A Brief Meditation for the Month

August 2018

The apostle Paul, when writing his second epistle to the Christians in the church at Corinth, found it necessary to warn them not to allow Satan to get the advantage over them, 2Corinthians 2:11. Paul’s reason for such counsel was his knowledge of how the devil operates among members of Christ’s Church to ferment division and accompanying bitterness. He, as the apostle to the Gentiles, had previously confronted those in the Corinthian Church who were negligent in their duty of exercising and maintaining discipline when gross sin had been committed among them. Having however taken to heart the apostle’s exhortations and advice; having dealt with the problem; and having disciplined the guilty party, Paul now writes to remind them that since the purpose of Christian discipline is to bring the guilty to acknowledge their sin and to lead them to repentance, it is now their duty to forgive and restore the penitent in their midst to fellowship.

The compassionate heart of the apostle becomes obvious as he addresses the Corinthians in his second epistle. He wrote to them, “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,…Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.” (2Corinthians 2:6–8). Paul understood the interest that Satan has in causing trouble in the Church. As an experienced pastor, he knew that the Devil who can cause some to be puffed up in pride, when they are reckoned to be consistent Christians, will also endeavour to drive others, under God’s rod of discipline, into despair. In addition, he can tempt good and gracious believers to adopt a Pharisaical attitude towards those who have erred or who have fallen into some sin. They are disposed to not just express disapproval of the sin committed but to abandon and ostracise the guilty party, even after they have given clear evidence of repentance. This was Paul’s concern regarding the Corinthians; that the party upon whom discipline had been pronounced, and upon whom it had the desired effect, should not be left to be crushed under the weight of personal sorrow. In fact, the same apostle had previously told the Corinthians to remember how easily they themselves could fall. He wrote, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1Corinthians 10:12). When we witness some of the Lord’s dear children stumble and fall, it ought to be a warning to us, reminding us of how subtle Satan is, and how experienced he is at ensnaring unsuspecting believers. He may go about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but he may also appear very innocent as an angel of light, posing no threat but even offering his services as a wise instructor or advisor (1Peter 5:8; 2Corinthians 11:13–15). His tempting the Saviour in the wilderness; quoting scripture in the process, ought to act as a warning to every Christian, and particularly those who are young in the faith, that not everyone who comes along quoting the Bible is worthy of a reception. If the Devil can quote scripture, and misapply it, so can his human agents.

As it was necessary for the Christians in Corinth to watch against giving Satan any opportunity to incite unchristian attitudes among them, so it is equally important that all the true children of God avoid all haughty conduct towards fellow-believers who may have stumbled and are found grieving under Christ’s rod of correction. The God who corrects, also comforts.

G. G. Hutton.