Second Corinthians 2





  1. Having concluded the first chapter with a reason for not visiting Corinth (1:23-24), Paul gives further reasons (2:1-11).
  2. One of the best explanations about preaching the gospel is found here – the gospel does not bring eternal life (2:14-17).

Outline of Chapter 2:

1-4 Further explanation for not visiting.

5-8 Restoration of excluded fornicator.

9-11 Purpose for this epistle.

12-13 Recent itinerary and preaching.

14-17 Total triumph of pure gospel preaching.

2:1 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.

  1. He ended chapter one defending his deferred visit out of mercy for their many problems (1:23-24).
    1. He was righteously angry enough after the first epistle to have come with an apostolic rod!
    2. He was waiting for their correction of the problems, so he would not have to visit with authority.
  2. He then added further explanation for not visiting yet – his desire to come only in joy and gladness.
    1. Paul made a “personal decision” that he would wait to see a repentant church with gladness.
    2. Every faithful and true minister dislikes sorrow for a church’s sins and the heaviness of rebuke.
    3. Like a good father, Paul would so much rather have joy and peace with his children, not grief

2:2 For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?

  1. Paul and others loved visiting churches for the mutual comfort and joy in the gospel (Acts 11:23; Romans 1:12; 15:24,32; II Timothy 1:4; II John 1:4,12; III John 1:3-4).
  2. If Paul had visited in apostolic authority to correct their many errors, he would have made the very party sad by whom he wished to be made glad. He would deny himself the pleasure of the church.
  3. Every wise father and pastor will observe and reflect on the prudent reasons for Paul’s wise choices.

2:3 And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all

  1. Paul had written his rebuke to them rather than visit them, so the visit could be much more pleasant, if they would heed his instructions, reproofs, and warnings, and correct their numerous problems.
    1. Paul “wrote this same” to them; it does not say, “I write this same” unto them, as in this epistle.
    2. Paul is referring to his first epistle, where he gave remedies and expressed reluctance to chasten.
    3. The next verse clearly indicates that Paul was referring to his first epistle written in great grief
  2. He had written clearly enough with threats of coming in apostolic judgment (I Cor 4:18-21; 5:1-13).
  3. Paul desired Corinth to correct their errors by his first epistle, so his second visit could be joyful.
  4. Paul was confident in the most part of the church that considered his apostolic joy to be their joy.

2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.

  1. Paul’s first epistle to Corinth, filled with reproofs and corrections, was sent in affliction and anguish.
    1. Paul’s intent was not merely to be authoritative and correct them, but to save them (7:8-11).
    2. Parents may say and believe their words before child discipline, “This hurts me more than you.”
    3. To be like the Most High, those in power cannot afflict or grieve their subjects arbitrarily; there must be a just and holy cause (Lam 3:33; Isaiah 28:21; Ezek 18:32; 33:11; Heb 12:9-10).
  2. His purpose was not merely to grieve or rebuke them, but to show his great ministerial love for them.
    1. All ministers should learn here to dislike and resent chastening and discipline to be like Paul.
    2. If ministerial authority must be exercised, then it should be done fully, but yet done with grief.
    3. Fathers should make certain that their children know their great love in correcting their children.

2:5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all

  1. Paul’s affliction and grief in the first epistle was in this context by the single incestuous fornicator.
    1. An entire chapter in the first epistle is dedicated to the punishment of this sinner (I Cor 5:1-13).
    2. The following verses indicate clearly that this is Paul’s line of reasoning about “any” and “he.”
  2. Paul had only been grieved in part, in that he was not equally upset with the whole church, but primarily with the incestuous fornicator and his party only.
  3. Paul knew that not all the church was as guilty as the fornicator, so he guarded himself against extreme measures and taking out excessive judgment on the rest of the church.

2:6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.

  1. Paul calls for an end to the church discipline brought against the incestuous fornicator by the church.
    1. Paul had commanded his exclusion from their communion and companionship (I Cor 5:1-13).
    2. The punishment he had endured was enough for the case, and they should now end it as a church.
    3. The following verse indicates that he was approaching a point of being swallowed up with grief.
  2. Here is where we obtain apostolic direction for receiving repenting brothers back into fellowship.
    1. Exclusion is a punishment, and it is a severe one; let all effeminate compromises take notice.
    2. It is more than losing communion; it is also losing friends (Rom 16:17-18; II Thess 3:6,14-15).
    3. It is less than Rome and her barbarian torture of heretics, imprisonment, banishment, or death.
    4. The demonstrative “such” indicates that we are to follow similar procedures for similar sinners.
    5. There are more than forty sins similar to fornication (I Cor 5:11:6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; etc., etc.).
  3. Church judgment is a congregational ordinance, which must be unanimous in following Jesus Christ.
    1. The use of the word “many” does not imply a mere quorum or any other minority or majority.
    2. The apostle gave the law for Christ’s churches being of one mind in judgment (I Cor 1:10).
    3. Church discipline is not a ministerial ordinance, but rather an act of the whole church (I Cor 5:4).

2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

  1. Opposite of the way you have been treating him, now it is time for forgiveness, comfort, and love.
    1. From these words, we understand the fornicator was not forgiven, comforted, or loved during his time of exclusion and shunning. It was now time to specifically and specially do all three.
    2. Gentleness and compromise do not deter sinners or protect Christ’s churches, in spite of what seeker sensitive types may think. The church of the old covenant would have stoned him!
  2. Godly ministers will manage the discipline of church members to find the righteous length of time.
    1. The minimum must establish repentance, be a punishment, and clear the party (II Cor 7:10-11).
    2. The maximum must be short of discouraging the repentant brother and driving him to despair.
    3. The wisdom required is little more than that required of every father with children (Col 3:21).
  3. The minimum time for exclusion of one year for any offence cannot be taught from this passage.

2:8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

  1. In contrast to his earlier request for his exclusion, he now calls for his full restoration (I Cor 5:1-13).
  2. The clear conclusion, “wherefore,” is based on sufficient punishment and avoiding too much grief
  3. If the angels of God rejoice over a sinner that repents, then a church should rejoice (Luke 15:7,10)!
    1. It should be one of their most sublime moments on earth to show the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
    2. Let the same zeal as the prodigal’s father drive the celebration of restoration (Luke 15:22-24).
    3. If anyone resents a celebration over a repenting sinner, look out (Luke 5:29-32; 15:1-3; 18:9-14)!

2:9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.

  1. Having given reasons for writing his first epistle and delaying a visit, he now gives a further reason.
    1. The adverb “also” connects us to previous reasons given for the first epistle, not the second.
    2. He had written and not visited in order to spare them from his apostolic authority (1:23-24).
    3. He had written and not visited in order to give them opportunity to repent and reform (2:3).
    4. He had written and not visited in order to prove his love of them through a harsh epistle (2:4).
    5. He now explains that his epistle had given them an opportunity to prove their fidelity to Christ.
  2. Having confirmed their obedience in excluding the fornicator, he then called for his full restoration.

2:10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

  1. Paul confirmed his agreement with their forgiveness toward the fornicator, as in the place of Christ.
    1. He made a general rule of approving their forgiveness, though the fornicator was in context.
    2. And he also pointed out that he approved the forgiveness for the benefit of the whole church.
  2. The switch from the present tense, subjunctive mood to the past tense, indicative is right (I Cor 5:3).
    1. Paul used a similar style in calling for his exclusion: he had already passed apostolic judgment.
    2. He is being as thorough as possible in sanctioning their forgiveness by his apostolic authority.

2:11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

  1. Here is a text often quoted without its context, which makes it a pretext or at best a very weak text.
  2. How would Satan get an advantage of the church for not forgiving the repentant, excluded brother?
    1. He could certainly destroy the sinner’s heart through despair in turning away from Christ (2:7).
    2. The purpose of exclusion and shunning is not their destruction, but rather salvation (I Cor 5:5).
    3. Satan could use excessive harshness in church discipline to get advantage of the whole church.
    4. Bitterness and lack of mercy are trademarks of the murderous and merciless devil (John 8:44).
    5. Excessive judgment and harsh treatment of sinners can be as destructive as ungodly compromise.
    6. It is a spiritual warfare that we are fighting, and a lack of forgiveness gives place to the devil.

2:12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

  1. Paul made a definite transition from the restoration of the fornicator to glorify gospel preaching.
  2. The delay in visiting Corinth had not been wasted, for God had used him well in the city of Troas.
  3. God can open (1) doors of opportunity to preach, (2) liberty in doing so, and/or (3) hearts of hearers.
  4. In spite of the open door at Troas, he was greatly affected by not hearing from Titus about Corinth.
  5. The welfare of each church and all the churches were important enough to Paul to cause this care.
  6. Paul confirms his great affection and care for the church at Corinth by these two transitional verses.

2:13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

  1. In spite of the open door at Troas, Paul was greatly affected by not hearing from Titus about Corinth.
  2. Leaving a blessed situation in Troas, Paul went to Macedonia to discover how Corinth was reacting.
  3. He did encounter Titus there, where he received much comfort by a good report from Corinth (7:6).
  4. Paul makes repeated references to Titus and Corinth in this epistle (7:6,13-14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18).

2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

  1. Let us get the sense down clearly from this opening text of this section. God is the blessed source of our constant triumph in preaching the gospel, because we present the true knowledge of the true and living God and His Son Jesus Christ in every place we preach.
  2. God is to get all the praise for this incense by the gospel, for the work is of God (I Cor 2:1-5).
  3. Paul had a door opened with success at Troas (2:12), but he had great opposition in Macedonia (7:5).
  4. The connection is a reflection on his preaching itinerary and the introduction of a new topic.
  5. The preaching of the gospel, which is the witness of Jesus Christ, is a savour to God in every place.
  6. This is a ministerial text, in that Paul used the plural pronoun “us” for preachers of the word (2:17).
  7. The gospel of Christ properly preached creates a manifest division and display of human hearts.
  8. God is blessed, as by incense, with the preaching of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ in every place.
  9. Whether in Ephesus, Corinth, Troas, or Macedonia, God caused all preaching to be triumphant.
  10. Making manifest is revealing the hearts of men by confronting them with the pure gospel of Christ (Luke 2:34-35; I John 2:19; many others).
  11. The choice was simple: fall on Christ and be broken, or He will grind you to powder (Matt 21:44).
  12. The manifest declaration is explained in the next chapter with the epistles of Corinthians written by God.

2:15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

  1. God’ s true ministers, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, are a sweet savour to God in all hearers.
  2. The savour is not to the saved or perishing, but rather it is to God because of the saved or perishing.
  3. Gospel preachers are a sweet aroma to God of Jesus Christ, for they preach Him to all kinds of men.
  4. The savour “in them that are saved” is a not savour of them that are saved by our preaching; but it is a savour of them that are already saved by the power of God (John 8:47; Acts 13:48; I Cor 1:18,24).
  5. God is honored by the smoke of the torment of his enemies arising from hell (Rev 14:10; 19:3).

2:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient/or these things?

  1. Some judge themselves unworthy of eternal life: only the elect believe the gospel (Acts 13:46-48).
  2. God’s ministers labor with the gospel; but God must give the increase (I Cor 3:5-9).
  3. The preaching of the cross is foolishness to the lost (I Cor 1:18,22-24; 2:14-15; II Cor 4:3-4).
  4. Until a man is of God, he cannot hear the gospel (John 3:3; 8:47; 10:26).
  5. The gospel only saves in a practical way of imparting knowledge to the saved man (I Cor 1:21).
  6. No man will ever be sent to hell without having had opportunities to recognize God (Rom 1:20).
  7. We are bound to give thanks always for the Spirit and the truth of the gospel (II Thess 2:13).
  8. Until God grants repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, men cannot repent (II Tim 2:24-26).
  9. Paul loved to preach the gospel to saved saints, for they could truly benefit by it (Rom 1:8-17).
  10. The gospel is never the savour to God of death unto life, as 99% of people think and preach today.
  11. It is the savour of life unto life in them that are saved, because they manifest they were already alive.
  12. It is the savour of death unto death in the lost, because they manifest they were already lost.
  13. The savour of “death unto death” is the revealing of a dead soul by a dead reaction of a rebel.
  14. The Jews preferred a sign; the Greeks preferred wisdom; but the called Jesus Christ (I Cor 1:22-24).
  15. The gospel brings life and immortality to light; it does not bring life and immortality (II Tim 1:9-10).
  16. The sufficiency is the comprehension or ability of God that makes the difference in a man’s ministerial labors, which Paul teaches elsewhere and in the following context (I Cor 1:22-24; 2:14-15;II Cor 3:1-6; 4:3-4; II Tim 2:24-26).
  17. The Corinthians were proof of God’s sufficiency in writing in their hearts and making Paul an able minister.

2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

  1. Many have seen the results and modified the message to make the lost feel and look like the saved.
  2. Here are the seeker sensitive types with their casual worship, compromising doctrine, and so forth.
  3. Here are the Bible revisers and their annual model changeovers to appeal to more and more lost.
    1. It is amazing that many think earlier manuscripts must be purer, because corruption came later!
    2. These faithless skeptics will ignore 500 fruitful manuscripts to adore 1 earlier fruitless one.
    3. The case for Vaticanus and Sinaiticus fall into this category of profane reasoning.
  4. There is no cultural or environmental change that will cause the lost to get saved (Is 26:10).
  5. There is no appeal, argument, or illustration that will cause the lost to get saved (Luke 16:31).
  6. Therefore, Paul preached without man’s wisdom to leave the matter in God’s hands (I Cor 2:1-5).
  7. It is amazing that many think the earlier manuscripts must be purer, because corruption came later!


  1. There are practical lessons by Paul’s example of wise and prudent dealing with this church (2:1-4).
  2. There is instruction for church practice in forgiving and restoring repentant, excluded members (2:5-11).
  3. There is a lesson in the sovereignty of God in how the gospel is received and should not be altered (2:12-17).

For Further Study:

  1. The sermon outline, “Why Preach the Gospel?” which details the purpose and effect of gospel preaching.
  2. The sermon outline, “Why No Invitations?” which condemns the recent and popular invention by Finney.