How Grace Operates in Christian Relationships.

The occasion for Paul’s writing this and other letters to the Corinthians was to address a sin issue. His secondary purpose was to restore their relationships. All this was for the ultimate purpose of enabling Gospel progress to continue. There is no Gospel progress unless Christians are right with the Lord and each other in the local church.

Loyalty (2 Corinthians 7:7)

God is our model for loyal love. Lamentations 3:22-23 describes the Lord’s undying loyal love for those who are His. John 13:1 shows us that when Jesus decides to love, He can’t turn back.

We love Him in return and reciprocate that love to one another in the church. Our relationships function based on our walk with the Lord. Many New Testament passages address those relationships. Here is a sampling:

  • Home & family – Colossians 3:18-25, Ephesians 5:22-6:4, 1 Peter 3:1-7.
  • Work relationships – Ephesians 6:5-9, 1 Peter 2:13-18, Colossians 3:22, 1 Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:9.
  • Corporate worship and fellowship – Acts 2:41-44.
  • Discipleship – 1 Thessalonians.

Christian fellowship is the most blessed relating on earth! Likewise, relational struggles inside the church are uniquely painful. There should be nothing that keeps us from relating, worshipping, and serving together, because our relationships are not built on ourselves or our circumstances, but the loyal love of God to us.

Repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-10)

Repentance is necessary to maintain loyal love among God’s people. Sin is the primary culprit that divides relationships in the church. A disinterest in confronting sin and one professing believer who was promoting religion over the Gospel threatened to divide the Corinthians from Paul. When he received Titus’ good report, Paul was comforted.

Paul details several emotions in these verses: sorrow, regret, rejoicing. Disruption in Christian relationships is an emotional time, and that’s okay! Relationships severed by sin and not providential circumstances bring a special pain. If this doesn’t cause you unique agony, ask yourself whether your heart really is tied to the cause of Christ. When we are divided, the very reason God saved us and brought us together is jettisoned or deprioritized. Restoration of those relationships is worth fighting for, for the sake of Gospel progress.

For restoration to happen, the parties must be willing to talk. Someone has to initiate compassion, and to do that, they have to recognize their own sinfulness in humility. When a person chooses to love another the same way God loves them, it always shows that divine grace is acting through them. Restoration brings rejoicing that is the antithesis of the agony of division. We rejoice that we get to pursue Gospel progress together again.

Paul distinguishes between correct and false emotions, repentance and remorse. Good sorrow leads to repentance. Sorrow held too long, until it is simply regret and remorse, becomes bad. Repentance begins with agreeing with God about our sin, which leads to changing our minds and actions. The greatest regret is not fulfilling the eternal purpose for which God saved us.

Application Points

  • Are any of your relationships with another believer strained, divided, or separated? If this doesn’t cause you unique agony, ask yourself whether your heart really is tied to the cause of Christ. Restoration is essential for the Gospel to continue to go forward. Will you be the one to act first and reach out in love?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 5:23-24 – The importance of restoring Christian relationships.