Online Bible Commentary
Know the Love
2 Corinthians 1:23 Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. 24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. 2:1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. 2 For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me? 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. 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. (NKJV)
On his third missionary journey, after ministering in Ephesus for two years and three months, the Apostle Paul left for Macedonia in May, A.D. 56. In Macedonia he visited churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
Paul was in Macedonia from June to November of A.D. 56. It was there that he wrote the letter of 2nd Corinthians, likely in September and October of A.D. 56.
This letter was written to the church at Corinth, Greece, in response to events happening in the church there. While Paul was in Macedonia Titus came to him from Corinth with news from the church.
Titus reported that the church in Corinth was beset by false teachers. These false teachers were undermining Paul’s teachings and questioning his apostolic authority, and so Paul responded with this letter. He began the letter by attempting to reaffirm his apostolic authority.
Some of the criticism directed towards Paul was that he had changed his travel itinerary. Initially Paul intended to travel to Corinth from Ephesus, but here he is now in Macedonia and writing them a letter instead of actually being there with them in Corinth.
In this passage, Paul explains why he changed his travel itinerary. He begins with a common pledge of one who is telling the truth “I call God as witness against my soul” (v. 23a). He then states that the reason that he did not come as planned was “to spare you” (v. 23b).
He is not intending to lord it over them, to have “dominion over your faith” (v. 24a). Instead he is writing just as another “fellow worker” and so that they may have “joy” (v. 24b). He knows that they are standing firm in their “faith”. He is not intending to question their faith (v. 24c).
The reason he did not come at this time is that he did not want to make another painful visit to the church, “to come again to you in sorrow” (v. 1a). Apparently, Paul had made a special visit to the church during his stay in Ephesus, and it was a painful visit.
He had to deal with a discipline matter, which was leading to sin within the church. He had to rebuke those in the church, who had followed one of the false teachers. Paul did not like having to rebuke them, for it made them “sorrowful”, which meant that they would not make him “glad” when he next came to visit (v. 2).
So, Paul is writing, instead of visiting, in the hope that the people will turn from their sin before his next visit. He clearly wishes his next visit to be a good visit (v. 3).
Paul completes this passage by telling them that he rebukes them 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” (v. 4).
Nobody enjoys bringing the hard messages, the messages that need to be heard. People do not want to hear about their sin. No one does. We would all rather go about our lives not having to think about sin. We get upset when someone confronts us about our sin.
Even when we are guilty of sin, we don’t want to be told about it. We get offended, and lash out with “who are you to judge me when you also sin.”
However, Christians are called to rebuke other Christians when they sin, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training” (2 Timothy 3:16). If we must rebuke, like Paul, we hope that they might know the love we have for them.