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. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
–2 Corinthians 2:6-8
Does church discipline really work? In more than forty years of pastoring, I have never engaged in the final step of turning somebody out from the church. My experience has been that when you take a small group to confront an individual, the person either repents or voluntarily removes themselves from the church.
Interestingly, we see the positive outcome of spiritual surgery at the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul chastised the church for not dealing with a member who was sleeping with his stepmother. Apparently, the church got the message and dealt with him. Look at Paul’s words in his second letter: “If any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree . . . to all of you. 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. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:5-8). The church voted this man out; he repented and wanted to come back. Some people were saying, “No, we are not letting you back in. We do not want to endanger our church.” But Paul said that was the wrong response; if the person repents, Paul said, you need to welcome him back. That is the goal of church discipline: the restoration of a sinning Christian.
And therein is the difference between good grace and bad grace. Bad grace equates correction with condemnation; good grace understands that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for another Christian is to confront him about his disobedience.
Bad grace rarely considers the effect that an individual sin has on an entire congregation, but good grace recognizes our responsibility to protect the moral, doctrinal, and emotional health of the church.
Bad grace uses the “live and let live” philosophy as an excuse for ignoring a fellow believer who is being held hostage by sin. Good grace recognizes that we have a responsibility to rescue other believers who have been overtaken by sin. As James said, “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:20).
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Spiritual Surgery” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2021.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org