Paul the Apostle’s first trip to Corinth led to an eighteen-month visit that established God’s church in that area (see Acts 18:1-11). Paul’s second trip to Corinth was likely associated with the “painful visit” that he referenced earlier in 2 Corinthians 2:1. Now Paul was preparing to make a third trip to the city of Corinth- and the opening verse of the final chapter of this epistle tells us that his next visit would not bode well for those who were continuing in sin within the church…
“This will be the third time I am coming to you. ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established'” (2 Corinthians 13:1).
Much as he has done throughout the Corinthian epistles, Paul turned to a passage from the Old Testament Scriptures to illustrate an important spiritual point. That quote is found within the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Old Testament Law: “A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legally established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15 NET).
In addition to Paul’s reference here in 2 Corinthians 13:1, Jesus later reaffirmed this important legal standard in Matthew 18:16. The book of Deuteronomy also defines several other fundamental principles that support the foundation of a fair and equitable judicial system. Those standards include judicial impartiality (Deuteronomy 16:19-20), the need for a thorough investigation of the available evidence (Deuteronomy 19:16-20), and the concept of equal justice and equal protection under the law (Deuteronomy 24:17–18).
This legal context enables us to view each of Paul’s Corinthian visits as separate pieces of evidence or testimony. As one scholar observes, “(Paul) may be implying that each of the warnings he previously delivered both in person and by letter constitutes a distinct testimony or evidence to establish a “case” against those who resist God’s truth.” (1)
Another source is much more direct in his commentary on this passage: “To put it in our modern idiom, Paul insists there must be a showdown. The ill situation must drag on no longer. Paul knew that there comes a time when trouble must be faced. If the healing medicines fail, there is nothing for it but the surgeon’s knife.” (2)
So this message to the Corinthian church was clear. Paul was prepared to implement this principle upon his return to Corinth- and if the charge was confirmed, the indictment would soon follow.
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2067). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(2) William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), p. 297. Quoted in Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=2co&chapter=013>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.