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Paul's Pastoral Care for the Church.
1. So I made up my own mind not to pay you another painful visit.
Paul did not want his return to Corinth to be under the cloud by his administering harsh discipline to correct the problems in the church, bringing heaviness and sadness to all parties.
2. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?
He would prefer to know that the Corinthians were joyfully expecting to see him, so that his reception might be a mutually happy one. He would only be grieved himself by the necessity of grieving them with discipline. In this the apostle expresses something of his love for the young church.
3. And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.
The reason Paul sent Titus ahead with his first letter to them was so that this situation might be avoided; that the church might set its own house in order, leaving nothing unpleasant for him to deal with personally when he arrived. This is why he had delayed his visit to Corinth, to give the believers time to act on his words. Just as he was confident they felt the same as he did about his coming (that they loved him and longed to see him, as he loved and longed to see them), so he was confident that they would prepare for his coming by decisive action. When someone we love has not visited for a while, and we are expecting them, we make preparations for their coming, perhaps by cleaning up or making a dinner in advance so that we can enjoy their company when they arrive. In a similar way, Paul was confident that by their obedience the Corinthians would make his visit a pleasant one.
4. For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
Paul was grieved by the situation in Corinth and had distressed about having to deal with it. He took no pleasure in the fact that someone had fallen, and took no joy in his task of reproving the church for its failure to act. He agonized over what should be done for the best with regard to their eternal and spiritual welfare. If that meant disciplining then he was prepared to do so, but he found no pleasure in doing so. It was as if the censure he gave hurt him as much as its object.
A father in love corrects his son in order to produce a better character in the boy, but is saddened by the sorrow which the discipline causes his child. Paul showed his love for the Corinthians by going through their anguish with them, bearing the pain of their mistake, and taking action to correct and liberate them. Henry says, "needful censures, and the exercise of church-discipline towards offenders, are a grief to tender-spirited ministers, and are administered with regret."
5. But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent--not to exaggerate it--to all of you.
Now that the problem had been resolved, Paul wanted to assure both the offender and the church as a whole that he did not feel personally wronged by these events. That is, they had no need to apologise or put things right with him. He shared in the sorrow of heart which the church came to feel because of its failure; but did not want to be too hard on anyone.
6. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person.
The punishment already inflicted by the church was sufficient punishment for such a case (1 Cor. 5:13) and had achieved the intended result, for the brother concerned had obviously repented of his sin and ended his sexual relationship with his fathers' wife.
Forgiveness for the Offending Party.
7,8. So now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
This aim being achieved, Paul pleads that the offending brother no longer be seen as an outcast, someone who should never be allowed to forget his misdemeanor. Instead he should be forgiven and welcomed back into full Christian fellowship. The word used denotes giving an assurance of full acceptance, literally "invite him" into your fellowship, call him near to you in order to comfort him and affirm your love for him. If this were not done, such a person could be overwhelmed with remorse, thinking that since the church cannot forgive him, neither will God; and so thinking he might abandon his faith altogether.
Satan would certainly want this to happen (2 Cor. 2:11), but Christ did not, nor did Paul, for the object of Paul's rebuke was to save, not punish. Christian discipline is always redemptive, being intent on the saving of a soul. It is neither punitive nor vengeful (Jam. 5:19-20 ; Jude 1:23).
9. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.
One of the reasons why Paul decided to write rather than visit the Corinthians was to see if they would stand on their own. Would they be fully obedient to Christ's instructions without Paul standing over them? This was an important consideration for the apostle, who wished the young church to become indigenous and self governing. He did not want them unduly dependent on others. He was pleased that they had stood the test and rose to the challenge of his letter.
10. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.
If the church were ready to forgive the offending brother, then so was Paul. As Christ's ambassador, he wished to demonstrate that Christ Himself had forgiven the man. This brought great consolation. There is nothing more difficult to live with than a guilty conscience, but forgiveness cleanses the heart from guilt. Paul is not proffering to forgive in the name of Christ, but says in effect, "I'll show you that Christ has forgiven, by forgiving you myself. My master is, after all, a greater forgiver than I am."
11. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
As previously stated, Satan's aim was to make the man feel that Christ could never forgive him, causing him to abandon his walk with the Lord in despair. But Paul was wise to the devil's schemes. Where Christ has forgiven, who can bring an accusation against us (Rom. 8:33). It is said that Martin Luther had a dream in which he was visited by the devil, who brought with him a list of all the sins which Luther had ever committed. Luther read the list carefully and and said to the devil "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses me from all sin"; at which point the devil left in some discomfort!
Titus comes from Corinth.
12,13. When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.
It had been Paul's plan to land at Troas before passing into Macedonia. He hoped to meet Titus there, for Titus had taken Paul's first letter to Corinth, and would be able to advise Paul of the situation in the church before he visited it himself. But on Paul's arrival at Troas, Titus failed to show up, and being greatly troubled about this, Paul left his evangelistic work to go on to Macedonia (which was nearer Corinth), to find out what was wrong. Even though the Lord had opened a door for the message in Troas, Paul obviously thought the need at Corinth to be more pressing. No doubt Paul gave instructions concerning the ministry at Troas until his return.
The Victory of Christ Proclaimed and its Effects on Men.
14. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
The fact that Paul should break here from in his line of thought to write about the ministry of the gospel reveals that this epistle was intended as a personal letter from the apostle. For since letters are not planned and worked on in the same way as essays, we may more readily find in them mingled thoughts and interwoven themes. The author regards this trait as a most significant basis for the genuineness of the New Testament letters.
Till now Paul had been writing only of what concerned them personally about his missionary journey. He returns to this subject in chapter 7, referring to the fact that whilst in Macedonia, Titus had come from Corinth, bringing good news of the church's obedience, their love for Paul, and a resolved situation (2 Cor. 7:5-7).
So the whole of chapters 3 - 6 may be viewed as a parenthesis. Paul wishes to give thanks to God and report that even in the midst of trials and difficulties, the Lord had been with them and used them. His praise was that God continually led them in joyful procession, like the singing retinue of a returning victorious king. Imagine soldiers following their king through streets of cheering people after a victory and you will have an idea of what Paul means.
Paul and the other apostles have experienced Christ's victory for themselves and proclaim it to others. Through them God makes himself known wherever the gospel is preached, His power pervading as mysteriously as sweet fragrance. In a world of sinful stench, the "pleasant fragrance" signifies all that is holy, pleasing, and acceptable to God. When a woman broke open a box of precious perfume to pour it on Jesus feet, the fragrance spread to all in the house by the method of diffusion (John 12:3). The box of the good news of salvation has been broken open by Christ's death and its effects are spread like perfume by the apostle's preaching.
15. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
The self giving lives of the apostles set forth the life of Christ among the heathen. They were his witnesses to all men, and whether they had believed or not, they could never say that they had not received the witness. Note: Furnish points out that the "to" of the AV is unclear, for there is no article in the Greek, just "Theo" i.e. "God". So the words could be equally translated "for God" which makes better sense in the reading.
16. To the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
The effect of the gospel witness has always been two fold, for the gospel of Christ brings the great divide to mankind. Those who believe are saved and receive eternal life, whilst those who do not believe are eternally damned (John 3:18 ; Mark 16:16). "The Gospel preached by Christ's faithful ministers is the means of quickening souls, giving them spiritual and eternal life; but that same gospel issues in the eternal death of the despisers and rejecters of it". Gill. Who is competent to be employed in such work? No man of himself, but as Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 3:5, believers are made capable by the power of the Holy Spirit.
17. For we are not peddlers of God's word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.
Unlike the many false teachers who abounded in the first century (as today), Paul and his companions did not water down the gospel. Of these false teachers, Gill remarks "they were like traders who mixed water with wine and sold it as full wine". Paul and his companions, on the other hand, did not compromise or change the gospel it in order to make it appeal to the carnal appetites of men. They preached the pure word of God, declaring his whole mind and will, for they recognised the terrible responsibility of speaking on God's behalf. They spoke the truth of Christ as those who would give account to Him. As Gill says, they worked "not for their own profit and applause, but the glory of God and the good of souls." They spoke as those who are in Christ with all sincerity "as of God", because they were genuinely called, equipped, and sent by God to declare His Gospel to men. They did this always with one eye on the day when would give an account to God for their ministry. As veteran British evangelist Robert Cox once said to me "I always preach as if God is looking over my shoulder."
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