I told you before, and tell you again, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them who earlier have sinned, and to all others, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
Read Chapter 13
Cornelius a Lapide
I to1d you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, . . . and being absent. As I declared when I was present with you, so do I still say when absent. The Greek copies add after present, the second time, but the meaning, is unaltered. His writing from a distance Isaiah , as it were, a second personal address.
I will not spare. Estius, Menochius, and others explain this of the censures, excommunications of the Church; whilst some are of opinion that he means temporal punishments. But we must observe, that not unfrequently God punished, even in a sensible manner, those who by their crimes had compelled their pastors to make use of the spiritual sword. (Calmet)
Paul is saying that he has stuck his neck out so often and so many people have heard his threats that if he comes and nothing has changed he will have to carry them out. Even so, he will see it more as a humbling and as a defeat than as anything else.
'For if at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word shall be established, and I have come twice and spoken, and speak now also by this Epistle; it follows, I must after this keep my word. For think not, I pray you, that my writing is of less account than my coming; for as I spoke when present, so now I write also when absent.' Do you see his fraternal solicitude? Do you see forethought becoming a teacher? He neither kept silence nor punished, but he both foretells often, and continues ever threatening, and puts off the punishment, and if they should continue unamended, then he threatens to bring it to the proof. 'But what did you tell them before when present, and when absent writest?' That if I come again, I will not spare. Having showed before that he is unable to do this unless he is compelled, and having called the thing a mourning, and a humbling; (for he says, lest my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for them that have sinned heretofore, and not repented;...