Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the fifth verse of the second chapter and continues through to the eighteenth verse of the third chapter. “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 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. For this end also did I write that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
“Furthemore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was 0pened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking me leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:12-17).
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter keilleth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:1-8).
“For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Neverthless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:9-18).
When you come to the second and third chapters of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will encounter a dramatic shift in language from that which is found in the first chapter. If you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the second chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking tenderly and affectionately to the Corinthians concerning his next journey and visit unto them. In this opening verse the apostle Paul declares unto them how he determined within himself that he would not come again unto them in heaviness. The underlying reason the apostle Paul would not come unto them in heaviness is due to the fact that if he showed up among them in their midst and made them sorry then who was he that would make him glad. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that if caused sorrow, grief and anguish in the midst of the hearts and souls of the Corinthians then when he was present among them there would be none to make his heart glad or joyful. In addition to this the apostle Paul would go on to write how these words were written lest when he came unto them he should have sorrow from them of whom he ought to rejoice. Furthermore the apostle Paul would go on to continue to use the language of the body as he would speak of the joy which he experienced in his own heart and soul as being the joy which he shared with them. As the apostle Paul wrote this particular epistle he sought to write unto them that they might not be filled with sorrow and anguish as was the case when he wrote the first epistle. Oh how much there was a drastic difference between the language found in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and this second epistle which was written unto them after the fact.
If you continue reading in this particular passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul going on to speak of how out of much affliction and anguish of heart he wrote unto them with many tears—not that they should be grieved but that they should know the love which he had in abundance for them. What we must needs realize and recognize when reading the words found in the opening verses of the second chapter is that when the apostle Paul wrote the first epistle unto the Corinthians it was written which much affliction and anguish of heart as the apostle Paul knew that as a loving father he must needs correct and rebuke them. Upon writing the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints he sought to address the many conflicts and struggles which were present among them as the apostle Paul like a skillful surgeon sought to extract the cancer which was plaguing the body of this congregation. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly unique and powerful which must needs be brought to our attention when considering that first epistle. If you take the time to read the words which are found in that first epistle you will find multiple instances and occurrences throughout it of the apostle Paul addressing that which had plagued the Corinthian congregation like cancers and tumors among them. It is impossible to read the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding this congregation and the incredible need for correction and rebuke. In fact, as I write these words I find it absolutely necessary to briefly call and draw your attention to the words which are found in that first epistle as the apostle Paul sought to correct this particular congregation:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not yet carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:14-21).
“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. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For verily, as absent in the body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with. Mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunketn. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? OR despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
We must needs pay careful attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for each of these passages present us with a powerful picture of the tremendous correction and instruction the apostle Paul sought to convey unto the Corinthian congregation. When you come to the second chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation—specifically the fourth verse—you will find the apostle Paul speaking of his writing unto them out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous significance of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians in the second chapter of this epistle for he highlights and underscores what might have been the great difficulty in writing unto the Corinthian saints in his first epistle. In essence that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in this second epistle is that his first epistle—although it contained much correction and instruction—was not easy for the apostle Paul to write. This first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints was such that caused the apostle Paul great grief and sorrow within his heart as he knew the hard and difficult things he must needs write unto them. The apostle Paul knew the tremendous burden and responsibility that surrounded his role among the Corinthians as a father and instructor in Christ and how he had begotten them unto the Lord Jesus Christ as holy and acceptable in His sight.
As you consider the words which are found in the second chapter of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul you will come face to face with the tremendous truth that the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints carried within it a sobering tone which undoubtedly caused sorrow and grief within the hearts of the Corinthian saints. Imagine being the Corinthian saints and reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto them in that first epistle—words of correction and instruction. It would be in that first epistle the apostle Paul would address strife, envyings, contentions, divisions and the like among them. In essence this first epistle would call and draw the Corinthian congregation to confront the fact that they were a church that was not only bitterly divided within itself but it was also a church that was at war with itself. I have previously written concerning the Corinthian congregation and that first epistle which was written unto them that they were indeed and were in fact a church that was bitterly divided within and among themselves and were a church that was at war with itself. Essentially that which the apostle Paul sought to convey unto the Corinthian congregation was that which would remind them of the unity they have in the Spirit, the unity they have in Christ, and how they are one body made up of many members. The words and language which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of this first epistle written unto the Corinthians not only highlights the unity in the Spirit but also the diversity of the Spirit. It is within the twelfth and thirteenth chapters the apostle Paul emphatically describes and explains how unity of the Spirit cannot truly be manifested without and apart from diversity of the body among its members. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto these dear saints:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. IF the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body: is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body: but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but where there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
It is absolutely unmistakable when reading the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints that this church was one that was not only bitterly divided but one that was at war with itself. This was a church which the apostle Paul could not speak to and address as spiritual but as carnal—even as babes in Christ—because there were divisions, contentions, strife and envying among them. We cannot afford to miss this particular reality for when reading the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation we discover the tremendous reality that this congregation was such that was essentially in conflict with itself and needed to be corrected by the apostle Paul. Like a father who chastens, corrects and disciplines their son so also the apostle Paul would correct, rebuke and instruct the Corinthians concerning that which was reported unto him concerning their actions and behavior. There is something truly unique about the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints for the apostle Paul acknowledged here in this second epistle how that first epistle was written with much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears. Oh we dare not miss and lose sight of this for when seeking to correct and instruct the Corinthian congregation the apostle Paul wept and mourned over them. The apostle Paul was moved to sorrow, to anguish, to grief and to affliction within his heart and soul concerning this congregation for they were such that were carnal and natural in their behavior. Although they were enriched in all knowledge and utterance and although they came behind and lacked in no spiritual gift they could not be considered nor addressed as spiritual by the apostle Paul but only babes in Christ.
When we come to the second epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul we are brought face to face with an entirely different tone which he sought to write unto them. The tone within this second epistle is one of tremendous love, tenderness, compassion and affection—not as though the first epistle wasn’t necessary in its entirety—but because the apostle Paul wanted to affirm his love for this congregation. It might very well be said the purpose of this second epistle was to provide additional instruction unto the Corinthian congregation after having not only received one epistle from the apostle Paul but also having had Timothy sent among them. It is quite obvious when reading both the first and second epistles written unto the Corinthian congregation that the apostle Paul was not present among them and instead sent Timothy unto them while also writing epistles unto them. Both in the first and second epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul we find him speaking of Timothy being sent unto them that he might help provide them with instruction in Christ. Oh there is something to be said about the word and language found in each of these epistles for what we find here is a tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul not only writing unto them these two epistles but also sending unto them Timothy that Timothy might teach, guide and instruct them. What’s more is that if you turn and direct your attention back to the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that both Timothy and Silas were present together with the apostle Paul in Corinth after coming unto him from Thessalonica.
If you continue reading in the second chapter of this second epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him going on to speak of his causing grief and how he did not seek to overcharge them all. The apostle Paul would go on to speak of how sufficient unto such a man is this punishment which was inflicted of many. What makes the second chapter of this epistle all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact that immediately following this the apostle Paul called the Corinthian congregation to forgive and comfort that one who was inflicted lest such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Perhaps the greatest truth surrounding the words found in the second part of this second chapter is the apostle Paul’s call to forgive this man who had transgressed and trespassed—perhaps not only against himself but also against the congregation. It might very well be said that this one whom the apostle Paul wrote and referred to as that one who was mentioned in the fifth chapter who had committed fornication with his father’s wife. You will remember how in the fifth chapter of the first epistle the apostle Paul instructed them to deliver such a one unto Satan that although his flesh might be destroyed his spirit and his soul might be saved. The apostle Paul essentially called for the Corinthian congregation to separate themselves from this one who had committed fornication among them that he might be delivered unto Satan for the destruction of his flesh.
What we must needs recognize and realize concerning this man is that although the apostle Paul called for the Corinthian congregation to distance and separate themselves from this man and to cast him out from among them in their midst it was for the salvation and preservation of his spirit and soul. The apostle Paul essentially called for the Corinthian congregation to give themselves over to tough love for this particular one who had transgressed against himself, against the congregation, against the Lord, and even against the woman whom he was committing fornication with. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for what we find in the fifth chapter of the first epistle is strong language concerning the destruction of the flesh and yet in the destruction of the flesh the spirit and soul would be saved and preserved. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for this is the same language the apostle Paul used when writing unto the saints which were at Rome concerning the destruction of their sinful flesh that they might no longer yield themselves as slaves and servants unto sin. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome reality surrounding this man who had committed fornication among them and how this fornication needed to be addressed. It’s actually quite interesting that when writing unto the Corinthian saints in the first epistle he spoke and declared unto them how they neither mourned nor grieved at the fornication, the adultery and the transgression that was committed among them but rather allowed it to be present among them.
As you read the words which are found in the second chapter of this second epistle you will find that although the apostle Paul initially called on the Corinthian congregation to deliver this one unto Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit and soul might be preserved he would now call on them to forgive him. There seems to be the truly wonderful impression that the Corinthians heeded the words written by the apostle Paul concerning this man and how this man came to a place of repentance and humility in the sight of both God and men. Scripture is not at all clear what happened in the life of this man and what it was like for him after he was undoubtedly removed from the congregation, however, what we do know and understand is the call for the Corinthian congregation to receive and forgive him. Oh there is a great need for us to pause for a moment and consider how incredibly difficult something like this is—that of receiving and forgiving one who has sinned and transgressed against us. In the first epistle the apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian congregation to remove this one from among them that his flesh. Might be destroyed and yet his spirit and soul be preserved. Now here we find in the second epistle the apostle Paul calling for them to receive this man once more unto themselves—and not only to receive him once more unto them but also to forgive him of his iniquity, his transgression and his sin. Stop for a moment and consider how truly difficult this is in the flesh and in the natural realm within ourselves. Think about how incredibly difficult it is to both receive and forgive that one who has sinned and transgressed—perhaps even that one who has sinned and trespassed against us.
Oh it is with this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus spoke concerning forgiveness—not only in the Lord’s Prayer, but also in His famous Sermon on the Mount. If you take the time to read the four New Testament gospels you will find a tremendous amount of language spoken by the Lord Jesus as He taught and instructed His disciples to forgive. What’s more is that it is through forgiveness that we are able to deliver ourselves from the bondage of bitterness and offense. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that forgiveness—and not merely forgiveness but forgiveness from the heart—is perhaps the single greatest way to deliver ourselves from the trap, the snare and the bondage of bitterness and offense. There is something to be said about forgiveness and how forgiveness is essentially the key which unlocks the prison door that has held and kept us in bondage within our hearts, within our minds and within our souls. We must needs make absolutely no mistake about it for when we speak of forgiveness we have to recognize and understand the forgiveness is the means through which we are able to walk out of our own prisons of bitterness and offense. What’s more is that when we make the conscious and deliberate decision to forgive—not only do we deliver ourselves from bitterness and offense but we also deliver that one whom we have imprisoned within our heart and soul because of what they have done. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and understand that when we make the conscious decision to forgive we not only deliver ourselves from the prison of offense and bitterness but we also deliver that one who has sinned and trespassed against us from the prison we have created for them within our hearts, within our souls and within our minds. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the four New Testament gospels concerning forgiveness:
“And when thou prayes, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if we forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of this fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredest me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-35).
“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:20-26).
“Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: IF thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:1-4).
Please do not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in each of these passages for although they are different accounts of similar events which took place within the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus they present us with a very clear picture—one which we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of. It is impossible to read these passages and not come face to face with the incredible reality that offences can and will come in this generation. Jesus Himself emphatically declared that it was impossible but that offenses come and would then go on to pronounce woe upon those through whom the offences came. What’s more is that Jesus would go on to declare that whosoever were to offend one of these little ones it were better for them that a millstone be tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea and drowned. Jesus made it very clear that offenses can and offenses will come and yet there is a great need within our hearts and souls to forgive those who have sinned. Not only this but when you read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you will discover just how personal forgiveness truly is for the language which Jesus used speaks of that one who had sinned and trespassed against us personally. There is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words presented in these passages for Jesus was very clear concerning forgiveness and how we forgive—not only to deliver that one who has trespassed against us but we also forgive that we might be forgiven by the Father which is in heaven. Jesus made it very clear that if we do not forgive others their trespasses against us and do so from the heart neither will our Father who is in heaven forgive us.
I sit here today thinking about the words and language found in the New Testament gospel narratives and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding forgiveness and how forgiveness is something which is greatly needed within our hearts and our souls. In all reality I would dare say that forgiveness is a spiritual discipline which we must needs practice within our daily lives as we continually and regularly review any who we might have ought against. What’s more is that in Scripture we not only learn that it’s possible for another to have ought against us but it’s also possible for us to have ought with and ought against another. Within the gospels we learn and discover the tremendous reality that if we come to the altar to present our offering before the Lord and remember that our brother has ought against us we are to leave our gift at the altar and first go and be reconciled to our brother. Once we have been reconciled to our brother we are then permitted to return to the altar and present our sacrifice and offering before and in the sight of the living God. What we must needs realize and understand when reading Scripture is that it is not only possible for others to have ought against us but it is also possible for us to have ought against another. Perhaps the question which must needs be asked of both myself and you who are reading these words is whether or not you are harboring ought in your heart toward and against another. If there is one thing Scripture reveals it’s that it is incredibly easy to have ought within your heart towards another. We would be incredibly naïve to think and even consider for a moment that it is not incredibly easy to have ought against our brother and our sister and to harbor bitterness, offense and resentment.
The words and language we find in the second chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints are such which must be carefully considered—particularly and especially when considering the words which are found in the sixth chapter. Oh there is a stark contrast between what we find in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written unto this Corinthian congregation and the words we find in the second chapter of the second epistle written unto them. It is in the first epistle the apostle Paul writes and speaks unto them concerning their not only harboring bitterness and offense toward their brother and/or sister but also their willingness to demand retribution and payment for the actions of their brother and sister. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul rebuking and correcting this congregation for their inability to accept wrongdoing and offense committed against them. In all reality the Corinthian congregation felt a sense of entitlement within themselves when they were wronged to demand retribution from their brother and/or sister. The Corinthian congregation was such that would take their brother and/or their sister unto court before the law—and not only taking them to court but also before the Gentiles. In the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find him declaring how brother goes to law with brother and that before the unbelievers. What makes this all the more captivating is when you think about how the apostle Paul goes on to declare how there was utterly a fault among them because they go to law one with another.
If you continue reading in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation you will find him going on to ask them why they do not rather take wrong or why they do not rather suffer themselves to be defrauded. Please don’t miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredibly challenging these words are which were spoken by the apostle Paul. There is something to be said about those who are willing to take and accept wrongdoing, offense, hurt and transgression committed against them. There is something to be said about those who have some type of wrong committed against them and yet feel absolutely no sense of entitlement within themselves to demand restitution and reparations for what their brother and/or sister might have caused against them within their lives. We must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul for it is in direct alignment with what we find in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the beloved physician Luke. Within these two gospel narratives we find the Lord Jesus teaching and instructing His disciples to recognize and understand the offenses which might very well be committed against them and how they did not have the right to exercise any type of authority over their brother or sister who had trespassed against them. It would be unto Simon called Peter our Lord would instruct him that if our brother sins and trespasses against us we are not to forgive him up to seven times but up to seventy times seven. In other words our hearts must be so full of forgiveness—and not only be full of forgiveness but also a willingness to forgive not expecting anything in return.
Perhaps one of the greatest truth surrounding forgiveness is that there are those who forgive with a secret motive and intention within their hearts and minds. There are those who would very well forgive that one who had sinned and trespassed against them, however, secretly in their hearts and mind they somehow demand restitution and reparation of some sort from their brother or sister. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that forgiveness is not something that should be offered with condition or catch but something that is offered freely and without any expectation of receiving anything in return. Forgiveness is such which must be full and complete from the heart as we choose to not only deliver ourselves from the prison of offense and bitterness but we also allow that individuals who might very well have sinned and trespassed against us to be set free from the prison we have created for them within our hearts and minds. Oh how many times have we allowed others to live rent free within our hearts, within our souls and within our minds simply because we are not willing to forgive and truly let go? We as the saints of God and disciples of Christ must needs recognize and understand that we have been called to forgive without condition and without expectation. Not only this but in addition to forgive there must also be a willingness within our hearts and souls to be such who are willing to be wronged, to be sinned against, to have our right cheek slapped, to have offences committed against us. What’s more is that we cannot be those who somehow think that we can guard and protect ourselves from being wronged, sinned against or wounded by others. There are those who seek to so guard and safeguard themselves by building walls around their hearts, walls around their souls, walls around their minds, and walls around themselves that others might not hurt them.
It is with all of this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke concerning being wronged and having trespasses committed against us. The words and language we find in each of these passages bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that we must not be those who somehow think that we can be those who can somehow guard and protect ourselves from experiencing hurt, wounds, pain, affliction and the like. There are those who close themselves off from relationships, fellowship and community because they are seeking to protect themselves—or at least try and protect themselves—from being hurt, being wounded and experiencing some type of wrongdoing. What we must needs recognize and understand is that Jesus emphatically declared that offenses can and will come and that it is absolutely and entirely unavoidable. There is absolutely nothing we can do to stop and prevent offenses from coming, however, what we can do is choose how we respond to such offenses, such trespasses, such wrongdoings, and the like. Having said this I not invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following passages which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew as well as the beloved physician Luke:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:38-42).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may the children of your Father which is in heaven: For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:27-38).
If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ it’s that it is not only a gospel of Jesus forgiving us our sins, iniquities and trespasses but it is also about us forgiving others their iniquities and trespasses. The gospel does not present the picture of forgiveness being one-sided and us as the sole recipients of forgiveness. In all reality I would dare say that it is because we are forgiven and because we have been forgiven we are able to forgive others. What’s more is that when you read the gospel narratives you are never given any specifics concerning what types of offenses might have been committed against you. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to ask the Father to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others the trespasses they have committed against us and we have great need to pay attention to this. When speaking of the Father forgiving us our trespasses Jesus deliberately and intentionally left it open ended knowing the many different ways we would sin against the Father. Jesus knew there would be multiple different ways we would sin and transgress against the Father and when He instructed us to ask the Father to forgive us our trespasses it encompasses all that we have done that is displeasing in the sight of the Father. With this being said we must project this line of thinking on to the trespasses which were/are committed against us. Not only did Jesus leave the trespasses we might very well commit against the Father open-ended but He also left the trespasses which might be committed against us open-ended.
When Simon Peter asked the Lord how often his brother might sin against him and he forgive his brother and asked the Lord up to seven times he didn’t specify how his brother would sin against him. If there is one thing we have great need to recognize and pay close attention to it’s that there are a variety of different ways our brother might sin against us. What Scripture presents to us is not only that our brother might sin against us in a variety of different ways but so also might our brother sin against us multiple times. MANY DIFFERENT VARIATIONS AND MANY DIFFERENT TIMES! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for when we think about forgiveness and forgiving others we must remember that not only are there any conditions or stipulations surrounding forgiveness but also we weren’t provided with a list of things we ought to forgive and those things we ought not to forgive. There would be those among us who would like to think they can somehow separate and segregate those offenses and transgressions which they feel should be forgiven or perhaps even which can be forgiven from those which they feel should absolutely not be forgiven. What we must needs recognize is that we have been called to forgive others who have trespassed against us from the heart and forgive them of whatever wrong or offense has been committed against us—whether actual or alleged. Scripture makes it very clear that we are to forgive, that we are to forgive from the heart, and that we are to forgive seven times in a day and up to seventy times seven, however, we must also recognize from Scripture that forgiveness is open-ended and there have never been nor will there ever be certain offenses, transgressions and trespasses committed against us which cannot and should not be forgiven.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this particular reality for pause for a moment and think about what it would be like if the Father separated and segregated certain iniquities and transgressions committed against Him which could not be forgiven and other transgressions which could be forgiven. We know that those who sin against the Holy Spirit can find no forgiveness in the sight of God according to the words of Jesus. We know that those who receive the mark of the beast in the last days cannot find any forgiveness in the sight of the living God. We know that those who deliberately, intentionally and willfully sin after having received the gift of salvation and tasted of the free gift—unto them there remains no more sacrifice. With this being said we must needs think about everything that is found in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Roman saints, the words found in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints, and the words found in the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the churches of Galatia and how the Father has not separated nor segregated iniquities, transgressions and trespasses committed against Him which cannot be forgiven. Think about men in the Scripture who were guilty of murder and how the living and eternal God forgave them—including the apostle Paul. Consider the thief on the cross who Jesus proclaimed would be with Him in paradise on that day. If there is one thing Scripture points to and reveals it’s that not only is forgiveness in the sight of the living God open-ended but so also must our forgiveness of others and the trespasses committed against us must also be open-ended. Oh that we would be those who are not only willing to forgive, not only forgive from the heart, not only forgive seven times in a day, and not only forgive seventy times seven but would also be those who are able to forgive regardless of the offense and regardless of the trespass committed against us.