2Co 2:5-8 “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.”
We know from reading First Corinthians that there were a number of reasons why some might have felt grief, including Paul. There were divisions and instances of idolatry that seemed to involve more than one person. The sin that could be laid at the feet of a single individual would have been the fornication that is named in 1Co 1:5; “that one should have his father’s wife.”
Paul further points out that while this did grieve him, he was not the only one that was grieved. After Paul’s first letter, the church was also grieved, not only by the act of this individual, but by Paul’s charge to the church that they had not taken the matter seriously (1Co 5:2). However, Paul was not writing at this time to belabor that point, but rather to give counsel concerning the action they obviously took after his first letter of “delivering such a one to Satan (1Co 5:5).”
It seems clear that the church as a whole responded to Paul’s admonition because of his assertion that the punishment was inflicted by many. Rather than continuing to treat the act as though it were no big deal, the brethren had apparently ceased to walk with this individual and encourage him in his sin. We need to remember that Paul did not tell them to do this in order to destroy this brother, but that he might be restored spiritually when the Lord had granted repentance.
To lighten both the burden to the church and to the individual, Paul tells them that the punishment (loss of esteem among the brethren – see Strong’s) had been sufficient. Seeing that the punishment had been sufficient, it was time for the church to take a different direction with this brother. Instead of continuing to treat him as an outcast, they were told to now forgive him. Even though his sin had been such that it was even frowned upon by the Gentiles, the church was to forgive him.
Not only were they to forgive (pardon) him, but they were also accountable to comfort him (draw him close). The notion that they could forgive him and yet continue to treat him as an outcast was not condoned by Paul. His instruction and intent had never been to see the brother consumed with grief. Instead, it was so that he might find himself fully involved in the love of the church.
Punishment for punishment’s sake is simply holding a grudge. It is not godly in any way. Our desire and intent should always be to see our brothers and sisters who have erred fully restored to the joy of the Lord’s salvation. We are just as bound by the word of God to forgive and to love as we are to correct and rebuke. Our intent should always be to see the Lord’s children fully restored into our loving fellowship.
May God ever keep us mindful of the fact that His chastening of His children is always to restore through an act of love and not of spite!