2 Corinthians 2:1-4
Greetings, everyone! Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS! I’m glad of the opportunity to study with you as we make our way through God’s Word together, and it’s especially great to have you along as we get into the second chapter of 2 Corinthians today – a continuing account of the existing relationship between Paul and the church in Corinth. As we open things up and prepare to engage with the text, let’s ask the Lord’s blessing on our time together:
Lord Jesus, we are grateful for your power and your love, and even more grateful that you have extended it to us through your grace and your mercy. Bless the study of your Word today, that we all can grow in our relationship with you. In your precious name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Paul the continues to explain his actions — and the reasons prompting them — with respect to his dealings with the believers in Corinth. Our focus: the depth of Paul’s love for the church and its people.
2 Corinthians 2:1-4
So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
Sometimes when I’m trying to make a decision, I find it helpful to list the pros and cons on a sheet of paper to assist me in my deliberations. Sometimes I use that exercise to help with big decisions, and sometimes I use it for little ones. Right now, as often seems to be the case, my spring garden is once again in the midst of morphing from a formal, French kitchen garden — an ambitious, labor intensive project — to one with more of an informal country feel to it, heavier on herbs and flowers and lighter on veggies. Though it’s not what I had intended, it’s what I actually have time for. Because that’s the case, I’m having to rethink what kinds of plants I want to have within the fence line and around the perimeter. Some of the things that were part of the project at first no longer look right. Other things laying around the yard or currently being grown in pots on the deck might be a better fit for the new look. So — out has come that piece of paper, and long has been the list of pros and cons for what to keep, what to pitch, and what to put in brand new. It’s not a fool proof method, but it does help to clarify my next move.
Verses 1-4, Summary: In our reading today here at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 2, Paul is sharing with the folks in Corinth a similar kind of decision-making process that he went through, one which helped him determine that a visit to them at the time he had originally intended was not the best idea. Remember, they had misinterpreted his absence as flakiness, representative of an unreliable and untrustworthy character. But having shared some of his reasons for delaying his visit, Paul now explains more. In actuality, there were at least a couple of godly motives behind why he did not come as he had planned.
First, let’s remember the overarching reason for his staying away: he didn’t want to cause the church sorrow or hurt with another confrontational visit like the one he’d had with them previously. His last trip to them had been full of conflict and unpleasantness. Thus, as commentator Adam Clarke writes, “Because the scandals among the Corinthians prevented him from seeing them comfortably, he determined not to see them at all until he had reason to believe that those evils were put away.”
But there’s more to Paul’s reasoning here, as the text is quick to point out. Paul also knew that another visit would not be good for him. “For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved?” Paul loved these people. He had close feelings for them in his heart. They were special to him. But he knew that ongoing conflict with them could damage the fellowship they had once forged together. Not only would that be bad for the Corinthians and their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, but it would also bring Paul personal sorrow resulting from broken relationships. What, then, did this apostle of the Lord Jesus do? He gave the matter a lot of thought, and he ultimately made the determination that it was best to give the Corinthian Christians room; to give them space to repent and get their act together before he went to them. He knew his own heart and the manner in which he would approach their sin if he did it face to face, and he also knew their fragility in the faith at that time due to the influence of the false teachers among them. Those two ingredients would make for a potent clash, and with those elements in play, a personal visit would not be of any benefit for either the church or for Paul.
That’s why he wrote a letter to them instead...and though it was severe, Paul takes pains to explain that it came to them not to slam them or grieve their hearts or embarrass them; it came to them with all the love that Paul could possibly wring from his heart. It was because of his deep and abiding love for the people of Christ in Corinth, because of his Christian concern for them, and because of his great desire that they be reconciled to the truth and walk in the light that Paul poured himself out to them with great distress, anguish of heart, and an abundance of tears.
Again, since we don’t have this particular letter from Paul to the church, we don’t know exactly what it said, but we do know that it was intended as a spacer – a breather if you will – to postpone a visit that would have been harsh. Instead, it laid the groundwork for a future visit that would be a joyful one. And we know, incidentally, that this choice on Paul’s part was a good one, because that severe correspondence achieved among the Corinthians the exact repentance and return to the truth for which Paul had prayed.
As we wrap up for the day, one pastor I know marvels at the maturity that was necessary for the Corinthian Christians to receive Paul’s correction in the way that they did. He marvels because he knows his own heart, just like you and I know our own hearts. It’s so easy for us to think, as we usually do, that a Christian brother or sister offering us correction is our enemy. Sometimes they may have ulterior motives, but usually they say what they say because they love us and want the best for us...just like Paul is describing in today’s text.
It’s not the easiest thing to meditate on, but if, perhaps, the Lord has some things to say to you in that respect today through the Scriptures, my prayer is that you will not run from them, but humbly consider them for what they are. They just may be the open door to some healing and reconciliation that you really need in your life right now!
God be gracious and merciful to you as you think on that, everyone…He loves us so, and He is always for us and for our growth and maturation as His beloved children. Thanks for your time, have a great day, and I’ll see you again next time. Take care!