church-disciplinePaul’s letters to the church in the city of Corinth still stand today as shining examples of both pastoral love and the necessity of Christian discipline. As we read through the two letters to the Corinthians we cannot help but notice the tension in Paul’s words, along with the heartfelt love he obviously has for this baby church. Like a doting Daddy, Paul writes these letters in response to some disturbing reports that have come to him regarding the unhealthy situation in Corinth. Since first planting the church some 18 months prior, Paul had heard that there were serious unconfessed sins being overlooked within the body, as well as arrogance and numerous other flaws, all threatening to tear the tiny church apart (1 Cor 5). It was vital that Paul offer some course correction before the fledgling work was destroyed from within. Adultery, incest, infighting, gossip, false teachings were just a few of the serious issues faced by the Christians in Corinth. It was in these letters that Paul sought to correct the leadership of the church in Corinth, as a precursor to him coming to visit them.

Although there is considerable debate on actually how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians on this matter, we do know that the two that we have are not the entire conversation. Paul references his first correspondence in 1 Cor 5:9 AMPI wrote you in my [previous] letter not to associate [closely and habitually] with unchaste (impure) people…” So we know that Paul had been writing to these Christians before what we now know as 1 Corinthians. In that previous letter he had addressed many of the issues that were plaguing this church, namely that they were unwilling to deal with the sin in some of their members. This is a letter that could be written to many of our modern churches who feel the need to love the member without confronting their sin. Paul makes it clear that sin is deadly and that overlooking it will only spread the disease.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul continues to attempt to correct this misguided church, yet we see a bit different tone. He again mentions another letter that he had sent to the Corinthians. “For I wrote you out of great sorrow and deep distress [with mental torture and anxiety] of heart, [yes, and] with many tears, not to cause you pain but in order to make you realize the overflowing love that I continue increasingly to have for you.” – 2 Cor 2:4 AMP. This tearful correspondence is not the 1 Corinthians which we have, but points to another letter which Paul had written. In that letter he had obviously written some gut-wrenching rebukes that had stirred up the church. In 2 Corinthians we are offered a glimpse into Paul’s pastoral heart as he pleads with the Christians to take his rebukes to heart.

Church discipline can be a messy and difficult subject. In our modern view of individuality and independence, we have come to assume that any form of correction is an affront against our personal freedoms. Yet, according to Paul, that is exactly how Satan wants us to view it. Paul reminds us that we are not ignorant of the devils methods (2 Cor 2:11). Satan will use any gap or weakness he can to tear apart what God is doing in the world. Paul knew that if the church in Corinth did not openly and succinctly deal with the openly practiced sin in their community that Satan would use it to destroy them. But, Paul also teaches them to be quick to forgive once the sin has been confessed and repented of. Obviously the man mentioned in 1 Corinthians as being in an inappropriate relationship with his step-mother had repented and was seeking restoration. Paul encouraged the Christian in Corinth to be quick to forgive and surround that man with love in order to build him back up.

As Christians, we must reject the modern fallacy of our society which labels any sort of rebuke of correction as “judgment”. In Matthew 7 when Jesus reminds His followers to “Judge not”, He is speaking about Christians not judging unbelievers. He is not telling all Christians to just turn and ignore obvious sin in the body. Instead, we are told to be discerning, and to watch out for each other. When Cain asked God, “Am I my brothers keeper?” when referring to his brother Able in Gen 4:9, do you notice that God does not answer him? In fact, since God was the one who asked Cain where Able was, we can surmise that, according to God, we ARE our brother’s keeper. Cain was wrong because he was trying to cover his sin.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes – because my brothers/sisters need me to help them resist the devil (James 4:7). As well, I need them to help me say no to sin and yes to godliness. We are on the same team!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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