Paul did not want to go to Corinth immediately after sending the letter full of rebuke at the hands of Titus. He was not sure how the church at Corinth would react and wanted to give them time to process and act on his rebuke. He says that he had confidence in the people to turn from their evil ways but when Titus was delayed in returning from Corinth, Paul was worried about how the letter had been received by his audience.
Human beings are unpredictable and often we react to their erratic nature and change our behaviours towards the people around us. However, when Paul heard firsthand from Titus how the letter was well-received and even prompted the church to change its ways, Paul’s tone changed and he said that the last letter was written out of love for them.
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.2 Corinthians 2:4
Peace in the Church
For the person or persons who revolted against Paul, for them he had some harsh words in his previous letter. The Corinthians picked up on it and confronted the revolters. But again, after seeing the attitude of the majority change, Paul was singing a different tune in this letter. He wanted the people to forgive the offenders and that the punishment they had laid upon them was enough. He says that continuing to isolate the offenders would cause them excessive sorrow and give a window of opportunity for satan to cause disharmony within the church.
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.2 Corinthians 2:10-11
The disharmony within a fellowship, a group of believers or even in a family is used by satan to drive a wedge in our connection with God. We are kept busy mending fences in our relationships that we sideline God from our lives. Our grudges make us bitter and over time desensitises us to the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice. If we understand what Christ gave up when he died for us sinners, we would not waste time in petty arguments. We have been called to love one another and let the image of Christ shine through us. But we choose to forget our purpose of existence and indulge in such bickering. In the end, satan has not only created a divide in our fellowships and family but also in our relationship with God.
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 goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.2 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NIV)
Paul is only human, and even though God has given him a new opportunity in a new city, he still has the church of Corinthians on his mind. Later in this letter, Paul writes that he only found rest after hearing from Titus about how the Corinthians not only missed him but longed for him. Paul feared that his previous letter would have offended the church and that they would have treated Titus poorly (maybe even killed him). But when he found out that all is well and that the people are actually turning from their ways, Paul’s soul found rest.
We place too much importance on what others think about us. Whenever we have an argument or conflict with our fellow believers, we are not able to find comfort in anything. Our personal, official and even our spiritual lives are disrupted till we make peace with our offenders. It is a shame that we cannot find comfort in God but find it only in these human relations.
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. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NIV)
In the ancient days, whenever a king and his troops returned after winning a war, they would be given a hero’s welcome back home. They would parade in on their war horses and have their captives line up behind them as they led them into the gates of their city. Paul compares himself and other workers of Christ to prisoners of war who are being led by Christ, their captor. Paul could have used another analogy, one where we are part of the victory parade of Christ but the sorrows that he had faced (even on his recent journey) made him feel like a captive.
A Roman post-war triumphal procession included the burning of spices and incense, which permeated the streets. It was like the crowds could see the soldiers coming home with the spoils and smell the scent of victory. In one way the analogy rings true as we have been bought by Jesus’ blood from our slavery to sin. We were captives of our sinful desires and it is Jesus who has won the war on our behalf and rescued us from the clutches of death. When we are led by him into the gates of His city, by simply following him we are testifying about the wondrous works that He has done in our life.
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.2 Corinthians 2:17 (NIV)
Throughout the ages, there have been many ministers who have seized the opportunity and used the word of God for their benefit. Whether it be to have control over people or to extract monetary benefit from them. The word of God has been twisted and contorted by many in the name of religion and faith, and as a result, we stand not as one but as a divided group today. We might ask ourselves why God would allow it, why would he allow the false preachers to peddle the word of God for profit. In that line, we can even question the very nature of God who is gracious to all and welcomes back all sinners big or small into his fold.
God is a God of all and not just the righteous. It is our sense of law and justice that makes us have these thoughts. But God has a plan for each one of us, a plan that we cannot even fathom. He will act in his time and judge the false preachers. However, it is on us to have a close relationship with Christ so that we are not fooled by such people. Do we depend on human relations and mortal interpreters or does our help come directly from God? Having a close bond with our Father will mean that we learn to rely on Him for everything and not let satan outwit us. Then we will be his followers and given the chance to enter the gates of his city, not as captors but as wilful participants in His victory parade.
- 2:11 How does satan outwit us using our grudges?
- 2:13 Why is Paul restless in the midst of his ministry?
- 2:14 How are we Captives in Christ’s procession?
- 2:17 Why does God allow people with a profit motive to minister for Him?