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Summary: After explaining in general terms why he had delayed his trip to Corinth (see 1:12-2:2), Paul addressed the specific confrontation that most likely had led to his decision to cancel his visit.

April 4, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.A.2: Paul’s Charge Concerning the Offender. (2:5–11)

2nd Corinthians 2:5-11 (NKJV)

5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.

6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,

7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.

10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,

11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Introduction

After explaining in general terms why he had delayed his trip to Corinth (see 1:12-2:2), Paul addressed the specific confrontation that most likely had led to his decision to cancel his visit. Paul doesn’t name the offender who had caused the trouble the last time he was in Corinth, but he does instruct the church on how to handle this man. As this letter will explain later, the Corinthians had obeyed Paul’s previous instructions in the letter Paul had written with tears (see 2:1-4{3]; 7:8-10{4]). They had accepted responsibility for the offense. Truly sorry for their initial mismanagement of the unfortunate event, they had punished the offender.

Paul was concerned for the offender’s spiritual welfare. He interrupted his explanation of his recent travel plans (compare 2:1-4{3] with 2:12-13{5]) to instruct the church how to treat this man. This reveals Paul’s pastoral concern. Although the primary purpose of Second Corinthians is to reassert Paul’s apostolic authority in the face of mounting criticism, Paul didn’t want the spiritual condition of anyone in the church to be jeopardized—even if it was the man who had offended him personally (see 2:5). He explained it was time to forgive the man. Paul had probably heard from Titus that the punishment by the entire church had driven the man to sorrow (see 7:6-7){6]. If given the chance, his sorrow could be transformed into godly sorrow that would lead to repentance. The offender needed forgiveness, acceptance, and comfort. Paul was concerned that undo severity would give Satan a foothold in the church by permanently separating the man from the congregation of believers. It was essential, therefore, that the church act quickly to forgive and restore this man, while he was still repentant. Church discipline should always seek the restoration of the offender. Two mistakes in church discipline should be avoided—being too lenient by not correcting mistakes and being too harsh by not forgiving the sinner. There is a time to confront and a time to comfort.

This passage is one of the best texts in all of Scripture on the godly motivation and rationale for forgiveness.

Commentary

5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.

These verses emphasize that the reason Paul was concerned about this man’s offence was not to correct an injury Paul had suffered. If that had been the case, then Paul might take his own instructions to heart: to simply ignore the injustice (see 1 Corinthians 6:7){7]. Instead, Paul’s point is that the whole church (all of you) had suffered because of this man. His conduct had not only hurt Paul, but had hurt the good name of the whole Corinthian church. The fact that one man has opposed Paul is far less important than that he has carried the church with him into rebellion against Paul’s God-given authority. At first the Corinthians had regarded this man’s actions as a personal problem requiring no action on their part, a view which Paul had dispelled in his letter and which they now realized. Discipline had been exercised, but there were some who felt that it had not been sufficiently severe, and who wanted to impose a still greater punishment. Paul was against this, because he felt that to exercise further punishment would do more harm than good.

Most likely, the man’s actions had amounted to a direct attack on Paul’s apostolic authority. The teaching of the “false apostles,” who had infiltrated the Corinthian church, and had started discrediting Paul’s authority, might have inspired this man to challenge Paul’s authority in public (see Paul’s censure of these “false apostles” in 11:1-15). Paul would perceive this not only as an attack on his authority but also an insult to the entire church, which had been founded on the Gospel message that Paul had delivered to them. If Paul were fundamentally untrustworthy, then his message couldn’t be trusted either (see Paul’s message in 1:19-20){8]. This would be an offense with broad implications. If the problem the apostle alludes to is not an attempt to discredit him as an apostle, then it was probably the incest he brought to light in his first letter. Regardless of who the offender may be, Paul never once mentions his name nor does he provide the specifics of the offense, but that may be because the Corinthians knew all about the dilemma he is referring to.

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