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Correction & Grief

2Corinthians: Paul's Most Underappreciated Epistle

Nov 3, 2019

by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul's Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:8–7:10

I. Introduction
A. 2Corinthians 7:8–10 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
B. There’s a very beautiful thing going on here.
1. Whenever I hear a story of a person rescued, I am touched because it displays the sanctity of human life.
2. Think about the systems we have in place to potentially rescue people. We have a special phone number; we have people sitting waiting for the calls; we have ambulances with drivers and even helicopters with pilots waiting to be dispatched; we have rescue workers trained to go into the danger and get people out; we have emergency rooms staffed with medical personnel and gobs of fancy, expensive equipment standing by. What a testament to the value of human life!
3. In the same way, we have the touching story of a daring rescue here in 2Corinthians.
4. The Corinthians were in trouble. Their trouble was much more serious than just life or death. They were in spiritual crisis; their eternity hung in the balance. And even more than that, the church of Corinth, was hanging in the balance.
5. And here we have the story of Paul’s wonderful rescue of the Corinthians.
a. First, he went to Corinth to try to resolve the problem. That didn’t work.
b. Then, he wrote a hard letter to the community of believers there, such a hard letter that Paul tells us here he was afraid it might do more harm than good. But in the end, it proved to do the trick. When Paul heard from Titus that the letter had brought the Corinthians to repentance, he was thankful he had written it.
c. And 2Corinthians is the follow-up letter from the rescuer, both to celebrate the survival of the patient, and to wish for the patient’s full recovery.
6. We see through this that Paul was determined to do good and not harm to his hearers. Paul remembered well the words of our Lord toward those who bring harm upon His precious little ones: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea." (Mark 9:42)
C. So, today we’re going to talk about:
1. The tool or tactic used in the rescue
2. The danger involved in the rescue, and the care required for the rescue
II. The tool/tactic used in this rescue was a severe rebuke
A. There are many tools God has given us to use in loving and edifying others, including rebuke.
1. This letter doesn’t include much correction, but in this letter Paul talks about another letter he sent them previously which was clearly full of correction.
2. Matthew 18:15(–17) “If your brother sins {against you}, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”
3. Proverbs 9:8 Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. See also Proverbs 28:23.
4. Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
B. But some people are more inclined to rebuke people than others.
1. Usually, folks have a preference for one or two of the tools, and are hesitant to use others.
2. Some folks hardly ever use rebuke in order to love others. They may resort to it when their anger boils over, but they never use it in love.
3. Other folks reach for it first. They feel very comfortable using it. It makes them feel brave and uncompromising toward sin.
a. These people have a tendency to go too far. Name-calling and harshness easily become a lifestyle.
b. And in its overuse it becomes uneffective. It may appear to be effective, because fear of anger can indeed change behavior, but “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (Jm.1:20) Fear of anger doesn’t produce heart change, except that it may actually harden the heart.
C. God has given us the tool of rebuke as a drastic measure to use when someone needs it (e.g. 1Thes.5:14; 1Tim.5:20; 2Tim.4:2). It can be life-giving – like physical therapy. But, like war, rebuking is not meant to be relished or enjoyed.
1. Paul is absolutely tickled with glee over the repentance the sorrow caused. But we see here he clearly he did not rejoice in the rebuke itself. It was agony, because he loved them so dearly.
2. That is the way it should be for us when we cause others sorrow. It should be like a parent who is a doctor doing life-saving surgery on his/her own child.
3. If we enjoy the sorrow of the other person, we’re not doing it out of love but anger. If we enjoy it, we’re probably looking for a pound of flesh, not for the edification of the other person.
D. And so a rebuke is a dangerous tool to use. It is often not received well. In America, confrontation is especially difficult. We’re very independent. We don’t like people telling us what to do. We like to live and let live. It’s no wonder that correction is unpopular in the American church.
1. A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath. – Prov.15:1
2. In America, even a gentle rebuke often stirs up anger.
E. Because of this, correction is a lost art, which is tragic, because sometimes it is needed.
1. But there is still a time to cause sorrow, as we see here from Paul’s example in this passage.
2. The Bible is full of correction. Largely, that’s what the prophets were sent to do.
3. Being filled with Christ’s love includes being willing to confront when loves demands it.
F. Many Christian people today equate love with being nice. Jesus was always perfectly loving, but He wasn’t always "nice" in the way we think of it today.
1. Here Paul talks about the severe letter he wrote to the Corinthians. He knew it would cause them sorrow, and yet he wrote it nonetheless. For a time, it seems, he worried that it would do more harm than good – until he heard about its positive effect.
G. It is important to note that correction can’t be the main tool you use to love another person.
1. Paul wrote them a severe letter, but the other three letters which we know that he wrote the Corinthians were not severe letters. 2Corinthians is filled with amazing expressions of love.
2. Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba, but the rest of his communication with David was not filled with confrontation.
3. Paul rebuked Peter in front of the church of Antioch, but most of Paul’s interactions with Peter were not corrective.
4. The Bible contains many rebukes, but it is also full of encouragements, assurances, tender words of affection and precious promises.
H. To confront well, we need not only to have love but we need to have faith.
1. How easily we give up on people. How quickly we conclude that they won’t change. How quickly we forget that God is the One who changes hearts, not people themselves.
2. Do we not insult the power of God when we assume that a person can’t change?
3. Do we not insult the power of God when we assume He can’t change us?
III. But there’s an important ingredient in Paul’s rebuke which must not be missed: fear born of love.
A. He certainly showed that he was willing to give the necessary rebuke, but he did so with a fear that it might actually harm them instead of helping them.
B. Most fears are sinful. But one of the kinds of fear God wants us to have is the fear of doing harm.
C. This is a fear which doctors need to have. They sometimes have to make difficult decisions in delicate life-or-death situations. They have to weigh the potential cost and the potential benefit.
1. Any doctor who performed a dangerous procedure without having a fear of the potential consequences isn’t worthy of being in practice.
2. And when a doctor is weighing the factors in a decision like this, he/she must make the important distinction between the pain & discomfort caused by the procedure and the potential damage done by the procedure.
a. No good doctor causes unnecessary pain. He/she goes out of his way to try to minimize pain.
b. But he is willing to cause necessary pain, if the person’s life or welfare are at stake.
D. Paul wasn’t trying to hurt their feelings. He didn’t want to hurt their feelings. But he knew that his letter was likely to hurt their feelings. But he was willing to hurt their feelings as a desperate measure to try to address their drifting from the path of Christ.
1. His love for the Corinthians was so great that he lived in fear of doing anything to harm them.
E. And so it is with us today. We need to rebuke in love, in faith, and in fear.
F. Paul was worried about how the Corinthians would respond to his letter, but he was not so afraid as to not write the letter in the first place.
G. And we need to be willing to give loving rebukes when necessary, but when we do, we need to be worried about how people respond to our correction. We should craft our rebukes to avoid doing harm.
H. So many people are very uncomfortable with rebuking.
I. Others are very uncomfortable with carefully crafting their rebuke so as not to cause unnecessary offense: “Speak the truth and let the chips fall!”
1. This is one of the regrets I have about my parenting. I feel like I lacked this fear with my kids.
2. But Paul here is very concerned about how he’s coming across and how they’re reacting to him.
3. Follow Paul’s example, not mine.
J. (We’ve seen what a great source of insights about human relationships we have in 2Corinthians. And, in terms of application, it is natural to think first of our relationships with others in the body of Christ. But for some of us, the biggest relational struggles we have are with people in our own family. These principles apply in those relationships too.
1. Wives correcting their husbands? 1Pet.3:1-7)
K. So, we must have two fears:
1. The fear of not speaking the truth which the person needs to hear
2. The fear of speaking it in a way which unnecessarily hurts their feelings or makes them feel unloved or provokes the person to react defensively.
L. I don’t think it’s enough to have only one of these fears when crafting or expressing correction.
M. Teaching teens to drive: you need to have a healthy fear of the oncoming traffic, and you need to have a healthy fear of hitting the curb, or the ditch, or the mailboxes, or the trees, or the passengers on the side of the road. You can’t be a good driver without both.
N. The two lions on chains before the house built by the Lord of the hill in Pilgrim’s Progress. Mistrust and Timid had turned back.
1. This was Paul’s dilemma. On the one hand, he couldn’t just let them drive on down a road he knew had a cliff at the end of it.
2. But he also couldn’t just blast them out of the water with disrespect and disgust.
3. He had a fine line to walk. And often it’s the same with us.
4. We need to have healthy fears, but we also need to trust that God is with us and that He has provided a way, that He has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans which give us a future and a hope. (Jer.29:11) So, we don’t need to panic. In fact, we need to fear panic.
IV. One more thing in closing:
A. Because God loves us, He corrects us.
1. The Bible is full of correction. Many today like to portray Jesus as Captain Positive, who only affirmed and assured. But go down into the pages of the gospels: Jesus was a master rebuker.
2. And if we want to be disciples of Christ, we’ve got to be ready to get corrected.
3. If you don’t want God confronting you about your sin/idolatry, the path of Christ isn’t for you.
4. God corrects us to rescue us. He disciplines those He loves. We have to be willing to receive it.
B. Before we can be effective givers of correction, we need to become good at receiving correction.
1. Proverbs 15:31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.
2. Proverbs 15:10 Whoever hates reproof will die. (See also Proverbs 29:1; 12:1; 19:20.)