OceanSide church of Christ

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How Would They Have Treated Him?

Victor M. Eskew

     When the apostle Paul penned I Corinthians, the church inCorinth was in a deplorable condition.  Division was rampant among them.  Disagreement over many issues raged among their members.  Disobedience in several areas reached unbelievable proportions.

     One sin that was being openly practiced was fornication.  Paul described the sin vividly in Corinthians 5:1.  “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”  The situation was horrible and deserved immediate attention.  Paul exhorted the church “to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5).

     Apparently, the church gave heed to Paul’s instructions.  They put away from among themselves that wicked person (I Cor. 5:13).  This act of disciple had the desired impact upon the sinner.  His heart was filled with sorrow that led him to repentance.  In the book of II Corinthians, the beloved apostle exhorts the church to receive this man back.  “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.  So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.  Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him” (II Cor. 2:6-8).  Surely, the church at Corinth obeyed this instruction from Paul also.  Those who could practice the difficult act of disciple could easily engage in the acts of forgiveness and restored fellowship, or, maybe not!

     This writer makes that last statement based upon some of the actions witnessed among brethren in the church today.  He has seen many who are quick to rebuke, chasten, and withdraw.  This writer does not fault them in these actions.  The Word of God is plain in its command to withdraw from the disorderly (II Thess. 3:6).  However, when one repents of his sins and confesses them, these same brethren are not nearly as eager to forgive.  They seem almost intent on the brother’s destruction, instead of being desirous of his restoration.  Taking such a harsh position against one’s brother is shameful.  It certainly does not manifest the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 22:31-32).

     This writer is well aware that sin has consequences, sometimes grievous consequences.  However, sins repented of and confessed do not carry the consequences of eternal condemnation.  Neither should they carry the consequence of lifetime alienation.  They should not carry the consequence of forever being labeled a sinner.  They should not carry the consequence of never being able to use one’s talents to the glory of God.

     Paul understood the forgiven sinner’s need for forgiveness and acceptance.  If such an one is not forgiven and comforted, he could “be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (II Cor. 2:7).  Onesimus was a very wicked slave.  He treated Philemon with much disrespect and contempt.  However, he was forgiven of his sins by the blood of Christ.  Therefore, Paul exhorted the slave owner to receive him back.  “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:  which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:  whom I have sent again:  thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels” (Phile. 10-12).  Paul was confident that Philemon would obey (Phile. 21).  Could he have this same confidence in us?