Verses 5–11

In these verses the apostle treats concerning the incestuous person who had been excommunicated, which seems to be one principal cause of his writing this epistle. Here observe, 1. He tells them that the crime of that person had grieved him in part; and that he was grieved also with a part of them, who, notwithstanding this scandal had been found among them, were puffed up and had not mourned, 1 Cor. 5:2. However, he was unwilling to lay too heavy a charge upon the whole church, especially seeing they had cleared themselves in that matter by observing the directions he had formerly given them. 2. He tells them that the punishment which had been inflicted upon this offender was sufficient, 2 Cor. 2:6. The desired effect was obtained, for the man was humbled, and they had shown the proof of their obedience to his directions. 3. He therefore directs them, with all speed, to restore the excommunicated person, or to receive him again to their communion, 2 Cor. 2:7, 8. This is expressed several ways. He beseeches them to forgive him, that is, to release him from church-censures, for they could not remit the guilt or offence against God; and also to comfort him, for in many cases the comfort of penitents depends upon their reconciliation not only with God, but with men also, whom they have scandalized or injured. They must also confirm their love to him; that is, they should show that their reproofs and censures proceeded from love to his person, as well as hatred to his sin, and that their design was to reform, not to ruin him. Or thus: If his fall had weakened their love to him, that they could not take such satisfaction in him as formerly; yet, now that he was recovered by repentance, they must renew and confirm their love to him. 4. He uses several weighty arguments to persuade them to do thus, as, (1.) The case of the penitent called for this; for he was in danger of being swallowed up with over-much sorrow, 2 Cor. 2:7. He was so sensible of this fault, and so much afflicted under his punishment, that he was in danger of falling into despair. When sorrow is excessive it does hurt; and even sorrow for sin is too great when it unfits for other duties, and drives men to despair. (2.) They had shown obedience to his directions in passing a censure upon the offender and now he would have them comply with his desire to restore him, 2 Cor. 2:9. (3.) He mentions his readiness to forgive this penitent, and concur with them in this matter. “To whom you forgive I forgive also, 2 Cor. 2:10. I will readily concur with you in forgiving him.” And this he would do for their sakes, for love to them and for their advantage; and for Christ’s sake, or in his name, as his apostle, and in conformity to his doctrine and example, which are so full of kindness and tender mercy towards all those who truly repent. (4.) He gives another weighty reason (2 Cor. 2:11): Lest Satan get an advantage against us. Not only was there danger lest Satan should get an advantage against the penitent, by driving him to despair; but against the churches also, and the apostles or ministers of Christ, by representing them as too rigid and severe, and so frightening people from coming among them. In this, as in other things, wisdom is profitable to direct, so to manage according as the case may be that the ministry may not be blamed, for indulging sin on the one hand, or for too great severity towards sinners on the other hand. Note, Satan is a subtle enemy, and uses many stratagems to deceive us; and we should not be ignorant of his devices: he is also a watchful adversary, ready to take all advantages against us, and we should be very cautious lest we give him any occasion so to do.