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2Corinthians 2 (web)

Ministering with Peace of Mind

Avoiding Unnecessary Grief

2:1 But I determined this for myself, that I would not come to you again in sorrow.
2:2 For if I make you sorry, then who will make me glad but he who is made sorry by me?
2:3 And I wrote this very thing to you, so that, when I came,
I wouldn't have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice;
having confidence in you all, that my joy would be shared by all of you.
2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears,
not that you should be made sorry, but that you might know the love that I have so abundantly for you.
2:5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow,
not to me, but in part (that I not press too heavily) to you all.

Ministering Forgiveness

2:6 Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many;
2:7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him,
lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow.
2:8 Therefore I beg you to confirm your love toward him.
2:9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might know the proof of you,
whether you are obedient in all things.
2:10 Now I also forgive whomever you forgive anything.
For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,
2:11 that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

Ministering with Peace of Mind

2:12 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ,
and when a door was opened to me in the Lord,
2:13 I had no relief for my spirit, because I didn't find Titus, my brother,
but taking my leave of them, I went out into Macedonia.

Ministering the Aroma of Christ

2:14 Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place.
2:15 For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are saved, and in those who perish;
2:16 to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life.
Who is sufficient for these things?

Ministering Free of Charge

2:17 For we are not as so many, peddling the word of God.
But as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ.

Discussion Questions

vs 1-5 Can you give examples when it is appropriate to make people feel bad or grieve?
When should we grieve over the sinfulness of other Christians or should we simply ignore such sinfulness so as to promote an artificial sense of unity?
vs 6-11 Who might the "him" be? (1Cor 5:1-5)
What might satan's scheme be?
vs 12-13 Why did he have no peace of mind and why was he looking for Titus? (2Cor 7:6,7)
vs 14-16 In what way may Christ be the smell of death to those perishing?
When you have presented Christ, has anyone ever reacted as if they smelled death?
Do people treat you as if you have the aroma of death?
In what way are Christians the aroma of life to you?
vs 17 Who peddles the Word of God for profit today?
Why does Paul distant himself from such people?
In what ways might the Word of God have been corrupted so as to make more money?


Rebuke Shows Love

2Cor 2:1-4  So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I 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. 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.

Proverbs 27:5 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." But imagine you had to confront someone you love with harsh words due to serious sin in their life. Now imagine they repented. What would be the best thing to do next. This was Paul's dilemma. Perhaps he was thinking best to stay away for now and let things cool off for their wounds to heal. For revisiting them immediately may cause them grief in reminding them of their wounds and possibly reopening wounds. But while his presence may have been too intense for them to handle at this time, he nonetheless writes them to show he is not dispassionate about them but has them in his heart.

Communicating a message face to face can have the greatest impact. But there is such a thing as too much impact when it comes to correction. Paul himself writes, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Col 3:21 and "Fathers, do not exasperate your children" Eph 6:4a If a person has repented then you only cause them grief in showing your distrust by micromanaging them. But do feel free to share your feelings.

Restore the Repentant

2Cor 2:5-8 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.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

The one he is referring to is the one he spoke of in 1Corinthians chapter 5 who was involved in a sexually immoral relationship and of whom he said, "Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" 1Cor 5:2b and "Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1Cor 5:5 The rebuke is harsh as it should have been. Just as Jesus said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." Luke 17:3, sinning Christians are to be rebuke, and forgiveness is contingent upon their repentance. However when they do repent, then they must be forgiven. And Paul sets the example here. Despite his former harsh words he shows tenderness here, holding no grudge or distrust of the man.

Encourage those who repent. The repentant just as much are an example to follow as those who rebuked them. Rebuke, repent, forgive. That's how God deals with each of us. "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Heb 12:5,6

Be Aware of Satan's Schemes

2Cor 2:9-11 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven— if there was anything to forgive— 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.

Obedience is not really in play unless it regards something of which one would be reluctant to do. Thus for example it was only when he was incarnate into sinful flesh that it could be said of Jesus, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered" Heb 5:8, such as in his prayer, "Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Luke 22:42 Likewise of the parable of the two sons of Matt 21:28-32, the one who exercised obedience reluctantly was commended. In this case they were challenged with confronting sinful Christians. Ever been reluctant to confront fellow Christians who are sinning overtly? A large element of such fear is simply one's own sinful nature afraid to take it in the manner in which one dishes it out. For you know that it is human nature that if you scrutinize others, they will scrutinize you. That is one of the costs - or benefits depending on your perspective - of obeying Jesus. For Jesus said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." Luke 17:3

Forgiveness itself, with again is an act of obedience, can be as challenging as confront people with sin, especially in the case of Christians you might not particularly like. Grudges are not to be held against Christians who repent of sin. And if you take on the responsibility of confronting someone with sin, then you also take on the responsibility of restoring that person and fellowshipping with them after they repent. Common for people who upon deciding to part with someone takes a parting shot criticizing that person without having any intention of restoring fellowship with them upon their repentance. But notice in this case the man was restored to fellowship, and even through Paul was away he made sure to let him know that all was forgiven.

One is reminded of Peter who denied Christ three times, but later, having repented, the Lord made sure to speak to him personally assuring him that he was forgiven and restored, being given authority to labor for the kingdom.

Avoid being naive about Satan's schemes. It's not that such schemes are allusive, but Christians are often gullible, forgetting that we all have a sinful nature subject to temptation of which the devil plays upon. Thus the devil drives Christians to the extremes of either merciless legalism, like in the case  John Calvin who said, "Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.", or to free grace licentiousness in which there is no scrutinizing at all.

Peace of Mind Guides

2Cor 2:12-13 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

The situation with Titus will be mentioned a number of times - chapters 7,8,12 - indicating that Paul had sent Titus to them and here he is alluding to a time when he expected Titus to return from Corinth to give him news of the Corinthian's response to his former letter. He was waiting in anticipation. Now much as even Paul himself commands us to be anxious for nothing (Php 4:6), as does Jesus (John 14:27), yet it is not inappropriate to be anxious about the unpredictable response to correction of those we love, if indeed our love is genuine. And that's what Paul wanted to communicate.

Also with regards to this open door, one should not be guided soley by circumstances. Though God opens a door, one should not necessarily go through it. One should also have peace of mind. Though lack of peace of mind should not be an excuse for doing nothing. If one does not have peace of mind, then find out why and fix it. Then go through the open door.

Thirdly notice that Paul's priority concerned those already in the faith, as he himself said, "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Gal 6:10 Evangelism is secondary to discipleship. And the weaker link, the feeble sheep, the bruised reed is to be the priority, and those who are eager to learn are more a priority than those who are reluctant to do so.

The Aroma of Christ

2Cor 2:14-16  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

Fragrant aroma is an allusion to the sacrifices made under the Law. "Burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire." Ex 29:18 And this was likewise the case with Christ's sacrifice. "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Eph 5:2 I'm reminded of two different reactions some had to  Mel Gibson's  movie, "The Passion of the Christ". The Christians generally found it moving. But some others thought it degrading, being just about a man being tortured. Likewise to the unbeliever the gospel may stink. But that says more about them than it does the gospel message.

To the unbelievers, not only does Christ smell of death, but we Christians are also perceived that way, seeing as our message is about preparing people to die and face judgement. For "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" Heb 9:27 But to those who are being saved, "as for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight." Ps 16:3

There is no greater calling than to spread the aroma of Christ, be it the stench of death or the aroma of life.

Bible Peddlers

2Cor 2:17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.

There are so many people who peddle the word of God for profit. And so few take a genuine interest in those to whom they allegedly minister. Paul spoke of Timothy in Php 2:20-21 saying, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." Has the statistic among Christian leadership really changed since then?

Paul advised the Ephesian elders, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35

But so few take Paul's advice. And again Paul says in 1Corinthians chapter 9 that while he and Barnabus have a right to get paid, they " have not used any of these rights." 1Cor 9:15 so to offer the gospel free of charge. That's the way it should be. But few who preach the gospel have the generosity to offer their services free of charge. For it's an act of generosity for preachers to work for a living and offer their services free of charge, as Paul said, "What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge." 1Cor 9:18 And isn't the gospel about generosity. Furthermore peddling the word of God for profit calls into question one's motives as even Paul here calls into question such people's motives. And there are in fact "those think that godliness is a means to financial gain." 1Tim 6:5 Peter commands shepherds of God's flock to be "not greedy for money, but eager to serve" 1Peter 5:2 and why does he say that if that weren't an issue.

To the Thessalonians he again pointed out his example. "You yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow." 2Thess 3:7-9

Rare to find Christian leadership today which has not chosen to be a financial burden to those to whom they are ministering. What kind of example is that? Peddlers are also in the habit of adulterating their commodities for the sake of gain. There are those who distort the Word of God or their presentation of Christ in order to simply make more money. There are even ministers who may not even realize the hold that money has on them, who unconsciously distort the Word so as to make more of it. They distort it so as to make it more "Popular" or to simply make people feel good about themselves. "They will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2Tim 4:3 Popular Christianity seldom represents Biblical Christianity. If something is popular, there's usually something wrong with it. And true believers are probably not the majority, but the remnant of Christendom.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020