Today: [2 Corinthians 2:] Restoring the Fallen: In 2 Cor. 2 Paul urges the Corinthians to restore a fallen brother. Have you ever been disciplined or chastised by a church or Christian leader? Were you subsequently restored? Is it ever appropriate to ostracize believers who embrace unscriptural behaviors? On what basis do we determine whether or not it is time to allow them to reintegrate into the church family? These crucial questions are answered in our study today.
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[2Co 2:1-17 KJV] 1 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. 2 For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? 3 And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is [the joy] of you all. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6 Sufficient to such a man [is] this punishment, which [was inflicted] of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye [ought] rather to forgive [him], and comfort [him], lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm [your] love toward him. 9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I [forgive] also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave [it], for your sakes [forgave I it] in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to [preach] Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia. 14 Now thanks [be] unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16 To the one [we are] the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who [is] sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
In v. 1 of 2 Cor. 2 Paul continues expressing his concerns over problems in the Corinthian church. He previously canceled plans to visit them opting instead to deal with difficulties in the church by a letter at first, specifically the writing we title 1 Corinthians where Paul deals with sexual immorality in their midst. He now wants to plan a second visit but is hesitating still because of ongoing controversies in their midst.
It is noteworthy that in v. 4 Paul describes his anguish of heart and many tears over the situation in Corinth. Chastising them was not something Paul relished or enjoyed. He is tenderhearted and distraught in their behalf. This is uncharacteristic of many leaders today who find great fulfillment in deriding others who do not agree with them or who fall short of their interpretation of biblical standards. What was the character of the speaker the last time you heard what we would call a “hard message?” Did the speaker “tell it like it is” with a sincere and heavy heart or did they seemingly take pleasure in delivering their diatribe?
Paul then brings up the situation that was the focus of his first letter’s rebuke, specifically a man living in a conjugal relationship with his father’s wife. Paul now has word that this man has repented but the church has yet to lift their harsh judgments against him. For this reason (v. 7) Paul urges the congregation and the leadership to forgive the man and comfort him to spare the individual from being engulfed in sorrow.
Have you ever been the subject of chastisement in your local church? Have you ever been singled out or publically humiliated by leadership? This sometimes happens for various reasons. Have you been a part of a congregation that dealt with exposed sin or other misconduct in one of its leaders or members? Did it lead to reconciliation? Was the church as proactive in restoring the offender as it was with distancing itself from the offense? Do you think this is biblical behavior? Is it ever acceptable for a group of leaders or a church to set aside one of its members due to real or perceived offenses? This is a question that must be answered because in today’s climate of tyranny in the name of political correctness there are many pitfalls associated with these matters. In England recently a minister was heavily fined for publically speaking against Islam under charges of public indecency.
What about your own family or close friends? If one of your family members came out as homosexual or transgender after a profession of faith what would be your response? Paul rebuked the Corinthians in his first letter because the church did nothing about this man in his situation. Instead, they prided themselves on their tolerance and their inclusive attitude toward the offender and did nothing. Is there never any time or set of conditions that would or should compel the church or leadership to act against unscriptural conduct among its members?
Some would suggest we need to be conciliatory and loving toward offenders regardless of their behavior as an expression of Christ’s love. In 1 Cor. 5:9-10, however, Paul makes it clear that we are to be loving and conciliatory with those who have never professed Christ regardless of their lifestyle, but if they have professed Christ and afterward conduct themselves specifically in sexually promiscuous ways, they are to be rejected from the company of the church. Would this be controversial if it took place in your church? Have you seen marginalized members be treated this way but core leaders who do the same things go undealt with? Is there any validity to this in modern day Christian culture? Are we excused from taking these radical steps and if not what are the consequences for us personally of disobeying Paul’s apostolic mandate?
In the case of this man in question we might ask, where is the woman? Where is the man’s mother or stepmother with whom he was sexually involved? Perhaps she was not a believer, and therefore her whereabouts were not Paul’s concern. Maybe the woman was no longer in the picture for some reason not disclosed to us. Whatever the case may be the man obviously repents and Paul calls upon the church to rally around this person and extend to him their full clemency. Have you ever been a part of a church that restored a fallen member? Were they forever stigmatized or were they in time completely integrated back into the church family? Many times particularly leaders once they fall, will never regain the trust of their fellow believers but always be marked with the shame of their failure.
Paul warns the Corinthians not to allow Satan to get the upper hand among them by failing to restore and forgive their formally fallen brother. He insists in v. 10 that he has forgiven the man “in the person of Christ.” He warns the church that it is a device of Satan to provoke the congregation to go to the far extreme of never forgiving or allowing the man to resume his place among them. What about your situation? Do you have people from your past that you have broken relationship with that has never been restored? Are you willing for restoration to take place on the basis of God’s love in the situation? Or do you demand that the person measure up to some expectation that they are unlikely to meet? The answer to those questions are important as they identify the boundaries of judgmentalism and unforgiving attitudes in our own lives.
Paul now shifts the narrative to details of his travel to Troas to preach the gospel, where he sought out his co-worker Titus, and not finding him moved on to Macedonia. He rejoices in the door of success that is opened to him in these communities thanking God who caused them always to triumph in Christ, making His testimony known and seeing the church established.
In v. 15-16 Paul admits that while many are saved and coming to what he terms the “savor of Christ,” there are likewise many who utterly reject the gospel. He concludes that just as he cannot take credit for those who accept Jesus, neither can he feel blame in himself if he has been unable to convince others of their need of a savior. It has been said that the gospel and your testimony in itself even under the best of circumstances will either draw people to the Cross or drive them away. Paul concludes that many teachers, seeking to make their message palatable in order to gain followers had corrupted the message in order to be accepted and approved by those who would otherwise reject Christ. Paul declares that he chooses instead to just present the gospel with sincerity, depending on the anointing to convict the lost rather than polluting the message for the hope of pesonal gain.
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