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TEXT: II Corinthians 7:2-13
SUBJECT: Church Discipline #9: Doing the Word
This afternoon, with God's blessing, we will move on in our study of Training in Godliness. As the People of God, we're called to help each other make it to heaven; some of the help is private (brother to brother) and some of it is public (the church to a brother). Most of it is formative (aiming to form good habits in each other) and some of it is corrective (wanting to break bad habits). Very few people enjoy giving correction, and nobody enjoys receiving it. But give it we must and take it we must if we want to live under the Lordship of Christ.
We've spent the several weeks working through the major parts of the Bible that address the subject as well as answering the most common objection to it. I won't rehash all that now, but only remind you of the 'big' chapters: Matthew 18, I Corinthians 5, and II Thessalonians 3. Review these on your own time, if you need to.
Today's topic is Doing the Word. We have heard God's will on this matter; my teaching is not infallible, of course, but-allowing for mistakes-it has been true teaching. I'm sure I got some of the details wrong, but message has been right. With all the humility, wisdom, and patience God gives us, it is our duty to correct each other-not to nitpick everything we dislike-but to speak a faithful work when we see a brother or sister fall into serious sin.
The question before us then is: What are we going to do with what God has taught us? What are the options? We can reject it. We can ignore it. We can think about it forever, and do nothing till we get every jot and tittle perfect. We can pray about it till we get peace of mind. Or, we can obey it.
We are not the first people to face the question. Long ago, Moses confronted Israel with a choice between the way of life and the way of death, and commanded them in the unforgettable words-
They didn't. They said they would, but they didn't. Centuries later, the church in Corinth faced the same question. In his First Epistle, Paul had told them many hard things. Here's a partial list:
He told them they were immature, stupid, immoral, lax, proud, selfish, and listening to heretics.
Paul was not a mean and hateful man; in the first part of our text, we find his heart wide open to the Corinthians; he loved them with a passion too strong to shrug and say, 'Well, nobody's perfect!'
How did they take his advice? Let's remember just how it came to them. It wasn't stuck in the middle of a leather-bound Bible. It was a letter brought to church by a friend of Paul's-and read out loud in the public meeting!
Paul does not name the offenders, because he didn't need to! Everyone knew whom he meant! When they read the part about the man living with his stepmother-he was sitting there! When they read the part about some drunk and gluttonous at the Lord's table-they were still hiccupping and burping!
I Corinthians scalded the people who first heard it. For a time, it made them very sad and none too fond of with Paul! In other words, it did to them what it would do to us: it hurt their feelings!
But then something happened; vv.8-11 tell us what-
For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same Epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourself to be clear in this matter.
It produced in them a new kind of sorrow-not the self-pity and hand-wringing they felt before, but the kind of grief that effected a real and lasting change in them!
There is not time or need to closely define every word Paul uses to describe the sorrow they felt. Diligence, indignation, zeal, vehement desire means they got mad enough at themselves to confess their sins and turn away from them! They're not bargaining with God! They're not looking for excuses or calling for more patience or appointing a committee to study the matter for six months!
For the first time, they realize who we're fooling with-the God who is a consuming fire-the one who doesn't negotiate and isn't willing to meet them in the middle.
Some repentance needs to be repented of! The sorrow that only makes us feel bad and say we're bad is a bad repentance-not just useless, but bad because it makes us feel like we're doing better, when in fact, we're doing worse.
This is not the repentance the Corinthians offered to God. There's was a godly sorrow, the kind they didn't have to regret later, but the kind that led them to salvation.
This is our challenge. Both as a church of Christ and as individual believers in the Lord. God give us the grace to meet it. For Jesus's sake. Amen.
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