How long before a person put away from the assembly can be forgiven and comforted?

How long before a person put away from the assembly can be forgiven and comforted?

When Paul writes his second epistle to the Corinthians, he has received from Titus a report of conditions in Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7). Now as he writes, he is careful in his wording. At least one person who was put away from the assembly is likely to hear what Paul is writing. Although that individual has caused Paul grief, he indicates that the greater concern is the grief that the sinning individual has caused to the entire assembly (2 Corinthians 2:5). The Revised Version’s translation of the latter part of the verse, "that I may not overcharge you all," seems more consistent with the context. A number of other translations indicate that Paul is not thinking of the assembly alone. The following verses support this. The excommunication had been sufficient to accomplish its purpose. Paul, informed by Titus, was aware that the sinning individual could be overcome with sorrow, so he spoke - and asked the assembly to act - in a way that would not overburden that individual with sorrow.

The passage in chapter 7 (vv 2-16) has a number of parallels with what Paul writes in chapter 2. A key difference is that chapter 2 deals with the recovery of a man who was put away and chapter 7 with the recovery of the assembly. The comments Paul makes about the assembly’s repentance and sorrow (vv 8-11) give us principles that apply to the individual. "Godly sorrow" produces repentance, which results in deliverance from the condition that caused the sorrow (vv 9, 10). Sorrow which results from submission to God and His Word results in repentance. Paul judged that sorrow had done its work in producing repentance; any further sorrow would be destructive.

The passage gives the answer to the question. The assembly’s forgiveness and comfort are predicated on the individual’s recognition of the seriousness of his sin in dishonoring the Lord, defiling the assembly, and grieving his fellow believers. His contrition of heart and submission to the discipline and to the Word of God will be evident. Determining this is a matter of spiritual discernment that assesses the work of God in that individual. This is not a matter left to the opinion of each believer in the assembly, with every man doing that which is "right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). The elders who guided the assembly in the discipline of that individual will guide the assembly in recognizing when the assembly should confirm its love, forgive, and comfort the repentant believer.

D. Oliver