Have you ever furiously written an angry text or email with the intention of NOT sending it and you accidentally do? Or you are in the middle of deleting it and your phone glitches and only part of it sends? Yikes! That would be awful. You then have to deal with the aftermath of either a confused text or a retaliation text. Well, Paul did just that. Only it was a snail mail letter and it wasn’t accidental.
Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 2. Paul is continuing his letter from 2 Corinthians chapter 1. He has decided that he will not return to Corinth after a “painful visit” and references a severe letter he wrote to Titus after the “painful visit”. This letter is lost to us today. It seems that Paul thought it best to give the Corinthians a little room, and give them space to repent and get their act together. He didn’t want to rebuke and admonish them all the time. Since this was Paul’s heart, he knew that another visit of the same kind, “painful”, would be of little benefit for either himself or the Corinthians.
He states in verses 3 & 4 “ I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote to 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.” Paul’s main aim in writing the new letter was not to inflict pain on or grieve the Corinthians but to convince them of how intense his affection is for them. Paul later tells us in chapter 7 that the “severe” letter had positive reactions from the Corinthians and helped the repentance in the Church.
In verses 5-11, we transition to Paul talking about forgiveness of the offender. Paul mentions a “he” that has offended or opposed him in Corinth. We can believe that the offender spoke publicly against Paul or insulted him. Paul responded with the severe letter and the people of Corinth were stuck, shocked by the letter. They didn’t know how to act. Should they punish this man? Paul now repents with the chapter we are reading now, asking the people to forgive this man as he has done. As we see, Paul has moments of grief and writes a letter to address the issues. Paul did send his severe letter which caused confusion and distress to the Corinthian Christians. These verses show us Paul’s example of repentance and heart of forgiveness and wishes the Corinthians to do the same. As we continue, Paul warns in verse 10 &11 “I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Paul tells the Corinthians that withholding forgiveness when a man is repentant would be playing into Satan’s hands. This could lead to disunity in the church.
In the last section of this chapter verses 12-17, Paul transitions to talking about the presence of the Ministers of the New Covenant, which he continues talking about throughout chapters 3-7. Something that really hooked me as he is describing us “as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession” is the spread of “the aroma of knowledge of Him everywhere” . Paul uses such a powerful human sense, the sense of smell, to illustrate the presence of Christ. When I think of a comforting smell a few come to mind, the smell of my son’s hair, the perfume my mom uses or something as simple as the smell of a book. But the aroma of the “knowledge of Him everywhere”, of Christ everywhere. What a comfort. The ultimate comfort. Paul continues to talk about how not only is the aroma of Christ a comfort to the believers and those being saved but an aroma that brings death to those who peddle God’s word for profit, the false teachers who have infiltrated the Corinthian church. He ends this chapter with this statement “in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God”
As we come to a close, I want to ask you a few questions.
Are there any angry thoughts you are harboring that you need to write down and throw away or simply give them to God? Have you forgiven the one who has offended you? Yes, Paul did send his, what we could call “angry letter” but he didn’t send it out of anger. He sent it out of a grieving heart that desired for the people of Corinth to forgive just as he had already done.
Are you walking in your everyday life with the “aroma of the knowledge of Christ?”
Can people sense a difference about you in the check out line in the grocery store or even at church? Do you give people a sense of comfort when around you?
And finally do you speak in Christ with “sincerity as those sent from God” before you?