One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
So reads the law regarding witnesses, as recorded in Deuteronomy 19:15.
In II Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul puts an intriguing twist on this law. Here, two or three witnesses are not different people, but different trips. The "two or three witnesses" are successive trips he made to Corinth. Each separate trip—or more correctly, his teaching during each separate trip—stands as a witness against those who fail to receive correction. Paul's various visits to Corinth provide several witnesses against those who continue to sin.
Notice II Corinthians 13:1-2 from the Berkeley Version:
This is my third visit to you. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every statement shall be confirmed." I said, while previously there on my second visit, and I say it before my arrival while still absent, to those who kept on in their old sins and to all the rest, that when I come once more I shall not spare.
The message is the witness. Paul understood that, over time, one person can provide a number of witnesses. One person, several witnesses! This understanding has an important application for those of us who labor in the twilight of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). In part, that application is this: The Messiah is to preach the Good News—the gospel—of His Father's Kingdom in two visits; His message will take the form of two separate witnesses. We commonly call them His two ministries or His first and second comings.
His first visit—or witness—took place nearly 2,000 years ago. Christ introduced it one Sabbath day by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 in Nazareth's synagogue. His Galilean audience
were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. (Luke 4:28-29)
History repeats itself. When Christ soon stands to read Isaiah 61:2-3, many, unable to recognize Him as their Messiah, will respond as did the Galileans. At Christ's second "visit," His second witness, many will again be "filled with wrath" and seek to destroy Him (Revelation 19:19).
Recognizing the Second Witness
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 13:1:
2 Corinthians 13:1-2