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The Blessings of Forgiveness

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Title:  THE BLESSINGS FORGIVENESS BRINGS

Text:  2 Cor. 2:1-11

Introduction:

     An unforgiving spirit is a toxin to the soul.  It poisons the heart and mind with bitterness, distorting your perspective on life.  Anger and resentment take over your thoughts and pollutes with evil emotions.  Such bitterness spreads from one person to another, defiling everyone in its destructive path.  Heb 12:15 

     Forgiveness is the only antidote.  Forgiving others is a liberating act that unleashes joy and peace.  It washes the slate clean and sets in motion all the beautiful virtues of love.

     Our text opens a vivid window through which we can view the path forgiveness really should take.  The backdrop to this passage is Paul urging the Corinthians to forgive a man who had been under their discipline but had repented of his sin.  The context suggests that the man’s offense involved some sort of personal affront to the apostle.  Paul is urging them to receive the repentant brother back into their fellowship and to stop punishing him for his offense.  In the process, Paul shows us some of the vast blessings of forgiveness, as well as exemplifying it for them.  Read Text.

1.      Why is it that the repentance of the sinner doesn’t always disperse the bitterness and hurt in those around us who know of the offense that was made against us?  (When people are zealous towards the offender on our behalf, sometimes it’s hard for them to let go and forgive.  Strong affection can sometimes turn to vengeance against the guilty.)

2.      What insight do you gain about Paul’s heart in this matter from verse 5?  (In essence, Paul was saying the guy had not caused him sorrow because he had forgiven him, but had caused them to sorrow.)       How does Paul help them by minimizing his own hurt in the matter?  (He shows them their zeal to defend him is unneeded; he has already forgiven the guy.)
Insight: In a beautiful way here, Paul tells them not to exaggerate the hurt.  It was time to move on, bury the offense and not make it an ongoing crusade in the church.

3.      What is the motive behind wanting to prolong punishment as long as possible and extract every ounce of suffering in return?  (Bitterness that demands an eye for an eye justice.)

4.      What does forgiveness act like when there are public offenses such as this one?  (It buries the offense as quickly as possible as soon as there is repentance, even at the cost of personal pride.)
Insight: Paul was a very hard man to offend, simply because he would not take offense at the hurt.  True forgiveness sets aside the wounded ego.  This is a beautiful virtue needed in all of us.  1 Cor. 13:5
Insight: One of the most beautiful biblical illustrations of this is Joseph in Egypt.  Rather than spending years festering resentment and plotting revenge, when Joseph encounters his brothers again, the perfume of forgiveness spilled all over his brothers.  Gen. 45:5

5.      2 Cor. 2:6  It’s evident by this verse that church discipline according to Matthew 18 was exercised towards the man.  The discipline accomplished its goal…the man confessed his sin and repented.  Now Paul wants the Corinthians to back off.  Church discipline is not a form of vengeance; it is a biblically mandated formal response of the church in regard to open sin.  What is the goal of church discipline?  (To draw the offender back to a godly walk and healthy relationships with the body of Christ.)

6.      What is our response to be towards someone who will not repent?  2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Rom. 16:17; Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13 
Insight: The Corinthians were simply doing what the rabbis called “binding” (Matt. 16:19; 18:18).  A man’s sin is bound to him as long as he will not repent, and their discipline is just.  But this man had responded to the church’s discipline and it was now time to show him mercy…publicly “loosing” him from the discipline and therefore all embrace him.  Christians should be more eager to loose than to bind, because forgiveness epitomizes the heart of our Lord.  Jn. 3:17

7.      Even in the process of carrying out church discipline, the spirit in which we carry it out is important.  How so, according to Galatians 6:1
Insight: Look at the verse just prior to this verse.  Boastful challenging and correcting others is the sin of elevating yourself to the position of judging because you see yourself holy enough to pass sentence.  Far too often this leads to execution of their spirit and little hope for recovery.  Therefore the admonition to do it in a spiritual of gentleness lest we find ourselves needing discipline as well.   2 Cor. 2:7

8.      Have you ever found yourself finding it hard to accept someone’s repentance…and thus keep them on the hook?       What’s wrong with that? 
Insight: We are to forgive in the same manner Christ forgave us – generously, eagerly, and abundantly – instantaneous forgiveness.  Lk. 15:20; Col. 3:12-13

9.      What is the heart of God towards the contrite according to Isaiah 57:15-19
Insight: To walk in God’s steps is to not hold back your forgiveness…rather we need to comfort the contrite actively…earnestly…seeking to restore their joy.

10.  What is another action of forgiveness according to 2 Corinthians 2:8
Insight: The Greek word for “reaffirm” is significant…it is a technical term used for legally validating a document or a contract.  Paul is urging a formal, public announcement that this man is to be embraced.  This is significant for the Body of Christ to learn, for nothing can fracture a church where forgiveness is practiced, because unresolved issues are never left to fester.  Discipline that seeks to bring about repentance and forgiveness that reconciles will keep unity of the church intact.  Such love covers a multitude of sins.
Do you think when repentance takes place our affirmation of love to them should be more ceremonious than the discipline?...after all, when the prodigal son came home, the father dressed him in the finest clothing, killed the fatted calf and called his neighbors to celebrate!!   2 Cor. 2:10

11.  There’s one last, and very important thing forgiveness accomplishes according to 2 Corinthians 2:11.  What is it? 
Insight: Satan’s whole agenda is undermined by forgiveness.  It deflects pride…shows mercy…restores joy…affirms mercy…proves obedience…revitalizes fellowship.  Imagine how Satan must hate it.  Therefore, forgiveness is a powerful arrow in the Christian’s quiver for putting down Satan’s schemes.  To refuse forgiveness is to fall into Satan’s trap.

Conclusion:

     Forgiveness is the soil in which godly fruit and divine blessings are cultivated.  Tending and nurturing the soil of forgiveness is one of the best ways to develop a healthy spiritual walk.  Think about it…forgiveness gives a blessing to others…and it is the means to further blessings.

     But we must guard our heart, for refusing to forgive others is to forfeit the multiple blessings of forgiveness we have uncovered in our study.  To unleash others and forgive them is the very thing to which we are called. 

1 Pet. 3:8-9

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