Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Are Satan's Schemes?

2 Corinthians 2:6-11

The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 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. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Paul is writing to the church regarding the church discipline for a man in the congregation. Some think this was the man who was having incest with his father's wife. Others think this was someone who was leading a schism in the church, or undermining the apostle's authority.  Regardless, Paul had admonished the church to discipline this person, and now he is following up with further principles regarding church discipline.

Paul now warns the church of being too harsh on the man, but offering forgiveness and comfort lest he become too distraught.  There was a point where the discipline could be excessive and could even lead the man away the faith.  Paul said he had counseled them to do this to see if they would obey his authority.  When he talks about forgiveness, he is not literally saying that his forgiveness is the basis of the man's forgiveness, but coming from his authority as an apostle, which came from Christ.  

Finally, he says something very interesting.  He concludes by saying that one of the reasons he doesn't want them to excessively discipline this man is in order that, "Satan might not outwit us."  Then he adds, "For we are not unaware of his schemes."  I think Paul is insuating that Satan could use this occasion of discipline to overwhelm this man to the point of losing his faith.  It is interesting that he uses the word "schemes" to describe Satan's tactics.  And then he also adds that we should not be "unaware" of them.  

There are usually two extremes when it comes to Satan, also known as the devil.  One is to be obsessed with him to the point of giving him to much power.  This has been described as seeing, "a devil in every bush".  But the opposite reaction is to be "unaware of his schemes", or be naive who he is and what he does. Even Jesus teaches us to pray, "Deliver us from the evil one."  Satan certainly schemed against Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, trying to outwit him.  But Jesus called Satan's bluff and withstood temptation by using God's word.  

What can this mean for us today?  Almost any time we talk about the discipline of a church member, or setting some kind of standards in the church, Satan can use this very legalistically.  This can cause us to move away from the grace of Christ and move toward legalism.  This can cause discouragement and excessive sorrow, and can lead us to be more focused on the problem (sin), than the solution (God's grace in Jesus Christ).  While speaking the "truth in love" is important in the body of Christ, so is speaknig the word of grace.  

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