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. Indeed, 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.
- The person who caused grief in the Corinthian church has not grieved Paul so much as has grieved the Corinthians.
- Paul was trying not to be to sever when addressing the person causing grief.
- The person who caused the grief had suffered enough.
- The guilty person had suffered his punishment.
- The punishment was inflicted by the majority of the Corinthian church.
- The Corinthians were now to forgive the guilty party.
- The Corinthians were to comfort the guilty party.
- The Corinthians were to insure the guilty party was not overwhelmed with sorrow.
- The Corinthians were to let the guilty party know he was loved by them.
- One of the reasons Paul wrote to them was to see if they would obey everything.
- Paul will forgive anyone the Corinthians forgive.
- Paul forgave in the sight of Christ.
- Paul forgave for the sake of the Corinthians.
- Paul forgave so Satan would not outwit either Paul or the Corinthians.
- We are aware of Satan’s schemes.
The person whom Paul is referring to as having “caused grief” may be the person he referred to in 1 Corinthians 5 as the man living with his father’s wife. However, it appears from the passage that the offense was directed against Paul himself. At any rate, Paul speaks mildly about this person and leaves the actual offense a mystery.
Evidently the church had exercised church discipline against the guilty party. Paul does not admonish the church for exercising discipline. However, he does extend kindness and gentleness to the person who had sinned.
But let us examine this situation carefully. The apostle does not tolerate sin. In fact in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul tells the Corinthians they were to excommunicate the immoral person. Excommunication is not intended to be a punishment but rather a correction. Those God has redeemed He preserves and corrects. The church is the body of Christ on earth and therefore the church’s role is not to punish but to correct. It appears that the discipline of the church had done its job and brought about repentance. The Corinthian church now was to welcome the offending party back into the family with all the rights and privileges of being a member of the body of Christ.
The church is to exercise both discipline and clemency in order to avoid undue severity. In order to do so, the church is to keep in mind she is to exercise discipline not judgment or justice. The difference is this. Discipline brings the person back into a right relationship. Judgment and justice set the scales of justice level again. Justice is the role of the God. God has given the state the right to exercise justice on earth not the church.
The discipline exercised by the church must be exercised in moderation otherwise there is a danger of the person who is chastised becoming dispirited. The church must be prepared to extend forgiveness as soon as she is satisfied as to the person’s penitence.
Excommunication is to end as soon as the individual is overpowered with a sense of their sin, is humbled in the sight of God and the church and solicits pardon with a sincere dislike of their sin and confession of guilt. If the church continues to deal with the person harshly after that it ceases to be discipline and becomes cruel and domineering.
Christ has forgiveness us for our sins. We have all sinned against the God of creation. Yet He gives mercy and forgives us. There is nothing that should incline us more to extend mercy than that.
Often, however, under the cover of zeal for righteousness a Pharisaical rigor often creeps in. It causes us to ruin the offender rather than cure him. Satan is the great accuser of the elect. We do his work when we do not forgive the penitent.