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Pain and Restoration

Pain and Restoration

Words of Faith 9-1-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 2

   [5] 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. [6] The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. [7] Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. [8] I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. [9] The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. [10] If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, [11] in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

 

         What do you do when someone in the fellowship has caused grief and pain? Apparently the "painful visit" from Paul and the "severe letter" were prompted by a certain man at Corinth. We don't know exactly what transpired but it caused pain for Paul and for the Body of Christ.  

         So who was this guy? Most scholars do not believe that this was the incestuous man that Paul judged in 1 Corinthians 5. It is much more likely that this man affronted Paul's authority or challenged him at some point in the course of the "painful visit". This was not just a matter of asking difficult questions or a frank difference of opinion. We have other situations like that in the book of Acts. The painful event must have come to a level of defiance of authority and personal insult.

       The Corinthians apparently failed to realize that this defiance toward their pastoral leader undermined their own spiritual well-being. They had regarded this as a personal problem requiring no action on their parts. But Paul's "severe letter" had clarified this and their response had been to discipline the offender.

       The word used here implies a sort of "censure" and was made by the church "as a whole" rather than the majority. It was a significant and important response that opened the door to restoration. When a person in the church Body hurts another-- especially when they are defiant toward a leader such that it undermines the confidence of the Body-- a response by the Body is needed and important.

         But Paul had reason to believe that their pendulum might swing too far. Sometimes a group can "scapegoat" an individual and completely miss the opportunity for healing that relationship and that person. The believers at Corinth were no longer a gathering of dispassionate spectators of the wrongdoer and might have become impassioned prosecutors. In that case, he would be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow or grief. Paul wanted to head that off. This was not at all about "the preacher is always right" or making him "pay the price".

         The offender in this situation was apparently penitent so Paul urged the church to forgive and comfort him for in fact it was they who had been wronged. Such wounds always affect the Body. He urged them to extend "comfort" to this man. As a church they were to affirm their love for him as a fellow Christian and admit him to their fellowship.

         Paul's concern was not simply personal vindication or even that an erring brother be brought in line, but that the Corinthian congregation find healing as they demonstrated the strength of their commitment to the Body and to Paul. Their love and devotion to him would be affirmed by their being obedient to his directives. The expression of their solidarity with him was mutual. As one with him, they could forgive this offender who had wronged them by wronging Paul.

       This act of repentance and restoration was wonderful and historic even though we don't know the name of this man! Otherwise, Satan might have used a bitterness of spirit to impair Paul's or the Corinthians' ministry or further wound the Body of Christ. It was important that fellowship between Paul, the Corinthians, and the repentant offender be restored so that the incident not become an occasion for Satan to drive a wedge between the church and Paul. This was one of Satan's schemes which Paul had worked so strenuously to thwart.

         This is wonderful stuff but not easy. What do we do when someone undermines the respect and confidence in a pastoral leader? What do we do when someone is rude to another person in the Body of Christ or affronts them? What do we do when defiance or bitterness threaten to drive a satanic wedge into the Body? Such situations are awkward at the least and often quite destructive.

         Paul gives us an example for working through the restoration of the relationships and healing of the Body. Paul sought not just vindication. He sought reconciliation. This is not the work of just an individual; it is the Body at work to heal itself and restore its members.

         It is out of such real-life entanglements that Paul will write in a few chapters--

         "From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

         And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (5:16-21).

 

       Father God, help me to be a minister of reconciliation. Help me to lovingly confront those things that You want me to confront. Help me to heal and forgive those things that You have forgiven. Help me to be the ambassador that You designed me to be. Help me to deal with the tough stuff so that the Body may be whole. I am Yours to use. In Jesus' Name.