Forgive the Sinner 2 Corinthians 1:25-2:11

There are at least three stages a person who has fallen into sin needs to go through before their life is back on the right track.
Remorse – Repentance – Reconciliation.
2 Corinthians talks about all three of these and the first thing Paul says in chapter 2 is actually about the third and final step – reconciliation.
I talked about how this letter came about. Some time after he wrote 1 Corinthians, Paul visited the church to try to put things right there. But that visit had gone badly. An individual had opposed him and the church had failed to support Paul. So Paul wrote them a letter we do not have but which he refers to as his “severe letter.” This caused the Corinthians to recognize their failings and to take action against the person who had offended Paul. Titus brought news to Paul of how things were going and how the church had dealt with that issue. And that is why Paul writes this.
5 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.
The person who had offended Paul had shown remorse. He had truly repented. What was needed now was for the church to forgive him and bring him back into the fellowship. The necessary next step was reconciliation. We know the first two steps had happened because Paul talks about them in chapter 7.
2 Corinthians 7 8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
Paul’s “severe letter” had pulled no punches. He had clearly challenged the church over their failure to support him. And that prompted the first step of remorse.
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
The church had realized their failures and were sad about them. When anybody sins, this will be the first step back as the Holy Spirit convicts their conscience and they feel sorry for their sin. To begin with they may just feel sorry that they have been caught. Then they begin to experience true remorse and regret. And this remorse had its intended effect in the Corinthians.
9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Worldly sorrow only lasts a little while and before long it wears off and the person goes back to their sins again – and the wage sin pays is death. Worldly sorrow produces no lasting change. Somebody wrote this. “There is a radical distinction between natural regret and God-given repentance. The flesh can feel remorse, acknowledge its evil deeds, and be ashamed of itself. However, this sort of disgust with past actions can be quickly shrugged off, and the individual can soon go back to his old wicked ways.
It was that kind of Godly sorrow which David experienced when Nathan the prophet confronted him over his adultery with Bathsheba, “You are the man”. 2 Samuel 12 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin.
Godly sorrow leads to true and sincere repentance. It causes a person both to confess their sins and then also to change their ways. Somebody has defined repentance as sorrowing over and forsaking sin, a wholehearted turning away from all that is evil. This is more than regret or remorse, attitudes that point to sorrow over sin but no more.
11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
So although it had made them sad, Paul’s severe letter led the Corinthians to deep remorse and true repentance. They did what they should have done while Paul had been visiting them. They confronted the person who had opposed Paul and challenged him to repent so that justice would be done.
All sinners need to go through these two steps. Remorse and repentance. David celebrated the sense of relief which comes from reaching that stage of repentance.
PSALM 32 1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Remorse and repentance. The Corinthians had gone through those stages. And so had the individual whose behavior had been so offensive and whose opposition to Paul had done so much damage to the church and to the gospel in Corinth. But now there was a third stage to go through. Reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 2 5 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.
This offender needed to be brought back into the fellowship of the church again. But that would not be easy. He had damaged the church and insulted Paul. They certainly did not deserve to be forgiven or comforted or loved. But then, none of us do. But Paul had already forgiven the man, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to forgive him too.
. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote to 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,
When others sin against us, and then repent of their sins, God calls us to forgive them as he has forgiven them. Paul says this in a number of places in his letters.
Ephesians 4 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Colossians 313 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Somebody put it this way. “Whoever refuses to forgive another, burns the bridge over which he himself must pass.”
And Paul explains why it is important to forgive others.
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.
The devil wants to divide the church. He has so many devious plans to get in the way of the mission and witness of the church. When Christians fail to forgive each other, we are just giving in to the devil’s evil schemes.
But of course it was Jesus Himself who teaches us this same lesson of forgiveness, even in the Lord’s Prayer.
Matthew 6 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgive us, as we have forgiven others. But forgiving other people is hard! This all sounds great in theory. But it is incredibly difficult in practice.
C.S.Lewis said, “Everybody thinks forgiveness is a great idea, until they have something to forgive.”
I know from personal experience how hard it is to forgive. A handful of times in my life, people have done things to me which have hurt me deeply and changed the course of my life. The first time was over 40 years ago and it took me more than 20 years before I could truly say, I have forgiven that person. The second was 35 years ago and that only took about 15 years. The third time was 30 years ago but mercifully that only took me about 10 years before I could forgive that person for what the way they wrecked my life. The last time was 10 years ago and I cannot yet claim to have reached the point where I have forgiven what happened then. “Everybody thinks forgiveness is a great idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Forgiving somebody who has truly hurt you is never easy. William Barclay said, “Forgiveness is never a case of saying: “It’s all right; it doesn’t matter.” Forgiveness is the most costly thing in the world.”
But that is what God calls us to do. Because remorse and repentance are not the end in themselves. The goal of repentance and forgiveness is reconciliation. Being reconciled to God our creator and Father. And being reconciled to our brothers and sisters in the church. The object and the whole point of repentance and forgiveness is to remove the barrier of sin and offence so that we can be reconciled.
Forgiving the person who has sinned against us is good for that person. And it is good for us too. It is a necessary element of the healing we need to experience from the hurts they have caused us. So that is why Paul urges the Corinthians to forgive.
. 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.

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