Summary: Through the grace of Christ we encounter the love of God, and participate in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
PARTICIPATING IN THE TRIUNE GOD
The final imperatives of this letter seem quite abrupt, almost staccato, but they sum up the situation which gave rise to the challenges of the previous four chapters. The closing benediction comes as a pleasant surprise, and something of a relief. Nothing that God asks us to do is beyond His capability to accomplish it in us.
A. “Finally brethren,” says Paul (2 Corinthians 13:11). Even God’s wayward children are still His children. Even those within the church with whom we disagree are still our brethren, and we theirs.
1. Then Paul says, not ‘farewell’ as some of our translations suggest, but “rejoice.” It may seem a little incongruous for the Apostle to instruct those with whom he has been exchanging stern words to ‘cheer up and get over it’ - or as one contemporary song suggests ‘don’t worry, be happy’ - and this is not what he is saying here. On the contrary, he is using the same imperative as in the ‘always rejoice’ of 1 Thessalonians 5:16.
Yet how, in what, in whom may we rejoice? The answer is familiar enough: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, rejoice’ (Philippians 4:4). It is always good therapy if we would focus a little less on our problems, and a little more on the Lord.
3. “Be encouraged.” Be exhorted. Accept my rebuke. Listen to my appeal. Be of good comfort. Encourage one another.
4. “Be of one mind.” Agree with one another. Literally, ‘think the same thing’ - or ‘set your mind on the same thing.’
5. “Be at peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” Not that the God of love and peace will be with you as a ‘reward’ if you live in peace: but rather that you cannot live in peace, or do any of these other things, ‘except that’ the God of love and peace is with you.
B. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13:12). Kiss and make up. Shake hands.
Regardless of their internal troubles, the Corinthians are part of the much wider fellowship of the church: so they might draw encouragement from the fact that “all the saints salute you” - send you greetings (2 Corinthians 13:13).
C. Now we come at last to the Trinitarian benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14.
1. This familiar formula begins exactly where our encounter with God begins: in the “grace” discovered to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Triune God makes the first move to secure our salvation, by sending Jesus to become man and to die for our sins. GRACE is spelt out in the acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
a) The name ‘Lord’ represents His deity - the same title is used of the unspoken name of God in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that Jesus is God. ‘No man can say Jesus is Lord, except in (or by) the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
b) The name ‘Jesus’ also contains the name of God. It is the same as the name ‘Joshua’ in the Old Testament, and means ‘the LORD saves’ (cf. Matthew 1:21).
c) ‘Christ’ is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ - Anointed One. Prophets, priests and Kings were anointed in the Old Testament. So is Jesus in the New.
2. In the midst of the imperatives, we have already encountered the God of love and peace (2 Corinthians 13:11). ‘God is love’ - and peace is only possible because of the prior love of God (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:10-11; 1 John 4:19). The Father’s love is demonstrated in the sending of the Son (John 3:16).
3. We also encountered the fellowship of the wider church in the penultimate verse. This is only possible in and through our mutual fellowship - or “communion” - in the Holy Spirit. As we participate in Him, we also participate in the fellowship of the Godhead, and are thus enabled to have fellowship with one another.
Paul thus concludes with a prayer in the prophetic perfect: both a desire, and a fulfilled hope, that “you all” would participate in the grace, love and fellowship of the Triune God. Amen.