A Sinner in Corinth
I Cor 5:3-5 and II Cor 2:4
Paul writes to the Corinthian church in a second letter to give them apostolic confirmation, direction and instruction concerning completion of the judicial process for one of the members who had been involved in sexual immorality. It is implied that Paul’s directed excommunication of this brother had been complied with and that this dissociation was implemented by most if not all of the Corinthian membership. It is also implied here and explicit elsewhere that the sinner had experienced enough Godly sorrow coupled with a change of mind and actions to permit his being reinstated in the church. Now it is time to bring back into fellowship the sinful but repentant Christian.
The Corinthian church, we believe, was composed mostly of gentile people who would likely be ignorant of the well established Jewish (and Godly) protocols for dealing with sin in the house. While sexual immorality could have been punished by stoning under the law of Moses, mercy, a concept as old as God, was also granted to the ignorant and to the repentant. Which would be worse: stoning? or being turned over to Satan for the long haul? A lesson for us is that sin in the local church can not be ignored, and even though a punishment is given, restoration through repentance is the hope and objective. A little yeast will leaven the whole loaf and must be excised.
Paul leads them and instructs them from one move to the next. It should be noted that, as with Justice today, the next step by the church is dependent of the sinner’s responses to confrontation and punishment. It could have worked out differently. If the sinner was defiant or belligerent, he would not have been reinstated. I use the word ‘reinstate’ rather than ‘forgiven’ for reasons that will become clear later on. A very remarkable thing is that the believers, the whole lot of them, were actually obedient when Paul purposefully tested their obedience. How far would that go in any local church today?
Let’s read these two passages as though there were no seam or time lapse. Then look for a complete understanding of several points. I have used the King James Version on the left because it is easily tracked with Strong’s numbers and will help our study. On the right side is the Amplified Kingdom Seeker (my own) version which gives us a more accurate understanding.
Thanks to http://www.crosswalk.com for the handy tools!
The Amplified Kingdom Seeker transliteration
It is rumored all over that there is sexual immorality in the church, and the gentiles don’t even have a name for it, that a man should have his step-mother.
5:2 and you guys are oblivious to it and pumped up when you should really be ashamed and sorrowful. Move this sinning Christian out of the fellowship.
5:3 Even though I am not physically present with you, my spiritual authority is at work. I have reached a decision on what to do with this sinner, and it is just as binding on you as if I were present.
5:4 As the administrative authorities of Jesus Christ, when you are gathered as a group and have my mind and spirit and the anointing presence of the Lord Jesus, then,
5:5 remove the protective covering of the church. Release this one to Satan so that his carnal mind may be tormented, and thus produce repentance that will bring him salvation for his spirit in the day of the Lord.
2:5 This one has caused you grief and trouble, but not as much to me or else I would have been too hard on you.
2:6 (since he has stopped his sin) The punishment that most of you imposed on him of disfellowship and loss of covering has been sufficient to turn him around.
2:7 So now, you ought to do something nice and comforting for him to reinstate him in the fellowship. Otherwise, the punishment might work more sorrow than is necessary to bring him to repentance.
2:8 Be nice to him socially and confirm your love for him so that he will know that he has not been totally rejected by any.
2:9 In part, I wrote you the first directive to see if you would be obedient in everything, even the things you don’t want to do but that are right.
2:10 Understand the chain of command in the church: If you give someone the gift of reconciliation, I also give it to reinstate them, and will back you up with the apostolic authority that I have in Jesus Christ.
2:11 We will not allow Satan to keep this sinner and gain a victory over us. We know he schemes to divide us and defeat us.
The simple key to understanding this passage is found by looking at the Greek language in 2 Cor 2:10. In the KJV and many other versions, the word rendered ‘forgive’ is ‘Charizomai’. This is an atypical use. The most common NT word for ‘forgive’ is the verb ‘Apheimi’, ‘to let go’ or ‘to leave’
Charizomai is the verb form of the noun, Charis, ‘grace’ or ’a gift’ or ‘loving-kindness,’ being the most common and well known translational uses.
Strong’s definition of Charizomai reads:
1. to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
a. to show one's self gracious, kind, benevolent
b. to grant forgiveness, to pardon
c. to give graciously, give freely, bestow
1. to forgive
2. graciously to restore one to another
3. to preserve for one a person in peril
In my mind, Charizomai has the tone of loving confirmation, reinstatement, and reconciliation which are the first objectives of Justice proceedings. If Paul had used Apheimi, then we might get the idea of a more cool, legalistic and therefore, uninvolved cancellation of a debt or penalty for this repentant brother.
I recently heard a minister say that ‘forgiving’ is a weapon against Satan, and he used 2 Cor 2:10 as his proof text. His overall message was about spiritual warfare basics, and that if we would just be ‘forgiving’ that it would give us an immediate victory over Satan. I may be wrong, but I think he was saying that we should be ‘forgiving’ within the church or in families where we have been wronged and with few exceptions. Perhaps he was using ‘forgive’ as a synonym for forbearance, tolerance, or even unconditionally acceptance. I don’t know. I am sure that he has a hope that divisions can be prevented which would defeat some demonic schemes. The caveat for all of us is to not think of ‘forgiveness’ as the silver bullet that brings healing to the heart specifically and to relationships generally. The questions are much more complex than this one answer can solve. Additionally, it would be a mistake to think that decreeing ‘forgiveness,’ without substantive repentance, would do anything but destroy the integrity of the church relationships which only thrive in righteousness.
As a weapon of warfare, the true application of Justice is a real weapon. The fulfillment of the righteous requirements of Justice at the cross is the foundation of victorious overcoming described in Rev. 12:11, “They overcame by the Blood of the Lamb..!” True forgiveness, the absolution of sin or the penalties of sin, is a possibility within the greater concept of Justice, but does not and can not be a spiritual shortcut that spares everybody from facing responsibility for their wrong actions and words. The sinner in Corinth was found guilty and punished. As a result of losing his place in the church he came to a place of genuine repentance which led to his reinstatement. The righteous requirements of Justice were functioning in his punishment, his repentance, and by his reinstatement to the fellowship. Now that is a real weapon of warfare.
Before, I move away from this discussion, allow me to offer a few ways that Satan might attempt to gain an advantage in this situation.
Dividing the congregation with debates over Paul’s demanded ‘harsh’ judgment of sin and coming to a stalemate.
Sponsoring an ‘appeasement to sin’ by bringing the sinner back too soon and without repentance as an ‘act of love’.
Planting the idea that no formal closure was necessary in reinstating the sinner.
Convincing us today that shortcuts or avoidance of Godly judicial actions will provide satisfactory outcomes.