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Discipline Full Circle

The power of love. 2 Corinthians 2.4-8

2 Corinthians 2 (2)

Pray Psalm 30.1-3.
I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing Psalm 30.1-3.
(Madrid: Come, Christians, Join to Sing)
We will extol Your Name! You have lifted us, O LORD!
Our foes retreat in shame—You have lifted us, O LORD!
You healed us when we cried; safe shall our souls abide;
hell’s claim have You denied—
You have lifted us, O LORD!

Read 2 Corinthians 2.1-8; meditate on verses 4-8.

1. What was the cause of Paul’s grief?

2. What did he instruct the Corinthians to do?

We learn here that, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5 that the church should excommunicate an unrepentant sinner, he was not angry. He wrote out of “much affliction and anguish of heart” (v. 4), and not to bring the Corinthians to grief, but that they should know the abundance of his love for them and strive together for purity in the Body of Christ.

The source of grief to Paul and the Corinthians was the man they put out of the church, turning him over to Satan for the destruction of his body—that is, of his fleshly ways. The practice of discipline in this case seems to have worked. Evidently the sinful man came to understand the heinousness of his ways and repented of his sin. How did this happen? He had been cut off from friends, excluded from worship, denied access to the Lord’s Supper. None of the members of the various house churches in Corinth would have any fellowship with him, thus emphasizing that, for as long as he held on to this sin, he had no part in them.

But he must have come to repentance and patched things up with his father and his father’s wife. It was time for the Corinthians to forgive him and restore him to the comfort of their love (v. 6), just as Paul was doing with them in this second letter. And this was not to be some grudging or passive reincorporating of the man into the church. They were to “reaffirm” their love for him (v. 8) as they received him back into the fellowship. This probably implies a public act of restoration. The man had been publicly cast out; now he must be publicly received as one who, having repented of his sin and made the necessary restoration, could be received back into the comfort, fellowship, and edification of the church to keep on in the Lord.

Doing so would be an occasion for rejoicing, and not for sorrowing. Paul’s love had led to sorrowing among the churches. Their love led the sinful man to sorrowing. And through these actions God’s Spirit worked in their grieving to bring rejoicing and restoration to the Body of Christ.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue” (Prov. 28.23).
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.”
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27.5, 6, 17).

Pharoah’s magicians had a spiritual side, but they were following the wrong leader. Someone, years previously, should have lovingly taken them aside and told them to follow God and not the Adversary (Ex. 7.10-13). Two of those men were used as an example of “How not to be” by Paul: “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth; men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Tim. 3.8, 9).

These were people that needed the 1 Corinthians’ treatment to cause them to repent and return to follow in God’s path, to experience the 2 Corinthians’ outcome this man had.

“He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray” (Prov. 10.17).
“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (Prov. 19.20).
“Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; yes, strife and reproach will cease” (Prov. 22.10).
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28.13).

When the purity of the Body of Christ is what we strive for, then what we do about confronting sin in our own lives, and in the lives of fellow-believers, is never done out of spite or vengeance, but out of an abundance of love for God and for the sake of the offender’s soul and their ultimate restoration. What was done was “sufficient for such a man” and now it was time to “forgive and comfort” (2 Cor. 2.6, 7).

We serve a God Who forgives all our iniquities, knows our frame, and “remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103.3, 14). We can return that favor to our fellow man. “Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him” (2 Cor. 2.8).

For reflection
1. Why is church discipline so necessary for a healthy, growing church?

2. What role is assigned to you in helping your church grow in the Lord Jesus?

3. Church discipline is, in the end, a ministry of love. Explain. What can make it something other than that?

The apostle desires them to receive the person who had done wrong, again into their communion; for he was aware of his fault, and much afflicted under his punishment.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2.5-11

Pray Psalm 30.4-12.
In prayer, recall the many ways God has “lifted” you of late. Renew your commitment to Him and call on Him for grace to help you in all your times of need.

Sing Psalm 30.4-12.
(Madrid: Come, Christians, Join to Sing)
LORD, we extol Your Name! You have lifted us, O LORD!
Thanks we with joy proclaim—You have lifted us, O LORD!
Anger shall not prevail; grace will for us avail;
joy frees us from travail—
You have lifted us, O LORD!

Firmly in You we stand—You have lifted us, O LORD!
Kept by Your gracious hand—You have lifted us, O LORD!
LORD, when You hide Your face, I cry to You for grace;
living, I’ll sing Your praise—
You have lifted us, O LORD!

LORD, hear our earnest plea—You have lifted us, O LORD!
And our strong Helper be—You have lifted us, O LORD!
You turn our tears to song; praises to You belong.
Thanks is our endless song!
You have lifted us, O LORD!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Want to learn more about encouragement? Download the six installments of our free ReVision study on “Encouragement” by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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