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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

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Verses 1-11

Sorrow, Joy, Forgiveness

2 Corinthians 2:1-Leviticus :. Paul wanted to go to Corinth but without sorrow. Sorrow was the undertone of his first letter. He had saddened them by that letter. But he was glad about it because it convinced them that things were not good with them. Now joy could return to them because the fornicator about whom he mentions in chapter 5 of his first letter was excommunicated from among them and has now repented. That man was the most saddened. His repentance about his sin pleased Paul. His first letter produced the desired result and he was also glad that it pleased the Corinthians as well.

2 Corinthians 2:4. He provides them with a glimpse into his heart to show what was going on in his heart when he wrote that first letter. That letter could have evoked a cold reception in their hearts and they could have considered him as a doomsday prophet and distanced themselves from him. Here he shows what really inspired him to write that letter. His heart is full of fear, his eyes are full of tears and love was his only motive. When one knows the background of his rebuke then that melts one’s heart. This also helps one to accept the admonition and correct oneself. How nice when we handle each other like Paul did!

2 Corinthians 2:5. Again there was something missing in the Corinthians. They should once again show love to the repentant brother. They should forgive him from the heart. The erring brother hurt Paul very much as well as all others in the church.

2 Corinthians 2:6. Earlier the church was tolerant of sin and they did not even realize that sin was present in their midst and that didn’t make them sad (1 Corinthians 5:2). Paul’s first letter made them realize their mistake and made them sad about the sin in their midst. Now they have put away the evil from them and unanimously executed the necessary punishment. Subsequently the sinner was led to repentance. This should be the ultimate aim of every act of discipline in the church.

2 Corinthians 2:7. Through his repentance the concerned brother is restored in his relationship with his Lord. It must not stop with this; something more must happen; the church must forgive the repentant brother. The church expelled him because of sin; but now as the sinner has repented he must be readmitted into the church.

It is a joy to take such a person back into the church. It is deplorable to see a church reluctant to forgive and comfort a repentant person. Before the church was too lethargic to detect sin and exercise discipline and now it is reluctant to forgive.

If you know yourself a little bit, you will recognize this. Real forgiveness is sometimes quite difficult. It could be that others did much harm to you; they cheated you; they robbed you; they talked bad about you; they mistreated you or perhaps they even abused you, sometimes even for a long time. And maybe they never asked for your forgiveness. There could be a strong reluctance in your heart to forgive the offender. God wants to help you. I am also sure that there are believers in the church who might be able to help you in this regard; and for that you must speak to them and make use of them.

2 Corinthians 2:8. A genuine repentance was present in the Corinthian offender. If he thought about it, he could be desperate. What damages he had inflicted on the other believers! Paul encourages the Corinthians to convince him of their love. It would give him peace in his heart. The storm would be stilled. He would always think back with shame on what he did. Moreover, who hasn’t things on which he thinks back with shame (Romans 6:21)?

2 Corinthians 2:9-1 Kings :. By forgiving him they would show obedience in all things. Paul connects himself with them in forgiving the penitent transgressor. First the Corinthians must forgive the offender and only after that Paul connects himself to him and forgives him. You see that he recognizes the authority of the church and doesn’t place himself above it. He forgives because it is the mind of Christ and thus Christ is glorified.

The great adversary, satan, will do his utmost to sow seeds of discord. His intentions are not unknown to us, but abundantly clear. What great advantages he would take when there are differences between the church and the apostle in their handling of issues. He waits to see if we fall into one or the other extreme. In matters regarding discipline he sees to it that we are not scrupulous. If he doesn’t succeed in that, he sees to it that we are not ready to forgive. What should we do then? Look to the Lord Jesus. When you have Him in your mind you will know what to do.

Now read 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 again.

Reflection: What is your experience of forgiveness? How much have you been forgiven? Do you still have to forgive anyone?

Verses 12-17

A Sweet Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:12. Paul is not the self-confident and the overbearing apostle, one who easily tells how things must be. Some sections of his letters might give this kind of impression. The problem however does not lie with Paul but with the reader.

The fact that the Corinthians could not ignore an inspired letter Paul wrote to them doesn’t lessen the fact that he was a normal person with feelings and emotions like you and me. He was anxiously waiting for a report from Corinth, but it still didn’t come. Each passing day created more inner pressure and anxiety. Out of a heart full of love he wrote to them stern admonitions. That was necessary. But how did they receive that letter? If only Titus had come soon with his report from Corinth it could have eased his relentless anguish.

At a time when such feelings were tormenting him Paul was in Troas. But he was not simply sitting; he was working. A large field was lying before him. The Lord had opened a door for him there and that gave him many opportunities to preach the gospel. Many evangelists should be very grateful for such a field. They would reap a great harvest and bring in their sheaves with great joy. Paul’s heart and soul were for the gospel. He could unfold himself preaching Christ. Was he in the right place? He never had to doubt about it, for God confirmed his work.

Yet he was restless. For him there was something more which went beyond the salvation of sinners and that was the glorification of Christ which is the sole aim in the life of every believer. In this regard there is still something lacking in the Corinthians and hence this letter to them. If only they had listened to his letter Christ would be glorified. Otherwise Christ would be dishonored even more.

2 Corinthians 2:13. Being preoccupied with this concern Paul leaves his working field and seeks to know from Titus. He must somehow know how it stood with the Corinthians. Have they accepted his letter as the voice of God? Have they gained insight?

After taking leave of the believers in Troas he goes on to Macedonia. I suppose he said good bye to the people who were newly led to the Lord by him. He must have given them the necessary instructions for their newly begun Christian life. It is possible that they tried to persuade him to stay for a little more time with them. But that was impossible. I wonder if he was torn apart in his feelings. Should he leave or should he stay? At last the Lord has given him an open door in Troas. Can he go away? On the other hand there was also his passionate desire to see the Corinthians whom he calls, despite their short comings, “my beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:14). He yields to his love.

2 Corinthians 2:14. Then he lifts up his heart and head and gives thanks to God. It is impressive to see what he thanks God for. He thanks God for leading him in triumph in Christ and for manifesting through him the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. Is this not a picture that shows the right perspective in the life of a servant of God?

Is this not applicable to your life and ministry also? Your life is wholly given over to Him and He is all in all in your life. Sometimes you are at the crossroads and you do not know how to decide with regard to your education, job, house etc. But God wants to guide you in making your choices. Before you take a decision it is important that you check your motives. You might have decided in all sincerity, but you can still get the feeling that you made a wrong choice.

Paul’s words here can give great peace of mind in such cases. God always leads us in triumph in Christ through the world. Here Paul uses a figure of speech. In the ancient times the commander of a victorious army returned to his country to conduct a triumphal procession. Everyone cheered him and all the soldiers who took part in the procession exulted in sharing the honor. In the same way Paul views himself in connection with Christ, the great Victor. He showed Christ everywhere he went. He knew that Christ directed his life and with Him he was more than sufficient for every situation. Is not Christ the Victor?

2 Corinthians 2:15. When your heart’s desire is to magnify Christ in your life then that will be perceptible everywhere around you. People will ‘smell’ Christ. They will be confronted by Christ. They are compelled to take a decision: either for or against Him. Your life touches them and they cannot cold shoulder the manner of your life. From your life the fragrance of Christ ascends to God.

Imagine how it should please God to see people on the earth who remind Him how His Son lived on the earth. The whole life of the Lord Jesus was a fragrance to His Father. Every encounter with Him made people choose between the options. The aroma He spread convicted people. Nobody indeed lived for the honor of God. Christ did. We can also.

The same applies today. God desires that Christ is visible in our life, in our words and in our deeds. This will either provoke people to turn against us and against Christ or inspire them to turn to God and to accept the Lord Jesus in faith. The aroma of Christ thus compels people to make a decision either to be saved or to be lost.

2 Corinthians 2:16. For everyone who turns away from this fragrance, so to speak turns up his nose, the aroma is a smell of death. For everyone who takes a deep breath of this fragrance into his nostrils it becomes a smell of life. How important is your Christian life which provides a choice of eternal consequences before people!

Are you confronted with your inability to live a life with such big responsibilities? I hope so, for these are not light things. Paul feels the weight of this responsibility and exclaims: “And who is adequate for these things?”

2 Corinthians 2:17. But Paul didn’t adjust his life to his own standards – or the standard others would set. He was not peddling the Word nor falsified it and he did not commercialize with its interpretations as if he could do with it what he wanted to do and could explain it to suit his own advantage. He wanted to be sincere in all his conduct. He spoke “as from God”, not as from himself. His source was God and he drew from Him.

He was fully conscious of the fact that he lived “in the sight of God” and that God was watching him in all his acts. At the same time his eyes were fixed on Christ. This is the way you may see your life. This delivers from the unfounded fear of human opinions and the fear of failure in life.

Now read 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 again.

Reflection: How can you be the aroma of Christ?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Corinthians 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-corinthians-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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