Continuing our observations of the ministry of Paul and his companions to the Corinthians, in chapter two, we immediately see the pastoral prerogative Paul exercises in his apostolic office continued from chapter one. He has said that he did not come that he might spare the Corinthians, and it is right to ask: from what is he sparing them?
It may be supposed (and rightly, I think) that he is referring to his former epistle he wrote to them, especially since the tone of the current epistle is much more conciliatory, whereas the former was strongly corrective and admonitory; in both cases (the former and the current epistle), he exercises, clearly and firmly, the pastoral aspect of his ministry. However, Paul is speaking of coming to them again (1:15), so we may also suppose (more strongly, perhaps, than that occasion of his first epistle, although both are sufficient suppositions), that he is referring to his ministry among them when he brought to them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and stayed there a year and six months (Acts 18:1-11); in either case, it is to work a second work of grace, or be twice blessed in that confirmation of the gospel by the building upon the foundation that was laid with them at the first, and through his first epistle (with the additional possibility of God graciously adding more souls to the church). By second work of grace, we intend the ongoing grace of our Lord being ministered through the elder’s ministry of the same, not an infusion of the Spirit subsequent to salvation further empowers the believer to do works of this same grace given at salvation, and continually given through the means of grace which our Lord established for His church. The means of grace used to deliver that once given, inexhaustible supply of sufficient grace which the apostle utilizes here is the preaching and teaching of the Word, and it is noteworthy to observe that all members of the body of Christ partake of His limitless, sufficient grace to grow therein, each time they hear the Word preached and taught by those appointed of our Lord to care for that portion of His flock.
Whether we suppose it is correction received from his first epistle to them, or during his long stay with them at the first wherein he would have done some gentle admonition, at this point, he has established that he would spare them of further correction, rather wishing to build them up in grace in the most positive manner, while at the same time mildly rebuking them for any doubts they yet hold against him by reason of the false accusers and their own reticence in validating his ministry among them (ref. 2 Corinthians 10 regarding those accusers and false apostles who accused Paul and caused mayhem among the Corinthian church – there is no need to disregard that these same were operating at the time of the occasion of his first epistle, especially in view of the many errors of theology and morality he addressed therein). Various commentators have said that Paul throws back the blame upon the Corinthians that they supposed his failure of coming to them this second time evidenced, therefore they were accusing him of not acting in accordance with integrity; that they supposed this as a fault of the apostle, that is, but the Scriptures under consideration show us that such was not a fault of the apostle, but of their lack of confidence in him due to the aforementioned reasons; in any case, he certainly vindicated himself of their doubts by referral to his initial work among them, as well as his previous epistle. His appeal for his integrity is to God, as we have shown above, not in the confidence of either his flesh or that of the Corinthians (v 17).
Therefore, he is sparing them the rod of further correction, which again is reminiscent of his first, strongly corrective and disciplinary epistle, for he wishes to increase their abundance in the fruit of the Spirit, not their sorrow, which would also make him sorrowful. He is stating that he would have them rejoice with him (2:3), not share in additional grief, regardless of the supposed or real warrant for such. He is giving them instructions that they may not only partake of his instructions in the Lord in the present letter, but fully benefit from what he had occasion to write in his previous letter – the heart of a pastor runs strongly through this epistle!
SDG – Bill