I refrained from visiting you in Corinth to save us both pain – 2nd Corinthians 1:23-2:4 – 05/05/2016
Thank you for clicking on our page for the Pauline epistle which is called 2nd Corinthians, the letter is authored by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. This is a great letter of exhortation and gives many doctrines that we still use in both church structure today. For other bible studies in 2nd Corinthians please click here and for other epistles please see our main epistle page.
2nd Corinthians 1:23 (ESV) But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
2nd Corinthians 2:1 (ESV) For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.
Let’s start in verse twenty three of the first chapter of Second Corinthians.
V23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.
In the last article we looked at pain and Paul continues that thought here. Paul continues as if he is presenting his case before a legal court and calls his next witness, Paul is not messing about when he calls upon the name of the Lord and I have heard people question this in relation to what Jesus said in Matthew 5.
Matthew 5:33 (ESV) Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
This is not a contradiction between Jesus and Paul as Jesus is referring to how we live our lives and to not make frivolous oaths and attaching God’s name where it has no business being attached as if to add credence to an argument that would not stand up on its own. Jesus was doing a lesson on Christian conduct and to avoid leading or misleading phrases and let your answers be definite and say what you mean and mean what you say. Paul is not doing anything wrong by saying this, he is merely showing how serious he is that he would be willing to have God testify against him and to demonstrate that he is being honest.
He did not come to Corinth because he was concerned for the people of Corinth. We do this today that if we have our own “version of things” based on a rumor or an innuendo that may have a small grain of truth in it but it has been blown all out of proportion. The assumption was that Paul had been avoiding Corinth or not coming for some other undisclosed selfish reason or perhaps Paul did not want to spend time with them. Paul sets the record straight by stating that it was for their own good that he did not come and we read why in verse 24 through verse 4 of chapter 2.
24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
Paul states clearly that as an apostle he is not the lord over them. Instead he gives a decent example of what he was to them, he was a worker, a fellow worker and desired to see the people having joy in the Lord and for them to stand firm in their faith and again it does seem obvious to point out but that was why he was writing to them and some of the best leaders I have seen in the modern day church are the ones who are excited about discipleship and mentoring because they understand the value of a good sermon as the most poignant sermon you will ever teach is the witness of your life to someone else, that will have more power than a thousand sermons with the best exegesis and the most correct doctrine.
Chapter 2 V1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?
Paul continues in verse one of chapter two and is still defending himself against accusations we have not seen but having read the words of Paul I see his great love and heart for those who accuse him. Yes he is defending himself but he explains that it was for their good that he made the choices he did. I get that they were disappointed and who hasn’t been bummed if something hasn’t worked out when we hoped it would but Paul is showing that he wasn’t being flaky or lying when he made his original plans, he made a conscious choice to hold himself back from Corinth at that time.
He chose to not come there because he would cause them pain which tells me that the most recent visit was uncomfortable as Paul would have had to deal with some truths that they did not want to hear and Paul did not wish to further discourage them so soon. This tells me more about the health of the church than it does about Paul. Paul wanted to allow them opportunities to deal internally with the acts that would grieve Paul.
On the flip side of this would be if Paul was to return with an iron fist and smash the spirit of the church and cause sorrow then they in turn would not be receiving of him. That more conflict or berating would really damage the ability to help them as they may not receive from him in the future and the relationship could be irrevocably damaged. There would not be much fellowship and Paul would not be energized by the fellowship from Corinth.
We could learn from that in the modern church as I have seen firsthand a heavy handed attitude from leadership in churches that have not given enough space to a believer who was in sin. They expected too much too soon and there was a real lack of grace shown and that damaged the sinner’s relationship with not just that church but many churches and that person stayed away from any fellowship and embraced the world for a period of eight years because of that one man. I speak on this from a personal level and I know it is the truth because that sinner was me!
V3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.
And this is why they are getting a letter as opposed to a visit, the letter would allow Paul the opportunity to lay out his heart behind his actions and not be interrupted as well as allow a record to be kept of what Paul was requesting that they pray about (don’t worry that is coming later in the letter) repent of and get on the right track with God. For me this shows amazing wisdom and discernment that he was concerned with what may be received better for their relationship with Jesus first and foremost and secondarily and nowhere near as important, the relationship with Paul.
The letter was good because it removes the “elephant from the room” and makes aware what is required of them by the time that he returns and get the medicine taken first in order for the spiritual recuperation to be allowed. Paul wanted to enjoy his time there and wanted to be an encouragement rather than a chastiser, this letter was hurting Paul as much to write as it would be painful to read and we see that in verse 4.
V4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
This was truly painful for Paul and he was not enjoying doing this, there are much more encouraging letters that he would rather write. We read here that it was done so with much anguish and many tears and he was trying not to grieve or cause pain but show that he loved them so much that he wanted them to get it right.
How they receive this is totally up to the recipient, they would either “take it on the chin”, pray about it and seek God’s confirmation that Paul was indeed correct as a mature Christian would do and take the correction as a learning experience that was given in the love that Paul writes to them or they would get annoyed at Paul and refuse to be taught by him, hold a grudge, spread malicious rumors or defame his name amongst the brethren. My hope and prayer is that they did the former.
Lord willing, in our next article in Second Corinthians we will look at chapter two verses five through eleven where Paul continues his thought on hurt and extols the Corinthian church to be a forgiving church. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.
God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.