Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 2 — “The Personal Defense of Paul”

Lesson 2: "Paul’s Reasons for Delaying a Visit to the Church" - II Cor. 1:23-2:4

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

We said that there are five divisions of this book of II Corinthians. We already looked at Division One which dealt with the God of Paul. In this second division entitled the personal defense of Paul, we will look at three areas which are,

1- Paul Answers Charges Against Himself: A Minister's Answer to His Attackers, II Cor 1:12-22

2- Paul's Reasons for Delaying a Visit to the Church: When a Minister is Under Attack, II Cor 1:23-2:4

3- Paul's Treatment of an Offender: Church Discipline & Forgiveness, II Cor 2:5-11


Let’s look at point number two,

Point #2) Paul's Reasons for Delaying a Visit to the Church: When a Minister is Under Attack.

2 Corinthians 1:23-24 and 2:1-4, “Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? 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. 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.”


-Introduction: What should a minister do when he is under attack by some persons in the church? Paul faced the problem, and it almost broke his heart. In fact, he changed his plan of ministry because of it. He had planned to return to Corinth, but he could not because he was the center of controversy, being heavily criticized. Rumors and falsehoods were flying everywhere, and he stood no chance of ministering to the people. Therefore, he had to go elsewhere and do what he could for Corinth from a distance. In this passage Paul gives five reasons why he could not presently minister in Corinth. Let’s look at them.     

          1.  It was best for him to spare the rod of discipline.

2.  It was best for him not to be the cause of pain.

3.  It was best for him not to conflict with those whom he loved.

4.  It was best for him not to be attacked and hurt time and again.

5.  It was best for him to write a strong appeal.


#1) It was best for him to spare the rod of discipline.

Look with me again at II Corinthians 1:23-24, “Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.”


Some within the Corinthian church were attacking Paul, accusing him of every conceivable weakness and fault. Some in the church had also become corrupt, morally and doctrinally—living in sin and teaching contrary to the Word of God.


The point is this: Paul felt it best that he not be with the church in the midst of such controversy and corruption. Therefore, he changed his plans: he did not go to them as he had originally planned because if he had gone to them, it would have been necessary for him to carry the rod of discipline so long as they were corrupt. As the minister of God, he had spiritual authority over their welfare; therefore, he would be forced to deal with their sin and shame. (not easy to do but necessary as overseer of the local assembly.)


Note a crucial point: In mentioning ministerial authority, Paul does not mean...

•  that he had dominion over their faith.

•  that he had the authority of a tyrant.

•  that he controlled their spiritual lives.

•  that he could dictate and take authority over their behavior.


What he does means was this: when he came to them, he wanted to be able to minister to them, to be as he says, a "helper of their joy." This simply means that his job as a minister was...

•  to be a helper.

•  to work along with them.

•  to join them in their efforts to grow.

•  to help them in fulfilling their joy in Christ.


Note that Paul says, "For by faith ye stand.” They did not stand firm because of him, but because of their faith in Christ. Paul had no personal power to make people believe in Christ nor could he make people stand firm in Christ; he could only help them. They had to make the effort to fulfill the joy of life themselves. He was only the helper in their joy. He was only the minister to serve with them. They had to seek the joy of the Lord and the joy of life themselves.


Again, the point is this: Paul felt it was best that he not be with the church, for they were not standing firm in Christ. They were engulfed in controversy over him and living in sin before God. If he had gone to them, he would have become involved in discipline and not ministry. He would not have been able to help them in their growth in Christ, not while they were unwilling to seek the joy of life in Christ.

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3).


"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).


"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).


#2) It was best for the minister not to be the cause of pain.

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


Note Paul's words, "But I determined...that I would not come again to you in heaviness.” This just cannot apply to Paul's first visit to Corinth, for his first visit did not end in failure and rejection. When Paul first left Corinth, he was filled with joy over the great success God had given. Therefore, he must be speaking about some other visit when the church rejected him and cut his heart, causing great heaviness.


Note also the statement in 2 Cor. 1:23, "I came not as yet to Corinth." The statement can be equally translated, "I came no more to Corinth." This, too, points toward Paul having made a quick visit (not recorded in God’s word) to Corinth after writing his first letter, a visit that resulted in the people rejecting him and breaking his heart. The point is strong: Paul loved and cared for the people and their church; he just did not want to be the cause of more pain and hurt; therefore, he stayed away.


#3) It was best for the minister not to conflict with those whom he loved.

2 Corinthians 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?”


Very simply, if Paul returned to the church in Corinth, his presence would only cause pain, not gladness and joy. His presence would only cause a gloom and heaviness to settle over the congregation because of the rumors and controversy about him. There could be no gladness or joy until the rumors and the sin were stopped.


Here’s the thing, a minister's presence should bring joy and cheer to a congregation, not conflict and stress.


"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).


#4) It was best for the minister not to be attacked and hurt time and again.

2 Corinthians 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.”


Paul longed to minister, not to have controversy and sin swirling around him, certainly not in the church. Therefore, he had written a letter urging the church to put the Lord first and to quit the controversy. The letter which he had written is the discussion of the next verse and point.


His point in this verse is tragic: if he had come to them, he would be cut and hurt just as he had been before. Those who should have brought joy to him would only have attacked and criticized him again. And he just could not bear to be hurt and sorrowed by their rejection again. He could not bear to be the center of controversy and disturbance again.


"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matthew 23:37).


#5) It was best for the minister to write a strong appeal. 

2 Corinthians 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.”


Paul chose to write before he returned to the Corinthians. His heart was just broken; he could not face them and go through the pain and controversy again. The words "affliction and anguish" mean deep sorrow and distress, unbelievable pain and hurt, grief and heaviness of heart.

  Note that Paul had shed many tears over the situation.

  Note also that Paul had written the church not to cause grief for them, but that they might know his love for them—a love that overflowed with concern and care. It should be kept in mind that Paul's purpose and the church's purpose is to reach and grow people. This was the beat of Paul's heart. He wanted nothing to do with controversy and shame. He wanted to love and care for people.


"For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established" (Romans 1:11).


"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you" (Galatians 4:19-20).


"For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again" (Phil. 1:23-26).


"For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh" (Col. 2:1).


Next Lesson: Paul's Treatment of an Offender: Church Discipline & Forgiveness, II Cor 2:5-11.



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