«Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Introduction What happens when a person is causing division, strife or trouble in the church? ...»
Church Discipline And Forgiveness
2 Corinthians 2:5-11
What happens when a person is causing division, strife or trouble in the church? Does the
church have some remedy? How is a church to exercise discipline, correction, and restoration?
In this chapter we have seen Paul’s tears (vv.1-4); and now Paul deals with a transgressor (vv.
5-11) and later Paul’s triumph (vv.12-17).
The Offender (v.5)
2 Corinthians 2:5–11 (NKJV)
5But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.
Paul seems to make reference to the incident that had caused grief and division in the church.
One of the things we need to notice is the level of grace and compassion and consideration that Paul shows. Paul does not mention either the name of the offender or the nature of the offense.
Paul may be making reference to the man mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1 who was accused of some kind of incestuous relationship; or he may be referring to someone else who had committed some kind of wrong against Paul; but also caused harm to the fellowship in Corinth.
In 1 Corinthians 5 the man was living in open sin. The man’s sin brought trouble to the whole church. Paul counseled the church to call the church together and dismiss the man from fellowship.
The person may have been the ringleader who had chosen to question Paul’s sincerity or apostolic office or mistreated Paul in some other way. Whatever the person or the nature of the sin it created controversy, disturbance pain and grief.
Some people think the Church should never judge. But the Bible does not say that. We are obligated to judge truth from error and good from evil. We are obligated to do this not simply from a personal standpoint; but from a corporate standpoint as the church (see Rom.12:2; 1 Cor.
12:10; 14:29; 1 Thess.5:19-22). We judge teachers of false versions of Christianity; and we are to judge unrepentant sinners in the Church. Both Jesus (Matt.18) and Paul taught those who commit serious sins that violate the integrity of the church, and who refuse to repent, should be excluded from Christian fellowship (see Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:9-13).
We sometimes think divisions and disturbances in the Church are the one thing God says; “Oh well!” Disturbing the peace in the church is a serious offense against God.
Offenders need to be dealt with in order to free the people to minister without the hindrance of the controversy. Offenders need to be dealt with in order to focus on the ministry.
Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Does the Church get to say who is saved and who is lost? The answer is no. But the church has a holy obligation to bring discipline to the unrepentant and maintain the integrity of the church. When I use the term discipline I mean an action intended to bring about repentance and correct behavior. Again this is the responsibility of the Church as a whole--and not the actions of isolated individuals apart from the leadership of the church and the congregation as a whole. In Matthew 18 Jesus seems to outline what we might call due process. This due process is to avoid superficial judgments or hypocritical judgments or unjust judgments or presumptuous judgments. Unjust judgments are those based on appearance only; we are not to go forward absent evidence or mystical intuition. Jesus warns against superficial judgments and hypocritical judgments. Hypocritical judgments are those based on misinterpretations of the appearances and a failure to discern things as they really are. Presumptuous judgments are those in which we are simply not competent to judge. We are not called on to determine if a person is saved or lost. Another kind of presumptuous judgment is taking non-essential matters and making them the “litmus tests” for Christian fellowship. Paul warns about this explicitly in food and drinks and holidays and feast days (see Orthodoxy and Heresy by Robert M. Bowman pp.
Paul does not want the Corinthians to draw the conclusion that the discipline was not merely a matter of personal injury; but the harm was in a sense corporate.
The word’s translated “grief” and “grieved” are the same root words translated heaviness and sorrow in verses 1-4 (noun lype; verb lypeo); the NASB consistently translates this to cause sorrow or make sorrowful.
Not to be “too severe” (epibareo); used here and 1 Thess.2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8; it literally means put a burden on; or to be burdensome; Ardt and Gingrich say that hina me epibaro in the passage “seems to have the meaning ‘in order not to heap up too great a burden of words’ or in order not to say to much (NASB)...although there are no other examples of this meaning; other possibilities are exaggerate; or be to severe; the NIV probably captures the meaning; ‘If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely’.
Apparently not all people perceived the problem in the same way; hence Paul writes; “but all of you to some extent”; some were grieved; some were not.
How do we give appropriate attention to a matter? At what point is church discipline necessary?
Church Discipline And Correction (v.6) 6This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 The word translated ‘punishment’ (epitimia-only here in the NT; comes from epitimao--which first meant to honor someone; or to mete out or render what was due; due measure; to censure or rebuke). Some have suggested the word became a technical term to describe group censure or discipline. It would appear that the offender had been sufficiently punished by public censure or group discipline.
Part of the point of the passage was that the group agreed on a course of action. In this instance the punishment or discipline included excommunication. It would appear that action resulted in genuine repentance. Genuine repentance included restoration to the Lord.
Just a quick word about repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, thought, attitude with regard to sin and righteousness. Paul told the Thessalonians; “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (I Thess.1:9). The saints did three things; turned from the sinful behavior; turned to the Lord--and a desire to to serve Him. The Lord saves us in our sin and then from our sin! Repentance results in a change of mind, heart and behavior.
Now Paul tells the Corinthians the man has had enough; there was no need to prolong the discipline.
Some churches make exact and specific rules; outward violations of moral law; pursuing any course which in the view of the church seems disreputable to the body; for ditching church without good reason; for holding and advocating doctrines that were opposed to those set forth in their statement of faith; for neglecting or refusing to contribute to the church; for pursuing any conduct unbecoming good citizens and professing Christians.
Alan Redpath said about membership in church; 5% don’t exist; 10% can’t be found’ 25% don’t attend; 50% show up on Sunday; 75% never attend a prayer meeting; 90% have no family worship; and 95% have never shared the gospel with a single soul.
There are lots of reasons not to practice discipline. We don’t want to be vindictive. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay says the Lord” (Rom.12:19).
Corrective church discipline can never be done out of a mean spirit, but only out of love for the offending party; and members of the church individually, and ultimately out of love for God himself.
The Bible says “love covers a multitude of sin”. So when do you discipline? I am going to suggest that the behavior or sin is egregious, divisive, unrepentant, harmful to the body and the cause of Christ.
When does discipline morph into abuse?
Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 I read that in the years leading up to the Civil War that Southern Baptists excommunicated nearly 2 percent of their membership every year!
People are not required to measure up to the whims and wishes of even well meaning men and women.
But it is completely appropriate for God to require from us as Christians to reflect His love, His character.
Do you kick out the Worship Leader because He or she chose the wrong hymn? Do you kick out the Pastor because he picked the wrong colors in the children’s ministry?
The Purpose of Discipline: To Restore The Offender (vv.7-8) 7so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
Now that the man is completely repentant; the Corinthians should seek to forgive him and strengthen him, and welcome him back into fellowship. Discipline and correction is to lead to forgiveness and restoration.
Why forgive? Forgiveness is the road that leads to restoration. The forgiveness blesses the man and the congregation. All saints are former sinners. There is no church were forgiveness does not exist. Paul forgives the man for the sake of Christ. And Paul insists on forgiveness so that Satan cannot take undue advantage.
If they do not--there is the risk or danger that the man might be swallowed up sorrow or despair.
The man might not appreciate and understand the reality of his forgiveness and go into a perpetual state of despair or sorrow. Again sorrow means a heaviness of pain or perhaps guilt.
8Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
How should they remedy the problem? Confirm their love for him. How? By opening their hearts and arms and receiving him back with joy and tenderness.
The Purpose of Discipline: To Strengthen The Church In Its Mission (v.9) Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 9For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
What is Paul saying? In part that he wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians to put them to the test. The discipline provided the opportunity to see whether or not the Church would be obedient to the Word of the Lord (the Bible); ministered to them by the Apostle Paul.
When Paul wrote the first letter he instructed them to put that man out of the church. This is exactly what they did; proving themselves to be obedient. Now Paul would have them take the steps necessary to create a path for restoration.
Cultivating The Forgiving Spirit (vv.10-11) 10Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, We might have some problems in understanding or appreciating the first century idioms.
Phillips translates this; “If you will forgive a certain person, rest assured that I forgive him too.
Insofar as I had anything personally to forgive, I do forgive him, as before Christ.” Paul want the Corinthians to understand that he is in complete fellowship with the Corinthians;
as they forgive the repentant offender. If he has anything to forgive at all, he does forgive it, for the sake of the Corinthians and for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.
11lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
There are two dangers: When a church refuses to discipline; and when a church does not exercise true forgiveness and restoration when true repentance has taken place.
Satan is always ready to step into a situation such as this and wreck havoc.
Be angry don’t sin... “neither give place to the devil” (Eph.4:26-27) Be strong in the Lord, put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph.6:10-11) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about (prowls) seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (I Peter 5:8-9).
If a church fails to discipline Satan mocks and exposes churches who tolerate, who celebrate sin!
Church Discipline And Forgiveness 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 And if a church does discipline--he will attempt to overwhelm and embitter the person who in fact experiences true sorrow, true repentance, when the church refuses to restore that person.
Someone has said; “If Satan cannot destroy by fornication, he will try by the unmeasured sorrow following on repentance.” Satan in both Hebrew and Greek and modern languages means “Adversary”.
Satan is called “the evil one” (Eph.6:16); “Belial” (2 Cor. 6:15); “the serpent” (2 Cor.11:3); “the god of this age” (2 Cor.4:4).
Alfred Plummer (ICC Vol.); “It is not necessary to dwell on the obvious fact that here and elsewhere he regards the evil power which opposes God and the well-being of man as a personal agent. Excepting xii. 7 Satanas (Greek form) always has the article in the Pauline Epistles. So also frequently in the rest of the N.T. is always a proper name which designates the Adversary of God and man (see pp.63-64).
“for we are not ignorant of his devices” devices-noema (noeema)-found five times in 2 Corinthians (2:11; 3:14; 4:4; 10:5; 11:3). Only once in the rest of the NT (Phil.4:7); it is translated three ways in the KJV; “mind” “device” and “thought”.
Ardt and Gingrich point out in classic Greek it carried the idea “of purpose” and in a bad sense “design” or “plot” and therefore the NASB and NIV both translate this “schemes”.
In later studies we will explore those schemes at greater length. Satan targets the mind (Eve); the body (Job); the will (David) and the heart and conscience (Joshua). His weapons are lies;
suffering; pride; and accusation. Satan desires that we be ignorant of God’s will; or impatient with God’s will; or act in a way independent of God’s will; or experience indictment by God’s will. And we are not left defenseless. We are inspired by the Word of God--we experience imparted Grace by the Son of God and the Spirit of God; and experience the intercession by both Son and Spirit.
Conclusion In his book 9 Marks Of A Healthy Church Mark Dever gives five reasons to practice church discipline (p.166)
1. For the Good of the Person Disciplined
2. For the Good of the Other Christians, as They See the Danger of Sin