St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Goal Of Church Discipline

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Text: If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent —not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

In our Gospel readings for this morning, we have the familiar stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus told these stories in response to the disgust that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law felt as they watched Jesus interact with the tax collectors and the sinners. They thought that these people were beyond help. It was better to have nothing to do with them. By means of the two stories, Jesus taught about the great joy that fills the heavens when one of these sinners repents. We also note that there was a great deal of effort put forth to bring back the lost sheep and the lost coin. This morning, we are going to look at a situation in Corinth and the effort that had taken place and still needed to take place to bring back a sinner into the fold. As we do so, we will note the GOAL OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE is 1. To Wake Up The Sinner in order 2. To Welcome Them Back.

In the first verse of our text, Paul writes, “If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you.” (Verse 5) Paul isn’t speaking of some hypothetical situation. Rather, he is referring to something that he had addressed in his first letter. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul points out a situation that had arisen in the congregation. There was a member who was sleeping with his father’s wife, that is to say, his stepmother. Not only was this happening in their midst, but the congregation was actually proud of how loving and accepting they were. Such a sin would have, or at least should have, caused grief, not just to Paul, but to the entire congregation. Paul admonishes the congregation and tells them that they should “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:5) What Paul is referring to is excommunication. They were to tell the man, in no uncertain terms, that, if he continued on this path, he would be lost for all eternity. He needed to see how serious his sin was and what the consequences of his actions would be.

In the last verse of our text, Paul writes, “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (Verse 11) There are many areas when it comes to this area of church discipline where the devil would like to trip us up. The first is that, when we know about a brother’s or sister’s sin, we conclude that it’s none of our business. I’ve got my own things to be concerned about. Besides, what if they get angry? What if others get angry because I stuck my nose in? Or the thought might flit across our minds to think that we don’t want to judge other people. We want to be kind and loving to everyone. This is part of the devil’s schemes. He doesn’t want us to speak up. He wants us to remain silent, while that person falls farther and farther from God and ends up spending his eternity in the company of the devil. The sin that they are committing causes us grief because it causes our God grief.

Another one of Satan’s schemes in this regard is that we carry out this discipline in a legalistic way. We are getting rid of the bad people. They sinned and we want nothing to do with them. There is no love in our actions. However, we want to remember why we do this. It is done out of love for that person. We want them to see that what they are doing is wrong so that they turn from that sin and back to God. We want them to wake up.

Apparently, the congregation did heed Paul’s strongly worded advice. They carried out the sentence of excommunication. We see this in verse 6, “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.” Though not all the congregation saw the love in doing this, at first, they eventually did see that this was the loving thing to do. The desired effect happened. He woke up to what he had been doing and was sorry for the sin he had committed.

And, now what? The Corinthians needed to take the next step. Paul writes, “Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” (Verses 7&8) The man was sorry for what he had done. Paul speaks about the concern that he would be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is another one of the devil’s tricks. When the law takes effect and convicts the sinner, they may feel that what they have done was so terrible that they can never be forgiven. God could never love a person like me. They fall into despair.

Paul tells the Corinthian congregation that they were to forgive and comfort this man. They were to reassure him that the sin that he had committed, as horrible as it might be, was forgiven through the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross. That was the whole purpose for Jesus’ time on this earth. It was to seek and to save the lost. The Corinthians were to comfort this man with the sweet salve of the gospel. In addition to that, the congregation was to reaffirm their love for the man. They were to let the man know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they still loved him and wanted him back in their midst. They were to welcome him back.

This brings us to another of the devil’s schemes when it comes to church discipline. He wants us to be filled with disgust if a person, who has committed a very public sin, is brought to repentance. They come back to the fold and all they feel are judging and disapproving looks. How dare they show their face here after what they have done! If we do this, we are mirroring what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were doing when Jesus told them the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. The repentant sinner has been forgiven by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Since God has forgiven them, he wants us to welcome them back into the fold. Jesus said, in conclusion to those stores, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) Since there is rejoicing in heaven when the sinner repents, it only makes sense that there is rejoicing in the congregation when the sinner comes home.

As I said, it may be difficult for us to look at the repentant sinner and welcome them home. After all, look at what they have done! How can we do it? The answer is found in the fact that we have been brought back home, as well. You and I commit sins every single day. The world may classify one sin as being worse than another. Yet, God doesn’t. All sins are equally condemning in his sight. It doesn’t matter if we murdered someone or just hated them. It doesn’t matter if we actually stole something or just tried to figure out a way that we could take it away from someone else. Every one of us has committed sins and every one of us deserves to hear a sentence of condemnation from our holy God.

Yet, how we rejoice to hear those stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. We are reminded that nothing was going to stop Jesus from searching high and low to find us. The effort that he put into rescuing us is so clearly seen when we turn to that cross on Calvary. That is what he was willing to do so that we would be saved. He was willing to suffer the punishment of hell, so that we wouldn’t have to. Our sins have all been washed away. Jesus’ resurrection assures us of this fact. The day that you were brought to faith, there was rejoicing in heaven. Another one has been rescued. We were brought into the family of God with all the rights and privileges that go along with the station. We pray that the Lord would keep us firm in the faith throughout our lives. We also pray that, if we should start down a wrong path, someone would love us enough to point it out to us, so that we turn from that path and come home to our loving God.

It is also this love that moves us to care for our brothers and sisters in the faith. This includes us loving them enough to tell them that what they are doing is wrong. We don’t want them to spend their eternity apart from God. We want them to wake up. It is our prayer that the Lord would rouse them with his law to repentance. Then, it will be our great privilege to welcome them back through the proclamation of the gospel. We can assure them that their sins have been forgiven. We have the opportunity to reaffirm our love for them and let them know and feel that they are home again. May the Lord instill and promote such a love among us. Amen.