2 Corinthians 2
1But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.
2For if I cause you sorrow, who then makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful?
3This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all.
4For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was a harsh rebuke of the varieties of sin that they had going on in their fellowship. He caused them sorrow, no doubt, but having to say those things to the believers was hard for him as well. It caused him great sorrow, and he determined for his own sake of not having to go through that again that he would not go to them if he would have to rebuke them again. He didn’t want to have to deal with more sorrow on account of their sin. The Corinthians were supposed to bring Paul joy, and if they brought him sorrow, then who would be there to bring him joy in his visit? Paul’s desire was that the Corinthians would have a joy that he could share and be encouraged from. His first letter brought him much anguish and sorrow, but he knew it was necessary because he loved them and knew that they needed to be reprimanded and exhorted to change. He didn’t want to bring them sorrow as if he enjoyed reprimanding them, but his purpose was to lead them to truth so that their joy could be full.
5But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree--in order not to say too much--to all of you.
6Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,
7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
8Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
9For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
10But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,
11so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Paul had written to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5 to put out an unrepentant professing brother from the fellowship, which evidently they did. He was testing them to see if they would be obedient, and they were. This act of putting someone out of the fellowship because of his or her sin was very difficult, and it brought sorrow on Paul and also on the church as a whole. It is not a delightful thing to exercise church discipline, but it is a necessary thing. It appears that this person who had been disciplined had repented because Paul says that his punishment had been sufficient. The church had done rightly not to associate with him any longer, but it was now time, because of his changed heart, to forgive and comfort him. To not receive a penitent sinner back is to blaspheme the grace of God, Who is always willing to forgive when we confess our sin (1 John 1:9). To reject a repentant person or to never treat them as new and clean is to overwhelm them with undue sorrow. Rather than reject such a one or always treat them as a sinner, these need to be loved and forgiven, received back with open arms and warm hearts. This person needed the church to reaffirm its love for him, to associate with him again, and to welcome him back into fellowship. Paul also forgave such a one so that the church would not be made victim by Satan’s schemes. Satan would love to divide the church with some receiving the brother and others rejecting him or by causing the brother to feel overwhelming sorrow. Neither of these things should happen, and Paul wanted to make sure of that. We know that Satan seeks division and destruction, and we should be proactive, following God’s Word, so that we don’t give him an opportunity.
12Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord,
13I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.
Paul, choosing not to go to Corinth, went on to Troas, where the Lord opened a door for the gospel. The gospel cannot be forced, but the Lord gives opportunities as He allows and designs. We must wait for these and look for them, praying for them all the while. Paul wanted to meet Titus there, but he couldn’t find him. Thus, he was troubled in his spirit, and he decided to pass on the open door and go back to Macedonia. His hope would be to cross paths with Titus.
14But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
16to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things?
Despite his concern and disappointment, Paul could rejoice knowing that God was sovereign and in charge of all things. Like a conquering king, we are led in triumph spiritually by our Savior Who has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18-20). Wherever we are, we can trust that Christ can and will manifest Himself through us as we love others and walk in holiness. If we do this, we can be a fragrance that leads people to eternal life, but for those who are perishing, we will be an aroma unto death, reminding them that they deserve hell (Romans 1:32). Other Christians should be able to identify us by our changed selves (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the world should also be able to distinguish us as being different (John 13:34-35). We are not adequate for what Christ does, but Christ in and through us is perfectly adequate. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
17For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Paul and the apostles did not try to sell the Word of God as if it would have certain appeal to the selfish and greedy nature of man. Rather, they spoke the truth with a motive of full sincerity even though the world would perceive it as foolishness. They made sure that those listening knew they were hearing what was from God and not mere ideas of man. Paul didn’t view his calling as some sort of career or a means toward earthly, worldly gain. Rather, he spoke as Christ led Him and in fear of the Lord, knowing that he had a stewardship and the opportunity to gain heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).