Observe here, 1. Our apostle declares what was his in writing his former epistle to them, namely, this amongst others, to exercise their obedience, and to make trial what regard they would show to his apostolical authority; whether they would be as obedient to his directions in absolving of penitents, as they were before in inflicting church-censures upon bold offenders. For this end did I write, that I might have a proof of you.
Observe, 2. The apostle declares his own forwardness to forgive penitent offenders himself, as well as makes known his desires that they should do it: Whom ye forgive, I forgive also, in the person of Christ; that is, as you forgive him, so do I: and I absolve him by Christ's authority, as I excommunicated him in Christ's name, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. 1Co_5:4
As he delivered the incestuous person to Satan in the name of Christ, so in the name and person of Christ he releases him, and relaxes the sentence against him. The power of excommunication and absolution, of binding and loosing, of casting out, and receiving into the church, is by Christ committed to church-governors, who are to execute this power in the person of Christ; that is, in the name and by the authority of Christ.
Observe, 3. The arguments with which, and the motive by which, he presses the church at Corinth to forgive the incestuous person, and to re-admit him into their society: lest Satan get an advantage of us.
Ans. An advantage to lead them into sin thus, by their their abusing that power which God had given them for edification, to the destruction of a person, by making them guilty of spiritual murder by their over rigorous proceeding against him, by driving him to despair, by tempting him to apostasy. Satan sometimes, by too great slackness of discipline, seeks to lull sinners asleep in the bosom of the church; and sometimes, by too great severity, endeavours to drive them to despair.
The force of the apostle's words lies thus: I advise you to continue the severity of discipline no longer towards this penitent offender, but receive him again into your communion with all tenderness and speed, lest Satan should circumvent you, and overeach you, and make use of your rigour to your own ruin, by rendering your doctrine hateful, and your discipline detestable: for we are not ignorant of his devices, his contrivances, plots, and stratagems laid against us.
Learn hence, 1. That Satan is a master in the art of deceiving souls: he is full, very full, of cunning methods and devices to circumvent persons, and catch them in the net of his deceits.
Learn, 2. That it concerns all persons, but especially the ministers of the gospel, to be well acquainted with, and not ignorant of, any devices or plots of Satan. Satan has a multitude of devices, by which he undoes, entangles, and deceives souls; and no Christian ought to be ignorant of them, lest he be circumvented and undone by them. Many are his devices for drawing us into sin, for drawing us off from duty, for drawing us into temptation, for drowning us in despair: our wisdom will be not to dispute, but to resist; for by resisting, our temptations will be fewer, and our strength greater, Jam_4:7 Resist the devil, and he will fly.
Where note, That the promise of conquest is made to resisting, not disputing with Satan: to parley with him, is the way to be overcome by him.