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2 Corinthians 2:5–8

“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (vv. 6–8).

After Paul’s “painful visit” to the church at Corinth, the Apostle thought it better not to visit the congregation there immediately but instead to send a letter of reproof in hopes that the church would amend its ways and seek reconciliation. This was no easy choice for the Apostle, but it was necessary because an in-person visit would have made restoration more difficult (2 Cor. 1:12–2:4). Second Corinthians 7:2–16 makes clear that this letter of reproof brought about the repentance that Paul was looking for among the Corinthians, but today’s passage gives us the first indication that the Apostle’s correspondence was successful.

Paul makes reference to one who has caused pain at Corinth and who has since endured some kind of “punishment by the majority” (2:5–6). The Apostle is speaking of someone who has come under the discipline of the church. Based on other passages such as 7:12, commentators believe that the man in question was someone who opposed him during his painful visit to Corinth, but identifying the man and his exact actions is difficult. Historically, many commentators have said that the man is the same man from 1 Corinthians 5 who was engaged in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. This is possible, but many modern commentators view it as unlikely because the offender seems to have sinned specifically against Paul during the painful visit after 1 Corinthians was written. In any case, from 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, we see that the church, after the painful visit with Paul and the hard letter of reproof, had taken action against the man, most likely excommunicating him.

Certainly, Paul had wanted the church to take action as a necessary part of reconciling with the Apostle. The problem, however, was that the church had gone too far and was not forgiving and restoring the man to the congregation upon his repentance. They had missed the purpose of church discipline, which is to bring about restoration to Christian fellowship, not revenge (see Matt. 18:15–20). So, Paul calls the church to forgive and reaffirm their love for the sinner by restoring him to fellowship. John Calvin comments: “The end of excommunication, so far as concerns the power of the offender, is this: that, overpowered with a sense of his sin, he may be humbled in the sight of God and the Church, and may solicit pardon with sincere dislike and confession of guilt. The man who has been brought to this, is now more in need of consolation, than of severe reproof.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

When discipline is brought against a sinner, forgiveness and restoration must always be the goal. We cannot control whether the sinner will respond with repentance, but we can stand ready to forgive when the sinner turns from his transgression. As we are engaged in church discipline or even when we are facing someone who has sinned against us personally in a less significant way, let us stand ready to forgive when the person repents.

For Further Study
  • Genesis 44–45
  • Matthew 18:21–35
  • Luke 6:37–38
  • Colossians 3:12–13

Paul’s Severe Letter to Corinth

Knowing Satan’s Designs

Keep Reading Right Now Counts Forever

From the August 2021 Issue
Aug 2021 Issue