Granting Forgiveness

Peter Barnes: 2 Cor 2:5-11

(2 September 2018)


Martin Luther once described human beings as like a drunk trying to get on a horse – first he falls off one side, then he falls off the other. It is surely the incestuous man mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5 – 1 Cor.5:1-2, 4-5, 8, 13. But many say it refers to a man guilty of rebelliousness rather than immorality.
1. In responding to another’s sin, grief is more godly than anger.
– 2:5-7. There is a godly anger against sin (John 2:13-17). But Paul has wounded in order to heal (Prov.27:6). Augustine: ‘We must always keep charity in our hearts, even when we are obliged to do outward things which seem harsh to men, and to strike them with rough and salutary severity; for their profit must come before their pleasure.’ Gal.6:1.
2. Forgiveness is through repentance.
About the year 306 there was a church synod in Elvira in southern Spain. It passed 81 canons, dealing with matters such as idolatry, relations with pagans and Jews, usury, church attendance, divorce, sodomy, prostitution, fornication, adultery, abortion, and incest. We can get an idea of its approach by canons 47, 69 and 78, which deal with adultery. They declare that adulterers were excluded from communion for five years, and a relapsed adulterer was permanently excluded.

– compare that to 2:6-8; Matt.18:15-17. H. L. Goudge: ‘The cure of souls is the art of arts.’ Fanny Crosby:
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
3. Obedience entails both discipline and forgiveness.

– 2:9-10. It is wrong to be too soft; it is wrong to be too hard.
4. Beware of the devil.
– 2:11; Gen.3:1; Eph.6:11. He is far smarter than we are.
(a) What if the person does not repent? Luke 17:3.
(b) What about restoration to office in the Church? Maybe wait and see for a lifetime.
(c) What if the sin is also a crime? God forgives on repentance, and so does the Church, but the human magistrate cannot.