Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, NLT
5 I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me.6 Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7 Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.8 So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
9 I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. 10 When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11, NASB
5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. 6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 But one 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, 11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Discipline is an unpleasant necessity. Without discipline, you cannot maintain order and you cannot monitor growth or improvement. Allowing a child to do as they please is detrimental not helpful. Every coach knows that discipline is the key to winning. Nick Saban is not a master at strategy, he is a master at discipline. No one like discipline on either end. I was a strong willed child and my mother beat the hades out of me about once a week. I got more whipping than the other 6 siblings combined. I can testify that discipline is painful, and the more you rebel, the greater the pain.
Its the same with troublemakers in church. If you let them do what ever they please, you are doing a disservice to them as well as the church. When people fear no consequences for their actions, they will take liberties that hurt others. Church discipline is easy to talk about and hard to do. Using 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 as a guide, lets look at what it takes to exercise Church discipline.
I. FIRST OF ALL, IT REQUIRES GOOD LEADERSHIP
I don’t think there is any question about the Corinthians situation: without Paul prodding, they would not have carried out the discipline. I have already explained why we dread discipline. It is something we will shirk and put off as long as possible. It is not a pleasant task.
I had to discipline our oldest grand son a few times and it like to have killed me. The last time we went upstairs and I got the belt gave it to him, I got don’t on my knees and I said, “Someone has to suffer for what you have done but I am tired of whipping you, today, you are going to whip me.” He was angry when we entered the room but his anger subsided and he began to weep. “I can’t do that Granddaddy,” he said. I said, “Sure you can, just start hitting me across the back with the belt.” He broke down and began to sob uncontrollably, “I can’t do it granddaddy, I can’t.” I said, “Son, how do you think it makes Granddaddy fell when I have to whip you? I had much rather be the one getting whipped.” We talked for an hour or so and then went back down stairs and joined the family. The boy is 6’2″ and weighs 230 pounds and he is a Marine. He can break me in half today but he doesn’t. If you let a child go, he or she becomes their own worse enemy.
II. IT REQUIRES A ROCK SOLID MAJORITY
Verse 6, NASB–Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority [Poly]. NLT–Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough.
If the church at Corinth had been is total unity, no discipline would have been necessary. There is never unanimity in church discipline. I am sure the Trouble Maker was opposed to the idea but there were others. This is the major problem in churches today, most members do not have the moral courage to pursue discipline.
Look, most forms of confrontation are difficult and unpleasant. I look forward to retirement for this reason. I enjoy preaching but that is probably the easiest thing I do. I have made quiet a few visits over the years that come under the heading of church discipline. I will not give details because most of them happened here. You never know how these things are going to turn out. I have to admit, in my experience, most of them didn’t turn out well but some did.
We forget that everywhere Paul went, some believed but most rejected and those percentages will run true in church discipline. Some will turn out good like the example in 2 Corinthians. Evidently, the man repented and Paul is encouraging restoration. But you can not restore the unrepentant. Bottom line, I have some [small number] who respect me for confronting them but I have a large number who resent me for confronting them. It is a price you have to pay.
III. WE MUST NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF OUR GOAL WHICH IS RESTORATION
Verses 7-8–Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
In Church, our goal is not to crush opposition. The best way to destroy an enemy is make him your friend. The TROUBLE MAKER in Corinth had repented but evidently the Corinthians were still giving him the cold shoulder so Paul reminds them that our goal in discipline is to restore. Paul lead the way in the discipline and now he urges them to follow him in the restoration process.
- It is time to forgive
- It is time to comfort
- It is time to reaffirm your love
IV. WE MUST BE CAREFUL OR SATAN WILL OUTWIT US AND TAKE ADVANTAGE
Verses 9-11–I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. 10 When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
There is no question, none, that we must approach church discipline with extreme caution. It is not something that we need to rush into. It is kind of like marriage, we need to approach it with lots of prayer and humility. Discipline is definitely front line warfare and the devil will do his best to get the victory and he will if we are not careful. There are some things we need to think through and understand:
- The devil is capable of outsmarting us. He is a schemer, a diabolical planner. He has a strategy and he uses subtlety.
- He is capable of using us to achieve his purposes. Anytime we repeat gossip, or say something in accurate or untrue, we have been used. The tricky thing about church discipline is forgiveness. If we don’t forgive, a root of bitterness springs up and the last result is worse than the first. Satan is the master of distraction.