2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
Paul’s Abundant Love for Them
It’s been a difficult road for Paul. Coming to this place with this church was hard-won. He had planted, watered, and cultivated, only to see weeds. And though Paul suggests here that he was confident of the Corinthians’ return to him and the apostolic teaching, he certainly struggled mightily to rescue them. But persistence and God’s grace won him the victory, and as Christians, we should remember that formula (Luke 18:1-8).
Paul explains to them that he delayed to see them only because he did not want to make them another painful visit. Instead, he wrote to them a sorrowful letter in which he expressed his innermost grief and anxiety over their condition. But what was the purpose of this letter (which the Lord saw fit that we should never see)? To make them pity the Apostle? To make them feel guilty (though they certainly should have felt so)? No, but to make them know the abundant love he had for them.
I believe that there might be some instruction here concerning confrontation. Face to face encounter might not always be the best method, especially when a previous face to face encounter … well, just blew up in your face. Granted, this church owed Paul obedience as an Apostle, which Paul makes clear in verse nine. But rather than commanding them or lording over them, he deals wisely and gently with them. He shows them his heart, and not in such a way as to condemn or elicit sympathy, but to show his great love for them. And he did this by writing them a letter, a lost art in our day. Love letters can disarm and open doors to personal encounter.
Beyond this, Paul addresses the matter of discipline which the church meted out to one of her members. We are not sure but the person in question may very well have been the person who opposed Paul. But Paul says that the harm was not done to him but to the church; after all, the bitter struggle was within the church. But Paul held no grudges. And he begged the church to forgive, comfort, and reaffirm their love for the offender, lest he “be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” And why is it so important to forgive, especially in the church? Well, first because we have been forgiven so much ourselves (Matthew 18:23-35). But moreover, because we do not wish to be “outwitted by Satan.” Satan knows how to use our unforgiving hearts against ourselves and against one another. Before long such a church would devour herself—and many have. And so Paul says, “We are not ignorant of his designs,” and in this case, ignorance kills.