We can sense the sensitivity of the apostle Paul in this chapter – not wanting to make another visit to Corinth. He was afraid of the pain it would cause the church. Paul already had made a “painful visit” to the church. It pained the church, and it seemed to pain Paul himself.
And Paul asked, “Who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?” We can see Paul’s love for the church – even this difficult church in Corinth. If he were to cause the church pain, it would pain Paul. And Paul’s only consolation could come from the church, by reconciling with them. The only way he would feel better about things is if he somehow were to be able to make peace with the church, or to hear something encouraging about the church.
Paul had written them a letter with much “affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” He wrote it out of love. We can understand that both the letter and the “painful visit” dealt with some difficult topics in the church. I would assume there was some moral controversy in the works there, and Paul was trying to lead the church through it.
And the whole thing was simply painful for everyone involved.
And now Paul was hoping the church could see that everything he did and said was done out of his love for the church. He even wanted the church to offer forgiveness to a church member that it had to discipline. We don’t know the details of what this church member had done, although we can speculate.
The point, though, is the church – any church – always should strive for reconciliation. It always should share love. The idea always is to build up the church. And if hard things need to be said and done, we ought to do those hard things and then continue to work toward unity and love.
Paul noted that a lack of forgiveness puts the church – and any individual Christian – in a vulnerable position as it relates to the schemes of Satan. We can find other places in Paul’s letters where bitterness and a lack of forgiveness are key tools in the work of Satan. We must beware so we never let Satan get a foothold in our lives.
Paul had gone to Troas to preach the gospel. He had an open door to preach there. But Paul’s heart really was wondering how things were going in Corinth. Paul’s co-worker Titus had gone to Corinth recently, and Paul was looking for Titus to get a report about the church there. But Titus wasn’t in Troas, so Paul moved on to Macedonia, looking for him.
Did he eventually find Titus? We’ll find out in a few chapters.
In the meantime, Paul tackled some other subjects in his letter to Corinth. First, he describes himself as part of a “procession” led by Christ. Roman military generals would have triumphal processions after winning battles. They would bring their captured enemies into the city with them. They would burn incense, and there would be a great celebration.
Paul said he and the apostles lived as if they were in a triumphal procession led by Christ. Were the apostles the conquerers or the captives in that procession? You can be the judge. But the fact of the matter is Paul and the apostles were like the “aroma of Christ” to those being saved and to those perishing.
Have you ever tried to share the gospel with someone, only to be shut down in a highly negative way? Or have you ever shared the gospel with someone, only to be embraced with open arms and a willing heart? Different people respond differently to gospel message – and to its messengers. To some, we will be a welcome sight (or aroma). To others, we may be just the opposite – as sad as that is.
But for Paul and Titus and the others – they were not “peddlers” of God’s word. That is, they didn’t share it for financial gain. They shared it with “sincerity.” They honestly wanted to see people come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This chapter tells us something about life in the church (again) and about our lives in the world. We should work as hard as we can to bring unity to the church and to show our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we should share the gospel with the world – recognizing some will embrace the message and some will not. We just sincerely share the word of God.