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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 13 - Verse 14
This verse contains what is usually called the apostolic benediction the form which has been so long, and which is almost so universally used, in dismissing religious assemblies. It is properly a prayer; and it is evident that the optative eih, "May the grace," etc., is to be supplied. It is the expression of a desire that the favours here referred to may descend on all for whom they are thus invoked.
And the love of God. May the love of God towards you be manifest. This must refer peculiarly to the Father, as the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the other members of the sentence. The "love of God" here referred to is the manifestation of his goodness and favour in the pardon of sin, in the communication of his grace, in the comforts and consolations which he imparts to his people, in all that constitutes an expression of love. The love of God brings salvation; imparts comfort; pardons sin; sanctifies the soul; fills the heart with joy and peace; and Paul here prays that all the blessings which are the fruit of that love may be with them.
This is also a wish or prayer of the apostle Paul; and the desire is either that they might partake of the views and feelings of the Holy Ghost—that is, that they might have fellowship with him—or that they might all in common partake of the gifts and graces which the Spirit of God imparts, lie gives love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (Ga 5:22,) as well as miraculous endowments; and Paul prays that these things might be imparted freely to all the church in common, that all might participate in them, all might share them.
Amen. This word is wanting, says Clarke, in almost every Ms. of any authority. It was, however, early affixed to the epistle.
In regard to this closing verse of the epistle, we may make the following remarks:
(1.) It is a prayer; and if it is a prayer addressed to God, it is no less so to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. If so, it is right to offer worship to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit.
(2.) There is a distinction in the Divine nature; or there is the existence of what is usually termed Three Persons in the God-head. If not, why are they mentioned in this manner? If the Lord Jesus is not Divine and equal with the Father, why is he mentioned in this connexion? How strange it would be for Paul, an inspired man, to pray in the same breath, "the grace of a man or an angel" and "the love of God" be with you! And if the "Holy Spirit" be merely an influence of God, or an attribute of God, how strange to pray that the "love of God" and the participation or fellowship of an "influence of God," or an "attribute of God," might be with them!
(3.) The Holy Spirit is a person, or has a distinct personality. He is not an attribute of God, nor a mere Divine influence. How could prayer be addressed to an attribute, or am influence? But here, nothing can be plainer than that there were favours which the Holy Ghost, as an intelligent and conscious agent, was expected to bestow. And nothing can be plainer than that they were favours in some sense distinct from those which were conferred by the Lord Jesus, and by the Father. Here is a distinction of some kind as real as that between the Lord Jesus and the Father; here are favours expected from him distinct from those conferred by the Father and the Son; and there is therefore, here, all the proof that there can be, that there is in some respects a distinction between the persons here referred to, and that the Holy Spirit is an intelligent, conscious agent.
(4.) The Lord Jesus is not inferior to the Father, that is, he has an equality with God. If he were not equal, how could he be mentioned, as he here is, as bestowing favours like God, and especially why is he mentioned first? Would Paul, in invoking blessings, mention the name of a mere man or an angel, before that of the eternal God?
(5.) The passage, therefore, furnishes a proof of the doctrine of the Trinity that has not yet been answered and, it is believed cannot be. On the supposition that there are three Persons in the adorable Trinity, united in essence, and yet distinct in some respects, all is plain and clear. But on the supposition that the Lord Jesus is a mere man, an angel, or an archangel, and that the Holy Spirit is an attribute, or an influence from God, how unintelligible, confused, strange does all become! That Paul, in the solemn close of the epistle, should at the same time invoke blessings from a mere creature, and from God, and from an attribute, surpasses belief. But that he should invoke blessings from him who was the equal with the Father, and from the Father himself, and from the sacred Spirit sustaining the same rank, and in like manner imparting important blessings, is in accordance with all that we should expect, and makes all harmonious and appropriate.
(6.) Nothing could be a more proper close of the epistle; nothing is a more appropriate close of public worship, than such an invocation. It is a prayer to the ever-blessed God, that all the rich influences which he gives as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, may be imparted; that all the benefits which God confers in the interesting relations in which he makes himself known to us, may descend and bless us. What more appropriate prayer can be offered prayer can be offered at the close of public worship. How seriously should it be pronounced as a congregation is about to separate, perhaps to come together no more! With what solemnity should all join in it, and how devoutly should all pray, as they thus separate, that these rich and inestimable blessings may rest upon them! With hearts up-lifted to God it should be pronounced and heard; and every worshipper should leave the sanctuary deeply feeling that what he most needs, as he leaves the place of public worship—as he travels on the journey of life—as he engages in its duties or meets its trials—as he looks at the grave and eternity, is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the blessings which the Holy Spirit imparts in renewing and sanctifying and comforting his people. What more appropriate prayer than this for the writer and reader of these Notes! May that blessing rest alike upon us, though we may be strangers in the flesh; and may those heavenly influences guide us alike to the same everlasting kingdom of glory!
In regard to the subscription at the end of this epistle, it may be observed, that it is wanting in a great part of the most ancient Mss., and is of no authority whatever. See Notes at the end of the epistle to the Romans, and 1 Corinthians. In this case, however, this subscription is in the main correct, as there is evidence that it was written from Macedonia, and not improbably from Philippi. See the Introduction to the epistle.
End of Barnes Notes on 2nd Corinthians
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