Paul addressed a serious sin problem in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5).
His direction to the church was to excommunicate the offender. He wrote, “You are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5.5).
The goal of excommunication was not to banish the man forever but to bring him to a point of repentance.
One year later, Paul wrote his second letter to the church. Apparently, the man had changed his behavior, allowing Paul to write new instructions to the church.
— 2 Corinthians 2.5-8 – But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent — not to exaggerate it — to all of you.
This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
Church discipline is one of the most difficult experiences that a church encounters. There was no exaggeration in Paul’s words when he wrote the congregation about the pain they had gone through.
Jesus outlined a process of confrontation and restoration of an offending church member.
— Matthew 18.15-17 – “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Jesus’ instructions involved three progressive steps.
(1) Personal Confrontation – The best outcome is for the person to respond positively to a one-on-one visit about their wrongdoing.
(2) Confirming Witnesses – If the first step doesn’t work, then two mature Christians are to join an effort to bring the offending person to repentance.
(3) Excommunication – If when confronted by the church and the person resists change, the next step is to remove the person from the congregation.
I heard a wise Christian leader speak on this topic several years ago. He taught that the church was not finished with the process at this point.
Instead, the church was to join in prayer for the unrepentant person.
In the context of church discipline, Jesus taught, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Mathew 18.19).
The church continues to pray for the unrepentant person and seeks victory in their case.
Forgiveness and Restoration
Notice the words Paul used to describe how the way the church should respond to the one who repents.
— 2 Corinthians 2.7-8 – So now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
The congregation is to give the man moral and emotional support, along with forgiveness. All of this comes under the heading of love.
Resentment and unforgiveness are two of Satan’s tools that he uses to steal, kill and destroy humans (John 10.10).
That is why forgiveness and love must be expressed.
— 2 Corinthians 2.9-11 – I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.
Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.
And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Paul’s directions in his first letter (chapter 5) were to be obeyed. One year later, his new guidance was to forgive the man so that Satan could not gain a foothold.
The program of Alcoholic’s Anonymous exposes the destructive nature of resentment.
“AA recognizes that resentment is toxic to our inner lives. The case is plainly stated in the Big Book: ‘Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.’
“A person mired in resentment has scant chances of recovering from addiction.”
The Betty Ford Clinic has excellent advice for people who deal with resentments.
(1) Be willing to live without resentment.
“People can get a perverse satisfaction in feeding their resentments. Many times the only thing that keeps us from being free of resentments is the fear of being without them.”
The Big Book of AA explains that we can only remove resentments with God’s help. We give resentments to God and trust him to remove them.
(2) Pray for the person you resent.
“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for that person or the thing that you resent, you will be free.
“If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.”
Paul’s counsel involves mature action on our part. However, it pays great dividends.
Rudy Ross and I discuss the practical side of this passage in today’s YouTube video. It can be seen on the Bob Spradling channel.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.