What does 2 Corinthians chapter 2 mean?In this chapter, Paul explains the reason he delayed his return to Corinth from Macedonia. His first visit had ended painfully. An influential man in Corinth had apparently challenged Paul, perhaps about his authority over the church as a true apostle of Jesus. Paul left. He knew that if he returned as scheduled, it would create another painful visit.
Paul did not know if the rest of the church would side with the man who had sinfully rejected his authority or would side with him and correct the man with some form of discipline. So Paul stayed away until he could find out. He did not want to cause the Corinthians pain or for them to cause him pain, at least not until it was necessary. Instead, he wrote a painful letter to them in great sadness and distress, describing what they must do to make things right (2 Corinthians 2:1–4).
It becomes clear that the Corinthians did, in fact, side with Paul and against the man. The man's sin in rejecting God's authority through Paul was significant. They punished him, and he repented in sorrow. Some interpreters suggest the term used here might be better rendered as saying the church "scolded" or "reprimanded" the man. Paul urges them now to end the punishment, to forgive and comfort the man, and to reaffirm their love for him. Paul insists that forgiveness must happen in each direction in order to keep them from being tricked by Satan (2 Corinthians 2:5–11).
Paul briefly resumes the story of why he was delayed in returning to them. He sent the agonized letter to them with his co-worker Titus. They planned to meet up in Troas, so Titus could describe to Paul whether the Corinthians were with him or against him. Paul found an open door to the gospel in Troas, but he did not find Titus. Since his spirit was not at rest, he returned to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12–13).
Paul suddenly breaks off the story to describe how Christians are like captives of a Roman general carrying incense in a victory parade through Rome. Christians, metaphorically, are "the aroma of Christ." Those watching a Roman victory parade would interpret the incense differently, depending on whether they saw it as victory or defeat. In the same way, the "aroma" of Christ's influence smells of death to those headed for eternal death in unbelief, and smells of life to those being saved by forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ.
Paul insists that only those who are truly Christians are sufficient to carry the aroma of Christ. He insists he and his co-workers are not false apostles, but sincere and truthful men sent by God to deliver His message (2 Corinthians 2:14–17).