Understanding something of Paul’s itinerary is vital for understanding Paul’s argument in 2 Corinthians. Remember that in 1 Corinthians 16:1–9, Paul described his intent to pass through Macedonia before again visiting the church in Corinth, from where he would travel to Jerusalem with funds to alleviate the suffering of the church there. However, that plan changed in light of news of continued problems in Corinth. Instead of traveling through Macedonia, Paul made a sudden trip to Corinth from Ephesus, where he wrote 1 Corinthians. This was the “painful visit” Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 2:1, but it is not recorded in the book of Acts.
From today’s passage, we learn that as Paul was leaving Corinth to return to Ephesus after this painful visit, he told them that he changed his original plans laid out in 1 Corinthians 16. Instead of passing through Macedonia before coming back to Corinth, he said that his intent was to come back to Corinth, then travel through Macedonia, and then visit Corinth one last time to gather the collection for the church in Judea (2 Cor. 1:15–16). However, 2 Corinthians 1:17–18, 23 indicates that the Apostle did not follow the revised itinerary. The Apostle would indeed come back to Corinth, which occurred during Paul’s travels in Acts 20, though Corinth is not mentioned. His revised plans to visit Corinth twice after the painful visit were thus changed to something closer to what he said in 1 Corinthians 16, where he stated that he would visit Corinth only once after passing through Macedonia again.
These changes caused grief at Corinth, with some questioning Paul’s integrity. That is why Paul insists on his truthfulness and the nobleness of his intentions in 2 Corinthians 1:17–18. He was not a double-minded man, and his confidence in that is seen in his statement that as surely as God is faithful, so are his words. Paul truly did intend to come back to Corinth twice after the “painful visit” when he announced his intentions, but things outside his control had forced him to change course. He did not lack integrity.
We must keep these historical details in mind as we study the next few sections of 2 Corinthians. Nevertheless, we are not left without some practical application. If we vacillate and change course often, others may become suspicious of us. We should not be quick to change plans unless, as in Paul’s case, it is unavoidable. This is particularly important for leaders. If we are careful when we announce our intentions and then follow through, people will find it easier to trust us.