Satan has strategies.
Over the past few weeks we have been looking at different schemes the Bible warns us about.
Here’s number 7:
Instead of warring against sin, or perhaps fighting to make Christ’s name look great, Satan attempts to turn against each other.
It is pretty hard to fight effectively against the enemy when you are spending your energy fighting your friends.
Paul alerts us to this strategy in the only other passage in the New Testament that talks directly about Satan’s schemes, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.
There was someone in the church who had sinned in a really big way.
Paul describes it like this, “Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure, not to put it too severely, to all of you.”
What we do as individual Christians impacts the whole church.
And Paul says that the church had finally responded to this person’s sin through church discipline, after having been directed to do so by Paul himself.
“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough.”
And this church discipline, this punishment had worked. The person who had caused the pain, had repented.
Paul says, “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”
Paul is really concerned that after having punished this person and he responded by repenting, the church would leave it at that. That they would kind of just leave the guy out there hanging in the wind. What Paul wants the church to know is that if they took the responsibility to point out this person’s sin, then they also need to take the responsibility to pursue him in love once he has repented of it.
This is where it comes together.
Verse 10, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
What was Satan’s scheme?
To crush this individual repentant Christian and to divide Christians through a spirit of harshness in the church that would carry punishment to an extreme. To be unforgiving, more than that, to not go out of their way to express love for this person who had sinned, would be to yield ground to the devil.
Now guys, here’s the thing, what do you think the people who weren’t willing to show love to the repentant sinner were saying? I am sure they had to be saying that they were the super spiritual ones, that the reason they didn’t want to show love to him was because they really hated sin and they were concerned about the purity of the church and all of that, and man, isn’t Satan subtle? If you aren’t going to ignore the seriousness of sin, he wants you to ignore the biblical teaching on forgiveness.
This is part of why Paul in Ephesians tells them in chapter 4:26 and 27 that they need to be very careful with the way they deal with their anger. He doesn’t so much say don’t ever become angry as he says watch out when you become angry and the reason they need to watch out when they become angry is because if they aren’t careful they will give the devil an opportunity.
Here’s a person who is angry and maybe he is angry for a good reason, maybe there really is a problem he should be upset about, but he doesn’t deal with his anger in a wise way, and there, the devil seizes his opportunity to use that anger to wreak havoc and to divide the church.