It’s all kicking off in Corinth. They were upset that Paul wrote a combative letter to deal with their concerns and some sin issues, rather than visiting them. Now Paul tells them why he chose not to visit then.
It was to spare them pain and for their joy, so they can stand firm in their faith! Joy is the deep, durable delight in God that ruins you for anything else. In v.23 Paul is concerned they think he is lording it over them, when the opposite is true. He wants their joy to abound! As Sam Storms puts it “The purpose of apostolic ministry is not to extend personal power or reputation or control, but the joy of other believers!”
It would seem that one of the matters raised in the letter has now sorted out. In 1 Cor 5:1-13, Paul urged them to remove a young man who was committing sexual immorality with his step-mum from the fellowship – to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. (I dread to think what he would have written to the church that has been tweeting their fancy dress costumes for the Pride day last weekend.) From today’s reading it would seem that the discipline has worked. He is ready to return to the fold and should be forgiven, comforted and loved. Discipline always has the intention of restoration to purity.
Sam Storms notes some helpful pointers about conflict from this whole section
- Don’t read between the lines – give people the benefit of the doubt and the chance to explain.
- Don’t always grab the wrong end of the stick – ask for clarification
- Don’t look for ulterior motives.
- If someone is normally faithful, don’t quickly believe what others are saying to the contrary.
- When dealing with selfish and unscrupulous people, choose words carefully and explain what you do and don’t mean.