Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Happy New Year!
I pray your Christmas holiday season was filled with wonderful memories of time spent with loved ones both family and friends. In this fast-paced world, the gift of time is often overlooked when people are searching for “that special gift;” the thing people really want but don’t seem to presently have.
In this age it’s easier to go to www.whatever.com to purchase a gift for someone and then have it sent to their address and I’ll admit when they live far away this is essential. But when they reside in the same zip code as you, the gift of time is much more valuable than anything bought on-line or in a store, and it will be remembered for years to come because you came with the gift. You offered yourself and your gift of time and not just tokens of affection purchased from the internet or the mall.
Offer to prepare an elegant meal for a loved one
Offer to run errands for an elderly relative who can’t get around
Offer to baby-sit for a couple who need a night out on the town
Offer to do yard-work or house-work for a relative or friend who is ill
Husbands, date your spouse on a regular basis
Fathers, date your daughter(s) to demonstrate how it should be done
Hold a game night regularly and invite family and friends – rotate homes
Since we’ve been apart for a couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to begin this week’s lesson with a brief Bible review.
For some reason Bible commentators and theologians alike can’t agree on how many visits Paul actually made to the church in Corinth, Greece. However, this chapter refers to a “previous letter” and a third, somewhat painful visit to these folks (12:14; 13:1). This visit isn’t recorded in the book of Acts but it probably occurred sometime between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. The one thing they agree on is Paul spent a lot of time and ink responding to this church’s needs because of his love and devotion for them (2 Corinthians 2:4).
In this chapter Paul continues the discussion of the subject which he introduced previously. He had stated the reasons why he chose not to visit this church at this particular time, and when all is said and done it comes down to one specific reason. The church was in utter chaos, spiritually speaking. If he came to them in that condition he would have felt compelled to discipline them severely. Therefore, instead of traveling there wielding a disciplinary rod as an “apostolic avenger,” he chose to send them a friendly letter (2:4, 13:2).
Therefore, as we study this next section (2 Corinthians 2:1-8), we need to bear in mind this letter was written to them, in love, rather than paying them a visit at this time, when so many were so defiant. I prefer to let this book do the talking whenever possible, so here’s Paul’s own words: For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down (2 Corinthians 13:10).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 2:1-2.
2 Corinthians 2
1: But I determined this for my own sake – this seems to imply that Paul did not rely on the Holy Spirit’s insight, or guidance, about this matter. He had mentioned before, several times in fact, how the Holy Spirit was his guide or led him in his decision making, which included his travel plans (Acts 16:9-10, 18-21; Romans 1:10, 15:32; 1 Corinthians 4:19), but here we don’t find any specific guidance in his decision not to come to Corinth, indicating this may have been Paul’s decision solely.
That I would not come to you in sorrow again – Paul mentions a third visit to these Believers in 12:14 and in 13:1 but the book of Acts does not record this troubling visit.
The word again in verse 1 relates to the word come. When Paul first came to Corinth he faced much bitter opposition (Acts 18). He said, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3a). But as you continue reading this verse he mentions his preaching, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, - Paul was under a great deal of pressure in Corinth. He admitted to being weak, but his message was not. Thus his first visit resulted in great spiritual victories in this pagan city.
Then Paul’s second visit came about, the one that is vaguely referred to in this letter, the one that had brought sorrow to this church and to Paul. Along with the distress came confrontation or conflict between a minority of the Believers there and Paul. Thus, rather than visit them now and risk negative results again, he felt led to write to them instead.
Let’s go to verse 2.
2: For if I cause you sorrow, who then makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful?
Now, after all the time and the ink Paul has invested in this church, the argument from his “side of the fence” is he should be rejoicing or glad re: their spiritual progress and restoration, however, he’s not seeing that. Instead, there’s an underlying stubborn attitude of disobedience for the desire to continue living in a worldly way is strong within them. This being the case, they should expect his reproof; which causes them sorrow; but who then makes him glad but the one whom I made sorrowful?
Since his reprimand discouraged them, obviously, who would encourage him? It goes without saying this encouragement could only come from those who had been made “sorry” by him. But it did not follow that if he made them “sorry” by constantly reprimanding them they would recognize their mistakes; and begin to follow Christ, making him glad.
If Paul traveled to Corinth, again, and encountered the “same sinful behavior “in the church, i.e. division, fleshly lusts, indulgences in worldly pleasures, and strife he would again suffer sorrow from those over whom he ought to rejoice. The only thing that would satisfy Paul is their joy in Christ, thus he writes: my joy would be the joy of you all (v3). Paul’s goal was the elimination of that which had not only grieved him, but had brought sorrow to them all and that would be their prideful attitude and sinful behavior.
Now I don’t know about you but when someone tells me something has to be removed from my life there’s some measure of “suffering” involved in the process. It doesn’t matter whether that “something” is a tooth that has to come out or if my doctor just told me I have to give up eating ice cream and cake. That tooth is deeply rooted and I’m here to tell you so is the habit of eating ice cream and cake; removing either one is going to cause some degree of pain, but I endure the loss of such things because I know it’s for my own good.
Our Apostle Paul was attempting to curtail if not eliminate the Corinthian’s sin of pride and their other sins and encountering problems because their wrongdoings had become deeply rooted – a part of their lifestyle. This not only grieved him, but had brought sorrow to them all. This church had one foot in the world and the other foot in the church. Every now and again it appears this church had both feet in the world, but Paul was saying changes had to be made. Sin had to be removed from their lives for the common good.
It’s a well known fact that people resist change even if it’s for their own good; and no one likes being disciplined but God basically says we need to “get over it” (Hebrews 12:4-11). It has been said people in the church express the desire to grow spiritually, yet they resist the steps required to get there because these steps take them outside of their comfort zone. Contrary to popular belief, achieving spiritual growth is not about “feeling” spiritual. Overcoming resistance to spiritual growth requires the practical application of thought, word, and deed. It requires above all, practice, which requires organization. After all, when are you going to practice and think things through if you don’t organize your life and set aside some quite time to be spiritual?
As the saying goes, “You play like you practice.” If you heard me play my guitar lately, you’d know immediately what this means. Since the move to our new home the priorities have shifted. This Bible study, unpacking boxes, and getting settled are at the top of my list; guitar practice is merely on my to-do list. Think this through. If you do not practice your golf swing, or your hook shot, take batting practice, keep up with your voice lessons, or practice your piano lessons will you meet your goals? Bottom line: either your spiritual life is important or it’s not. You’re not going to realize your spiritual goals if you do not practice being spiritual. Please remember: “That which you resist will forever exist.”
Let’s go to verses 3-4.
2 Corinthians 2
3: This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all.
This is the very thing I wrote you - considering the circumstances, Paul wisely understood a letter was better than a personal visit at this particular point in time. A letter could show Paul’s true heart, yet would not present as great an opportunity for the deterioration of their relationship. It would also give the Corinthians precious time to reflect on his words and for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin.
so that when I came, I would not have sorrow – As I pointed out earlier, no one likes discipline; this includes the one receiving it and the one administering it. Paul hoped that his letter would get some, if not all, of the painful work out of the way, so when he traveled to Corinth again, it would be a pleasant visit. Paul hoped to persuade them to exercise discipline on their own by choosing to rid themselves of their sinful habits before he arrived.
from those who ought to make me rejoice – since this was the largest church Paul had planted, in the most god-forsaken city in the Roman Empire, there were more than a few reasons why this church should make Paul rejoice. However, the bad conduct of the saints in Corinth was all the more troubling considering how they should have treated Paul since he had given them so much of his love and time. Thus he writes in the confidence that my joy would be the joy of you all. Paul never gave in or gave up on these Believers. He was confident they could and would turn things around, making the church in Corinth a shining beacon of Light not just for their city but also for the surrounding region.
Let’s go to verse 4.
4: For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.
Never lose sight of the fact these folks were saved out of a culture steeped in paganism. What does a pagan know about the one true God? Nada, nil, zilch, nothing! What's more, these Believers are not that far removed from where they started, which means they have a tendency to “slip back” back into their former lifestyle and this is what grieved Paul.
Paul didn’t enjoy correcting or confronting these Believers about their poor decision making abilities. It was a difficult task, which is why he did it prayerfully with many tears. Above all, he wanted them to know his aim was not so that you would be made sorrowful, but instead that they would know the love which I have especially for you. It has been said of Paul, when he wrote to this church instead of using ink he used his tears.
My mother was and is a prayer warrior for us children. I know she often prayed longed after we were put to bed and before she woke us for school. How many parents out there can say the same thing? How many mothers and fathers are fervently praying for their children’s faith in the Lord to develop and for their protection from the wiles of Satan and this world they send them into each and every day - in tears?
Let’s read verses 5-7.
2 Corinthians 2
But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree- in order not to say too much – to all of you. In case you missed it, Paul never exposes this individual’s name in either this letter or in first Corinthians, exhibiting genuine apostolic compassion and wisdom. Why drag this man’s name through the “mud” for centuries?
Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority – from this statement we know church discipline was imposed on this man as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 5. After receiving the punishment, this individual was convicted of his sin and he changed his ways, but here’s the thing, the Corinthians would not forgive him or restore him, i.e. welcome him back into their fellowship.
Who was this man? In Corinthians 5, Paul rebuked these Believers for their casual attitude towards this individual and his immoral sin. I’m aware that people of all ages are tuning in to this website and reading these Bible lessons, so I need to be sensitive to young minds and their thought process. Therefore, I will merely say this man was guilty of incest; only his sin was much worse than that. This book says it was an immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles...
Paul commanded them when you are assembled… deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). In other words, the man was to be put outside the spiritual and social protection of the church family until he was convicted of his sin, demonstrating how church leaders and members of the Body of Christ should exercise discipline within God’s one church. But here’s the thing I want y’all to note, nowhere do we find malice or undue harshness of speech in Paul’s writings; what we do find is evidence of loving concern and sorrow. The proper church discipline, applied with love by some of these folks, helped this individual overcome his immoral lifestyle
I say “helped” because it’s the role of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin. Even the lost may be aware that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), they may know that no immoral, impure, or greedy person… may inherit the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5). Yet having this knowledge, they continue to go their way living a sin-filled life, which means they have a basic understanding of the consequences, but they’re far from being convicted of their sins. If a person experiences nothing more than a pang of conscience, a brief moment of anxiety at the thought of the judgment to come, or an academic awareness of hell fire and brimstone, then they have never truly known the conviction of sin.
The word convict in the Greek language is Elencho, (pronounced: el-eng’-kho), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1651, which means to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness. You see the Holy Spirit acts just like a prosecuting attorney who exposes the wrongful things an individual does, He reproves evildoers; He convinces people they need a Savior.
To be convicted is to feel the sheer loathsomeness of sin because this is how God views sin (Psalm 5:4). In addition, many people believe they find the Lord and their own salvation when they’re ready but this book says otherwise. The Bible teaches us that all people are, by their very nature, “rebels;” against God; and hostile to Jesus Christ. They are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus Christ said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (or her) – John 6:44. Without a doubt, therefore, part of being “drawn” to Jesus is the conviction of sin.
The church discipline worked. The man was put outside the church, the Holy Spirit convicted him of his sin, and he chose to make the appropriate changes. The problem arose when he wanted to return to his church family. The Corinthians didn’t want anything to do with him. This is why we find our Apostle Paul telling the Corinthians to restore the man to their fellowship: forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (v7-8).
Forgiveness carries the implied additional meaning of forgetting one’s trespasses (Psalm 103:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). What these Believers weren’t understanding is they were just as wrong in withholding forgiveness and restoration from him when he had clearly changed as they were to welcome him warmly in their midst when he was living a life boasting of incest. Instead of treating him harshly, i.e. rejecting him, they should have been seeking his “highest good.” We find one example of it here when Paul commanded them to do more than forgive him; he also told them to comfort him.
Unfortunately, the type of forgiveness we’re seeing in God’s church today has a judicial aspect about it; brings to mind a courtroom setting complete with a judge, jury, and every now and again you may meet someone whose willing to be an executioner, i.e. off with their head – kind of thing. Even though your sins (past, present, and future) have been paid for by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, at the Cross, and your heavenly Advocate declares you “not guilty” each and every time Satan (our accuser) shows up in God’s throne room saying, “Do you know what he or she just did,” there’s a lingering stain of guilt from the past on one’s conscience because of the way some people in the church treat Believers. God has removed your sin and He’s taken away the guilt as well, but some people can’t forgive and forget. This is demonstrated by the way they gossip about you in the church classrooms, in the break area, and in the hallways until you arrive that is, following the example of the Corinthians:
Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
This gentleman was overwhelmed by excessive sorrow because these Believers were “piling on,” as it were; they wouldn’t forgive and comfort him. When this man needed his church family’s encouragement, love, support, and their prayers, they gave him the “cold shoulder” instead. I’m not saying the whole congregation acted badly, I am saying no matter where you go you’re going to find a few “bad apples.” There were some (a minority) behaving badly, just as there are today.
Here’s something I want y’all to take away from this: there but for the grace of God go you and I… Please turn to the book of Galatians, chapter 6:1-2:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Paul means to say, anytime you treat someone unfairly, in a harsh manner, in your church family or even outside God’s one church, what are you in effect doing? Setting yourself up to be the next one to fall! None of us are immune to Satan’s schemes. Therefore we all need to heed the instructions of Paul. If anyone if caught in a trespass, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Remember to seek the individual’s highest good. You do this by going beyond restoring the trespasser in a spirit of gentleness; comfort them with the love of Christ or as Paul put it Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved