VS 1-4 I wrote to you with many tears
As we will find throughout 2 Corinthians this chapter is fluid with the previous chapter. Here Paul espouses what unity should accomplish. If you cause someone grief, how will they encourage you? Grief should cause us to repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-11), not to live in sorrow and guilt. Paul did not write his previous letter to harm them but he wrote it with many tears in the hope they would repent and receive his instructions. We need to learn from Paul in this matter: when we bring correction let us do it with love, however severe the correction is. It’s not our job to cause harm. We should work in unison with the Spirit of God who points to Jesus as the only answer. If you must rebuke let it be with love and tears. People are more likely to receive correction if they know you love them sincerely.
We also learn here that you can have joy in deep sorrow and anguish (VS 3-4.) There is in the free Christian the joy of the Lord that abides regardless of emotions and circumstances. Paul also wanted them to know the deep love he had for them.
VS 5-11 Forgiveness for the offender
This passage is challenging because Paul isn’t specific about who the offender is. Obviously his original audience knew. It was either a leader of an opposition to Paul or the one living in open, flagrant sexual sin as found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
What is important is what we learn about restoration. He (whoever he was) was punished by the majority. This is most likely enacted along with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:2, 5: “…he who has committed this act might be removed from among you…..turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.” Severe indeed but needed.
Apparently it served it’s purpose. He felt sorrow for his sin and repented. Now what was needed was for the person who was removed & experienced shame to be restored. Paul’s in his first epistle records these words of wisdom: “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1-2
Paul also warned that if this restoration did not take place Satan could again take advantage of the situation. We are not to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes.
We also learn another important attribute of God in these verses. It’s not in God’s nature for us to have sorrow multiplied upon sorrow (see VS 7). One reason Paul insisted on this man’s restoration is that he could be overwhelmed by grief, which God did not desire. God is not interested in embarrassing the sinner but in seeing them forgiven and healed. For example see John 8:2-12. It would have not served the purpose of his loving return to fellowship and a free and forgiven life. We must always remember: we can forgive because we have been forgiven!
VS 12-17 To God we are the fragrance of Christ
Another change of plans so Paul is again flexible in his travels. Fellowship was very important (we don’t read of Paul traveling alone much) and the absence of Titus troubled the Apostle. This is also where Paul transitions from the past to the present in this letter.
What follows is mind-blowing. God puts us on display completely identified in Christ. The aroma or scent of Christ is as a sacrifice pleasing to God. See Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:25; Lev. 1:13; Num. 15:3. We are living sacrifices, see Romans 12:1 & 1 Peter 2:5.
Everywhere we go we spread the aroma of Christ but it is perceived differently by each person. Paul says in VS 15-16 “For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life.” I can’t help but to think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – The Cross is foolish to the perishing but the power of God to those being saved. The same undiluted message, as a two edged sword, cuts both ways. I implore those who read these words: do not reject the message of the gospel but instead love the truth!!
I’m reminded of a passage in CS Lewis’ masterpiece The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrob, Chapter 7. Read closely of the three reactions of the Pevensie children when they hear that “Aslan (the novel’s Christlike figure) is on the move…”
“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.” And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different……Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.“
When people hear the words Jesus Christ they may react or feel differently. All that’s required of us is that we be faithful in our lives and the message of the gospel.
Paul concludes chapter two with “For we are not like the many who make a trade in God’s message [for profit], but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God.” This is true sincerity and transparency. We are not to peddle the word of God. Ministry is not for charlatans. Not only do we speak in Christ as from God (sent by Him) but “before God” (in responsibility to Him.)
What do we learn for our lives today from 2 Corinthians 2?…
- If we must rebuke, let it be in love and in unity with the Spirit of God. All our actions must be redemptive.
- When one repents be sure to receive them and reassure them of your love.
- Do not be ashamed to spread the gospel everywhere you go. This is a high calling of the church.
Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.