About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

Home Page     

This Section - Chapters 2:5 and 3:6

Previous Section - Intro. & ch. 1 

Next Section - ch. 4 & 5

ch. 2:5-11    ch.2:12 - 3:6     ch. 3:7-18



Forgiveness For The Sinner (ch. 2:5 - 11)


In verse 5 Paul says that if anyone who has caused grief, he has not caused him grief, but has caused grief for the church at Corinth.  From what Paul has said in the previous verses, you can see that he was grieved to a degree, which in turn caused him to write what he did, which in turn caused grief in his readers.  Thus in the long run, the grief that the Corinthian person caused came back to the whole church.  That being said, some believe, due to the Greek sentence structure, that it is not the whole church who was grieved, but only the one person who originally caused the grief in the first place.  There is a bit of a discrepancy concerning this matter among Bible translators and commentators. 


We are not really sure who Paul is speaking about here.  Many suggest it is the man having sexual relations with his step mother that we see in 1 Corinthians 5.  That sounds logical to me. 


Paul says in verse 6 that the “punishment afflicted on him by the majority is sufficient”. If he was talking about the man who slept with his father’s wife, then the giving of that man over to satan was punishment enough.


One thing we should note here is that the church “afflicted punishment” on a particular man.  This is a form of church discipline which may not be seen too much in the modern church.  We tend to let things slip and not speak to such things.   


What we need to understand about church discipline is that it is always redemptive.  It is never done in spite, or to pay someone back for a wrong he did.  Unless the motivation for discipline is redemptive, it should never be done.  It will do more harm than good.  I'd suggest that more harm than good has been next to the norm throughout church history.  Thus, in verse 6, we see that Paul said, that whoever this man was, the punishment that was inflicted on him is sufficient.  It's time to move on. 


The word "punishment" is translated from the Greek word "epitimia".  This is a legal word.  It's original meaning was associated with the rights of citizenship, but in Paul's day it meant the "abuse of the rights of citizenship", thus meaning "punishment or penalty".       


In verse 7 Paul encourages the church to forgive and extend love towards this man so that “he would not be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow”.  It should be obvious that the man in question has come to his senses and has repented from whatever sin he was involved in.  I don’t think Paul would tell his readers to love and forgive if the man had not yet repented.  So once true repentance is proven and clearly demonstrated in a person, you bring him back into the fellowship of believers in a spirit of forgiveness.


We must always remember that forgiveness is only extended after repentance is established.  The reason for this is that the meaning of forgiveness is the actual removing or the cancelling of the offense.  Forgiveness is not simply the covering of the offense.  We often confuse love and forgiveness.  We are to love the offender whether he repents or not.  We can only forgive him, cancel is sin, when he repents.


The two more predominant Greek words the New Testament uses for "forgive", including Jesus' usage of the word are "apolyo" and "apheimi".  Both of these words mean "to let go of, to send away, to cancel …"  It is interesting to note that in 2 Corinthians 2:7 and 10, and also in 2 Corinthians 12:13, Paul does not use either of these two Greek words.  He uses the Greek word "charizomai".  This word is from the Greek root word "charis" which is translated as grace in the New Testament.  I believe what Paul is saying here, because of this Greek word, that whoever he is talking about, it's time to show him grace.  I think the emphases is on "grace" not necessarily "forgiveness", although "forgiveness might well be part of showing grace.  Since most all translations use the word "forgive" here, we should think in terms of "forgive", but still, we must understand "forgiveness" as only taking place "after" one repents.  It would seem then that the one being talked about here has repented.     


In verse 8 Paul tells the church "to reaffirm their love for him".  The word "reaffirm" in Greek is an electoral type of word.  It's almost as if the church voted on loving this man once again.  Remember, the reason for any church discipline is for the one being disciplined to be restored both to God and to the church. 


In verse 9 Paul states the reason why he wrote the previous letter, either the lost letter, or our 1 Corinthians letter, and that was “to see if they could stand the test and be obedient in everything”. I believe Paul told these people what should be done with this man.  If it was the man who slept with his father’s wife, then Paul told them to exclude him from fellowship and hand him over to satan.  This sounded severe, but it had to be done.  Then once the man repented, the church was to reaffirm their love to him. This was the test that Paul was giving the Corinthian church. They obviously passed the test after some sorrow.


Note that Paul was "testing" the Corinthian believers.  His instruction was more than instruction.  It was now time for the test. 


Note the term "obedient in everything" in verse 9. Those who would like to emphasize "apostolic or ecclesiastical authority" will point these words out.  They would say that Paul was in fact giving the Corinthians a test to see if they would in fact "obey him" as their apostle, as their authority.  There might well be a measure of "apostolic authority" here but we cannot take it too far.  In the last verse Paul was telling these people that they must now love this person who had committed such a bad sin.  The Greek word "agape", which is the most meaningful selfless word for love we have in the Bible, and is often seen as the kind of love God has for us, is the test that Paul is presenting these people with.  It's God's love, God's forgiveness, that Paul is testing them with.  Therefore, even if this is "apostolic authority" in action, Paul is not dictating his own will.  He is helping these people to be "obedient to Jesus", not just to him.        


Paul says in verse 10 “that if they forgive anyone, then he will forgive him as well”.  This was a matter of trust.  Paul’s trust in these people must have increased due to their obedience to what he told them.  So if they felt that the man repented, he would forgive him as they did.


In John 20:23 Jesus speaks of His disciples "forgiving sin".  It is important to understand, as disciples of Jesus, and as His representatives, part of our job is to "forgive people's sins on behalf of Jesus".  In other words, because of the meaning of the Greek word for "forgive" in John 20:23, we actually, on the behalf of Jesus, "cancel" people's sins.  This may sound too Catholic for some, but this is New Testament thinking that many Evangelicals have ignored because it sounds too Catholic.  That being said, we were not the ones who paid for this forgiveness.  Jesus did that.  We simply represent Jesus in the forgiveness process.  Since He forgive sinners when they repent, we have both the right and responsibility to pronounce forgiveness to the repentant sinners.  


The sin that this man committed was really a blemish on the Corinthian church, of which Paul was not really a part of since he did not live in Corinth .  This may be why Paul said, “if there was anything to forgive”.  This man did not sin against Paul personally, and in that sense Paul had nothing to forgive. Whatever the case, Paul will forgive anyway in the sight of Christ, “for their sake”.  Once again, you see Paul’s action was based on his love for the church.  He would forgive for their sake.


Forgiveness, and restoration of this individual was important “in order that satan would not outwit” them, “because we are not unaware of his schemes”, Paul says in verse 11.  We can therefore conclude that Satan can enter into a church situation where a man legitimately repents, still feels bad, but not loved by the church.  How we deal with the repentant brother is very important.  If we don't treat him right, we could lose him for good.   


Paul says that he, and the Corinthians were not unaware of the schemes of satan.  Part of satan's activity is to reduce the repentant sinner to a place of total discouragement, and how he does this is through us Christians.  We need to understand all of satan's ways, and where he is often involved, is in the church.  Christians can therefore be a tool of satan.  I think we've all seen this before.  Satan is just as active in the church as he is outside of the church .  He might actually be more active in the church.


Ministers Of The New Covenant  (ch. 2:12 – 3:6)


Paul was always looking for open doors to preach the gospel.  We noted earlier that he stayed in Ephesus because there was such an open door.  Yet when he arrived at Troas and saw that there was an open door, he had no peace.  You would think that he would be happy about such an open door, but he wasn’t because Titus could not be found, resulting in Paul leaving that open door to go to Macedonia to find Titus.


Troas is a Roman province on the eastern shore of Asia Minor, north of Ephesus.   Macedonia is another Roman province just across the Aegean Sea from Troas.  What we read in Acts 16:8 to 11, might well be what Paul is talking about here when he left Troas for Macedonia.  


The words "open door" here means that God causes a revival to take place.  People were being led to Jesus because of Paul's preaching.  You would think this would make Paul very happy, but it didn't.  In the midst of people coming to Jesus, his heart was still broken over the church at Corinth.  Paul had the heart of a real pastor.  Again, this is why I believe anyone aspiring to be a pastor should study second Corinthians.  You see a real heart of a pastor in Paul.  


We see Titus mentioned in verse 13.  He was to bring good news from Corinth to Paul, but he did not arrive when Paul expected him.  This made Paul sorrowful.  He was uncertain of the condition of the Corinth church. Again, we see the true nature of Paul.  He had a genuine concern for the saints, and when he was uncertain of their condition, it disturbed him greatly    


From verse 14 on to chapter 7, verse 5, we have a bit of a interruption in Paul's train of thought.  There, he picks up on Titus again. 


In verse 14 Paul gives “thanks to God who always leads him in a triumphal procession".  The words "triumphal procession" is a Roman and Greek idiom.  When a victory was won, the victor would head a parade through the streets.  People would stand along the parade route holding torches in celebration.  Paul felt that he was in such a parade of victory, with Jesus in the lead. You see here the mood changes that Paul goes through.  He had just expressed great pain and sorrow, and now he is expressing thanks and victory.


Even though Paul left that open door in Troas , he felt God’s leading in his life.  No matter where Paul went, he was used by God “to spread the fragrance of the knowledge” of Jesus.  Whether it was in Troas or Macedonia , Paul spread the gospel which was a sweet fragrance to those who were being saved.  Yet to unbelievers Paul and his company were the fragrance of death.  Every time Paul preached the gospel, part of his audience accepted the Word of the Lord and part of his audience rejected the Word of the Lord.  Not all who heard believed.  This has been the case throughout this age in which we live. 


In verse 14 and on, Paul says that he and his fellow ministers of the gospel are the "aroma of Christ".  In other words they represent all that is good about Jesus.  During the victory parade of the Roman generals that I spoke about a couple paragraphs back, part of the celebration was to burn incense along the parade route.  Paul might well be continuing on with the symbolism of the Roman parade by using the term "fragrance" as a sweet smelling aroma.      


Also note in verse 15 the phrases, "those who are being saved", and, "those who are perishing".  Salvation is a process.  In one sense of the word, we are saved. In another sense of the word we are being saved, and yet will be saved.  The same is true with those who are perishing.  They are perishing, and they will continue to perish throughout eternity. 


There are some, those who believe in predestination, say that there are two groups of people.  The Cain group and the Abel group.  God chooses some to salvation and others to damnation.  That's why, so they say, we have those who are being saved and those who are perishing.   


We see these two groups in verse 16.  Those who are being saved are the one's who really like the aroma of the gospel.  But, those who are being lost, this aroma disturbs them greatly.  Every time the real gospel of Christ is preached, it draws a line through the audience who hear the gospel.  Some accept the gospel and some reject it.  If there is no one that rejects the gospel you preach, it might well be that you are not preaching the real gospel.  It is a watered down gospel that is often the case these days. 


In verse 16 Paul asks, "who is equal to this task"?  In other words, who can handle the responsibility of preaching the real gospel?  Paul would say that he is equal to the task, only because of the calling of Jesus on his life.  He then goes into verse 17 and points out some who are not equal to the task.   


Paul tells us in verse 17 that “many peddle the gospel for profit”, but not him.  He preaches with “sincerity” as one “sent from God”.  Even back in the early days of the church some chose preaching as a career because they could see financial gain in their job.  Paul did not view his work as a career with the reward of money.  He was a bond servant to the Lord.  He could do nothing else but preach the gospel whether he was paid or not.  What a challenge to some of today’s pastors and their CEO salaries.


The Greek word translated as "peddler" here was often used in Roman culture for a huckster of cheep watered down wine".  Hucksters would stand in the market place selling their watered down wine for cheap as if it were the best wine available.  The simple fact is "you get what you pay for", but cheap wine was attractive for the ordinary person.  Many preachers these days are modern day "gospel hucksters".  They water down the gospel.  They get the big crowds, and along with it, they get the big salary.  Tell the people nice things, things they want to hear, and you become popular.  Paul was not a gospel huckster.           


Note the last part of verse 17.  "…we speak before God, as men sent from God".  Paul is sincere in what he says for two reasons as stated here.  He stands before God as he speaks, meaning, God hears every word.  And, he believes that God has sent him to say the things he says.  Paul is very serious about his mission in life.  In one sense of the word, he is not accountable to man.  In the long run, he is accountable to God, the one who sent him and the one who is listening to him.  


Chapter 3 verse 1 says, “are we beginning to commend ourselves?”  By telling the Corinthians that he and his companions were not in the ministry of the Lord for the money, was not meant to be seen as Paul patting himself on the back.  He was merely stating the fact.  Paul does not need any “recommendations” from anyone.  His life and work tells the accurate story.  As a matter of fact the Corinthian church itself was a “letter of recommendation”.  They were a living letter to Paul’s ministry.  They were the proof that he was a real apostle of God, teaching and preaching for all of the right motives, as Paul states here.


Paul says in verse 1 that some men actually do need letters of recommendation.  We're not sure what men he is talking about.  It could be men like the false teachers we see him talking about in the book of Galatians.  I would not be surprised if this is what Paul had in mind.  The false teachers needed to go out of their way to persuade people that they weren't false teachers.  They would give each other letters of recommendations.  These letters might also be a matter of pride, as in, "look at me, I've got lots of supporters". . This seems to be the context of what Paul is saying here. 


Again, in verses 2 and 3 we see the idea that the Corinthians themselves are Paul's letter of recommendation.  This living letter was not written by ink on “tablets  of stone, but by the Holy Spirit on tablets that were the hearts of the Corinthians.  It is the Holy Spirit in the lives of the individuals and the church as well that makes the church a living letter.  If we limit the Holy Spirit’s involvement, then we will not be a living letter that the world can read.  


It's important that you and I as Christians should understand that we might well be the only Bible that some people ever read.  In one real sense of the word, we are a living Bible to those who don't know Jesus, and therefore, we must live as the Bible tells us to live.  This is really what Paul is saying here.


Note the words "tablets of stone" in verse 3.  Paul is beginning to introduce the topic that compares the Old Testament with the New Testament.  The "tablets of stone' here is a clear reference to the Law of Moses.  He is comparing the Law of Moses to the Holy Spirit.  When believers receive the Holy Spirit, they become a living letter sent from Christ to the world.  It is no longer the stone tablets in the hands of people that is the witness to God.  It is human beings who have the Holy Spirit living in them that is the witness to God.                        


In verse 4 Paul tells his readers that he is very confident, yet this confidence is not in himself, but in the Lord He serves.  Paul puts absolutely no confidence in any human being, and that includes himself.  Humans are sinful. He basically says this in verse 5.  He goes on to say in verse 6 that God has made him and his friends in ministry “competent ministers of the new covenant.”  This new covenant is different than the old covenant in that it is based on the Holy Spirit and not on the letter of the Law, not on a written code of ethics. 


In verse 6 Paul says that the letter of the Law kills but the Spirit gives life.  To properly understand what Paul is saying here, you need a good understanding of how Paul views the Law of Moses as seen in his letter to the Romans, and throughout his writings.  In short, the Law tells us not to do certain things.  Once we know the Law does not allow for certain things, then we want to do these things more than ever.  We thus sin more than we did before we knew the law.  Then, because sin brings death, more sin brings more death in our lives.  This is why Paul says the letter of the Law kills. The Law of Moses was never meant to save people.  It was meant to show people their sin.  It was also a prophetic message predicting the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ  who would be the one who saves us from the penalty of our sins.  The Law of Moses predicts many things beyond the coming of the Saviour.  It also predicts Israel 's history. 


As seen in Acts 2, the reception of the Holy Spirit in a life brings life to people.  The new covenant is based on what Jesus did on the cross.  The sacrifice that Jesus made takes the place of any sacrifice that we can make.  But the story does not end there.  We need the Holy Spirit in our lives to make this new covenant work.  We cannot stop at the gospel story as told in the four New Testament gospels.  We need Acts chapter two in our lives as well.


If you read Jeremiah 31:31 to 34, you will see where the prophet predicts the coming of a New Covenant that is written on the tablets of our hearts.  This is what Paul is getting at here.  The New Covenant is internal, not external.  That being said, this is not a putdown on the Old Testament.  If we don't understand the Old Testament, we will not understand what the Christian life is all about.  One failure of Evangelicals is that we have ignored the Old Testament to our peril. 


It's my opinion that one of the most misunderstood things in Christian circles is how to understand the Old Testament in light of being a New Testament Christian.  We cannot grow in the Lord as we should if we continue in this misunderstanding.  For example, Evangelicals are confused to the matter of the Law of Moses.  They say we must tithe, that is, give 10 percent of our income to the church.  The problem is that why do we demand this law to be obeyed and not other laws, of which there are 613.  Also, if you study the tithing laws, there are more than one law, and if you put them all together, the tither turns out to be more like 27.5 percent annually, not 10 percent.   I think you can see the problem here. 


Take the Sabbath law too.  We often attempt to "keep the Sabbath day holy".  One problem is we're keeping the wrong day holy.  According to the Law of Moses, the Sabbath is our Saturday, not our Sunday.  Also, in the attempt to keep the Sabbath day holy, we're not following the rules of holiness.  We're following our own rules.  Again, I think you can see the problem here.         








The Glory Of The New Covenant (ch. 3:7 - 18)


In verses 6 through 8 Paul refers back to the Old Testament story when Moses presented the Ten Commandments to the people after being in the presence of God.  This is recorded in Exodus 34:28 – 35.  It was a glorious moment in Israel’s history.  Moses himself glowed with the glory of God after being in His presence.  That's why he wore a veil.  He was too bright to look at. 



He says that if the presentation  of the Law that kills, or produces death in people was so glorious, how much more glorious is the “ministry of the Spirit”.  And it was, in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was first introduced to Israel we see an even more glorious event than that of Moses’ day.  Yet Acts 2 was not the end of the glory.  Paul and others had the ministry of imparting the Holy Spirit to the believers, which continued this demonstration of glory.


Note the words "fading though it was" at the end of verse 7.  The brightness of God's glory did not stay on Moses all the time.  It began to fade.  You might even think that Paul is using the fading of the glory typologically here.  That is to say, as the glory of the Law of Moses faded from the face of Moses, so the Law itself over time fades away, and is eventually replaced by the Holy Spirit and the New Covenant.


In verse 9 Paul tells his readers that the Old Testament  Law brought condemnation to those under the Law, yet the Law and its presentation to the people was glorious.  But the giving of the Spirit that brings “righteousness” to people is even more glorious.  Note that the Law condemns but the Spirit brings righteousness, both imparted and imputed.  The condemnation aspect to the Law of Moses is important for us to understand, especially in light of those these days who want to follow the Law in all it says. 


For those who want to obey the Law of Moses, it is important to see what Paul says about the Law in verse 10.  He says that the Law has no more glory.  It's lost its glory.  It is thoughts like these that disturb some Christians who want to obey all aspects of the Law.  It was also these kinds of things that got Paul in trouble with the Jewish establishment.  


In verse 11 we see that Paul says that which “is fading away”, referring to the Law cannot be compared to the glory of the things belonging to the Spirit “that will last” forever.  Again, this is one verse of many that shows us how Paul views the Law.  Paul believed that the Law has been replaced by Jesus Himself, and thus it is fading away.  The only reason for the Law now is to bring us to Jesus.  That’s it.


The laying aside of the Law of Moses, and how Christians should understand the Old Testament is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the church today. We pick and choose what Old Testament Laws we want to promote for our own benefit, not understanding they all have been laid aside. Churches like the tithing Laws found in the Law of Moses.  They use this law for their own benefit, but in reality, the tithing law doesn't apply Christians.  I won't discuss this here.  I've done that elsewhere.   


In verse 12 Paul says that he has “hope”, and as a result of this hope he can be “very bold”.  The Holy Spirit and His ministry and glory will last into eternity, giving Paul this hope of a better future.  With this in mind Paul casts off fear and timidity and lives his life with boldness. 


In verse 13 Paul continues by reminding his readers about Moses.  Because of the brilliance of Moses’ face after being in God’s presence, he had to put a veil over his head.  Not so with Paul, for he would preach boldly and openly the gospel of  Jesus.  He would not hide and hold anything back.


Note again that Paul states that Moses had the veil over his head, even when the veil was fading away.  Just when Moses felt the glory was dull enough to remove the veil, we don't know.  But again, I think Paul is making a back handed point here.  Even when the Law was first given to Israel, it began to fade away. He's simply pointing out the fading aspect to the Law.    


Moses had a veil over his head, yet in verse 14 Paul speaks of another veil that is over the understanding of Israel .  Paul says that their minds were “dull” as the Law was read to them.  They were told to obey all aspects of the Law, yet their understanding concerning the Law was veiled, and is still veiled at the time of Paul’s writing.  Paul elaborates on this in Romans 11.  Romans 9 through 11 is an important passage to understand.  It sheds much light on the past, present, and future, of Israel in prophetic history.  To this very day, Israelis, for the most part, have a veil over their understanding.  They don't really understand the true nature of the Law that was given to them, and they certainly don't understand the New Covenant that has replaced the Old Covenant. 


Paul says at the end of verse 14 that only Jesus can remove the veil that is over the Jews.  God will do that at the end of this age when God pours out a spirit of grace and supplication on them as Zechariah states in Zechariah 12:10. 


In verse 16 Paul says that the veil not only covers their understanding but it covers their “hearts” as well, and the only way to remove this veil is to give your life to Jesus.  He says, “only in Christ can this veil be taken away”. Without Jesus speaking to the heart of a person, the person can never understand the gospel.  We can talk to them about Jesus as much as we can, but Jesus must talk to them as well.  This makes intercessory prayer very important.  In preaching and sharing the gospel, we must understand that we can't do it alone.    


Paul is saying that God Himself has covered Israel with this veil, but He did it because of the hardness of Israel's heart.  The rejection of Jesus at the cross put an even heavier veil over Israel.  The veil will be lifted at the end of this age when God Himself will pour out a spirit of repentance on Israel.  He has to do this on His own because Israel on her own will not return to God.  Thus, as a nation, Israel is now in a period of being veiled in their understanding of God.  I'm not suggesting that individuals Jews can't find their way to God, because they can.  I'm speaking of national Israel here.    


In verse 17 Paul says an interesting thing.  He says, “now the Lord is the Spirit”. What is Paul saying here?  The Lord obviously refers to Jesus.  Therefore he is saying that the Holy Spirit is actually Jesus.  “And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and He produces freedom in the life of the believer. 


When Paul speaks of freedom here, he's not talking about freedom from structure, freedom to sing and dance in a meeting, or any such thing.  He's talking about being set free from the veil of not understanding. 


The NIV in verse 17 says, "the Lord is the Spirit".  The Greek text says, "the Lord the spirit is".  I point this out because different translations translate this differently, and it all depends on whether you think the word "spirit" should be capitalized.  You should understand that New Testament Greek never uses capital letters.  Thus when translating "spirit" it's a matter of interpretation, not literal translation. Should it be "Spirit" as in "Holy Spirit", or, should it be "spirit" as in a generic spirit. Beyond the word "spirit", some suggest the word "Lord" refers to "Yahweh", while others believe it refers to Jesus. 


It is clear that "Yahweh is spirit", therefore that would fit the text well.  However, if the word "Lord" refers to Jesus, then, we should note that "Jesus is the Spirit".  In other words, as we see in other New Testament passages, the Holy Spirit is called "the spirit of Christ".  You can decide for yourself how you want to view this.      


In verse 18 Paul says as Christians, “we have unveiled faces that reflect the glory of God”.  We should not hide the glory that is within us.  Our lives should be a living testimony  to the glory of God, because the Holy Spirit lives within us.


As we are reflectors of  God’s glory, we are in the process of being changed into the likeness of Jesus Himself.  This is important because Paul believes that there should be a transformation that takes place in the life of the believer, but this transformation does not come about by obeying laws. It happens because of “the Lord, who is that Spirit”.  Once again, Jesus Himself is the Holy Spirit in another form”.



Previous Section - Intro. & ch. 1 

Next Section - ch. 4 & 5


Home Page