Title: Love Covers Sin
Text: 2 Corinthians 2.5-11
CIT: Paul’s ministry was possible because he confronted the sin in the church.
CIS: Sin in the church destroys the body, makes ministry ineffective, and destroys her witness.
Introduction: Family Life Ministries would like to take the rest of the summer to focus on service. How can you and your family serve together? We’ve had some campaigns in the past that were such a blessing. For example, we focused on family dinners, where we set goals to eat together as a family. Our little girls loved that push. The prayer focus challenged me on a personal level. This summer, FLM wants to encourage families to serve together. An easy way to begin would be to visit with Christoph and Laura, Daniel and Julianne, or Anna Beth about the ministry happening under the bridge. Sign your family up for service at the local soup kitchen; Call Philip and Angela Greenwell and sign your family up to serve in the kitchen one week; Something Lisa and I did with our children when they were in elementary and middle school was Meals on Wheels; Call Laura Coody or Rae Lynn Seutch and clean the church on their behalf – allowing them to get a week’s paid vacation! Maybe Mimi and Theresa could offer us some advice on that, because they’ve had experience through Cottage Garden in caring for the facilities. Just ask them for advice.
This theme of service and ministry is part of what Paul’s been getting at in his letter to the Corinthians. Last week, it was an issue with his integrity – and for Paul, his integrity was intact. It came from a Clear Conscience and an obedient faith. This week, we’ll look at struggle Paul dealt with when serving them: Sin in the church. Paul was serving the Lord, by serving them. However, ministry breaks down when sin abides in the camp. So, let me ask you: How does sin affect service? How does sin affect ministry? As Paul writes his letter, he outlines for us the impact of sin on a church:
And here’s the outline for today,
- Sin causes pain and
- Sin brings punishment; therefore,
- Sin must be dealt with, because if it isn’t,
- Sin has the power to destroy lives.
Sin causes pain and sin brings punishment; therefore, sin must be dealt with, because if it isn’t, sin has the power to destroy lives. Let’s begin with the 1st point Paul makes:
- Sin Causes Pain
exp.: rd v 5a; 5 Now if anyone has caused pain; he’s talking about someone in particular or maybe a group;
- For the Person or People in Sin; anyone is singular, here; however, some speculate that Paul’s problem was with a group of people; rd v 5b;
- For Paul: You remember the story. Paul had established the church and later left to continue on his missionary journey. While on this journey he wrote them a letter. But there was much confusion and many question came out of that letter. So, Paul sent Timothy to deal with issues and then later sent a 2nd Letter: 1st Corinthians. Problems persisted, so Paul journeyed there, too. But something happened, wounding Paul. Paul left Corinth and wrote a stinging letter of reproof and correction. That 3rd letter is called ‘the severe letter’. Whatever was in there, it worked. Titus came back and reported of their repentance and faithfulness in God. They dealt with this person. Rd 5c;
- For the People of Corinth – “all of you”
Transition: So we see, when sin is in the church, it hurts people – the one who sins, the one who is sinned against, and the body as a whole – not to put it too severely – to all of you. Next, Paul clarifies for us that…
- Sin Brings Punishment
exp.: rd v 6; evidently, this person had experienced church discipline and had been brought to a state of repentance, which is the purpose. Now, some people believe this person is the immoral brother in the incestuous relationship from 1 Cor. 5. I don’t think that’s the case, mainly, because that person didn’t hurt Paul with their immorality. In any case, Paul makes it clear that this person has repented and now it is time to restore them to the fellowship. Rd v 7;
- Forgive – the word ‘forgive’ is a beautiful word; this isn’t the most popular word (aphi-ami) used in the NT for forgive, it’s different; Doing a word search will show you what Paul is getting at; Forgive means to give graciously, or even more so, to give grace. Luke 7.21: 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. Luke 7.42-43 – the King ‘cancelled their debts; Romans 8.32: 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 1 Corinthians 2.12 –12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
We even have placed a bit of the meaning in our English word: for-give; Here’s what I’m wanting you to see about forgiveness:
– This act of giving grace is a characteristic of God. Someone said, I don’t remember who or where, but it has stuck with me: We are never more like God than when we forgive. Because forgiveness is giving grace – unmerited favor. It’s crazy, but we cannot earn grace. That’s what makes it so beautiful – it’s a gift.
– But there’s a 2nd part of this word that I think is important: this infinitive is in the middle voice, meaning this – that forgiveness is as much for you, as it is for the one your giving grace to. To forgive for yourself; Isn’t that what forgiveness does, it blesses the one forgiven and the one forgiving. For instance, look at the next couple of words: and comfort him;
- Comfort: this verb is in the infinitive form, too, showing that both forgiveness and comfort go together. Which BTW is a Characteristic of God, too. The word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit – paraclete, is a derivative of this word (παρακαλέω).
So, how does one comfort? Rd v 8; Reaffirm your Love; we’re all sinners, right?
- Some of us were born and raised in the church
- Some of us got here later as teens
- Some of us got saved as adults
But, the one thing we all have in common is that we’ve committed sins even after we got here. Nary-a-one of us is immune to this fact – we’ve all sinned. But some sins committed by us are pretty grievous. Some of us went to jail. Some of us didn’t get caught. I say that about all of my brothers on my mother’s side: 4 boys and I’m the only one who didn’t serve time – either in a Boy’s home or a prison. People are like, “Really…” thinking Jesus made the difference. Naw, I just didn’t get caught!
ill.: Lisa and I knew a man who cheated on his wife, divorced her and then married the woman he had had an affair with. Sometime later, he repented and came back to the Lord. The church had excommunicated him – not formally, mind you. They just treated him like he no longer belonged. It’s like we know we’re supposed to exercise church discipline when someone is in sin, but the leadership doesn’t do it, so we all pitch in and make someone feel unwelcomed: whispering, gossiping. He began going back to church, and if I recall correctly, his new wife went with him a time or two, but after that she wouldn’t subject herself to the silent excommunication. She couldn’t handle the silence toward her and the talking behind her back. He however continued to go. Years passed, and after all those years, he was still an outcast in his own church. And so, he sat alone, week by week, month by month, year after year.
He had us over for dinner and took me into his study, his office in the home, to tell me his testimony. I didn’t understand it then, but now older (and hopefully a little wiser) I see he was trying to find some affirmation. He was dying to be reaffirmed. I think he found forgiveness from God – and maybe he could forgive himself, if the church could somehow forgive him. He needed some sort of re-affirmation that he had indeed been forgiven and could be restored. This doesn’t happen quickly. Indeed, it should take time. Years maybe, but eventually, re-affirm and restore to the fellowship.
Transition: Now, this brings up a very important point that Paul makes…
- Sin must be dealt with by the church.
exp.: rd v 9; the church has got to learn to be obedient in everything. Excommunication by omission is wrong. When there is sin in the body, Scripture gives us clear instruction. And the purpose of that instruction is to lead us to repentance. The process is clear and I blame the leadership in the American Church for this failure. Instead of leading like pastors, elders, and deacons are supposed to do, we – the Leadership, avoid taking responsibility. Then, the church, instead of acting like we’ve been instructed to act, just whisper and gossip and make our fallen brother or sister feel bad. We try to do the convicting part of the Holy Spirit.
The Corinthian Church got this right! They obeyed! Rd v 10;
exp.: Listen, I’m no dummy. I get it; this stinks. I hate this! I’d rather just let the sinner wonder off into the world than go through the pain of confrontation! Does that shock you? I don’t want to do this! But, Scripture is clear about helping those who’ve wondered off into sin. But why? Why not just let it go and maybe it’ll just go away? Let me offer two simple reasons:
i. The Church is the image of Christ – we are the body of Christ. Is there sin in Christ? NO! He is perfect. Therefore, we should be perfect as he is perfect. We are to be holy as He is holy. That is our calling.
ii. Sin in the church confuses the world. Why would the world ever want to come here if we’re not different? When we allow sin to continue in the church, we nullify the gospel. Here’s the Gospel:
- You’re a sinner
- Sin’s punishment is death, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
- Acknowledge your sin and need for a savior.
- Jesus died for your sin. He suffered the punishment in your stead.
- Confess and Commit your life to Christ. Romans 10.9-10. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. This means turning from your sin to the Savior.
But, what if we don’t turn from our sin? That’s what confuses the world: we preach one thing, but practice another. And, when someone in our midst lives in blatant sin, they’re acting like they haven’t Confessed and haven’t Committed. They’re acting like they’re not saved – and that’s confusing to a lost person.
Therefore, we must confront the sin and the sinner. Either one of two statements is true:
- The person in sin is a believer, but has fallen into sin and needs to repent to restore their fellowship with Christ. Sin separates. And if they don’t repent, then…
- The person is in sin not a believer. It really is that simple.
1 John is clear on this: we are all sinners and we all sin, but someone who is Christ’s, does not live in habitual sin (i.e.: keeps on sinning). If he does continue to live in sin, then he is a liar and the love of Jesus isn’t in him. And, furthermore, if he is not Christ’s, then he is doomed to eternity in Hell; hence, the need to present the Gospel to him. And, he is in need of salvation. Rd 1 John 1.5-2.6; So, when we see sin in the church, we confront it. That’s what Paul did. And repentance illustrates a true believer. You’ve probably heard that the church is filled with sinners. True, but only partially, The Church is filled with repentant sinners! People who’ve come face to face with their sin and repented. And when we sin again, we repent – that’s what believers do. Unbelievers, non-christians don’t repent – but live in a state of sin and rebellion.
Transition: So, when we see someone in the church in a state of rebellion and sin, we confront them. The reason we confront the sin in the church is because sin has the power to destroy lives.
- Sin has the power to destroy lives.
exp.: rd v 11; designs means thought process; And Satan’s goal, his scheme is that the believer be…v 7…overwhelmed with excessive sorrow.
- Swallowed by Sorrow
Swallow: Mt 23.24, 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”; and in Hebrews 11.29 in explaining how the Egyptian Armies of Pharaoh were swallowed up by the sea. But it is most clear and compatible with this verse in 1 Peter 5.8: 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We can’t let that happen; hence, the process of church discipline. We act against sin and forgive when repentance has occurred.
Transition: Sin causes pain, and brings punishment. And, it must be dealt with in the church because it has the tremendous power to destroy lives.
- In the absence of leadership, the church acts like the world.
- So, Men, Lead! The Leadership in the church is given for a reason. I know it’s not easy. It’s hard. I’ve been in discussion with a couple of folks about why elders and deacons take a year off in the 7th year of their service. We deal with tough issues. Our last elders’ meeting lasted until 11:30 pm. And I’m grateful for these men who bear my pastoral burdens. We make hard decisions. We hurt and pray for you. When we’re tired, we have a tendency to wimp out and not lead. Gentlemen, don’t let that happen. Man up!
- When you become aware of sin in the church, don’t tell anyone – go to that person. There is great wisdom here.
- When one is confronted alone, then you don’t humiliate that person in front of others. They can be humiliated in front of you, but no one else. Assure them you’ll take this to the grave. Lead them to repentance, pray with them. And never mention it again! Ever.
- When someone is confronted in numbers, you’ve already alienated them. You’ve humiliated them and you’ve probably lost them.
- Don’t go to your friend seeking advice. That’s really only gossip! You know what to do – Scripture says so.
- If you go and find you are wrong – repent.
- There comes a time when repentant sinners must be embraced. A clear picture of this is a powerful testimony. The problem is we try to tell the world that the church is a perfect place and filled with perfect people. No, it’s not. It’s an imperfect place with imperfect people who serve a perfect savior. We still sin because we’re not perfect. And when we sin, we repent of that sin. Really, this altar should be filled every week with repentant sinners. Our problem is, we want people to think we’ve got it all together.
Question: did anyone here make it through the week without sinning, even one time?
- It’s time for the church to stop practicing church discipline by omission. You know what I mean…whispering and gossip, making people feel bad about their lives, like the Holy Spirit has given us that task. When you or I do not approach a believer in sin, one on one, but instead talk amongst ourselves and shut that person out without proper due course, we’re in sin!
Do you remember the man I told you about earlier? I have no idea what happened to him. We moved on and never saw or heard from him again. When Lisa and I met him, It had been about 13 years since his failure. I remember he’d go to church and sit there with his son. And people just shunned him; like, what are you doing here? He had made a horrible decision. He altered the course of his life. But what is to be done now? Can a person find forgiveness in Christ when they’ve gone horribly astray? Please tell me the answer is yes.
- If you’re here and you’ve ever practiced excommunication by omission, will you repent of that sin today? Don’t embrace the sin, but rather embrace the sinner as they repent.
- Leadership: shame on us for putting our members in a place of having to act that way. It’s our responsibility to lead. If you’ve ever been in a position of leadership, but abdicated your responsibility because you were scared, will you repent today?
- Sin should be repented of as publicly or as privately as it was committed.
- Private sins should be confessed privately. Only to those involved. Don’t tell us your thoughts – those are between you and the Lord. Keep them there. The only person outside of that might be your mentor or counselor.
- If sin is between two people – keep it there between the two of you. Involve only the Lord. If others know about it – repent to them, so that they know you’ve repented.
- If your sin comes out in the newspaper, then your repentance should be very public.