The Ministry of
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Cor. 2:5-17.
MEMORY TEXT: "For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11, 12, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: When we extend and receive forgiveness, we play a major part in the plan of redemption. When we extend and receive forgiveness, we live daily in a way that shows we stand in God's presence.
FORGIVENESS IS A STRATEGIC ISSUE. We have tamed the words "forgiveness" and "forgiving" by making use of them in a variety of routine ways. All too often, forgiveness becomes ordinary and optional, something we extend or withhold at will or refuse to accept because we would rather be bitter.
For Paul, however, forgiveness is more a term for the battlefield of the great controversy. In the battle between good and evil, forgiveness is a major part of God's strategic battle plan. If Christians fail to forgive one another, they divide the army of Christ and hand Satan an advantage. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-17, Paul invites us to recapture the importance, power, and pathos of "forgiveness." As you study the lesson this week, decide whether there is anyone you need to forgive. Then take specific steps to do so.
What counsel does Paul give the believers concerning the discipline of one of its members? 2 Cor. 2:5-11.
Paul does not address his letters to make-believe situations. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, he has discussed the theme of "consolation" or "comfort." Then in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, he discusses a particular situation where "consolation" is needed (verse 7). A member of the church in Corinth had caused his fellow church members and Paul much pain. Paul had, in his "severe letter" (2 Cor. 2:3, 4), recommended "punishment" (verse 6), which the church had carried out. The outcome reveals that the discipline was no t vengeful but loving and redemptive, leading to repentance and restoration. In Paul's view, the discipline had done its work. He is now concerned that the erring member may be "overwhelmed by excessive sorrow" (verse 7, NIV, NRSV).
This member is sometimes thought to be the offender of 1 Corinthians, chapter 5. Do you think they are the same person? Why or why not?
Paul goes out of his way to help the Corinthian Christians avoid blaming one individual while withdrawing from any further involvement with the problem. First, the pain inflicted on the victim (in this instance, Paul) is, in reality, something everyone shares. In the attack on Paul, all have been wronged. The victim is not to be blamed as somehow deserving of the ill treatment.
Second, when discipline has been administered, the results should be carefully watched. The congregation cannot "wash its hands" of the situation. Instead, we must be alert to the fresh work of the Spirit in that person's life, always ready to reaffirm our love for that individual (verse 8). Forgiveness is never an end in itself. It must lead us to be kind, supportive, and consoling of the one forgiven.
"What this man [Paul] preached he practiced, and he was the living embodiment of the gospel of a forgiving Father who seeks and saves the lost."Ralph Martin, 1, 2 Corinthians (Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1988), p. 51.
|As a Christian parent., pastor, or teacher administering discipline, how do you know when "enough [discipline] is enough"? As you contemplate Paul's wise counsel, in what specific ways can you follow his example in applying discipline redemptively?|
Forgiveness is one of those common words we use on a daily basis. As Christians,
we usually think of it in two distinct categories:
1. Either it is human in the sense that one person is forgiving another,
2. Or it is divine in that we ask forgiveness from God. But are these two categories really that distinct?
How are divine and human forgiveness related in each of the following passages?
2 Cor. 2:5-10 ________________________________________________
Matt. 6:9-15 ________________________________________________
Matt. 18:15-20 ______________________________________________
John 20:19-23 _______________________________________________
Some time ago, Lewis Smedes wrote an article titled "Forgiveness: The Power to Change the Past." In it Smedes writes, "When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.
"You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but as a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful. "Christianity Today, January 7, 1983, p.24.
|Have you ever given or received such forgiveness? This week, why not let Christ's spirit of forgiveness lead you to forgive someone who wronged you in this manner. Remember, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31, 32, KJV).|
Compare the description of Satan in 2 Corinthians 2:11 with the descriptions in Ephesians 6:11 and 1 Peter 5:8. What is he determined to do?
If the church members in Corinth now forgive the once-offending member, they may avoid being; 'liken advantage of" by Satan. In mistreating one another, we allow Satan a strategic edge, for he uses our unforgiving spirit to drive offending persons to despair. However, this need not be, for Paul adds, "We are not unaware of his schemes" (NIV). In 2 Corinthians, the Greek word translated "schemes" usually means "mind" "thoughts," or "intentions." (Compare the uses in 2 Cor. 3:14; 4:4; 11:3.) It is always helpful to be able to understand the thinking of your opponent! And Paul claims that Christians have the ability to do just that!
How is Satan referred to elsewhere in 2 Corinthians? What do we learn of his schemes?
2 Cor. 4:4 _____________________________________________________
2 Cor. 6:15 ____________________________________________________
2 Cor. 11:3,12-15 _______________________________________________
"There is active engagement between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. If Satan strives to maintain humans in his thrall, he also attempts to regain those who have been lost to Christ and he resists Paul, a leading opponent in the battle for human lives. "D. G. Reid, "Satan," in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 865.
Second Corinthians 2:11 alerts us to the fact that Satan seeks to destroy not only our individual Christian experiences but also our Christian unity. To Paul's list of the divine armor, he adds these words: "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18, NRSV).
|How might Satan be attempting to destroy unity in your church through unforgiving attitudes? In what specific ways do you plan to counter his subtle attempts? Make this an ongoing subject of your prayers.|
How do you explain the conflict Paul faced between the door being open to evangelism in Troas and the restlessness in his spirit? How can both exist at the same time? What does this experience tell us about Paul? 2 Cor. 2:12, 13.
Having conducted his "painful" visit and sent his "severe" letter, Paul leaves Ephesus and goes to Troas, where he has an "open door" in evangelism but no freedom of spirit. Troubled by his relationship with the Corinthian Christians, he hopes Titus will join him in Troas. When he does not, Paul goes to Macedonia to meet him there.
How does Paul respond to Titus's good news from Corinth? 2 Cor. 2:14-17; 7:5-7.
Paul has portrayed the harsh realities of his ministry in Asia, his troubled relations with the Corinthians, and his distracted mission in Troas. He now gives us an image of the joy of being a true ambassador for Christ. He compares the victory parade of a Roman general to the victory of Christ over Satan. We, as soldiers of the Cross, are captured by Christ's love, as trophies of His grace. Then we are appointed to spread the fragrance of His good news of salvation and proclaim victory over Satan the enemy.
What spiritual importance does Paul's use of "always" "in every place," "in Christ," and "through us" have in spreading the fragrance of Christ's knowledge? 2 Cor. 2:14. How can you spread the fragrance of Christ in your home, church, and neighborhood?
The clouds of sweet-smelling incense announced the Roman general's victory. As we devote ourselves to Christ and march in His victory procession, He fills us and our environment with the fragrance of His love and knowledge. Such spiritual fragrance becomes so much a part of our experience that others will know we march with Him. Even our enemies will take notice of the close relationship that exists between us and Christ, just as the Jewish rulers and elders reacted to the witness of Peter and John when they marveled and "realized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13, NKJV).
|How does the sweet aroma of life to some become the aroma of death to others? 2 Cor. 2:15, 16. How does accepting or rejecting the gospel relate to this?|
There is an important theme in 2 Corinthians 2 that can be easy to miss. It is the idea of being in the presence of Christ (verse 10) or of standing before God (verse 17).
As you read 2 Corinthians 2:5-17, try to decide what Paul means by the idea of Christ's or God's "presence."
In verse 10, Paul's concern is for the church at Corinth to exercise forgiveness toward the disciplined and repentant member. To motivate them, Paul tells them he has already done so on their behalf and "in the sight of Christ" (NIV).
In verse 17, Paul contrasts the ministry of his missionary group to that of "so many" whom he regards as "peddlers of God's word" (NRSV). False charges may have been spreading about Paul's management of church funds, especially of money intended for poor members in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 12:14-18). But Paul reassures his readers that he is not seeking to enrich himself He and his co-workers will not be tempted to mold their message or dampen their enthusiasm for personal or financial gain. Instead, they are persons who are both "sent from God" and "standing in his presence,"
What changes would you make in your life today if you were to live standing in God's presence?
We often ask God to be present in our lives. Perhaps we should ask not so much for God to be present with us but to make us "present" with Him. "The presence of God is guaranteed to the Christian. This Rock of faith is the living presence of God. The weakest may depend upon it. Those who think themselves the strongest may become the weakest unless they depend on Christ as their efficiency, their worthiness. This is the Rock upon which we may build successfully. God is near in Christ's atoning sacrifice, in His intercession, His loving, tender ruling power over the church. Seated by the eternal throne, He watches them with intense interest. "Sons and Daughters of God, p. 77.
|Risen Lord, carry me above the cares of the world today. Bring me into Your very presence. Bow my mortal form before Your eternal throne. Raise me up to join in the angelic songs of praises to stand in Your presence. Allow me to remain there in adoration even as You send me forth to minister in Your name.|
FURTHER STUDY: How important is the preaching of forgiveness to the
6:12, 14, 15;
Read The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 323-326.
"In dealing with the erring, harsh measures should not be resorted to; milder means will effect far more. Make use of the milder means most perseveringly, and even if they do not succeed, wait patiently; never hurry the matter of cutting off a member from the church. Pray for him, and see if God will not move upon the heart of the erring. Discipline has been largely perverted. . . . Passion, prejudice, and partiality, I am sorry to, say, have had abundant room for exhibition, and proper discipline has be en strangely neglected. If those who deal with the erring had hearts full of the milk of human kindness, what a different spirit would prevail in our churches. May the Lord open the eyes and soften the hearts of those who have a harsh, unforgiving, unrelenting spirit toward those whom they think in error. Such men dishonor their office and dishonor God. They grieve the hearts of His children, and compel them to cry unto God in their distress. The Lord will surely hear their cry, and will judge for these things. "Review and Herald, May 14, 1895.
SUMMARY: Satan seeks to use every situation to bring conflict into the church. Now that the Corinthian believers have followed Paul's counsel to discipline an erring member, they may be open to Satan's tricks by failing to forgive the repentant member. Paul encourages them (and to) to practice the ministry of forgiveness.
Simon Vieira Morase Neto
I stepped off the bus in suburban Sao Luis, Brazil, and started toward my home. I had gone to the church office to pick up two Bibles to take to the evangelistic meeting that night. As I walked along the street, I sensed that someone was following me. I glanced behind me and saw a young man who had been on the same bus as 1. 1 walked a little faster, but the young man walked faster as well. Soon he caught up with me.
"Excuse me," he said. "Are you an Adventist?"
Surprised, I stammered, "Yes. Why?"
"When I saw you in the bus, I noticed you had a Bible," he said. "I thought you must be an Adventist. I am looking for a Seventh-day Adventist church."
"How do you know about Adventists?" I questioned, still amazed at our encounter.
"My father is in the military. He has studied the Bible faithfully. He found verses in the Bible that commanded people to worship on the Sabbath. There were no Sabbath keepers in our area, so Father sometimes held meetings in our home on he Sabbath. When
I learned that I would come to Sao Luis to attend military school, Father challenged me to find an Adventist church and learn more about what they believe."
It started to rain, so we sapped under a shelter to continue our discussion.
"How does your father know about Adventists if there are none where you live?" I asked, now intensely curious.
"My aunt and my father often discussed religion, and once she told him, 'You're always talking about the Sabbath. You sound like a Seventh-day Adventist!' This is how we knew the Adventist church believed in the Sabbath. I also like to study the Bible, but as I saw what other churches teach, I began to wonder if there is any church that practices all that the Bible teaches."
I invited the young man, Sidraque, to the evangelistic meeting at the church that night, and he eagerly accepted. I gave him the church address and took his address, so I could visit him if he d not come that night. Then we parted. As I hurried on home, I had a strong feeling that the Lord wanted this young man to be a soldier, but not in the Brazilian army.
(continued next week)
Simon Vieira Morase Neto is assistant accountant in the Maranhao Mission in North Brazil.
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