Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (ESV)
Most Christians have likely heard of the importance of forgiveness, and we know of the personal implications (see Matthew 6:15). Forgiveness, or a lack thereof, can hinder our spiritual growth and place a barrier to our communion with the Lord. Yet the necessity of forgiveness has broader repercussions as well.
In the above passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is following up on a previous issue in the church. This is likely a reference to the man who was caught in sexual sin as we read in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. In his first letter, Paul commands that the man be put out of the fellowship and placed under discipline until he should repent. This sections of 2 Corinthians reveals that the man had indeed responded appropriately and repented. It was therefore now time to end that ‘sentence’ and bring the man back into fellowship not only for his own sake (that he would not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow) but for the sake of the entire church fellowship.
Christ outlined the plan and pattern for discipline in the Church (see Matthew 18:15-20), but that process was never intended to be open-ended. The goal of discipline is restoration. A person placed under discipline either repents, in which case they are to be restored, or they reject the discipline and so prove themselves to be outsiders to the faith family.
Our enemy, satan, and his minions lurk in and around our local churches looking for any and every opportunity to bring disruption. The devil loves to entice Christians into sin, but he garners an even greater delight in twisting the process of discipline to undermine Christian love, fellowship and unity. The enemy would see Christians divided, suspicious and hostile to one another. When unforgiveness rules, satan gains power in a local church. When discipline is not brought to its intended and appropriate conclusion, the enemy flourishes.
Discipline in the Church, though some may not like to hear or accept it, is necessary; but forgiveness is essential. Paul implores the Corinthians to publicly and officially reaffirm their love to the repentant brother.
Paul ties the forgiveness of the church towards the repentant sinner directly into the purposes of satan. The intentions of the devil are to tear down the Church at every opportunity. Every good thing the Lord gives to His Church is a target and every Christian should be fully aware of this. Nothing satan attempts should catch us unaware, but many local churches have fallen to pieces because Christians became dull and failed to stay alert. I’ve seen it happen. Perhaps you have as well.
Genuine forgiveness and restoration takes all the wind out of the devil’s sails; it disarms him and renders him completely impotent in the matter. When we truly forgive one another, satan has no choice but to scurry back under his wet rock! And isn’t that a beautiful thing!
Is there any unforgiveness in your heart? In your church? In Jesus’ Name you must deal with that immediately. If you do not, you are ripe for the picking and the enemy is salivating! If you persist in unforgiveness you are not only endangering yourself, but your Christian brothers and sisters, your local church, as well. Take the power of the enemy away. Exercise the power of forgiveness!