Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book with this Bible study guide.
2 Corinthians 13 Bible Study Guide – Paul’s Concern For The Corinthians
I. Paul would deal fairly and strongly with the Corinthians (1-4)
II. Examine yourselves (5-10)
III. Final reminders (11-14)
I. Paul would deal fairly and strongly with the Corinthians (1-4)
- What charge was Paul referring to?
- Why did he mention this principle here?
- Why is the biblical standard of two or three witnesses so important?
- How would Paul deal with the sinner when he visited again?
- What does it mean that Christ is “powerful among you?”
- How was Christ “crucified in weakness?” What is Paul’s point here?
- So how might the power of God manifest itself through Paul to the Corinthians?
- What should they do in light of this warning?
- What can we learn from this passage about how to deal with sinning brethren? And what if we are the sinning member?
John 8:17 – In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.
Philippians 2:5-7 – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Isaiah 53:2-3 – For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Hebrews 1:3 – He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
1. Every charge must be established by two or three witnesses – Paul was going to visit the Corinthians again. When he did, he was going to deal with anyone who was still indulging in sin. He makes that clear in verse 2 where he says, “I will not spare them.”
However, Paul wants them to know that he was going to be fair minded and biblical in the way he dealt with the sinner. He was not going to come in as a vigilante with his own vendetta. Rather, he would approach any potential discipline following the principles laid out in Scripture. It was important that they know Paul was going to be fair.
This Old Testament principle about “two or three witnesses” is from Deuteronomy 19:15.
The purpose of this law was to protect the innocent from slander and false testimony. It is unclear why the standard was “two or three” rather than one or the other. Possibly, the integrity and character of the witnesses was taken into account. If both had an outstanding reputation then the statements of two witnesses would hold. And if they are less well-known then three or more would be necessary. Another possibility is this is just a way of saying that the witnesses must be plural and not a single one.
Application: The same principle is useful today. You should not quickly believe a rumor or a bad report against someone on the basis of one witness. Perhaps there is ill will or a something which clouds that person’s judgement. It is better to get confirmation from a third party before believing a charge.
2. If I come again I will not spare them – It was not Paul’s first warning. 1 and 2 Corinthians are filled with similar warnings.
Reflect: Why did Paul take sin so seriously in the church?
Paul’s lengthy letters make it clear that sin in the church is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with. Modern churches are often very tolerant toward sin. Priding themselves in their inclusiveness, they even advertise that all types of sinful lifestyles are acceptable citing the love of Jesus.
Without a doubt, churches should welcome every type of person to join the service and hear the Word. But never should it be implied that a sinful lifestyle is tolerated.
Sin is like a disease. When it gains a foothold it spreads and infects everything it touches. Church leaders must take seriously their role to discipline sinning members. The goal is not punitive punishment, but restoration (see verse 11).
Application: Parents must also be diligent to deal with sin in their children. Not all Biblical saints did this and many generations were lost.
Take for example the following verse about David and his son Adonijah.
1 Kings 1:6 – His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom.
David’s soft attitude toward sin led to two rebellions (one from Absalom and one from Adonijah).
Dealing with sin is difficult, time-consuming, and uncomfortable. When confronting children, scratching the surface will not do. You have to get to the heart of the matter. That often requires a lot of digging and asking questions. Reveal the dark corners of the heart. Expose them to the light. Do so with love to shepherd your children’s hearts.
3. Since you seek proof that Christ is dealing with me – Many in Corinth doubted Paul’s authority. They wanted signs. They wanted confirmation. Paul lets them know that he will give them what they are looking for. He would use his God-given apostolic authority to powerfully deal with the sinner.
Certainly this was not the type of “proof” that the Corinthians were looking for, but it would be convincing nonetheless!
4. Weakness and power –
2 Corinthians 13:4 – For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
Jesus was crucified in “weakness.” We know of course that Jesus was far from weak. He could have struck down all His enemies with a thought. And when He was arrested this was proven when the band of thugs coming to him in the garden were propelled backward and to the ground (John 18:4-6).
So we can conclude that this weakness is in the eyes of man. Jesus appeared weak when He was hanging naked on the cross, His enemies exulting. In reality never in human history has more strength been displayed than when Jesus willed Himself to go through with this mission and remain silent when scoffers dared Him to come down from the cross. Humility is often confused by the world with weakness.
The power of God was clearly shown when Jesus was raised. One day every knee will bow and every person will admit that Jesus is Lord.
Similar to Jesus, Paul and his team were humble (weak in the eyes of the world). However, the power of God would be made manifest through them when they came and disciplined the sinner in the midst of the church.
Application: Do not confuse humility with weakness. And do not mistake bravado for strength. We can be humble and bold at the same time when are filled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
II. Examine yourselves (5-10)
- How would one examine himself to make sure he is in the faith?
- What would he look for?
- Why is this important?
- What would show a passed test? A failed test?
- What motivated Paul to desire that they passed this test (verses 7-9)?
- What attitude can we see in Paul (9)?
- How did Paul seek to use the authority that God gave him?
- How can you use your authority to build others up?
Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!
Galatians 6:3-4 – For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
Psalm 139:34-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
1. Examine yourselves –
The Corinthians had not been acting like believers should. Many had challenged Paul’s sincerity. Paul flipped the tables and encouraged them to consider their own salvation.
Note that Paul wanted them to pass the test. He believed that they were saved, that Jesus was in them. He was hoping that by taking this examination they would take stock of their spiritual condition and repent in areas they fell short.
Application: Every believer should periodically perform self-examination. Do not rely on a decision that you made when you were a child or raising your hand during an altar call. I do not mean that those decisions are not valid. Once a person is saved, he is always saved (John 10:27-30). However, many people are not saved and think they are (Matthew 7:21). Some people are living sinful and selfish lifestyles while saying, “I am safe. I prayed the salvation prayer.” Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18.) If you are saved, there should be fruit in your life. Do you have a love for God? Do you have a lifestyle of obedience? Do you have a passion for the lost? Is your life typified by hatred of sin and a desire for holiness? Are you repentant when you sin? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when you examine your spiritual condition.
The most vital question you can every ask yourself is “Am I saved?”
There is a test that we can give ourselves in 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God practices sinning.” So the test is “Am I practicing sin?”
We should use this test to examine our own life to see where we fall short. Examine to see if our heart truly belongs to God. If we find that we are practicing sin, we must fall on our knees before God, repent, and STOP practicing sin. We could title this verse, “give yourself a spiritual self-exam.”
So I would ask, have you given yourself the self-exam? Have you really looked hard at these Scriptures and evaluated your actions by them?
A lot of times when people go for checkups, the doctor will tell them they are unhealthy. They are overweight. They are not eating well. They are not exercising well. The patient says, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then on the way home he buys a couple of monster burgers, an order of French fries, a large soda. He arrives home, plumps himself down on the couch and flips on the TV. He continues on in his exact same lifestyle until what happens? He has a heart attack.
Let none of you will be like this patient. Perform this self exam and then change your lifestyle accordingly.
2. Paul’s motivations – The apostle wanted to see the Corinthians pass the test. Even if they persisted in doubting him, it would be worth it if they succeeded. His desire for his spiritual children was that they live godly lives.
Though some may have considered themselves to be rivals with Paul, he wanted no part of any rivalry or competition. His goal was not that they fail the test so that he could say, “I told you so” and kick them out of the church. Their success was more important to him than saving face, being right, or having the last laugh.
Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
Some translations say, “do nothing from vain rivalry.”
Application: The lesson for us is simple: care more about souls than about being right. When you argue with your spouse, are you concerned with winning the argument or with his/her spiritual condition? Would you not rather lose the argument and win the soul?
3. Your restoration is what we pray for – Above all else, Paul desired to see the Corinthians restored to a healthy relationship with Jesus. Everything else was secondary.
Too often we care about being right or winning a debate. The entire goal of church disciples should always be repentance and restoration. It is not about proving one’s authority. It is not about showing anyone “who is the boss.”
Discipline is to be loving. It is meant for the good of the one being disciplined. The goal of restoration is the difference between discipline and punitive punishment.
4. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you – The hope was that the Corinthians would repent and be walking with God again before Paul visited. He wanted a more pleasant visit than a confrontation with sinners would bring.
5. For building up and not for tearing down – Authority is given by God to build up others. Leaders, teachers, and parents should be careful that they are building up those they are overseeing.
Reflect: What are some ways that some in authority tear down instead of build up? How can we avoid those things?
Harsh or overly frequent criticism can have the effect of tearing people down. Yelling and losing one’s temper has the same result. Being overly harsh causes discouragement and a loss of motivation. On the other hand, well-placed words of kindness encourage and motivate.
III. Final reminders (11-14)
- Share about one of these final reminders that is meaningful to you.
- What is the key thrust of these reminders?
- Should we greet others with a “holy kiss?” Why or why not?
Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Acts 3:19-21 – Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
1. Final reminders – Like a parent leaving his children, Paul gives several more final reminders at the end of his letter. The thrust of these reminders is encouraging them to be restored. Those who did sin and later repented should be welcomed back and comforted. Unity and peace should be pursued.
2. Greet one another with a holy kiss – A kiss (pecks on each cheek) was a culturally acceptable way to show warmth and care for others. It was an outward sign of a healthy relationship.
When we interpret the Bible we should seek to understand the universal principle behind instructions like these. The universal principle is to be warm and caring to other believers in the way that you greet them. In our cultures, the method of greeting is likely different. For many Western cultures, a strong, warm handshake conveys the same thing. In others, a slap on the back or a hug may be appropriate. And in many cultures a kiss is still the acceptable method of greeting.
3. A Trinitarian benediction – Paul closes with a benediction mentioned all three members of the Trinity. He starts and closes the letter with words of blessing from the Lord for them. It is a very practical application of the fact that Jesus is the beginning and the end.
Reflections on 2 Corinthians
- What key lessons did you learn from this book?
- How is this letter different the the other epistles you have read?
- How has studying this book helped you grow in your relationship with the Lord?
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
2 Corinthians 1:12-24
2 Corinthians 2:1-11
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
2 Corinthians 3:1-6
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
2 Corinthians 5:11-15
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
2 Corinthians 6:1-10
2 Corinthians 6:11-18
2 Corinthians 7:1-5
2 Corinthians 7:6-16
2 Corinthians 8:1-7
2 Corinthians 8:8-15
2 Corinthians 8:16-24
2 Corinthians 9:1-7
2 Corinthians 9:8-15
2 Corinthians 10:1-6
2 Corinthians 10:7-18
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
2 Corinthians 12:11-21
2 Corinthians 13
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