Summary: We don't want Satan to outwit us with his scheme of keeping the church from welcoming those who repent and return to the fellowship.
A. We all know that God is at work in the world, and that Satan is busy trying to destroy and work against everything that God is doing.
B. For instance:
1. And God populated the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetables of all kinds, so humankind could live long and healthy lives.
a. What did Satan do? He invented Ranch and Blue Cheese Salad dressing to pour over those vegetables, and French Onion dip to dip the veggies in.
2. So God brought forth the potato, a vegetable naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrients.
a. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and strips and deep-fried them.
3. Humankind gained weight and their bad cholesterol went through the roof.
4. So God brought forth running shoes and humankind resolved to exercise.
a. But Satan brought forth cable TV with remote control so humankind would not have to toil to change channels.
5. Sadly, humankind sat there watching TV, eating potato chips dipped in French onion dip, and began to have heart attacks, so God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery.
a. To counter that, Satan created HMOs.
C. Satan’s real work in the world is not quite that funny.
1. At the end of the Scripture section we are studying today, Paul declared: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11)
2. One of the best ways to be prepared for battle is to study the enemy and become familiar with the enemies tendencies and weaknesses.
3. We must do the same as we prepare for the spiritual battle.
4. In today’s text, Paul discusses one of Satan’s schemes for destroying the fellowship.
5. Let’s see how Satan was attempting to use this scheme to destroy the church at Corinth and their relationship with Paul.
6. And then let’s see how to apply the lessons learned to our own lives.
I. The Painful Visit and the Painful Letter (1:23-2:4)
A. Let’s begin by recapping the situation that has occurred between Paul and the Corinthians.
1. The situation in Corinth had gone from bad to worse.
2. The congregation was torn into several rival groups, with some denying Paul’s authority.
3. Seeking to mend matters, Paul made a quick and unannounced visit.
4. Unfortunately, far from mending things, that visit had only served to make matters worse and had nearly broken his heart.
5. In response, Paul had written them a very severe letter of rebuke. It was written with a sore heart and with many tears.
6. For that reason, he had not fulfilled his promise to visit them again, because of the way things were, the visit would only have hurt him and them further.
B. Look again at the verses from this first section: I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
1So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
C. In these verses we see the very heart of Paul, and we see what he felt when he had to deal severely with those he loved.
1. We see that Paul used severity and rebuke very carefully and sparingly.
a. He used them only when there was nothing else left to do.
b. There are some people who are always looking for the faults and shortcomings of others.
c. They have their tongues ready to criticize and the tone of their voice always carries an edge.
d. Paul was not like that, and in that way he was wise.
e. If we are constantly critical and harsh, if we rebuke more than we praise, then the effectiveness of our correction is lost.
f. It is discounted because it is so constant.
g. The more seldom a man rebukes, the more effective it is when he does.
h. The wise and healthy follower of Christ searches for ways to build people up and praise them, rather than focuses on things to condemn.