What does 2 Corinthians 2 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 2:1–4 finds Paul explaining with great emotion how he decided not to return to Corinth until he learned whether they would side with or against him. He did not want to cause mutual needless pain with another difficult visit. Instead, he wrote to them in great anguish. That letter—now lost—told them to correct the man and to remain loyal to God's authority in and through him. He did not write to hurt them but out of abundant love for them.
Second Corinthians 2:5–11 contains Paul's agreement that a sinful man's offense was serious. Now that this man has repented in sorrow, however, Paul tells the Corinthians to stop his punishment and to forgive, comfort, and affirm their love for him. Paul knows now that they remain obedient. Forgiveness among Christians is essential in order to not be outwitted by the designs of Satan.
Second Corinthians 2:12–17 briefly continues Paul's story of deciding not to come to Corinth until learning whether they were ready. He hoped to learn of their response in Troas, but his co-worker Titus did not show up with the news. Feeling unrestful in his spirit, Paul left. He then transitions into powerfully describing Christians as the aroma of Christ on earth: evoking death to those perishing and life to those being saved. Paul insists that he and his co-workers are sent by God.
Chapter Summary:
Paul explains why he delayed coming to visit the Corinthians. In great anguish, he had written a painful letter to tell them they must correct a man among them. This person may have challenged Paul's authority as an apostle of Jesus. The Corinthians disciplined the man, and he repented. Paul told them to forgive him. He tells of Titus failing to show up in Troas with news about the Corinthians, then transitions into teaching that Christians are the aroma of Christ on earth to everyone they know.
Chapter Context:
Second Corinthians continues uninterrupted from the previous chapter. Paul is explaining why he waited to come to Corinth. He wanted to see if they would side with him, or with the man who challenged his authority. They disciplined the man. He repented. Paul commands restoration and forgiveness. He then tells of failing to find Titus in Troas with news about them before transitioning into teaching that Christians are the aroma of Christ on earth, smelling of death to the perishing and life to those being saved. This brings Paul back to the subject of his own authority in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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