Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
2 Corinthians 2:1-11 Inductive Bible Study Guide
I. Love sometimes hurts (1-4)
II. Forgive the sinner (5-11)
I. Love sometimes hurts (1-5)
- What painful visit does Paul refer to?
- Why did Paul want to avoid such a visit again?
- What did he do to try to avoid it?
- Why did Paul feel pain? What can you learn about his character and heart from this?
- What motivated Paul to write to them?
- What kind of things should cause us pain and joy?
- How can we develop a heart of love and compassion for others?
Matthew 23:37 – Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Mark 6:34 – When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
1. I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you – Paul had already had one confrontation with the Corinthians. As we saw in 1:23 he wished to “spare” them from another uncomfortable meeting which would have caused stress all around. Instead he gave them time and space to contemplate on his previous communications and repent.
2. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? –
Paul had caused some “pain” to the Corinthians before. This pain was brought about because Paul rebuked them for their sin. Some of them had apparently sided with the false teachers against Paul and some were also living in unrepentant sin.
Confronting sin is not pleasant for anyone. Guilt and conviction is painful. But it is necessary. Paul had confronted them because he loved them (4). He wanted to see them be faithful followers of Jesus. He wanted to see them thrive spiritually.
He did not receive any joy or satisfaction from rebuking them. In fact, he says “who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?” In other words, their repentance would bring joy too Paul. Nothing else could fix the ache he felt in his heart. It wasn’t about being right. It wasn’t about winning the debate. It was about restoring the sinner which would make Paul more happy than anything else.
James 5:19-20 – My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Confronting sin is a painful experience. Like discipline it seems “not joyful but sorrowful, but in the end it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:1)
3. Verse 3 – Paul wrote to them first before visiting, hoping that they would repent. If they did then his visit would not be a painful one, but a joyful one.
In chapter 1 we learned that there are advantages sometimes to sending letters instead of face to face communication. Below is a quick review of a few of the reasons why sending letters may sometimes be better than face to face:
- Time to think carefully exactly what needs to be said and how to word it.
- Time for both sides to step back and cool off before responding.
- Helps take some emotion out of it.
- You can erase and re-write parts of letters, but you cannot take spoken words back again.
- Allows you to make your complete case without interruption.
- It can show that you are serious and “mean business” since it is more formal.
4. Paul was motivated by love – Verse 4 is the key of this section. From this verse we see Paul’s motivation. He was motivated by love. In this verse we get a glimpse into Paul’s heart. His letter was written from “much affliction and anguish of heart.” We see Paul’s level of concern from the Corinthians. Their sin caused Paul very real sadness. It hurt his heart to witness their hard hearts. Paul was in anguish, even to the level of shedding “many tears.”
This is what a shepherd should be like. He loved the sheep deeply. For Paul, it wasn’t for the money. It wasn’t for the fame. It wasn’t just out of duty. It was out of love. And that is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that all the ministry in the world is nothing if is not done out of love.
There are many possible reasons for confronting others. Here are a few:
- Wanting to prove that you are right.
- Wanting to “win” a debate.
- Wanting to cause pain with your words to those who have caused you pain.
- Wanting to make yourself look good.
- A prideful desire to set yourself up as the authority.
All of these are wrong motivations to confront people. The correct motivation is a heart of love, wanting to see the other person grow spiritually.
Application: What kind of a shepherd are you? Do you love the sheep as Paul did? While you may not be a shepherd in the same sense that Paul was you are still surrounded by sheep. They may be your children or family members or Christian friends. When they sin, how do you respond? Do you attack and humiliate them? If so, that is wrong. Are you apathetic, just living your own life and ignoring what others do? That is also wrong. The sin of the sheep around you should cause you anguish. It should cause sadness of the heart. Those reactions show that you really care. And then when you care you will want to pray for that person. And you will want to use Scripture to guide them back to the right path.
Love hurts. It can hurt us when we see those we love living in sin. And it hurts when we confront sin. But it is necessary. Just make sure that when you confront sin, you are doing it out of love! Pray and ask God to reveal to you your own motivations.
II. Forgive the sinner (5-11)
- How had this person’s actions affected the church?
- What might this person have done?
- How might this person have been punished already?
- What can we learn from this passage about forgiveness?
- What is the relationship between forgiveness and comfort?
- What does this teach us about what true forgiveness looks like?
- What can we learn about this person from the fact that he demonstrated “excessive sorrow?”
- Why do people find it so difficult to forgive those who have hurt them?
- What was Paul asking them to be obedient to in verse 9?
- Explain the phrase “what I have forgiven… has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.”
- Based on the context, what schemes was Satan plotting in the Corinthian church?
- What is the result of unforgiveness? Why should believers forgive?
- Is there someone you need to forgive?
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Mark 11:35 – And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Colossians 3:13 – Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
1 Corinthians 5:5,13 – Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.
John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
1. Verse 5 –
“Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you.”
If anyone has caused pain – The way the Greek is written, it is presumed to be the case that this person or group of people did cause pain.
He has caused it not to me – Paul does not seek personal revenge or retaliation. His own anguish, while significant and real, is not the focus.
But in some measure to all of you – When one person or group in a church sin it affects others. It causes pain. It causes the church to lose some of its testimony and witness. It causes discomfort, unpleasantness, and stress. In a home when one person sins can make the whole home an unpleasant place to be. “Don’t ruin it for everyone,” a parent may tell a grumbling child. And the same is true in the church. No one is in isolation. So the actions of one, affect all. For a biblical example, consider the sin of Achan. Because of his disobedience the nation of Israel lost a battle and people died.
Beyond this when one sins, it can can cause others to stumble.
2. For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough – In 1 Corinthians Paul had laid down rules for how to exercise church discipline on the sinning brother (1 Corinthians 5).
This is probably what is referenced by the phrase “punishment by the majority.” The sin of this individual would have been told to the whole church. Paul says that it “is enough.” The goal of church discipline is restoration. The hope is that the offending person will repent.
Since Paul said it was enough and then encouraged the Corinthians to forgive it is evident that the person had repented.
And that reminds us that discipline is not about revenge. It is not about punitive punishment. Neither should it go on and on. Godly discipline (whether in the church or in the family) is loving, limited, and goal oriented.
In the game of hockey a player who breaks the rules is sent to the “penalty box.” A penalty is generally two minutes long. After the penalty has been served, the player can be restored to the team in good standing. The goal is that the player will learn the lesson and join his team again while keeping the rules.
The goal of discipline in the church or family is similar. It is to restore the person into good standing with the right attitude. The discipline is limited in that it does not go on forever. Once the person repents, the discipline is deemed to have been successful and the person is restored. And the discipline is loving because it is done with the best interests of the offending party in mind.
Application: Parents should be careful to practice loving, limited, and goal oriented discipline to their children. It should not be punitive punishment (ie: simply to cause pain). The goal should be repentance as you shepherd your child’s heart. Also, make sure to practice limited discipline. For example, if you ground your child let me them know how long it will last or what conditions they need to meet to receive privileges again.
3. Turn to forgive and comfort him – God has no limits in mercy, grace, and forgiveness. No matter how grievous a person’s sin is, God is willing to forgive and we should be too. A lack of forgiveness is one the most destructive sins known to man. When relationships are destroyed, they are often destroyed not because of a sin (we all have sin), but because of a lack of forgiveness.
Note that they were not only to forgive the offender, but also to comfort him. Real forgiveness goes beyond ignoring the sin, remaining silent, or not taking revenge. Real forgiveness will be expressed in an outpouring of love for the sinner.
If they did not forgive Paul says that this person may have become overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Is it possible to be excessively sorrowful? Apparently so!
True repentance should lead to joy. But it is hard to have joy if the people around you are still blaming or shunning you because of the sin.
Reflect: How may it affect a brother or sister who repents if their sin is brought up and replayed over and over again?
If you keep bringing up a person’s past sins again and again it can cause that person to become discouraged and even depressed. He may conclude that there is no forgiveness and no joy in repentance. If all he experiences is judgment from his Christian family, then it would not be a surprise to see him give up and go the world.
The application is simple: when someone repents, forgive! Don’t hold it over them. Don’t keep bringing it up. Don’t keep a mental list of their sin and pull it out periodically to attack them. Restore the person into fellowship and comfort him, letting him know the full abundance of God’s grace and mercy.
We are called to forgive not just little sins, but big sins because that is what Christ has forgiven us.
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. – C.S. Lewis
Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive. – C.S. Lewis
Reflect: Should you forgive a person who does not ask for it and is not repentant?
4. I beg you, reaffirm your love for him – When you forgive someone, let them know it! Don’t let them wonder. Don’t leave room for confusion.
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Let your love drive out all fear and doubt. God makes it clear that He loves us. And He makes it clear that He forgives us when we confess (1 John 1:9). The father of the prodigal son left no doubt in his son’s mind that he was completely forgiven. When he saw his son returning, he ran to him! He kissed him! He gave him his robe, his ring, and had a feast to celebrate. That is what perfect love looks like. The son had no doubt of his standing. He knew he was forgiven.
Real forgiveness is not cold. It is not silent. If a person hears you say, “I forgive you,” but still observes a cold and hard heart, he would be right to doubt the sincerity of the forgiveness. Do not just say that you forgive. Truly forgive and show it by action.
5. That I might test your obedience – Paul wanted to see if the Corinthians would obey him by fully forgiving and restoring the sinning brother.
6. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive – Paul was not asking them to do something that he was not willing to do. He would also forgive. There had to be complete forgiveness on all sides to bring about a unified, joyful fellowship again.
Paul knew that Christ was watching him. Everything he did was in “Christ’s presence.” In the end, this is the ultimate motivation for forgiveness.
Stephen was a great example of this as he learned from Jesus’ words on the cross and imitated that same example by saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60).
7. That we would not be outwitted by Satan – Where God is working, Satan is also likely working. We see that in the Corinthian church. Paul went to Corinth and established the church. People were turning to Christ in this very immoral and pagan town. Satan didn’t want to give up his stronghold. So he attacked the church. He tempted the believers will all kinds of temptations: immorality, pride, and division. Many of these had been dealt with.
But Satan did not give up. Another weapon in his arsenal is the sin of unforgiveness. This is like the residual sin. For Satan, it is the sin which keeps on giving.
Division in the church and the family is often caused by unforgiveness. Division keeps the church from being effective for Christ. And a lack of forgiveness will keep you from being effective for Christ as well.
Satan wants to feed you excuses for not forgiving.
Reflect: What are some excuses or reasons people give for not forgiving?
- He doesn’t deserve forgiveness. This is actually true! No one does. Neither do you. And yet God forgave you.
- You don’t understand how much he hurt me? Probably also true. Other people may not understand, but God understands. And He still commands it. Jesus paid for every one of those sins with His own blood.
- He keeps sinning again and again! Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven times (meaning unlimited).
- I will forgive him, but I don’t have to talk to or be with him! That is not forgiveness. Forgiveness includes restoration.
If you expect God to let go of your sins and forgive you, then you must also do the same to others.
On September 6, 2018 an off duty police officer named Amber Guyger walked in to an apartment and shot and a killed Botham Jean. She would claim that she believed the apartment was her own and that Botham Jean was a burglar.
She was sentenced to murder and 10 years in prison. It is a tragic story. And yet, in the midst of the tragedy is an amazing lesson of forgiveness.
During the trial the victim’s brother Brandt Jean said that he forgave her, invited her to accept Christ, and gave her a hug.
Watch the amazing display of forgiveness here:
This is what forgiveness looks like.
You have been forgiven, so act like it! – A.W. Tozer
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