2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 8
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’re going to see that church discipline, when it’s done right, always involved the forgiveness of Christ and always has as its purpose to restore the individual back into usefulness. If it doesn’t involve God’s forgiveness, then what it does is it can go too far. And what it ends up doing is destroying the sinful individual. When Our Walk Matches Our Talk – Part 3|
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 2:6-11. We’re in a little mini-series here and I’ll be doing that throughout the book study. “When Your Walk Matches Your Talk.” We got into that in verse 12 of chapter 1, and this is part 3. Today’s message is specifically called “Church Discipline and God’s Forgiveness.”
Now, to get you into that, living grace is my term, that’s all it is, for Christ living in and through a believer. Now, that’s nothing more than the gospel message. I’m so saddened that we live in a day that you even have to explain it, because this is what the Bible teaches. Christ said, “I come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” He is that life and He lives in us. Now Christ in us, when He’s allowed to live through us, purifies our hearts, and what happens is He radiates sincere motives in all that we do.
You see, in short, Christ gives us; He is the evidence that convicts us as guilty of being a believer. That’s Who He is. Now the evidence is unmistakable. In 2 Corinthians 1:13-2:5, we saw that evidence that was manifested in the life of the apostle Paul. Now, in fact, we looked at it in areas where most people would not commonly look. It’s marvelous when you see this surface and to see what this evidence is. For instance, we saw in verses 13-14 of chapter 1 that Paul kept on keeping on even when he was unappreciated. Christ in Paul kept him keeping on. There will always be people who call themselves believers who do not appreciate us nor do they appreciate the message that we want to share. But Christ in us keeps us keeping on. That’s evidence that He lives there. That’s evidence that we’re believers.
But also we saw in verses 15-18 that when we are intentionally misrepresented by those who never seem to give us the benefit of the doubt, that’s okay, we keep on keeping on. Now Paul had promised the Corinthians that he was coming to see them on his way to Macedonia. He was going to stop there and after he did his business in Macedonia he was going to come back, stay some time with them, perhaps even stay the whole winter with them. But he didn’t. Now we know from Scripture that he had a good reason, but he didn’t; instead of going to them he wrote a letter to them as a church to deal with church discipline with an individual who had caused Paul all kinds of problems and had stirred up doubt even towards his apostleship.
Now because he didn’t follow through, no matter his reasons, and he didn’t follow through and come to see them either time, he didn’t go, people that hated Paul used this as if it was a flaw in his character and they chose to intentionally misrepresent him by saying that he was not a man of his word. They didn’t care if he had a good reason not to come. They were looking for anything, something, anything that would help demean the individual; that could tear him down. They even used this fact—this is so sad—the fact that he said he was coming and he didn’t come, they even used that to say, “Well, you can’t trust his word, so surely you can’t trust his message.” Tear the man down, tear the message down, and that’s just nothing new under the sun. But Christ in Paul kept him keeping on. That was evidence that he was proven guilty of being a believer.
In verses 19-24 it shows us that he knew that Christ in him would validate his life no matter what people had to say about him. In fact, Paul showed that as Christ was true to His word, Paul was true to his. What he meant by that was that since Christ is faithful and Christ lived in Paul, then they could trust what Paul said because it was under the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But we also saw in chapter 2:1-5 that Paul kept on keeping on even when he had to say the hard things and he knew in his heart that when he wrote this letter the guilty would hear it, but so would the innocent. He knew that, and he didn’t even want to bring sorrow to any of them, but he had to say the hard things. The reason Paul hadn’t come to them was because Timothy had come Paul and said, “Paul, you don’t want to know what I’m about to tell you. You don’t want to know how the church is acting in Corinth, how the people have stirred up others. There’s one individual has stirred up others and they’ve caused doubt and they’re beginning to accuse you falsely.”
But the problem was not really even that. The problem was that the people that were innocent and the people that were right and knew the problem would not stand up for the apostle Paul and so it had become a real mess. You know, they had Matthew 18; they had the gospels at that time. And Matthew 18 clearly states the “one another” commands of what we do when we see a brother who is intentionally sinning and causing disruption in the body of Christ. If any one of those individual believers would have gone to him and followed the plan already given to them, they could have solved this whole situation.
Well, long story short, this became a church-wide issue in Corinth. It should not have been that. Paul should not have ever had to write that third letter. If they would have handled it the way biblically they were supposed to have handled it, it wouldn’t be the problem that it was. Well, Paul chose to write them instead of going to them and he said, “I do this to spare you of much sorrow.” To put it in my terminology, it would have been a hot time in the old town tonight if he would have gone there. Buddy, he was hot, and he had a message and he said, “I didn’t want to cause you anymore sorrow than was necessary, so I thought that writing the letter would have been the softer approach.”
Paul had been tested and shown himself to be guilty of being a believer. Now they get this letter, now they are going to be tested. Are you going to do what God says for you to do? And guess what? It worked. Praise the Lord, the church finally brought the man that was causing all this problem with Paul, spreading all the lies and deceit about him, they brought him forth and they disciplined him. And their obedient response to Paul’s third letter, which we do not have, is what we have in our Bible called 2 Corinthians. Paul responds by writing this letter. It’s really his fourth letter to them because there are two letters, one mentioned in 1 Corinthians and one that we’ve just seen here mentioned that we don’t have. They’ve been lost. So it’s four times he’s written them.
Now today what we’re going to see is yes, they have disciplined the man, but what we’re going to see today is how to do it right. It’s amazing, I can just sort of laugh at this because we’re all this way: we either under-do it or we overdo it. And Paul is going to have to say, “Okay, yes you’ve dealt with him, but there are some things you need to do now to make it right.” We’re going to see that church discipline, when it’s done right, always involved the forgiveness of Christ and always has as its purpose to restore the individual back into usefulness. If it doesn’t involve God’s forgiveness, then what it does is it can go too far. And what it ends up doing is destroying the sinful individual.
All of us have sinned, thank God that we haven’t done what some other people have done and when we deal with it, we have to deal with that approach. And understand but by the grace of God, we’re next. But when it’s overdone, it can overwhelm the individual and destroy him. Christ in us will not allow us to cast a sinful believer aside. His love in us will not do that. Christ wants us to forgive him and Christ wants us to restore him. Forgiveness is evidence that we truly are believer and we are who we say we are. Christ and Christ alone can enable us to forgive when we have been treated wrongly by others. Never think of church discipline that you don’t think of forgiveness and restoration. But never think of forgiveness and restoration unless you think about Christ. If you’re trying to forgive somebody, Ephesians 4 says, “You are to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us.” No possible way, you have to go back to chapter 3 and understand that Christ has to enable that forgiveness.
You cannot forgive another person, even though we’re commanded to, but anything we’re commanded to do Christ lives in us to enable us in the process. So when you think of forgiveness you have to look to Him. He is the only one in you that can forgive someone who’s treated you in a bad way.
Well, today we’re going to look at God’s discipline and how it’s to be laced with Christ’s forgiveness. It’s never right unless the two have been put together. Four things I want you to see. And, you know, this is a part of studying Scripture. You don’t ignore the hard parts; you just deal with it as it comes. We do verse by verse; this is what’s next and that’s where we’re going. And it will balance us by the time we’ve finished this book.
God’s discipline involves confrontation and consequence
God’s discipline involves confrontation and consequence. You don’t ignore that. It involves confrontation and it involves consequence. Verse 6, “Sufficient for such a one,” speaking of this man who’s been disciplined, “is the punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” Now that word “punishment” is the word epitiImia. It’s only used right here in the New Testament. It refers to the actual penalty that was inflicted upon the guilty one.
Now involved in that is a confrontation. He had to be rebuked; he had to be confronted with what he had done. And he had to come to that point of acknowledgment. Then there was a consequence. All that’s involved in this one word. There’s a confrontation and there is a consequence. It could be translated “censure.” And it has to do with whatever consequence was assigned. We used to have a sign in front of our church that said “You’re free to make any choice you want but you’re not free to choose its consequence.” And the point of that sign was consequences are always going to be there to wrong choices. Even to right choices there are consequences.
Well, it implies the rebuke of the wrong done. Evidently the church called the guilty one on the carpet and confronted him with what he had done. The consequence of what he had done possibly was that they dismissed him from the fellowship. We just don’t know what those consequences were. “Sufficient,” he says in verse 6, “for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” The word “majority” refers to the fact that there were a solid number of believers who knew what to do before but wouldn’t do it, but had finally come to the point that they were willing to obey God and do what was needed to be done.
He goes on, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” The word “sufficient” is the word hikanos. It’s the word that means “that’s enough, stop, don’t go any further.” That’s the idea. Paul had to be proud of the Corinthian believers because they followed through. They finally did what God had told them to do, and he was the apostle through whom God was speaking and writing the New Testament. Whatever they did worked, because it caused the errant believer to grieve over his actions.
In verse 7 it says, “otherwise such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” And that word “sorrow” there is the word lupe, which refers to grief. It refers to a person being seriously troubled over a wrong that he has committed. So it worked, but from what Paul is saying in this verse right here, they were a little too gung-ho in disciplining this individual. Paul is telling them that they have done well, but they have gone far enough.
Isn’t it interesting how we are? We either don’t do it or we overdo it. Have you ever noticed that? It’s either people not obeying God or when they do they take it to the extreme. So often we have people that will take up an offense for a brother and they’ll overdo the whole process. They’ll kill the individual who’s done it simply out of their own flesh. Christ’s love working in us toward those who treat us wrongly, always involves confrontation and always involves consequences, but Christ’s love in us is what keeps us from going too far.
You see, Christ gives us discernment about how much discipline is enough and enough is enough. With God’s discipline, laced with Christ’s forgiveness, will never deny confrontation nor will it erase consequence. So we see then immediately forgiveness is not just doing away with it. Oh, no. There’s an acknowledgment, there’s a confrontation, there are consequences to it, but enough, like I said, is enough. That’s why it says in Romans 12, “‘Vengeance is mine’, says the Lord.” The word vengeance is ekdikesis. It means “out of righteousness I judge.” Only God knows how much enough is enough. Only God knows that: men do not know that. Men will go out of their feelings, out of their hurt, and they’ll either overdo or they’ll under do. But, God’s forgiveness and church discipline never denies confrontation nor does it erase consequences.
God’s discipline goes beyond what is humanly expected
Well, a second thought I want you to see here is that God’s discipline goes beyond what is humanly expected. Rebuking a simple brother, assigning consequences is one thing, but there’s so much more. If that’s all it is, it has nothing to do with God. Here’s what God’s forgiveness is all about. This is where it’s clearly seen is when you are dealing with a brother that has wronged somebody, that has sinned. The way you go about it says everything about whether Christ is doing it.
In verse 7, “so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Now, instead of inflicting more grief on the errant brother, I mean, my goodness, how far are you going to take him? He says, “on the contrary,” in other words, radically different, “forgive and comfort him.” Now that word “forgive” may surprise you. It’s a beautiful word; it’s the word charizomai. It means to do a favor for somebody who in no way deserves it. It comes from the word charis, which is the word for grace. Here it means to show him what he does not deserve.
Now this is where the Christ in us really reaches out and touches the people that are in pain because of their own sin. This is where we understand that we’re believers. When our heart has been tenderized, it will reach out and be sensitive to other people. You know, the apostle Paul was a champion of this even though the Holy Spirit leading him, but in his letters he wrote many things about this. He talks about the weaker brother and he does all these other things to champion this idea.
But in Galatians 6:1 he says something almost exactly like what he’s saying here. He says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass,” and there’s a double meaning to that word “caught.” You see, before I became a believer I chased after sin. We all chased after sin. But after I became a believer and you became a believer, sin chases after us. And I want to tell you, folks, sometimes it catches us.
Let me just ask you a question and see if you’ll be willing to be honest. Did sin catch anybody besides me this past week? We’re all in the same boat, aren’t we? But what it means here is a double meaning; not only did sin catch the brother, but somebody caught the brother being caught. That’s the bad part. Now, if you could just be caught by sin and nobody know about it, that’s awesome. But that’s not what he’s referring to here. Somebody caught him. In any trespass—and he opens the door to anything—he says, “You who are spiritual,” and if you study Galatians he tells you how to be spiritual. He’s not talking about the elders. He’s talking about people that are willing to walk filled with the Spirit of God. And Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of His Spirit is born in their life. You who are spiritual, you who are filled with God’s love, you who are letting Jesus be Jesus in your life, “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself so that you, too, will not be tempted.”
Restore, that’s what the whole thing is all about. Yes, you have a brother that has sinned. Yes, the people are devastated. Yes, it hurt the apostle Paul here in the situation. But the key is yes, you confront him, he acknowledges, there are consequences to it, but it doesn’t stop there. You put your arms around him and say, “Listen brother, I know I could have been there myself. Let me come alongside you. Let me help you. Let me get you back on your feet.”
The word “restore” in Galatians 6:1 is the word that means to “heal or to mend a broken bone.” Let me ask you a question. Is it painful when you set a broken bone? Absolutely. Does it take some pain involved? Yes, the confrontation, the consequences are painful. And it’s in the present tense which means it’s a process. Man, you don’t do it one day and one hour. You come along beside this guy and you stay with that individual until he can get his feet back on the ground.
The favor. You say he doesn’t deserve it. That’s exactly right, and I stand before God every day and I don’t deserve a thing He does in my life; nor do you. And it’s that attitude that consumes us and reflects itself out to the people that we’re dealing with. The favor that is to be shown to the sinful believer who has been confronted and possibly removed from membership is now that they come alongside him and help him and restore him. He says, “so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him.”
Paul adds the word comfort. That word “comfort” ought to grab everyone’s attention if you’ve been with us in 2 Corinthians, because we have seen it over and over and over again in chapter 1; same word. As Paul was mistreated and God comforted him so that he could turn around and comfort the church of Corinth, now they can turn around and comfort this errant brother that’s in the fellowship. It involves coming alongside to instruct and to give guidance. The word parakaleo it’s a form of the word that we’ve been looking at, “to be called alongside, to come alongside the individual.”
Once a believer has sinned and now has been confronted, he’s involved in the consequences of his sin—and, by the way, God’s mercy is what helps us bear up under the consequences of sin—he says now the believers come alongside him, and prop him up and get him back on his feet. Help him to be useable again. This is God’s love and His forgiveness that works through those who allow Christ to be Lord in their lives, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him. Why? “otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.’
You see, if we don’t forgive and comfort the sinful believer, if all we’re going to do is confront him on his sin and give the consequences to his sin and we’re going to walk away as if the job is done, what we’ll do is we’ll overwhelm him with what he calls “excessive sorrow.” The word “overwhelm” is the word that means to swallow something up in one gulp; to be overwhelmed, to be swallowed up by something, to be consumed in an instant by something. And what is it that swallowed it up? It was excessive sorrow.
That word “excessive” is the word perissos. It’s the word that means “over and above, more than enough.” The word “sorrow” is the word we saw awhile ago, lupe. It means grief and trouble. I mean, when a person has sinned it’s bad enough. I mean the guilt that already is on him if he’s a believer. It’s bad enough when he has to be publicly accused of that sin. It’s bad enough when he has to deal with the consequences, but, man, when you walk away from him and you don’t show him the grace and the mercy of God, you have swallowed him up in grief and trouble.
And I wonder how many people today will not come to church because they messed up and the church messed up in the way they dealt with them and kicked them out. And today they’re out there somewhere, overwhelmed by excessive sorrow because they’ve been looking for the mercy of Jesus and they haven’t seen it anywhere in anybody that they know. It’s rampant. You wonder sometimes why people have a bad taste in their mouth about churches. I’ll tell you why: they look at us and they don’t see Jesus. They see we can be right about something, but we can also be right and be wrong in the way we deal with it. When the love is not there, the forgiveness is not there, somebody is swallowed up by excessive sorrow, by some Pharisee, by some bigot who doesn’t understand it’s only by grace he breathes when he wakes up in the morning. It nails that individual and has no love or compassion whatsoever to see them put back on their feet.
When a believer is allowing Christ to live through him, then Christ enables him and initiates that forgiveness. This is the scene when once a sinful believer has been rebuked, it is seen in the way in which he’s treated once he’s been confronted, once the consequences have been assigned, that’s where it’s seen. What this does is to encourage him that he’s still loved, no matter what he’s done, no matter how much he has to pay for, no matter what the consequences are, he’s still loved and he can still be useful in the body of Christ.
Verse 8 says, “Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” The word “reaffirm,” kuroo. It’s the word that means to establish something as valid, to confirm it. Do you really love him? Then prove it to him. Go to him, come alongside him. Help him to get his feet back. Maybe he’s a deacon and he’s committed adultery and now he can’t be a deacon anymore. That’s alright: he can be used someplace else. Take him and help him understand that yes, the consequences will be there. God’s mercy will help him bear up under it, but my goodness, don’t just kick him out. Help him understand. Help him get his feet back on the ground.
God’s discipline laced with Christ’s forgiveness rebukes and doesn’t negate consequences to the action, not at all. But it also does a favor that is not deserved by coming alongside and instructing one in how to be useful again.
Now I want to put this in parental form. Okay? Because sometimes we miss it when it comes to a church. Let’s put it in a family context, same thing. The way God disciplines me every day in my life involves all of these things we’re talking about. The way the church disciplines its members, the way an individual holds another accountable, but the way we raise our children also fits this.
If you ever have a child and that child errs, he disobeys, sins, and all you do is punish it, then friend you have missed it. And I’ll tell you what: you can count on one thing. That person, when he gets old enough to get away from the home, he’ll never come back. There’s a rebellion that builds up inside of him and a resentment that is incredible. But you know what the thing I remember most about my Mama? Is after she had spanked me, the consequences were there, the tears were there, the remorse was there, and she’d put her arm around me and just cry with me and say, “Oh, Wayne Allen, I love you, but son, you can’t keep doing this.” And she would help me understand that I could do better.
That’s what it is: if you’re not instructing that child, if you’re not loving that child once it’s been confronted, once the consequences have been assigned, you’ve missed the whole point because God doesn’t treat you that way. How in the world would you treat your child that way? It’s the same thing in the church. You don’t kick them out. You come alongside them and seek to restore them. You may take their name off the fellowship. So what? Matthew 18 says to treat them as an unbeliever if they refuse to repent. But you don’t give up on them. You just keep coming back, trying to restore, to get their feet back on the ground.
God’s discipline is a test of our obedience
Thirdly, God’s discipline is a test of our obedience. This is a real interesting thing. You remember those teachers that used to say “Take all the books off the desk. Take out a clean sheet of paper.” What he says here is he says to this church, “I want to tell you something. I’m going to test your obedience right here. Take off all the books on your desk; take out a clean sheet of paper.” You see, Christianity is not a cafeteria line. We don’t take what we like and then reject what we don’t like. You have to take it all. You buy into every bit of it when you become a believer. You’re a brand new creature and every word of God becomes important to you.
In verse 9 he says, “For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” In other words, you might be obedient in a few things, but are you obedient in all things. The word “test” is the word dokime. It comes from the word dokimos. It means to be proven genuine, to be proven to be true to what you say you really are. You want to call yourself a Christian, let’s just see. Paul says, “I’m going to see.”
Church discipline is not a comfortable subject—by the way, if you enjoy confrontation and church discipline in the raw form, not in Christ’s form, you’re sick. That’s all I’ve got to say. It’s just not a comfortable subject. Nobody wants to talk about it. I can’t help it. This is what we have to deal with. Once the fact that a person is disciplined, there are consequences, and a person is willing to stick with them, and the individual can feel God’s burden to help that individual get back on his feet, that proves that the people are what they say they are and that they’re obedient in all things.
This is not one of those things that is optional. This is not one of those things you just push aside. It’s part of it. In fact, it set the standard among the people and sends a signal. You don’t get to the church; it doesn’t come to the elders, until the very last thing. And when we were there, we finally had a guy that he would not repent, and that’s what you bring before the church. Not his sin, but the fact that he’s unwilling to repent. He’s unwilling to acknowledge. And so therefore we finally had to bring it before the church. Nobody knew who it was because love covers it, builds a roof over it. You don’t tell everybody what you’re doing until it’s time to do it.
And I made the announcement one Sunday morning. We had about 100 and some kids sitting over to my right. And I made the statement, “We’re going to have church discipline and an individual is going to be removed from our roll on the next night we have the Lord’s Supper.” My son was sitting among the group and he said, “Dad, you wouldn’t believe what happened. Every one of those kids turned around and said, ‘Oh, they found out! Oh, no! They know what I did.’” They all thought it was them! I don’t know what had gone on that Friday night, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. And they were sweating. They were sweating. They thought the whole church is going to know about it now.
It wasn’t any of them, but you know what it did do? It sort of raised the standard. “We’re not here to play games to make people feel good. We’re here to be equipped to be the believers God has told us to be.” And it sent that signal very clearly: You don’t live like you want to live and then walk around telling people you’re a believer, bringing a reflection upon the church and upon Christ.
Had a man come to me and he said, “If a church had been obedient enough to do this years ago, I would still be married to the only woman I’ve ever loved. Because I had committed such heinous sin they treated me in such a way that I felt like there was never any hope for my life. I lost the love of my life because of stupidity in my walk. But nobody would deal with it and I fell in the cracks.”
None of us, but none of us like confrontation unless we’re sick, but it’s a part of it. I don’t like it. I’ll go ten blocks out of the way; anybody can tell you that. I’m a peacemaker. I love to put my arm around somebody and encourage them. But I wouldn’t confront them, but that’s part of it. But I’ll tell you the part I like about it is after they’re confronted I want to put my arm around them and help them back. Just get them back on their feet. They’re useable to God. Let them be a vessel for Him.
Well, the test is not in the confrontation; no, sir—there are some very fleshly-minded people who enjoy that—it’s in the fact that we’re willing after the confrontation to now come alongside and walk with an individual to see that they’re restored in the body of Christ. Their feet are back on the ground. Verse 9 again, “For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” I want to see if you’re genuine. I want to see if you say you’re Christian you really are what you say you are. That’s why he wrote to them. His letter to them which demanded that they deal with the sinful brother who had lied and spread disrespect was a test. And they passed it; they passed that test.
Now, the next part of it is if they’re willing to forgive and to restore. Let me ask you something. I’m going to apply this this morning—I don’t know anything. Every time I say this somebody thinks I’m referring to something. No I’m not. Before God I’m not. If the shoe fits I guess we’ll just have to wear it—Let me ask you a question. Who is it in this body right now that you’re aware of, that is in sin? You know it, not from hearsay, but you know it. And you know that since you’re aware of it, the Bible says don’t take it to the elders, you go to them and make sure you’ve got yourself in line with the Spirit of God and that He’s filled your life because you have to go in a spiritual condition. You know that. Because if you go to the elders, that’s gossip. But you as a brother or sister in Christ, you’re aware of somebody right now.
See, what I’m trying to say is, this problem could have been handled in Corinth but it wasn’t. It had to become a church wide thing because the believers would not do what they knew to do. Is there enough evidence in this body right here, right now, to convict us as guilty in all matters that we’re going to obey in every area? Is there enough evidence here to where we could actually go to our brother and expect our brother to come to us if we’re in sin? And we go in love, we go humble, and we go willing to put our arm around him to take that individual and help him get back on his feet and be restored in the body of Christ.
God’s discipline protects us from Satan’s schemes
God’s discipline does not deny confrontation nor erase consequence. It goes beyond human expectation: it forgives and it comforts. And it’s a test of our obedience. But there’s one more thing I want you to see today. God’s discipline protects us from Satan’s schemes. You want to be protected from the schemes of the devil? When Christ in us leads us to discipline an errant beloved brother and to show forgiveness and to comfort him by coming alongside him to see him restored, that’s a protection against the schemes of the devil.
Verses 10-11, “But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Now, once bitterness takes root in a believer’s life, it’s going to spread like cancer. If you’ve been wounded by another believer, for whatever reason, and that’s deep inside of you and there’s not been a short term account, there’s not been somebody go to him and there’s not been any of that done, then bitterness begins to set in. It’s like the acid in your stomach, you want to spew on somebody else but they’re going to eat you alive before you get the chance. That’s what bitterness is. There are a lot of bitter people in the body of Christ.
Paul had been offended. Paul wants the Corinthians to know, “I forgave this man and I did it in the presence of Christ and I did it for your sakes because now that I’ve forgiven him, I’m the one who took the brunt of the offence, now you turn loose and you forgive this individual.” They stood at the door of having to forgive him and go the second mile. Now, if they did it, there would then be no advantage that Satan could have in the body of Christ. You see, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of God’s love, taking up an offense for a brother, is one of the schemes that is empowered by the enemy of our souls. When people are divided for whatever reason, and they’re not willing to confront, they’re not willing to sit down, they’re not willing to deal with the problem, what happens is that division begins to start and that’s the way the devil does.
The word “schemes” is a simple word. It refers to a well thought-out plan. It’s well thought-out. It doesn’t have to be the devil with horns and a tail walking around this building. No, he doesn’t even have to be here. You get a believer who will not be obedient in all things, will not deal with the sin that’s in his heart or the offense that’s come to him; you’ve already played into the devil’s hands anyway. And it’s like you become a part, you fall into that trap of one of his schemes.
You see, what happens is when people are not willing to deal with something biblically, and in love, with God’s forgiveness, what happens is they fall right in the trap of the devil. And the word for “devil,” not “satan,” but the word for “devil” is the word “the one who divides.” It comes in between, diabolos. Dia means between and ballo means to cast; to cast in between and divide God’s people.
And it’s his scheme. He’s the adversary of our souls. We take offense for a brother who has been wronged. Instead of dealing with it biblically, Matthew 18, instead of going to Galatians 6:1, instead of following what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2, we just bail and go someplace else: I’m tired of the whole thing. And we’re not obedient in all things. The word “satan” means adversary.
So what have we learned? Well, if there’s going to be evidence in our lives that we’re believers, part of that evidence is our willingness to go to a brother and confront him on a sin and if there’s consequences, help him to understand the mercy of God that helps him bear up under it. But we come alongside him, “Now, you’ve sinned. Alright, let’s get past that. Let’s get you back on your feet and let’s help you understand how not to do that again. And let’s get you to a point that God can use you again.” That’s evidence, that’s real evidence.
God’s discipline does not deny confrontation or consequence. It goes beyond human expectation; it’s a test. And it’s a protection from Satan’s schemes. I want to tell you something: you and I are not proven by what we say. That can be fine. It’s how we go about what we say. It’s the way we treat people, not what we say to them. Talk is cheap. It’s the way we deal with them. Is it in God’s love and God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy, understanding, by the grace of God, that we would be there ourselves?