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1For I decided not to come to you again in painful circumstances. 2For if I inflict pain upon you, then who is there to cheer me except the one pained by me? 3And I wrote as I did* so that when I came I might not be pained by those in whom I should have rejoiced, confident about all of you that my joy is that of all of you. 4For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you might be pained but that you might know the abundant love I have for you.
The Offender.* 5If anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure (not to exaggerate) to all of you. 6This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person, 7so that on the contrary you should forgive and encourage him instead, or else the person may be overwhelmed by excessive pain.a 8Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9For this is why I wrote, to know your proven character, whether you were obedient in everything.b 10Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, 11so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes.c
Paul’s Anxiety.* 12When I went to Troas for the gospel of Christ, although a door was opened for me in the Lord,d 13* I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus.e So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
Ministers of a New Covenant. 14* But thanks be to God,* who always leads us in triumph in Christ* and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him* in every place. 15For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,f 16to the latter an odor of death that leads to death, to the former an odor of life that leads to life. Who is qualified* for this? 17For we are not like the many who trade on the word of God; but as out of sincerity, indeed as from God and in the presence of God, we speak in Christ.g
* [2:3–4] I wrote as I did: we learn for the first time about the sending of a letter in place of the proposed visit. Paul mentions the letter in passing, but emphasizes his motivation in sending it: to avoid being saddened by them (cf. 1 Cor 2:1), and to help them realize the depth of his love. Another motive will be added in 2 Cor 7:12—to bring to light their own concern for him. With many tears: it has been suggested that we may have all or part of this “tearful letter” somewhere in the Corinthian correspondence, either in 1 Cor 5 (the case of the incestuous man), or in 1 Corinthians as a whole, or in 2 Cor 2:10–13. None of these hypotheses is entirely convincing. See note on 2 Cor 13:1.
* [2:5–11] The nature of the pain (2 Cor 2:5) is unclear, though some believe an individual at Corinth rejected Paul’s authority, thereby scandalizing many in the community. In any case, action has been taken, and Paul judges the measures adequate to right the situation (2 Cor 2:6). The follow-up directives he now gives are entirely positive: forgive, encourage, love. Overwhelmed (2 Cor 2:7): a vivid metaphor (literally “swallowed”) that Paul employs positively at 2 Cor 5:4 and in 1 Cor 15:54 (2 Cor 2:7). It is often used to describe satanic activity (cf. 1 Pt 5:8); note the reference to Satan here in 2 Cor 2:11.
* [2:12–13] I had no relief: Paul does not explain the reason for his anxiety until he resumes the thread of his narrative at 2 Cor 7:5: he was waiting to hear how the Corinthians would respond to his letter. Since 2 Cor 7:5–16 describes their response in entirely positive terms, we never learn in detail why he found it necessary to defend and justify his change of plans, as in 2 Cor 1:15–24. Was this portion of the letter written before the arrival of Titus with his good news (2 Cor 7:6–7)?
* [2:13] Macedonia: a Roman province in northern Greece.
* [2:14–7:4] This section constitutes a digression within the narrative of the crisis and its resolution (2 Cor 1:12–2:13 and 2 Cor 7:5–16). The main component (2 Cor 2:14–6:10) treats the nature of Paul’s ministry and his qualifications for it; this material bears some similarity to the defense of his ministry in chaps. 10–13, but it may well come from a period close to the crisis. This is followed by a supplementary block of material quite different in character and tone (2 Cor 6:14–7:1). These materials may have been brought together into their present position during final editing of the letter; appeals to the Corinthians link them to one another (2 Cor 6:11–13) and lead back to the interrupted narrative (2 Cor 7:2–4).
* [2:14–6:10] The question of Paul’s adequacy (2 Cor 2:16; cf. 2 Cor 3:5) and his credentials (2 Cor 3:1–2) has been raised. Paul responds by an extended treatment of the nature of his ministry. It is a ministry of glory (2 Cor 3:7–4:6), of life (2 Cor 4:7–5:10), of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11–6:10).
* [2:14–16a] The initial statement plunges us abruptly into another train of thought. Paul describes his personal existence and his function as a preacher in two powerful images (2 Cor 2:14) that constitute a prelude to the development to follow.
* [2:14a] Leads us in triumph in Christ: this metaphor of a festive parade in honor of a conquering military hero can suggest either a positive sharing in Christ’s triumph or an experience of defeat, being led in captivity and submission (cf. 2 Cor 4:8–11; 1 Cor 4:9). Paul is probably aware of the ambiguity, as he is in the case of the next metaphor.
* [2:14b–16a] The odor of the knowledge of him: incense was commonly used in triumphal processions. The metaphor suggests the gradual diffusion of the knowledge of God through the apostolic preaching. The aroma of Christ: the image shifts from the fragrance Paul diffuses to the aroma that he is. Paul is probably thinking of the “sweet odor” of the sacrifices in the Old Testament (e.g., Gn 8:21; Ex 29:18) and perhaps of the metaphor of wisdom as a sweet odor (Sir 24:15). Death…life: the aroma of Christ that comes to them through Paul is perceived differently by various classes of people. To some his preaching and his life (cf. 1 Cor 1:17–2:6) are perceived as death, and the effect is death for them; others perceive him, despite appearances, as life, and the effect is life for them. This fragrance thus produces a separation and a judgment (cf. the function of the “light” in John’s gospel).
* [2:16b–17] Qualified: Paul may be echoing either the self-satisfied claims of other preachers or their charges about Paul’s deficiencies. No one is really qualified, but the apostle contrasts himself with those who dilute or falsify the preaching for personal advantage and insists on his totally good conscience: his ministry is from God, and he has exercised it with fidelity and integrity (cf. 2 Cor 3:5–6).
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