Swallowed Up with Too Much Sorrow

2 Corinthians 2:5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent--not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 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. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 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. (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.

After explaining why he had changed his travel itinerary in the previous passage, in this passage Paul now addresses the fate of his accuser or accusers. Some believe that Paul is addressing the adulterer that he wrote of in 1 Corinthians 5:1.

However, the context, both before and after this passage, would seem to rule out that reference. Paul is referring here to one or more false teachers who have questioned his apostolic authority and deceived the Corinthian believers with a false gospel, a gospel different than Paul’s gospel.

He states that “if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent” (v. 5a). Paul does not want to make this about him, and how he has been criticized. Instead, he wants the Corinthian believers to understand that the false teacher has, more importantly, deceived them.

Paul adds that the church should “not to be too severe” with the false teachers (v. 5b). The punishment of such false teachers would have been excommunication from the church.

“This punishment…was inflicted by the majority” (v. 6a). The majority had excommunicated the false teachers, which was all that was needed for such censure by the church. Church decisions are made by vote and not all are required to agree, although that is preferable.

The excommunication was “sufficient” as punishment (v. 6b). Now, Paul is calling for the church to “forgive and comfort him” (v. 7a). Paul would only suggest this if those involved showed remorse and repented of their actions. Such remorse and repentance would cause one to be in need of forgiveness and comfort from those whom he had offended.

Paul did not want the offenders to be “swallowed up with too much sorrow” (v. 7b). They had been punished and they had shown remorse and repentance.

Paul also urged the church “to reaffirm your love to him” (v. 8). They should forgive the offenders and display Christian love towards them.

Paul reminds the church that he has previously written to them of staying obedient to God and this is one of the tests of such obedience, to be “obedient in all things” (v. 9). Paul seems to be referring to a lost letter, his third to the Corinthians. This lost letter, referred to in verse 3 of this chapter, rebuked the church and called for their obedience.

Paul assures the church that he joins them in their forgiveness of the false teachers (v. 10a). He has forgiven them “for your sakes in the presence of Christ” (v. 10b).

We forgive others because Christ first forgave us. We would betray Christ’s forgiveness of us if we did not forgive others.

Christ forgave us upon our remorse and repentance. Paul is calling for forgiveness here under the same circumstances.  

We also forgive other Christians so that Satan may not have his way in the church (v. 11a). Satan would use such division in the church to “take advantage”, to destroy church unity.

Paul concludes this passage by proclaiming that “we are not ignorant” of the “devices” of Satan (v. 11b). We Christians know of the devices of Satan.

We know that Satan comes to kill and destroy. He exists to destroy those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The closer we get to Christ the more Satan tries to pull us away. Pastors and strong Christians are his main targets. He uses those under his influence to do his work.

Evil in the world comes from Satan and those under his influence. There is evil everywhere in the world, even in some churches.

Those who are swallowed up with too much sorrow are easy pickings for Satan. We can remedy this through our forgiveness. .

Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary