THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Lord, teach us how to live in harmony with one another.
Read 2 CORINTHIANS 1:23—2:11
23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. 2 1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
Forgiveness for the Offender
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. 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 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. 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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“To live above, with saints we love, wouldn’t that be glory? / To live below with saints we know, well that’s a different story” (Irish rhyme).
This passage opens a window into some of Paul’s struggles with the Corinthians. His last visit has been “painful” (2:1) and he has previously written to them “with many tears” (4; this is not 1 Corinthians, but another letter, now lost). The causes of this great “distress” are many and varied. Upon reading 1 and 2 Corinthians, we see a church beset with problems relating to belief and behavior. The issue here is probably a misinterpretation of Paul’s earlier instruction to “Expel the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13).
The Corinthians seemingly have failed to forgive the offender, despite his genuine repentance. It is not the first time they have misunderstood Paul’s teaching—and it will not be the last. Yet Paul never gives up on this church. He loves it, works for it and continues to persevere with it. As he does this, he authentically reflects the very love of Jesus for his own people (Eph. 5:25b–27).
As most of us know from experience, church is sometimes difficult and can even be the cause of “excessive sorrow” (7). I know pastors who have been thrown out of their churches simply for exhibiting Gospel faithfulness and refusing to compromise the Word. I have also known people who have become wearied, disillusioned and occasionally even exploited by the unreasonable demands of their pastors. For all such—and for many more—it is tempting to drift over to the margins of the local church or withdraw from it altogether. Yet this is not the Christ-centered model that Paul—who has suffered so much at the hands of the Corinthians—gives us. As a response to God’s Word, let us recommit to engaging with God’s people. If you know someone who has turned his or her back on church involvement, encourage him or her to return.
“If you find a perfect church don’t join it, as you’ll only spoil it.” Be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Lord, thank You for giving us faithful ministers who will lead us, correct us and never give up on us when we occasionally become unruly.
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