Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.3. His Deep Exercise Concerning Them. Yet Overcoming.
In the previous chapter we read the reason why he had not gone to Corinth. “To spare you I came not to Corinth “ (2Corinthians 1:23). He feared, that on account of their deplorable condition; exercising his God-given apostolic authority, he might appear as dominating over them. He had determined that he would not come again to them with sorrow. He might have hastened to Corinth with a rod (1Corinthians 4:21), but he exercised patience and had waited, no doubt with much prayer to God, for the gracious effect of the first Epistle he had sent unto them. In all these statements so humble, so loving and so patient, we have the love exemplified which is described in the previous epistle (Chapter 13). He was not easily provoked; he hoped all things and endured all things. He also tells them in what state of mind he was in when he wrote his first Epistle. What deep soul exercise the fourth verse reveals! He was so much concerned that he wrote out of much affliction and agony of heart, while his tears flowed freely. But it was not done to grieve them; love for them was the only motive, “that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly towards you.”
The case of the transgressor whose wicked deed had been exposed and rebuked in the first Epistle (1Corinthians 5:1-13), whose discipline had been demanded by the Apostle, is taken up first. What had grieved him had grieved them also. This they had shown by the way in which they had treated this brother. Titus had brought him the information that they had acted and the transgressor had been put away from fellowship. He also must have told Paul of his deep and true repentance. He therefore exhorts them to receive him again and comfort him, who was in grave danger of being swallowed up with much sorrow on account of the discipline from the side of the mass of Christians. He tells them to assure this weak brother, who had been restored, of their own love, and while they had forgiven him, he also forgave. In assuring the disciplined brother of their love they would thereby prove their obedience in all things. They had previously shown their obedience by judging the evil doer for his sin. “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.” The brother in question who had been delivered to Satan was in danger of being driven to despair, and in this way Satan might get an advantage over them. This might have resulted in bringing about a division between the Apostle and the Corinthians. The course pursued by the apostle in forgiving love, prevented this.
When the Apostle came to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ, there was a door opened unto him by the Lord. His great business was to preach the Gospel, and the Lord had manifested His approval by opening a door. Yet Paul was restless. He had expected to meet Titus to receive the anxiously awaited news from Corinth. So he did not enter the door which the Lord opened to preach the Gospel, but he hastened to Macedonia. His own anxiety and restless haste were weaknesses. The door opened for service should have made him tarry at Troas to preach that Gospel, which he loved so well. Then, in due time, the Lord would have led Titus to him. From all this the Corinthians could learn his great love for them and his deep anxiety and concern. And yet his conscience must have been troubled in having lost so great an opportunity to preach the Gospel. Surely he was in a very trying position as a servant of Christ. On the one hand he valued the Gospel and loved to preach it, and on the other hand was his burdened heart for the Saints of God. And therefore he comforts and encourages himself by an outburst of thanksgiving. He knows that God is in it all; not he himself leads, but God always leadeth him in triumph in Christ, (“causes us to triumph” is a faulty translation), “and maketh manifest the odor of His knowledge through us in every place.” It is an allusion to a Roman triumphal procession after the victory. Captives were led in these processions, but the victors were the prominent figures. So Paul declares, “God always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.” He gives us the victory. All his anxiety for the Corinthians ended in triumph. This was always so. In connection with a Roman triumph incense was burned upon every altar. These aromatics pervaded the whole procession. Through the apostle the sweet smell of His knowledge was spread about. But he also applies this to the Gospel. The two classes are mentioned by him, those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Let us also notice the beautiful thought that the preaching of the Gospel is a sweet incense of Christ unto God. Independent of the results of the preaching of the Gospel, whenever that precious name is preached, which is as ointment poured forth (Song of Solomon 1:3), it delights the heart of God and is a sweet savor unto Him. But as to men, to some it is a savor (or odor) of death unto death and to others a savor of life unto life. (In the Roman triumphal procession were captives to whom the burning incense was a token of death; to others it was a token of life.)
And who is sufficient for these things? What great issues the Gospel ministry involves and how great the responsibility! The question is answered in the next chapter. “Our sufficiency is of God” (2Corinthians 3:5). Upon Him the true minister of the Gospel is solely cast. And because Paul had his sufficiency of God as well as those who were associated with him, he could say, “for we are not as the many, corrupting the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” The word “corrupt” has the meaning of adulterating, trading. It has been strikingly translated “driving a traffic in the Word of God” and with this making merchandise of the Truth of God, the adulterating is closely connected. It began with apostolic days. How much worse is it in our times! Many who lay claim to the name of ministers of the Gospel are men-pleasers, covetous, aiming at their own popularity, seeking their own and not the things of Christ; and therefore they trade in these truths and handle the Word of God deceitfully as well as diluting it. A solemn description of a true servant of Christ is the concluding sentence of this chapter. He is of God, with a God-given message, and he speaks of God in the sight of God.