“But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree– in order not to say too much– to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority”
(2 Cor. 2:5-6)
This is the second of four reasons Paul didn’t visit the Christians in Corinth for a third time. There were ecclesiastical realities that needed addressing, and because he didn’t want to prematurely confront sin, he chose to stay away for the mean time, and instead instruct the church on restoring a man among them.
What had happened?
Apparently, this man (in the church) had publicly sinned against Paul in his prior visit – that’s what made it so painful. That, and the fact that no one in the church had rebuked them man. But Paul’s letter to the church in between 1 and 2 Corinthians had challenged the church to handle the sin themselves. Thankfully, most in the church done exactly that, and had administered the proper punishment, a withdrawal of fellowship (2 Thess. 3:14).
The punishment in this text, which was inflicted by the majority, was not a church vote. It was a verbal reproof consistent with Christ’s words in Mat. 18:17: “if he will not listen to the church.” The word “punishment” in all its forms occurs 30 times in the New Testament, and in all other occurrences is a verbal reproof. So too, here in its noun form, it should be understood as a verbal reproof here, too.
The scene here is one of ecclesiastical obedience being affirmed – the church of Corinth acting obediently to Christ, not to modern political theory. Votes don’t change hearts – but reproofs often do – and it certainly did here.