Bible spine dwtx.orgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 2:1-4

For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 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. 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.

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In last week’s verses, Paul explained his reasons for delaying his return visit to Corinth.

Today’s verses are a prelude to next week’s, which concern a member of the Corinthian congregation who has been excluded for serious sin. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this person was the subject of 1 Corinthians 5, about which I wrote in 2010:

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 – incest, porneia, church discipline, indifference, sin

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – church purity

Paul says that he did not want to make another painful trip to Corinth (verse 1).

John MacArthur interprets this for us (emphases mine):

I just didn’t want another sad meeting. I – I just didn’t want that. I wasn’t going to come and go through all that pain all over again. I didn’t want you to have to do it, I didn’t want it. What I want is joy. What I want is rejoicing. I don’t like confrontation and pain. I don’t want to have sorrow anymore. I’m tired of having to confront. I’m tired of these letters I write. I’m tired of these meetings. I’m not an autocrat. I’m a helper. And I don’t want sorrow anymore so I didn’t come. That’s fair enough, isn’t it?

Paul says that if he causes the Corinthians pain, who else is there to make him happy except those same people he has pained (verse 2).

Henry says:

If he had made them sorry, that would have been a sorrow to himself, for there would have been none to have made him glad. But his desire was to have a cheerful meeting with them, and not to have it embittered by any unhappy occasion of disagreeing.

MacArthur says that what would make Paul happy is repentance, therefore, he would prefer to visit as and when that takes place:

… if I have to come and cause you sorrow, who makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful. If I come and make you sorrowful, the only thing that’s going to change that, the only thing that’s going to make me glad is repentance. That’s what he’s saying. If I cause sorrow by confronting sin, the only thing that will make me glad is repentance. So I might as well wait till repentance takes place.

Paul reinforces the idea of repentance by saying that he did not want to visit at a time when he should be pained by their behaviour, particularly of the excluded person, when he was looking forward to a happy reunion and taking joy in them all (verse 3).

MacArthur interprets that verse as follows:

the whole point in writing to you was so that when I come we’d have rejoicing. Deal with your sin. Purity was still an issue. He wasn’t so sensitive and so kind that he overlooked iniquity. Not at all …

I – I just want to wait and trust you that you’re going to get to the place where we’re just going to have joy.

Paul ends by saying that he was afflicted and anguished to the point of tears out of abundant love for them when he wrote his first letter — 1 Corinthians (verse 4).

Henry explains:

(1.) That he might not have sorrow from those of whom he ought to rejoice; and that he had written to them in confidence of their doing what was requisite, in order to their benefit and his comfort. The particular thing referred to, as appears by the 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, was the case of the incestuous person about whom he had written in the first epistle, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. Nor was the apostle disappointed in his expectation. (2.) He assures them that he did not design to grieve them, but to testify his love to them, and that he wrote to them with much anguish and affliction in his own heart, and with great affection to them. He had written with tears, that they might know his abundant love to them. Note, [1.] Even in reproofs, admonitions, and acts of discipline, faithful ministers show their love. [2.] Needful censures, and the exercise of church-discipline towards offenders, are a grief to tender-spirited ministers, and are administered with regret.

Recall that, in last week’s reading, Paul was also aggrieved by slanderous accusations from false teachers in the Corinthian church. Yet, he was an Apostle in every sense of the word.

MacArthur reminds us of other betrayals that Paul endured:

We – we understand what he meant when he said, “Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ.” What character. And so maligned and so falsely accused, so misrepresented, relentlessly attacked, and such a man of character.

And our hearts just grieve when we hear him say at the end of his life, “All who are in Asia have forsaken me.” When we hear him say, “At my first defense, no one stood by me.” When we hear him say, “I have no one like-minded whom I can send to you except for Timothy, for everybody’s concerned with his own things.” The greatest of servants and yet one who suffered most.

Yet, MacArthur says that this is the unfortunate aspect of ministry:

And ministry can be like that. It’s so hard to understand. His heart must have been broken as he tried to deal with the integrity of his own life and the accusations on the outside. Just did what the Savior did and committed himself to the faithful keeping of His Creator and God who knew his heart.

Next week, he discusses what should happen to the excluded member of the Corinthian congregation.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 2:5-11