2Corinthians 2 — To a Church in Crisis, With Love

Text: 2Corinthians 2

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I move from 1Corinthians into 2Corinthians Chapter 2 today.We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in you, and in us!

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “Filled With the Fragrance of Christ.” Again, this is part of becoming the Amen!

Verse 1 —

Paul speaks again about his decision not to come to Corinth. In 2Corinthians 1:23, he said it was to spare them another painful visit.

He determined not to come “for my own sake,” he says. A better translation is “with myself.” Why? So he would not come to them in sorrow (sadness, grief) again. He was not angry, but filled with grief and sadness, when he came for that painful visit, and when he sent them the severe letter. He did not want to be grieved again.

Verse 2 —

For if Paul causes them sorrow (grief), then what makes him glad (rejoicing) but the ones whom I made sorrowful (filled with grief)? His reason for coming was to correct them, to wake them up, to rescue them from spiritual peril. And, if they have heeded His words, seen their hearts, and cried out to the Lord for Him to change their hearts, Both Paul and the Lord are glad, indeed! That is godly sorrow, beloved!

Verse 3 — 

The words Paul writes in Verse 2 were also in the severe letter that he sent. Why did he send that severe letter? So that when he came, he would not have sorrow (grief) from those over whom he should be able to rejoice. They are his children in the faith, and yet, they are rebelling and sinning against the Lord! He made them sorrowful, so they would repent. Oh, how he wants to be able to rejoice over them rather than be grieved by them!

And yet, he has confidence (is convinced, believes) regarding all of the believers at Corinth, that his joy will be the joy of them all — that all will repent and be filled with the Spirit. Then they will rejoice together!

Beloved, Paul and I want you to have the joy we have, and you will, when you heed and see and cry out, and are filled with the Spirit! You will be filled with His joy — and it is joy unspeakable and full of glory!

Verse 4 —

It was not easy for Paul to write that severe letter. It was birthed out of much affliction (burden) and anguish of heart. It was bathed in many (abundant) tears — not so the believers at Corinth would be grieved, but so that they might know the love He has especially (superabundantly) for them!

It is that way for all of us who speak to today’s church. We love you with God’s divine love. It is not easy to speak and write these words. We are compelled to do it because of the divine love of God with which He has filled our hearts!

Verse 5 —

But if any have caused sorrow, they have, to some degree, caused sorrow not to Paul so much as to the whole church at Corinth. He does not say this to be burdensome, but to speak the truth. Sin of even one member of the church affects everyone, beloved!

Verses 6-8 —

Now, he says the punishment inflicted by the whole church at Corinth on a particular one (see 1Corinthians 5) has been sufficient (fit, ample). The sinner has grieved and repented.

Therefore, they should forgive and comfort him and not cause him further sorrow. Otherwise, he might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 

So, the church should now bring him back in, and reaffirm (confirm) their love for him. He has received appropriate discipline.

It is just as John Wesley did with the penitent bands. If you sinned, you were placed with fellow sinners, separate from the church. You were exhorted in the penitent band until your heart became repentant and the fruit of repentance — a changed heart — was evident in you. Then you were welcomed back into the church, in the love of Christ.

Verse 9 —

Now Paul explains the purpose for the instructions he gave them in 1Corinthians 5. He instructed them in order to put them to the test, to see if they would obey his exhortation to separate the sinner from the church and allow Satan to sift him for a while. 
And now he puts them to the test again, to see if they will welcome the man, who has now repented, back into the congregation. If they do, Paul will see that they are obedient in all things related to this situation.

Verses 10-11 —

Paul says anytime you forgive anyone anything, know that Paul has also already forgiven —

Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

Whatever Paul has forgiven, he has forgiven in the presence of Christ (for he stands before Christ, per 1Timothy 5:21, 6:12 and 2Timothy 4:1). And Paul has forgiven all of them (whoever), for their own sakes, so that they may also forgive in the same way as he has forgiven.

Why? So that Satan would not take advantage of (defraud, steal from) Paul, or them. Paul says, we are not ignorant of his schemes. I tell you the truth, Satan will do whatever he can to make infants in Christ fight with one another! 

Satan rubs his hands together with glee when there is upheaval in the church. He rejoices when believers do not forgive one another, for in so doing, their spiritual survival is in peril! Oh, how hearts need to be changed, completely, by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. As it was at Corinth, so it is now! 

Verses 12-13 — 

Paul now speaks of his missionary journey to Troas and then on to Macedonia. When Paul was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17), the Lord gave him something that he manifests, as he goes  — the sweet aroma of knowledge (ginosko, absolute knowledge, beyond first knowledge) of Christ!

He does not speak of these things to boast, but so that the believers at Corinth would see the results of obedience to Christ’s command to be filled with the Spirit and pour forth His fragrance wherever they go! It is the same for me, as I speak to today’s believers!

Paul went to Troas, where a door was opened for him in the Lord. It was an opportunity given by the Lord to carry the gospel to them.

He had no rest for his spirit, though, because he did not find Titus, his brother, there. So he went on to Macedonia, and Titus joined him there (see 7:6-7).

Verse 14 —

Paul now launches into great thanksgiving, and a glorious picture of what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and out in the mission field (which may be your own neighborhood, beloved)! 

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ! It is a procession where Christ is the Leader, and all who are His follow after Him, rejoicing and celebrating His work in and through them! This is not an exercise in imagination, but it is truth! Indeed, we triumph over persecution and over Satan’s wiles through Christ in us! He has filled us, and dwells in us fully, as do the Father, and the Spirit! 

And as we go about, Christ manifests (shows forth) the sweet aroma (fragrance) of the knowledge of Him in every place! Wherever we go, the fragrance of Christ goes with us, and is readily detected by everyone around us! And we have that fragrance because we fully know Him!

Verses 15-16 —

And that fragrance is not just detected around us as we walk about the earth, but it is a sweet savor to God our Father, in heaven.The sweet fragrance of His Son in us fills His nostrils! How wonder-full!

And our fragrance goes forth to everyone — those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. Some choose to perish, because they reject Christ, beloved. 

To the one, an aroma from death to death — that is, to those who reject Christ. But to the other, it is an aroma from life to life — that is, to those who receive Christ. It is not ordinary life, not the existence I used to live, but zoe, life as God has it, eternal life! Hallelujah!

And who is adequate (competent, worthy) for these things? Certainly not I! But the Lord does His work through Paul and all who are filled with His Spirit. He causes that fragrance to emanate from us! We dare not believe, nor would it even cross our minds that we could possibly carry the gospel, apart from Him —

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Verse 17 —

For we are not like many, peddling (adulterating) the word of God, but as from sincerity (purity of heart), but as from God (He who has sent us out), we speak in Christ in the sight of God! Beware! There are many false teachers who peddle the Word of God today, claiming (among other false things) that you can get whatever you want from God by claiming Scripture passages. The operative word is, “you.” Beloved, just like me, you need a new heart after you are saved, just like I did. You need to obey Christ’s command to be filled with the Holy Spirit! 

The words I speak are not my words, beloved. I would not begin to know how to preach the gospel. I do as Paul exhorted Timothy to do —

2Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

And yet Paul and the others and I depend on Christ, and His Holy Spirit, to empower us and give usP wisdom, when we teach and preach. I will teach all of the truth, as He shares it with me when I ascend His hill, early in the morning!

And like Paul and the rest, I speak in Christ. I am standing before God, in His presence, because He has purified my heart —

Psalm 24:3  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? 

And who may stand in His holy place?

4  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, 

Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood 

And has not sworn deceitfully.

I could not give myself clean hands and a pure heart. He did it! I am nothing — I am not adequate. But He makes me adequate, just as He does Paul and the rest, by filling us with His Spirit! We will see it, in Chapter 3. 

Lord, may your church heed the words given by Paul to the believers at Corinth. As you show them their hearts, may they cry out for heart change. You will gladly do it! 

Amen, Lord Jesus! So be it.