In a couple of weeks, our children’s Sunday School classes are going to host a rally to celebrate the fifth Sunday of this month. On fifth Sundays at our church, our adult Sunday School classes all meet up in the sanctuary for a Fifth Sunday Rally. We encourage and challenge all of the classes to reach out to the community before the next fifth Sunday and do some kind of ministry that draws in new people. We discover some creative ideas as each class shares an experience. We are going to launch the same plan among our children. After our Bible lesson, the kids are going to break up into small groups and stuff Trunk or Treat bags with information about our church and Gospel tracts. These bags will be used during our major outreach on October 31. I am so excited to see the children serve in their own capacity. Before we do the service project, we are going to study II Corinthians 7:8-12. I want to share that message with you here in this article. Church discipline is a practice that has gone out of style in many churches today. It is seen as archaic and divisive. As followers of Christ, we want to honor the full counsel of God’s Word. Church discipline is necessary, especially in our modern churches. The Apostle Paul did not love the idea of confronting sin in the church but, it was a necessity. He loved the people enough to do the hard things. We need to learn from Paul and apply these principles in our modern church.
Confrontation of sin is Biblical. God confronts sin all throughout the Bible. Godly leaders confront sin all throughout the Bible. It has to be done and we are going to discover WHY in this passage.
8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it-for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while –
9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (II Corinthians 7)
The Apostle Paul knew that confronting the Christians in Corinth would cause them sorrow. He also knew that they could get upset with him. He did it anyway because he loved them. He reached out the only way that he could at that time. He wrote a personal letter to them. We know that letter today as First Corinthians. He knew that they needed to be confronted and no one else seemed to be willing to bite the bullet and do it. He wrote the letter and confronted them for their own good. Paul was goal oriented in writing his letter and confronting them. He wanted them to see the error of their ways, repent, and be reconciled with each other. The relationships in the church were suffering. The perception of the church was negative in the community. These things needed to be repaired because the Name of Jesus Christ was being mocked, and for good reason. Let me ask you, my dear friend, do you have someone in your life who loves you enough to confront you when you are wrong? Are you courageous enough to confront others when they are wrong, because you love them and want to see them get back right with God?
II. Need for Repentance
What was actually going on in the church in Corinth to merit this confrontation? Based on what we discover in First Corinthians, there was a man in the church, who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and he was living in open, sexual sin. He was intimate with his father’s wife. Many Bible scholars believe that this lady was his step-mother. That is likely the case. This is a clear case of sexual immorality and the leadership in the church was not doing anything about it. In fact, they were bragging about how “tolerant” they were. The outside world, as pagan as it was, looked at the church with disdain because even as pagans, they would never practice something so vile. The Apostle Paul took action and confronted the church. He confronted the leadership for not taking action and practicing church discipline and he confronted the man who was living in open sin. The letter worked and the man was placed under church discipline. While under church discipline, the man repented of his actions and confessed. The leadership swung the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction and after the man repented, they were not willing to forgive him. Learning of this, Paul had to confront the leadership once again, to remind them that God forgives us upon repentance and that they should do the same. They listened to Paul and forgave the man. Paul’s goal was repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. All of that took place because Paul had the courage to confront and practice church discipline. The watching world saw the heart of the church and it was beautiful. Some people think that this is not possible in the modern church. I disagree. I have been serving in churches since 2000 and I have seen church discipline done right and the exact same results that took place in Corinth took place in that church, separated by almost 2,000 years.
III. Godly sorrow vs. Worldly sorrow
Confrontation/church discipline, when done properly, will produce sorrow.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (II Corinthians 7:10)
The Apostle Paul reveals that there are tow types of sorrow produced by confrontation. One is worldly sorrow. This kind of sorrow manifests in statements like, “I am sorry I got caught“. This person is not sorry that he did wrong. He is sorry that he got caught. In this kind of sorrow, this person never admits that he did wrong and there is never a confession. He shifts the blame, spins, and makes excuse after excuse for his actions. This type of sorrow does not lead to repentance and it actually leads to destruction because the person never changes. When I think of this kind of sorrow, I think of politicians who get caught doing wrong and shift into containment mode. They shift, spin, and never, ever admit that they did wrong. This comes naturally to humans because of our sin nature. How did you respond the last time that you were confronted for doing something wrong? The other kind of sorrow mentioned in the passage is Godly sorrow. This is a good kind of sorrow because this sorrow leads the person to admit, “I am sorry I did wrong“. That’s vastly different than I’m sorry I got caught. Godly sorrow causes a person to own his actions and repent of them. That repentance produces a desire to make things right. This kind of response does not come naturally to humans, again, because of our sin nature. If you have ever responded to confrontation with Godly sorrow, you know how beautiful it is, how freeing it is, and how necessary it is in our modern world. It is like a breath of fresh air.
The results of repentance after experiencing Godly sorrow are beautiful.
11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.
12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. (II Corinthians 7)
I want to focus on several important, key words in this text that help us understand how repentance manifests in the life of a person who experienced Godly sorrow.
- Vindication – This means to evaluate the situation and consider the arguments presented. When confronted, we really need to listen to what the person is saying instead of immediately trying to justify our actions.
- Indignation – This means to act quickly based on the information. When I know that confrontation needs to take place, I usually try to put it off as long as I can because I do not want to do it, nor do I like doing it. Indignation means to take action right away and not put things off until later.
- Fear – Another word for fear is respect. We show respect by knowing what the right thing to do is and then doing it, right away. If you know God wants you to apologize, then do it. If God wants you to forgive, then do it, immediately.
- Innocent – Admit your faults. Stop spinning and shifting. Stop trying to justify your actions. Confess what you did and put yourself in a position to make things right.
- Earnest – Once you know what you need to do, be quick to make things right.
The ultimate goal is to restore a person’s relationship with God. In order to restore that relationship, the person needs to take responsibility for his actions and confess to God and then go to the people wronged and seek to make it right. That needed to take place in the church in Corinth and it needs to take place in our modern churches today.
May the Lord help us understand these truths and apply them immediately!