Read 2 Corinthians 2
1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you.2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 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. 4 For 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.
Forgiveness for the Offender
5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
Ministers of the New Covenant
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
In the beginning of this chapter, we are introduced to what presents itself as agony from Paul. He mentions a previous “painful visit” and even lets the readers in on the many tears and distraught heart he has in writing to the Corinthians. We don’t know all of the details, but it is likely that there are letters and visits to the Church of Corinth not documented between 1st and 2nd Corinthians, which may cause confusion in this first section of the chapter. One thing we are reminded of very quickly is Paul’s motive in writing to the church and that it is out of his “depth of love for them” (v. 4).
Paul goes on to talk about proper forgiveness for a fellow brother in Christ who has sinned. After likely not accepting the man back after receiving his punishment, Paul tells the Corinthians to reaffirm their love for him and forgive. Here is where we need to lean in. Paul says, “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” (v. 11). Here Paul gives a big, loud warning for the slippery slope that unforgiveness breeds both for the offender and for the offended.
So many times we let resentment, bitterness, hatred, or hurt get in the way of forgiveness towards one another. We let our feelings rule and these inconsistent feelings become a breeding ground for Satan to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Pastor David Guzik of the Enduring Word commentary believes that Satan’s strategy against the sinning man first started as lust and, because of unforgiveness, turned to hopelessness and despair. Satan’s strategy against the church was first the toleration of evil, then using undue severity in punishment.
As we see Paul wrestle with accusations and comparisons from the Corinthians church, Satan’s strategy against Paul was to simply make him stressed and upset over the Corinthian Christians that he lost peace and was ultimately less effective in ministry. Unforgiveness gives ground to the enemy of our lives both for the accused and for the accuser. We all could listen to Paul’s advice today that forgiveness is for our benefit so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan.
- Are you allowing the Spirit to make you aware of Satan’s schemes against your life?
- Is there forgiveness you need to offer to someone in your life?
- Do you need to extend grace to yourself in place of shame from something in the past?
Did You Know?
Many commentaries believe the man referenced in verses 5-11 is the same man Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 5. In 1 Corinthians, Paul had to call out the church for being too lenient with his sin. Apparently, they listened to Paul and disciplined him, but now they’re refusing to reinstate him back into the community. Now, Paul has to call out their harshness and lack of forgiveness. Yes, we are called to discipline, but all discipline should lead to full repentance and restoration.