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2Corinthians 2

Thursday Evening Bible Study

November 20, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3300 words

Paul had spent nearly three years in Ephesus, during which he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians.

Paul’s stay in Ephesus ended abruptly when a riot broke out in the city because of how the Christian revival was affecting the business of those who made idols.

After the riot, Paul headed up north to Macedonia.

The year is AD 56, almost a year after Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthians.

We believe Paul made a “quick trip” to Corinth sometime between the writing of these letters in order to deal with some of the more serious issues in the church.  This “quick trip” was not recorded by Luke in the book of Acts.  Luke only records two visits of Paul, yet Paul would write,

(2 Corinthians 12:14a NKJV) Now for the third time I am ready to come to you.

(2 Corinthians 13:1 NKJV) This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”

One of the issues that Paul will be dealing with in this letter is the issue of his authority.

In chapter one we saw that some people were accusing Paul of being “wishy-washy” because he kept changing his plans of how and when he would visit Corinth.

The chapter ended with:

(2 Corinthians 1:23 NLT) Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke.
That thought continues …

2:1-2 Paul’s Reasons

:1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.

:1 not come again …in sorrow

One of the reasons Paul had changed his plans was that he was frankly tired of all the grief that came from the confrontations.

Because of that, he had decided to head north from Ephesus to Troas, then on to Macedonia where he was writing from (possibly from Philippi).

:2 For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?

:2 who is he who makes me glad

Paul is hoping that when he visits Corinth next time, he might receive some encouragement instead of grief from the people.

If Paul is continually making them sad, then who will be there to encourage him when he arrives?

(2 Corinthians 2:2 NLT) For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I have grieved.

2:3-11 Restoration

:3 And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.

:3 I wrote this very thing

Paul had written his last letter to them rather than visit them because he wanted to wait and visit them under better circumstances.  Rather than coming and having to be heavy handed with them, he wanted them have a chance to work out their problems first and then he could visit them with joy.

:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.

:4 out of much affliction and anguish of heart

afflictionthlipsis – pressing together, pressure; oppression, affliction

anguishsunoche – a holding together, a narrowing; distress

The words “affliction” and “anguish” are very similar.  Both speak of “pressure”, of feeling squished.

In 1Corinthians, it wasn’t easy for Paul to confront the Corinthians about some of their problems.

In particular, one man had been in an immoral relationship with his step mom (1Cor. 5)

Some have suggested that there is a missing “sorrowful letter” that Paul had written and had been lost.  I believe Paul is talking about 1Corinthians where he dealt with the man who was in an immoral relationship with his step mom (1Cor. 5).


Tough Love

We have this mistaken notion of love that if I love someone, I will never cause them to be offended, or have their feelings hurt.
We think that love means you let them live their life however they want because we are not supposed to “judge” one another.
We think that if we love someone, then we should let them just continue to hurt us and other people because that’s what it means to “turn the other cheek”.
I’d like to suggest that we’ve missed the bigger picture of what love is all about.
How about this phrase:  Love wants the best for others.
Would you agree with that definition?  I would.
If I love someone with a healthy love, then I need to realize that allowing that person to continue to do wrong things, and/or to hurt other people, is not really love.
Solomon wrote,

(Proverbs 27:6 NKJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Sometimes love has to do the hard thing – something that will cost you affliction and anguish.

I remember hearing of a time when Pastor Chuck went to visit a friend who he found out had had an affair.  Chuck went to lecture the man, but all he could do was weep.  Nothing was ever said.  Just tears.  It was the thing that ended up breaking the man and bringing him back to the Lord.

If you confront people, but there’s no sense of “anguish” to you, perhaps you need to rethink what you’re doing.
When you care about someone who is continually doing wrong things, there may be a time when you put your foot down, or maybe step away from them and allow them to experience the consequence of their sin.
Some people reach this point out of frustration which turns to anger.
But don’t do it out of anger, do it out of love.

If you learn to put your foot down in love, then you don’t build up resentment and hatred towards the other person.

If you learn to take the “tough” line out of love, then there is chance at restoration some day in some form.

Paul wrote,

(Ephesians 4:15 NKJV) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Some people will need to hit a very difficult “bottom” before they even consider changing.
Some people may need to go through divorce, lose their job, lose their family, or even end up in jail before they realize they need to get serious about change.
Though those are all “bad” things, they are not that bad if they cause a person to turn around.
At church we will occasionally have to put some kinds of limits on folks when we are aware of areas of undealt with sin.
We may have to tell a person that they cannot serve in the Children’s ministry because they are living with their boyfriend.

That’s never meant to be a sort of “punishment” or establishing a class of people who are “better” than others.

It’s always meant to get their attention to show them that we are serious about what it means to follow Jesus.

We don’t take the things the Bible says as mere “suggestions” for a better life.  We take them seriously as how we are to live.

:5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.

:5 but all of you to some extent

The discipline that had been enacted in the church at Corinth wasn’t because Paul’s feelings had been hurt.

Open, unrepentant sin affects the whole church.  Paul wrote,

(1 Corinthians 5:6b NKJV) Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
When we see others living rebellious lives and seemingly without consequence, there is something evil inside us that says, “Well why can’t I do that too?”

:6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,

:6 This punishment …is sufficient


When it’s enough

How do you know when the “punishment” is enough?
I believe Paul is talking about the man that he brought discipline upon in 1Corinthians 5.
Paul ordered this person cast out of the church, turning them over to Satan.
Paul is now saying that the person has paid enough.  He’s saying that the person has learned their lesson.
Paul doesn’t say the punishment is “enough” because it’s been a sorrowful thing.
Paul is saying this because the man had truly repented.  We see this when we get to 2Corinthians 7.  The punishment was “sufficient” because it had brought repentance.
(2 Corinthians 7:9–11 NLT) —9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.
It is not uncommon for us to give up on discipline too quickly.

When you discipline your child, you will find that they will learn at some time how to play on your sympathy.

A child will learn to cry just enough to get you to release them from their “time out”.

The goal of discipline is not just to produce tears, the goal is to produce a change in behavior.
With a child, the goal is hear them communicate to you that they understand what they did is wrong.

:7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

:8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

:7 forgive and comfort


Goal:  Restoration

Sometimes we get confused about why we need to take hard measures against someone.
When we’ve waited too long to begin some sort of “discipline”, we can end up acting out of anger and frustration.
When discipline comes out of anger, the goal is simply to “punish” the other person, to let them have what they “deserve”.
God’s goal in discipline is for us to turn our lives around and follow Him.
(Hebrews 12:11 NKJV) Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s goal for discipline is “righteousness”, learning to live correctly.

Paul wrote,
(Galatians 6:1 NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

The goal is restoration, and ought to be done with gentleness.

I believe that for the Corinthians, this was the situation involving the man who had been sleeping with his stepmom. (1Cor. 5).

:9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.

:9 obedient in all things


Picking and choosing

One of Paul’s reasons as to why he wrote them instead of visiting them was to “test” them to see just how serious they were about following the Lord.
I’m sure that to some extent we all do this, but sometimes I am just amazed at how “selective” we can get when it comes to obeying the Lord.
Sometimes we think we “can’t” obey Him.
I understand a little about the mentality of the person who is caught in a serious addiction.
You’ve tried to stop, and yet you keep doing that same thing over and over again.
You’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply impossible to do the right thing.

I’ve got a friend who graciously got permission for me to listen to some of the messages at a recent conference for those who are in SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) and S-Anon (those who are married or related to sexaholics).

I’ve heard some stories about people who were caught in a long term serious addiction for years.  And when they hit bottom and reached out for help, and began to “work their program”, they actually have achieved what they call “sobriety” (no sex with self or any other person other than spouse) for many years.

If you’ve told yourself you could never stop, you are wrong. 

It may be difficult and it may require some serious effort on your part, but it is possible.

Talk to me.  I know people.

Sometimes we just don’t “want” to obey Him.
I think this is often the case.
We just don’t want to do what God is saying.  We “pick and choose” what we want to obey.

I pray that this is none of you.

:10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,

:11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

:11 lest Satan should take advantage


Satan’s strategies

There was a British subject named Major William Martin, who is buried near Huelvo on the southern coast of Spain.  Martin never knew the great contribution he made to the Allied success in the Second World War, especially in Sicily, because he died of pneumonia in the foggy dampness of England before he ever saw the battle front.  The Allies had invaded North Africa.  The next logical step was Sicily.
Knowing the Germans calculated this, the Allies determined to outfox them.  One dark night, an Allied submarine came to the surface just off the coast of Spain and put Martin's body out to sea in a rubber raft with an oar.  In his pocket were secret documents indicating the Allied forces would strike next in Greece and Sardinia.
Major Martin's body washed ashore, and Axis intelligence operatives soon found him, thinking he had crashed at sea.  They passed the secret documents through Axis hands all the way to Hitler's headquarters.  So while Allied forces moved toward Sicily, thousands and thousands of German troops moved on to Greece and Sardinia--where the battle wasn't.

-- Vialo Weis, Ardmore, Oklahoma.  Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 3.

The point is that Satan can get us distracted to be thinking that attacks are going to come from one place, when they come from a different place.

We can think that we are protecting our church from “sinners” by distancing ourselves from some people, when in fact there comes a time when we are opening ourselves up to Satan’s strategies.

Peter wrote,
(1 Peter 5:8 NKJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

We have an adversary, and how we handle things like “discipline” can determine whether or not Satan wins.

Some of Satan’s strategies that are involved with the situation Paul is writing about include …
A wolf doesn’t tend to attack an entire flock, he will drive one of the sheep from the flock and then attack.
If the “sheep” is ready to return to the flock, the flock needs to welcome that person back so they aren’t open prey to the wolves.
Satan is known as the “accuser” of the brethren.

(Revelation 12:10b NKJV) …for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night…

One of Satan’s tactics is heap condemnation on people to the point where they feel worthless and think they’re unable to come back to God.
Yet the Bible says,

(Romans 8:1 NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…

When we don’t recognize that a person has repented, and we don’t welcome them back into the church, Satan can use that to drive the person away from God.

2:12-17 Triumph in Christ

:12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,

:13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.

:12 a door was opened to me

God had opened up some opportunities for Paul to do ministry in Troas, yet while he was there, he was also waiting for his buddy Titus to show up and give him an update on what was going on in Corinth.

Saul became so unsettled that he decided to move on to Macedonia, hoping to reconnect with Titus.

We’ve talked about “open doors” in relation to how God leads us.

Paul had written in his first letter to Corinth, about the opportunities that had presented themselves in Ephesus, even with all the trouble he was having.
(1 Corinthians 16:9 NKJV) For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

We talked about not confusing difficulties (adversaries) with the openness of the doors in front of us.

Not every “open door” is something we need to be going through.

Paul had an open door in Troas, but he still decided to go on to Macedonia because of this sense of “unrest” in his spirit.

:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

:14 leads us in triumph

leads in triumphthriambeuo – to triumph, to celebrate a triumph

The Romans had a traditional parade to celebrate the victory of a conquering general returning from his battles.

The “triumph” would only be celebrated if the general had killed at least 5,000 enemy soldiers and gained new territory for Rome.
The commander would lead the procession in a golden chariot, surrounded by his officers.
The commander’s sons would follow his chariot, sharing in the victory even if they hadn’t fought in the battle.
The parade would include a display of the spoils of war, including captive enemy soldiers, sometimes even dead corpses.
The procession would take a special route ending in the Circus Maximus, where the captives would entertain the people by fighting enemy beasts.
The Roman priests would also be in the parade burning incense to pay tribute to the victorious army.
It was a special holiday for the citizens of Rome to celebrate their general’s victory.

This is from an HBO series on Rome, a “triumph” parade after Octavian (Caesar Augustus) defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

Video: HBO – Rome – Octavian’s Triumph

In looking at the picture Paul is painting,

Jesus is the general who has won the victory.
We might be among His army, or we might just be seen as His sons who didn’t fight, or perhaps we are the captives.
Paul hints we could even be like the priests burning incense, creating a fragrance everywhere we go, that people smell and relate to Jesus Christ.


He knows how to lead me

Paul’s decision making process has been called into question.
But in the bottom line, Jesus knows how to lead.
Jesus knew that Paul needed to get to Philippi, and he got him there.
Perhaps we should be a little less critical of folks who are sincerely trying to follow Jesus, even if it looks like they’re making mistakes.


It’s His triumph

Jesus is the one who is victorious.
He conquered sin and death when He died and rose again.
The “addict” has to come to the place where he/she learns to rely on a “higher power”.
There really is only one.  Jesus.
He has won the battle over sin and over Satan.
We are just along for the ride.
When you experience a victory in your life, keep in mind whose victory it really is.

:15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

:16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

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

:17 peddling the word of God

peddlingkapeleuo to be a retailer, to peddle; to make money by selling anything

There are people (like preachers) who “make their living” by being a Christian.
It’s not uncommon for us preachers to fall into this category.

For some people, “church” is a solely a business, and being successful is all about being financially successful.

Though this might be a trap to fall into if you are pastoring a mega-church, where you can fall into the trap of needing to count nickels and noses, it’s not just mega-church pastors who get caught into thinking of the gospel as a business.
Even us small church pastors can struggle with this, especially when the church finances go through difficult times.

:17 but as of sincerity

sincerityeilikrinea (“sun” + “judge”) – purity, sincerity

The word paints a picture of something brought out into the sunlight to get a better look at it.
(2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT) You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.

:16 aroma of death … life

God works in us to produce a “fragrance” to others around us.

Video:  Kids Smell the Darndest Things


How do you smell?

People smell your fragrance differently depending on whether they are believers or unbelievers.
Jesus said,
(Matthew 16:24–25 NKJV) —24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
If we are living our lives correctly, then all an unbeliever can “smell” is death.

That see that we have taken up our cross and have learned to die to ourselves.

To some people, you’re going to stink.

The believers smell something different.

They know that we have found new life in Jesus Christ.

Be careful you don’t get it backwards and smell like you’re “alive” to the unbelievers and “dead” to the believers.