Moving From Sin To Restoration
Paul had a pastor's heart. He was the first to preach the gospel in Corinth, and despite considerable opposition (Acts 18:9-11), he stayed there for some time establishing a viable church. During a subsequent visit Paul was distressed to see the believers going astray. It was a difficult time. He loved them deeply, but he could not condone their sinful behaviour. But they resisted his rebuke, and their relationship became severely strained.
Paul was deeply distressed that they had ignored God's Word through him. He could see that the Lord's Name was being dishonoured and the church's role as a light-bearer for Jesus Christ was compromised. The people in the church were distressed because they resented Paul's rebuke, maintaining that they were in the right even though they were wrong. Paul agonised over this dysfunctional part of God's family: even though the church resented being told that they were wrong, they needed to repent.
Paul was not scared of another hostile reception, but he wanted them to respond to God's Word and not to any implied pressure from him. So, instead of another visit which might provoke a sinfully angry reaction, he wrote a letter (subsequent to 1 Corinthians, which has not been preserved). It was not easy to write or to receive, but it was necessary to put God's truth in front of them (2 Corinthians 7:8-9). He loved them so much that he would rather suffer the estranged relationship so that they could have time to respond to God's Word and Spirit. When they repented, all the precious relationships could be restored joyfully.
We are often more frightened of losing relationships than that our friends should repent and be restored to true fellowship. But that is false thinking. However painful it may be to present and accept the truth, it is God's way of leading sinful people to repentance. Without repentance there can be no restoration of true fellowship with God or other believers. Far from being unkind to people, speaking the truth in love reflects God's kindness in leading sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4). Although it brings temporary sadness, godly sorrow brings us back into the joy of God's salvation grace and there is no regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). This does not mean we should be harshly insensitive; sometimes we simply need to communicate the truth in a loving way and then prayerfully stand back for the Holy Spirit to work. We can then look forward to the joy which comes with spiritual restoration.
© Dr Paul Adams