For an introduction to this series, click here.
Paul begins to correct some of the problems in the church that were indirectly caused by the Corinthians' overreaction to his first letter:
"But I call God to witness against me— it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you." (1:23-2:4)
First of all, I should point out in passing that at the beginning of this passage Paul takes an oath. This should finally put to bed the notion that Jesus said Christians should not take an oath. In context, He was saying that if you have to swear all the time in order for people to believe you, you've got a problem. When you speak the plain truth, you won't have a problem with getting people to believe you.
Anyway, yesterday I mentioned the fact that the Corinthians were upset that Paul had not followed up on his first letter, and some had used that fact to lead them astray. Paul said he did not want to write because he did not want to send a hurtful letter, but now it is necessary. In this case, telling the truth is not always a pleasant thing.
The one person who had suffered the most from the Corinthians' overreaction was the man mentioned in chapter 5 who had been living in adultery with his stepmother. The church had kicked him out. But the man had repented and was now trying to do the right thing. But the church would not have him back. And it wasn't like there was another church down the road:
"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. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs." (2:6-11)
A lot of Paul's epistles include a riff of praise that really has nothing to do with the previous point, but often leads into a new discussion. The last section of this chapter is a prime example of this phenomenon:
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." (2:14-17, ESV)
Notice that Paul says there were "many" peddling the gospel, even in his day. Things of course always seem to get worse and worse, but human nature never changes. People always think they can improve upon the simplicity of the Gospel, but they never do.