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2 Corinthians 2:9–11

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (vv. 10–11).

John Chrysostom, one of the most important early church fathers and a celebrated preacher, draws our attention to an important fact regarding 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. Commenting on the Apostle’s reference to the man who sinned against Paul, Chrysostom notes the significance of Paul’s silence concerning the nature of the transgression. Chrysostom says, “Paul nowhere mentions the crime, because the time had now come to forgive.” This is an important aspect of forgiveness: when we truly forgive an offender, we do not again and again remind people of the sinner’s misdeed. As Proverbs 17:9 tells us, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”

In not bringing up a sinner’s wickedness again and again once that person has repented, we show that we are not holding his transgression against him any longer, which is the essence of forgiveness. That is what the Lord does with our sins when He pardons us. He casts our sins “into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19)­—not that God actually forgets our wicked deeds, but He puts them so far away that He will not rehash them with us, much as casting something into the depths of the sea keeps us from retrieving it again.

However, at the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the church at Corinth was not operating by this principle of forgiveness. They continued to hold the sins of the man who opposed Paul against him, keeping him from fellowship with the church. Paul had written them a previous letter, telling them to discipline the man, and they had acted on his words. But they had gone too far and were failing to reconcile, which is the proper goal of church discipline. Now it was time to act in love and restore the man to fellowship (2 Cor. 2:5–8; see Matt. 18:15–20).

The Corinthians had obeyed Paul’s harsher letter of reproof and had disciplined the man. Lovingly restoring the man to fellowship would be their new act of obedience (2 Cor. 2:9–10). This forgiveness would keep them from being “outwitted by Satan” (v. 11). The idea here seems to be that Satan wants to sow discord among believers, and what better way to do it than to set forgiven sinners such as the congregation in Corinth against forgiven sinners such as the penitent man and any of his friends in the church who would be looking for his full restoration? When we do not forgive and restore professing believers who have repented, we risk giving the devil a foothold in our churches.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

If we want to keep the devil from obtaining a foothold in our churches, we must be quick to forgive and to restore those who have fallen into sin. The church is different from the world in that we believe in true grace and do not seek to hold the transgressions of repentant sinners against them forever.

For Further Study
  • Ezekiel 34:11–16
  • Luke 15:1–7

Love for the Penitent

Stewarding Power

Keep Reading Right Now Counts Forever

From the August 2021 Issue
Aug 2021 Issue