the God of all comfort and ends the letter with a benediction that blesses the Corinthians with the love, grace, and communion of the Triune God. This is the community into which believers are called and where they experience authentic joy, peace, and restoration.

Glory to Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning and ever shall be worlds without end. Amen!

2 Responses to “2  Corinthians 13:11-14 – A Final Exhortation and Blessing”

  1.   Roy Stephenson Says:

    Dr. J.M. Hicks, Really love your site and your thorough scholarship. There’s a quote I remember from you.. I shared with another preacher lately.. where David Lipscomb during the Civil War years would stop his horse and buggy and pick up a couple of Catholic nuns who wanted to be of help to the wounded. This was an ongoing habit for Lipscomb. My friend, a Lipscomb graduate, preaches for the Bkairsville GA Church of Christ [and I preach in nearby Murphy NC]. Is there a citation for that David L activity? Also – I have heard that Lioscomb’s stance on immersion included that if a believer in Christ was baptized to simply obey God that person’s baptism is valid and saving. I mentioned that to my preaching friend ..Terry Stuart of Blairsville.. and he would like a book, journal article, ms, etc, that would verify. Thank you so much! -Roy Steohenson, Murphy nc

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thank you, Roy.

    It was not the Civil War, but during the 1873 Cholera epidemic. https://johnmarkhicks.com/2011/02/23/david-lipscomb-on-the-cholera-epidemic-in-nashville-june-1873/

    You can search my site for Lipscomb and Rebaptism, and you will see several articles on the rebaptism question. Longest treatment by Lipscomb available online is his article in the book Salvation from Sin. You can find that here: https://webfiles.acu.edu/departments/Library/HR/restmov_nov11/www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/dlipscomb/dlsin.html

    See these blog posts


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