1 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 I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare—
This chapter begins with a warning from Paul about the discipline he will exercise on his third visit to Corinth. Paul’s concluding chapter is a series of warnings.
1 This will be the third time I am coming to you.
Paul’s first visit to Corinth was about AD 50-51 (Ac 18:11). His second visit was the painful visit of 2 Corinthians 2:1. His upcoming visit will be his third.
“By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 19:15, a verse that established a pattern for verifying the truth of an accusation (Mt 18:16; 1 Ti 5:19; He 10:28). The apostle’s intent was to bring charges against some in Corinth.
2 I have told you before,
Paul did not spring this warning on the Corinthians.
and foretell as if I were present the second time,
He warned them on his second visit to Corinth.
and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before,
The warning from Paul’s second visit still stands.
and to all the rest,
These people may include any offenders he finds on his third visit.
that if I come again I will not spare—
Paul will not spare the evildoers on his third visit to Corinth. He will put them on trial when he comes. They have sufficient warning about his visit.
Church discipline of wayward believers is necessary.
There are a number of instances of church discipline in Scripture (Mt 18:15-17; 1 Co 5:5,11; 2 Th 3:6, 14-15; Tit 3:10-11). This discipline should not be willy-nilly. Above all, it must rest on objectivity and facts, not someone’s opinion. That is why two or three witnesses are important. The process of Matthew 18:15-17 is important to give the individual a proper hearing. The principle behind church discipline is to prevent the spread of carnality among the group.