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Be Aware of Satan's Schemes

2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Jim Davis

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 Paul confronted a serious moral flaw in the church. The congregation at Corinth was tolerating an incestuous relationship that a man was having with his stepmother. The Gentile or the heathen world would not tolerate such behavior, but this congregation wasn't even blushing. They were actually arrogant about it. They weren't much different than some modern churches that feel they are very progressive as the gospel is adapted to accommodate the lifestyles of today. However, Paul severely rebukes them as he tells them that they must remove the incestuous person from their fellowship. Paul tells them to turn him over to Satan.

In 2 Corinthians 2 we see the result of the Corinthians following Paul's advice. They were actually going to the other extreme. Initially, when the man sinned they overlooked it, but apparently, now they are having a hard time forgiving him.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-- not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven-- if there was anything to forgive-- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (NIV)

They were being extreme in their punishment. They had placed him on probation rather than forgiving him. They were holding what he had done over his head.

The Blinding Schemes of Satan

Sometimes we think we understand a concept completely. We may even think we have done a great job in applying the concept to our lives. But the test comes when we are required to apply the concept to the lives of others. I think this is true with forgiveness. We have accepted forgiveness personally, but how well are we doing in extending to others what we have accepted for ourselves? How are we doing in recognizing other's need of repentance and forgiveness?

The Corinthians once had no problem overlooking the man's sin, but now finds it difficult to forgive him.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11
If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven-- if there was anything to forgive-- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (NIV)

Satan schemes to blind us to the reality of sin. Initially, the Corinthians knew what sin was. Paul defined the sinful condition of the Corinthians in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

Paul catalogs numerous sins that keep souls out of heaven for the Corinthians. Then Paul writes, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." When they obeyed Christ they understood their need of forgiveness for these sins. However, as they face the problems of the church, they have difficulty dealing with sin and the need of repentance and forgiveness.

Sin plays tricks on our minds as it seeks to justify wrongdoing. Paul reiterated the sins the Corinthians were guilty of. Paul writes, "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." These sis of the Corinthians had been forgiven. However, as they face the crisis of incest and sexuality immorality within the church, somehow they are seeking to condone it.

If Satan can convince Christians to accept sin as a way of life, subconsciously he has led us to deny our personal need of forgiveness for our past sin. This reveals that we have no real conviction about sin. For the church to condone immorality is to deny its own need of repentance and forgiveness.

Satan's schemes are designed to rob us of our freedom in Christ so as to enslave us to sin anew.

Galatians 2:3-5
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. Because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (NIV)

For the Jews to bind circumcision after Christ's death on the cross was to deny the efficacy of Christ's death. It was to become enslaved to sin anew, for it was a denial of the benefits of Christ's death for themselves. The Corinthians were doing the same thing in denying the sin of the incestuous relationship. To deny the man's need of repentance and forgiveness was to deny their need of the same. It enslaved them anew to Satan's ensnaring schemes.

Sin always brings misunderstanding and despair. An effort to create an amoral society has left our society in despair. We down play immorality by saying, "Who are we to judge?" But how quick are we in pointing out a lie one of our leaders has told. The disparity between these attitudes creates despair. We say we shouldn't judge and we should judge in the same breath. The incongruity of our age boggles the mind and creates despair. It is the disparity of the world that tests our convictions.

We go to extremes. Some think that forgiveness is a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Others find sinful behavior so deplorable they find forgiveness difficult. Some may want to whitewash their sins instead of facing them head on. The church of Corinth was trying to do both. Some were trying to overlook sin. Others were finding it difficult to forgive. Satan was there to take the advantage.

Satan's Schemes Blind Us to Forgiveness

2 Corinthians 2:5-9
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-- not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. (NIV)

Satan creates doubt and despair when he convinces us that there is a limit to forgiveness. Believing there must be a limit to forgiveness will also leave us enslaved to sin. It will leave us holding to sinful attitudes toward others because of their sin. It will leave us alienated from ourselves for it reveals a lack of understanding concerning our own forgiveness. You can't believe that others can outstretch the limit of God's forgiveness without raising serious doubt about your own forgiveness.

Is it possible to outstretch the limit of God’s forgiveness? What would life be worth if we could? The fear of outstretching the limit would fill us with misery.

In God’s sight no offense is so great or so frequent as to be beyond forgiveness. One could have a mountain of sins and still bury them in the ocean of God’s love. God is not willing that the vilest sinner should be lost. (2 Peter 3:9.) God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is as boundless as the heavens. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:10-12.)

Divine mercy has provided for the expiation and forgiveness of every person. Pardon is available to every nation, ethnic group, and class. Forgiveness is for the rich and for the poor; for the educated and the uneducated; for the intelligent and for the not so intelligent. It makes little difference about one’s present, or about one’s past. Divine forgiveness is a possibility for every man, woman, and child. (John 3:16-17.)

God’s forgiveness is unlimited, but many by their attitude limit God’s forgiveness on their behalf. Some hate themselves for the things they have done . . . they seem to think that God hates them too. In conversations with Christians maybe you have heard a friend say: "OH! If God could only forgive me for what I’ve done." We must not let our past stand in the way of our forgiveness. Only one man has ever lived above sin, "Jesus Christ the righteous". He is the substitute for our sins (1 John2:1), and he stands at the right hand of God desperately wanting to intercede on every person’s behalf. Christ is not interested in our past . . . he is interested in our future! Don’t let your attitude toward your past rob you of God’s saving grace!

Unbelief is also another hindrance to forgiveness. A lack of confidence in what God has done for each of us through Jesus Christ seriously limits God’s grace on our behalf. An unfaithful Christian who never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write once ask me: "Do you believe that a man who can’t read or write can go to heaven?" Another man, a Vietnam War veteran who had killed in combat, told his Christian wife his reason for not seeking salvation: "I do not believe that anyone who has taken another human life can go to heaven." A woman who had been baptized and had attended church faithfully for several years once exclaimed: "I know that I have no chance of going to heaven because of my past, but I’m teaching my children to attend church and to do what is right so that they can go to heaven." A lack of confidence can only pull a soul away from God. Don’t let your unbelief rob you of God’s saving grace!

A failure to understand the Bible frustrates God’s grace. Some take difficult scriptures and wrest them to their own destruction. Peter said, " . . . they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16.) An unfaithful Christian man read Hebrews 6:4-6: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Then the man concluded that since he had already been baptized and had now fallen away it was impossible for him to receive forgiveness anew.

A promiscuous young lady read about the unforgivable sin (Mark 3:29), and concluded that she had done something that prevented her forgiveness forever. God’s word is designed to free men from the enslavement of sin (John 8:32), but a failure to properly understand and apply the teaching of God’s word will further enslave on in sin. Don’t let your ignorance rob you of God’s saving grace!

The tragedy is that all of these precious souls can receive forgiveness. In every case each person has limited his/her own forgiveness. The only key to remove the shackles of sin is God’s forgiveness, and if one continues to limit one's own forgiveness by these erroneous attitudes he/she throws away the only key that will set one free.

Conclusion:

God’s word is designed to communicate God’s grace to every lost soul. When properly studied and obeyed the Bible will take every person from wherever he/she may be to where God wants him/her to go . . . and ultimately that place is to heaven to live with HIM. The Bible is designed to remove our doubts, fears and unbelief. The Bible is not designed to further enslave and condemn (John 3:17.) Only your attitude can hinder the communication of God’s grace.

Obedience to God’s commands brought forgiveness to Noah the drunk, Abraham the liar, David the adulterer and murder, Peter the betrayer, to the Corinthians for their debauchery and dissipation and to the thief in his dying moment on the cross.

God’s promises are immutable! (Hebrews 6:17.) "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) A belief that accepts what God says and does what He asks will save anyone.

Remember God’s forgiveness is unlimited!

Satan schemes to make you doubt your forgiveness as you refuse to forgive others. He will outwit you if you fail to grow in grace and knowledge of God's word.
 
 
 
 

 

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