In the midst of Paul’s explanation of why he chose to change his plans and not visit the Corinthian church before going to Macedonia, the Apostle engaged in a short theological digression on the surety of God’s promises in Christ (2 Cor. 1:12–22). That digression finished, Paul makes clear in today’s passage why he went to Macedonia and did not come back to Corinth first.
The Apostle tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:23 that he did not come to Corinth because he wanted to spare them. As 1:24–2:4 makes clear, Paul’s unplanned visit to Corinth to deal with problems there after writing 1 Corinthians was quite painful for both the Apostle and the church there. We do not know what happened during that meeting, but it was so difficult that the Apostle did not believe another visit would be fruitful, at least not before there had been some move toward reconciliation. Paul had enacted some kind of church discipline during that “painful visit,” the congregation had not responded well, and hard feelings existed on all sides. Thus, Paul did not return so that he would not exacerbate tensions.
Paul notes that in all his dealings with the Corinthians, he does not seek to lord himself over them but to work toward their joy alongside them (2 Cor. 1:24). The Corinthians needed to hear this so as to alleviate any suspicions they had regarding Paul’s motives in exercising his Apostolic authority. As a bit of an aside, Christian leaders and other believers with authority over others can learn from Paul’s words here. Those who possess authority in the Christian community have true authority, but before Christ we are brothers and sisters, not lords and servants. Thus, we should strive in the exercise of discipline to communicate to others that we are not seeking to lord our power over them but are hoping to work with them for their good. Pastors and elders should take this approach with laypeople, Christian parents should take this approach with their children, Christian employers should take this approach with employees, and so forth.
Instead of coming to the Corinthians before going to Macedonia, Paul sent the Corinthians another letter, which we do not possess. This epistle, sometimes called the “severe letter,” evidently had many hard words for the Corinthians, but they were words of love (2:1–4). Paul was hoping that the Corinthians would repent of their treatment of him, believing his physical absence would be more conducive to achieving that aim. Thankfully, this letter achieved Paul’s intent.