Unity & Restoration

2 Corinthians 2 is a continuation of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth after making a disciplinary visit to them. He is still full of pain and is expressing his deep love for them, even to the point of telling them he wrote to them with an anguished heart full of tears. He expresses his compassion to their pain as he navigates through the repair process in his relationship with this church that he started. From Paul’s writing it sounds like there was one particular person among them that was responsible for causing the division and the erroneous teaching in the church that Paul had been talking about in his previous letter. Since Paul is obviously writing to the church, they all know what took place during his visit, but reading his letter from our perspective feels very much like we are observing the back end of a conversation. We weren’t there for Paul’s visit, but since we read his previous letter, we know enough about what was going on in the church before he got there, and we know that Paul came to administer some authoritative church discipline as the founding apostle. We also know from Paul’s previous letter to the church (1 Corinthians) that there were prideful teachers among them teaching erroneous doctrine and leading many from the church back into sin and embracing the idea of living a duplicitous life. Paul had called them out for claiming to be Christ-followers while blurring the lines so far that they were engaged in blatant sin, and teaching this “everything is permissible” doctrine to the people and leading them off course. This same teacher or teachers who were being financially supported by the church were also the divisive ones Paul spoke of who were making an issue out of which leaders the people were following, trying to discredit Paul as a legitimate apostle because of his choice to work for his own needs instead of using his apostolic rights to burden the church. It may have been one leader, and it may have been a few, but from this letter it appears that the church disciplined one particular man, and now Paul was calling for them to forgive him and affirm their love for him so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed in his grief. Paul told them that if they forgive him, so does he and cautioned them at the importance of this man’s restoration so that Satan is not able to use this as an opportunity to divide. The most important thing out of this was the restoration of unity in the church. Paul reminded them (and us) that what happens with us in the church doesn’t just happen in private. It’s put on display for all to see. The world is watching how we live, how we respond to things, how we treat each other, how we love (even and especially in times of discipline) and whether we are being honest and sincere in our walk and are authentically living out what we say we believe. Paul ends this part of his letter by describing the church as a fragrance of Christ to the world. To those who are perishing, we are like the smell of death, but to those being saved we are an aroma of life because we are teaching and living out the true gospel out of sincerity and not selling it like a cheap gimmick.

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