What do you do if someone sins then repents? Forgive him, right? The Corinthian church had it backwards: a man in the church was having an incestuous relationship and they overlooked his sin, tolerated it--acting like they forgave him. When he was finally disciplined and repented, they held him at arm’s length. Paul writes this second letter with instructions that give right perspective on sin and forgiveness.
First, sin brings grief, heaviness, sorrow to God. Grief over sin does not occur naturally because we are born sinners. We grieve sin when we understand what God thinks of sin. Consider Isaiah 63:10 “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.” Sin does not make friends with God but brings Him grief. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:20)
Pop Quiz! Read John 21:15-19. What is Peter’s reaction when Jesus made His third request for Peter’s love and Peter was reminded of his three denials?
Second, sin brings suffering to the one who sins. A common question today is “Why does God allow suffering?” He doesn’t. This is why He paid the penalty for sin in the death of Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Table is a place to grieve sin because there we remember that Christ drank the full cup of God’s wrath against sin on our behalf. When God’s people take the Lord’s Supper we are to reflect, grieve and confess sin. Paul calls for this kind of examination in his first letter.
Third, sin brings suffering to the church. When we read 1 Corinthians 5-6, we can see that this church did not understand sin, nor did they understand grace. They misapplied grace to overlook sin and puffed themselves up. They thought themselves to be a gracious church, a loving church and their permissiveness communicated the wrong message to the world. When they finally received Paul’s correction, they were able to act rightly.
Finally, sin brings two kinds of punishment. The first kind of punishment is eternal. They paycheck for sin is death (Rom 6:23). But it does not have to be this way. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Eze 18:20-21)
Church Discipline is a way to show the seriousness of sin and to give the sinner a chance to be delivered from sin. The Corinthian church put their foot down on God’s line and put the sinner out per Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28. Their action was enough to get the man’s attention and the man repented; however, the church kept him at arms length because they did not understand forgiveness.
We will look at the Freedom of Forgiveness next, so read ahead in 2 Corinthians 2:7-11!