In first part of this study into 2 Corinthians 2 called: “Smoothing things Over,” we made reference to the fact that Paul was writing to the Corinthians as a response to the corrections made by the church, after receiving his first scolding letter.
Out in the Open
Something to remember throughout this epistle, is that much of it is a response to the Corinthian church’s actions taken after hearing Paul’s first letter to them. One can envision it being read aloud during a service, instructing all who were present within the gathering of the brethren.
This is good in that all would hear what the Lord had to instruct through Paul. On the other hand, a convicting and grievous thing to hear for those who Paul called out, while being driven to by the Spirit of the Lord.
He was smoothing things over between he and the church, liberating them from thinking that he’ll be showing up in anger rather than in love. As he said in chapter one, he is not Lord over their faith- that’s between them and the Lord.
In the grand scheme of things, they’d have to answer to the Lord, rather than him. This is the point he was driving home.
In this section, we’ll talk about the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians about how to handle those who were corrected, and repentant. He’s fairly specific, referring to a particular man rather than blanket statements.
Here are the scriptures we’ll be talking about:
2 Corinthians 2:King James Bible
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.
Calling out Sin
Sometimes extreme sin requires extreme correction. Personally speaking, I believe that the man being referred to in the cluster of verses, is the one Paul made reference to in 1 Corinthians 5:
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
I think this is the guy being spoken about in verses 6-8. The church did what he instructed them to do in 1 Corinthians. At least, we’re left to assume such according to Paul’s response above.
In a sense, just as Paul is doing a comforting follow up with the Corinthian church, so is he instructing them to do the same with this man.
What’s Going On?
If the church did what Paul told them to do in his first epistle, the person who either married his father’s wife, or was preaching that such was acceptable to the Lord; was publicly called out, rebuked, and thrown out of the church. The scripture isn’t clear which of those two were happening.
It could have been one, the other, or both. If it were both, it’s likely that it was happening from one person, who happened to also be in a position of authority in the church, or was at least in a public speaking/teaching capacity.
What is causing fro me to speculate like this, is the manner by which Paul worded the section of the verse- “that one should have his father’s wife.” Your opinion may differ, but to me, using the word “should” makes this verse have a different impact than if he used the phrase “has married,” or something to that effect.
Paul leveled all kinds of charges against the Corinthian church in his first letter, all of which were his reaction to their sinful behavior, but this instance called for him to make a personal reference to a particular person.
Sin vs False Doctrine
Let’s be clear up front- there is no acceptable sin in the eyes of the Lord. All is filthy, all is wrong. However, different sin carries different earthly punishments while we’re still kicking. Think about which would be worse in the eyes of the Lord…
Being the committer of the sin on the one hand, or preaching that a sin is acceptable to the Father on the other hand. Which is worse in the eyes of the Lord?
I would say the latter, and here’s why.
When we sin, we ourselves will bear the penalty. This doesn’t mean much more than that, other than being in disobedience and foolish, depending on what the sin is.
No matter the circumstance repentance is required, and the Lord is faithful to forgive.
Standing Against God
It becomes a whole other matter when someone creates a doctrine that is contrary to the Word of God. This is a good way to become an enemy of the Lord, rather than someone that did something he shouldn’t have.
Creating doctrine that is contrary to the will of the Lord will never lead anyone closer to him, but will lead away from the Spirit of God every time, not just once in awhile. This isn’t just a sin of the progenitor, but also leads others to sin.
In reference to doctrine, people mess up in a variety of different ways. The level of correction will vary on the willingness of the individual to humble themselves and receive it.
Making a doctrinal mistake is different than taking sin that you know is sin, and calling it good and acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. This is a practice when someone vehemently wants to be justified in a particular sin, and they wiggle scriptures together out of context to excuse themselves.
Then if they’re able, begin preaching it as the norm to others. I’ve borne witness to this in today’s church, and have witnessed it grievously displayed in sections of the Episcopal church.
So this isn’t a problem that was taken care of 2,000 years ago, but began 2,000 years ago- But I digress…
Does it make sense that Paul would want the people of the church to reach out to that person if he wasn’t repentant? Nope.
Would Paul’s writings above make any sense if the person was still a part of the church? Nope.
Because he is instructing the church as to how to handle this person after being corrected, rebuked, and cut off from the church, we’re only led to believe that this person saw the error of his ways, repented, but was not present with the church.
He was cut off, and left to be dealt with however the Father saw fit. Whatever happened, it worked, as we see Paul instructing the church to reach out in love. To bring comfort and forgive him of the things that he’d done.
We’re informed of the aftermath when this doesn’t happen. He says “lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”
There is such a thing as “overmuch” or “too much” sorrow. If someone is feeling this way, then often the purposes of reproof and correction are defeated.
Would there be a point of repenting if repenting was pointless? In other words, if you’ve received correction and have repented, should you continue to be treated the same way as you were treated when you were in the heat of the sin?
The tables start to turn against us when we do not forgive and comfort someone who has repented of their trespass. Jesus told us directly:
Matthew 6: King James Bible
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If someone who was in the wrong has repented before the Lord, has been forgiven by the Lord, and received by him as the prodigal son by his father, who in the world are we to think that we have the right to continue condemning that person?
When we continue to pour sorrows on to a repentant and sorrowful heart, the grace of God is found wanting within our own.
Nobody can escape the bitterness of humble pie. This person was cast out, called out, and was forced to make a decision: repent or don’t repent. He made the right decision- repent.
Because of this, Paul gives them the instruction to welcome him, tend to him, minister to him. His punishment was inflicted by many, so should he be comforted by the same.
Do we do this, or do we rest this responsibility upon the shoulders of someone else? Should those who rebuke also be the ones to reach out, forgive, and comfort after the rebuke bears positive fruit?
I believe so. I also think this is what Paul believed according to these verse given to us in chapter 2. What are your thoughts?
If you’re going to take the position of reproofing someone, that position doesn’t end with a reproof. It ends with genuine forgiveness and up-building of that person, by the one who has cast the reproof, if the person has repented.
Often we observe the former, and call it done. If God doesn’t do that, and the apostles didn’t do that, why should we?
In the Lord’s prayer, we recite the following, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Are you comfortable with this?
Are you comfortable with the Lord forgiving you in the same manner or “as” you’ve been forgiving others? Think about it.
If you’d hate to see the Lord treat you in the same manner as you’ve forgiven others, then you might need to rethink your forgiveness strategy, and call upon the Lord to soften your heart in this department.
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Thanks for checking in and reading “Swallowed up in Sorrow – 2 Corinthians Part 2.”
- Smoothing things Over – 2 Corinthians 2 Part 1
- In the Person of Christ – 2 Corinthians 2 Part 3
- Preaching 101 – 2 Corinthians 4 Part 3
- What is the Spirit of Faith? – 2 Corinthians 4 Part 6
- 2 Corinthians -Diving Deep