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Paul ends 2 Corinthians with the following statement (13:14, NKJV, emphasis mine):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

I've often heard this closing statement referred to as a prayer. Is this accurate? If so, is it a prayer to Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit?

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  • It is not a prayer but a blessing slightly reminiscent of the triple Aaronic blessing in Num 6:22-27
    – Dottard
    Dec 8, 2021 at 4:04
  • @Dottard Albert Barnes writes, "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 ειη, 'May the grace,' etc., is to be supplied." Perhaps there can be various nuances on the word "prayer," though. To word things differently, could this be considered a "request" to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, perhaps indirectly since the second person (i.e., the ones addressed, the "you") would be the Corinthians?
    – The Editor
    Dec 8, 2021 at 13:39

4 Answers 4

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2 Cor 13:14 is not a prayer but a blessing - a tri-une blessing at that as shown by the literary structure:

(1) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

(2) and the love of God,

(3) and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

be with you all. Amen.

The Cambridge commentary observes:

  1. The grace of the Lord] This is the fullest form of any of the benedictions given by St Paul, and it comes fitly at the end of the harshest of his Epistles. It must be regarded as the overflowing of a loving heart, conscious of the severity of the language the Apostle has been compelled to use, yet deeply penetrated with a sense of its necessity for the well-being of the flock. The benediction is invoked upon all, the slanderers and gainsayers, the seekers after worldly wisdom, the hearkeners to false doctrine, as well as the faithful and obedient disciples. In regard to its form. we may remark that it was the grace or favour of Jesus Christ in condescending to visit us, through which we received the revelation of the love of God, and that it was through that love that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in our hearts by faith, and thus to knit us into one body in Christ.

Similarly, the Pulpit commentary has this:

Verse 14. - The grace of our Lord, etc. This is the only place where the full apostolic benediction occurs, and is alone sufficient to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. St. Paul seems to feel that the fullest benediction is needed at the close of the severest letter. With you all. The word "all" is here introduced with special tenderness and graciousness. Some have sinned before; some have not repented; yet he has for them all one prayer and one blessing and one "seal of holy apostolic love?

This same blessing is still in use today. Since this triple blessing is often prayed at the conclusion of a a service, it is frequently used as part of a prayer and there is nothing wrong in seeing it in this light.

Albert Barnes has even more information:

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 εἴῃ eiē, "May the grace," etc., is to be supplied. It is the expression of a desire that the favors here referred to may descend on all for whom they are thus invoked.

And the love of God - May the love of God toward you be manifest. This must refer especially 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 favor 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.

And the communion of the Holy Ghost - compare note, 1 Corinthians 10:16. The word "communion" (κοινωνία koinōnia) means properly participation, fellowship, or having anything in common; Acts 2:42; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:9; 1 John 1:3. 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 Spirit; 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. He gives love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith Galatians 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.

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  • Thanks for the reply! Is the reason it isn't considered a prayer that the second person (i.e., the ones addressed, the "you") would be the Corinthians rather than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Other than for that distinction, is it still making a request to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to do the things named, thus blessing the Corinthians as a result?
    – The Editor
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:25
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There is no reason to think Paul has suddenly considered Jesus to be God or that the HS is also a separate God entity. Paul has consistently expressed Jesus as God's son, a human who endured as we do. He explicitly states how Jesus has a God, so a rational mind would determine he cannot then also be God.

He also makes no call as to the personhood of the HS - this is read into the bible and formed various doctrines based as such extra interpretation.

So, while Paul is praying a blessing onto the congregation, he is not praying to anyone other than God and the one beside Him, the ascended, exalted, Jesus. But his prayer is for the brethren in need of the peace, grace, love and fellowship provided by God through Jesus and the spirit.

(When Paul says, 'the grace of the Lord... be with you all', this is not a fond wish Paul expresses. It is a request made to the only place it can be given - not by Paul, but by heaven. Therefore, he speaks prayerfully, any nuance we might like to read it with must be mindful of the intended source of the blessings he desires they receive)

We can note the phrase, 'fellowship of the holy spirit'. This is not about fellowship with the spirit, but that the fellowship with God and His son is facilitated through God's spirit.

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    You mention "rational mind". When rational minds are operating from a false premise they get wrong answers. 1 Corinthians 2:13 has the source of correct thinking, i.e. not human logic but that "which the Holy Ghost teacheth". -1
    – C. Stroud
    Dec 8, 2021 at 14:00
  • @steveowen "Paul has consistently expressed Jesus as God's son, a human who endured as we do", human -yes, but simultaneously also as one who was with Him with equal status even before adopting human nature (Phil 2:6) and through Whom He, Father, created universe (Hebrews 1:2). Humans are not Father's instrument for creation, for humans are themselves creatures, whereas Logos or Son of God is necessary instrument for creation and thus Himself uncreated, and since uncreated, then also God, as the Father is God, for in religion of Israel, only God can be uncreated, as are the Father and the Son. Dec 8, 2021 at 17:47
  • @Dottard If you don't feel this answers the question, that's a fair critique, but please don't target other users based on their doctrinal views. It would be great to see any of the present answers make a more concerted effort to answer the question thoroughly from the text. We seem to be accruing a great number of conclusions but not an awful lot of textual justification for them from 2 Corinthians.
    – Steve can help
    Dec 9, 2021 at 9:37
  • @SteveTaylor - point taken
    – Dottard
    Dec 9, 2021 at 9:40
  • @SteveTaylor the Q is based on a premise assumed from the verse. There is little validity in pressing the matter when we are asked to justify this assumption without any basis whatsoever. Bringing hermeneutics to bear on such a premise is analogous to asking about exegesis for 1 John 5:7! The Q was, "Is 2 Corinthians 13:14 a prayer... " which I have answered, and justifiably, pointed out the fallacy of the reasoning to ask in the first place. We should discourage making stuff up when the focus should be on the biblical text and not concocted, opinionated responses.
    – Steve
    Dec 9, 2021 at 9:56
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Yes, it is the early version of tri-une blessing and praise of the Tri-une God and it cannot be otherwise.

Why tri-une? Because a theological necessity is implied, for love of Father cannot be acted and conceived without the grace of Christ, for all love and benefaction of the Father is expressed in the grace or activity of Christ, to the effect that Father is simply ontologically or rather theologically unable to love humanity without grace of Christ, which grace expresses the Father's love, because all promises of God, all of them without exception, are fulfilled and are impossible to be fulfilled but through the Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ, for as 2 Cor. 1:10 says: "no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God"; now, the one who is theologically necessary for God-the-Father to act His benefactions is also co-God with the Father (as John says in 1:1 of prologue of his Gospel), just like sun's rays are co-sun with the sun's disc, for sun's disc cannot enlighten anything without its rays.

And also, without communion of Spirit we shall not be able to understand and receive Christ as Son of God and Lord to be co-worshipped with the Father (1 Cor. 12:3), and only through receiving Spirit, who "searches even the deep things of God", that is to say entirety of God (1 Cor. 2:10)(this entirety of knowledge necessarily meaning equality of Spirit and the Father, for only equal to God can fully know God) can we hope for any knowledge of God, thus, God-the-Father essentially necessitates the Holy Spirit for communicating Himself to humans and that is why humans are not only living temples of the Father and the Son (John 14:23), but also of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).

And in the context of the religion of Israel, any legitimate temple is temple not of archangel, angels, achdemons or demons, or of any creature, but temple of God, and in true Christian theology of the tri-une God. Trinity doctrine is 100% exegesis, 0% eisegesis with relation to the Gospel.

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  • @Down-voters - Do you have any real objections to share? Or have you again done what your granny had told you not to do in your childhood, that is to say, not hurl your judgment on things you have no reasons to object. But if you have reasons down-vote without giving them to him, whom you think to be in a grave theological error, then be not lazy and evangelize me with your arguments and ideas, you must consider this even as a duty, I guess. Be healthy and have a good day whether you address my theological points or not! Dec 8, 2021 at 21:06
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)

Why is the Holy Spirit absent from Paul's greeting? The answer is found in the closing prayer:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The Holy Spirit is present in the believer and in the Church.

Grace and peace in the greeting has become grace and love in the ending. Exchanging peace for love, necessitated the removal of "Father" from the prayer.

One may speak of grace and fellowship on earth as being with a single member of the Trinity. However, since God is love (1 John 4:8), if "God" is more than only "Father," then it is wrong to characterize the love of God as the exclusively the love of the Father:

grace, Lord Jesus Christ - love, God (Father-Son-Spirit) - fellowship, Holy Spirit

By omitting "Father" from the prayer, Paul is demonstrating two truths:

  • God is love
  • God is not exclusively the Father

Paul's prayer reflects a Trinitarian request to God.

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