2 Corinthians Chapter 7: Paul’s Heart to Heart Discussion

Nov 18th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

2 Corinthians Chapter 7: Paul’s Heart to Heart Discussion

2 Cor. 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Verse 1 refers to the promises at the end of the previous chapter; namely, God is the Father of those who come to Him, He is concerned for His children, nothing can hinder Him from doing what He wants, and the Church is the “temple of the living God.” The Phillips translation, which takes liberty in using more understandable words, captures the thought: “With these promises ringing in our ears, dear friends, let us keep clear of anything that smirches body or soul. Let us prove our reverence for God by consecrating ourselves to him completely.”

Paul advised the Church to perfect holiness in both body and spirit. As was said centuries ago, we are like the lame man with the withered hand. We cannot perfect ourselves in the present life, but we can reach out for or toward perfection, toward Jesus. Just as the lame man reached out his hand and it became whole, so it is with us in our infirmities, even after consecration. If we diligently strive to do God’s will, His will is perfected more and more in us. In proportion as we stretch forth in our desire to obey the apostle’s counsel on holiness in flesh and spirit, we will be helped by God’s Spirit to attain more and more toward that goal, or objective. Although it is impossible to perfect holiness in our own strength, we can strive to do it.

“Filthiness of the flesh” refers to our outward imperfections, such as appearance and deeds, which others can see. “Filthiness of the … spirit” is within and hence cannot be seen. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). If a person is given to filthy thinking, that trait will be manifested because of its abundance, whereas some infractions occur only occasionally, are secretly done, or cannot be seen. The cleansing from all filthiness is a process.

Trying to perfect holiness is a lifetime effort. In examining us, the Lord observes our efforts in this direction. If we strenuously attempt to obey His instructions, our relationship with Him will be closer and our understanding will increase. Contrition when we make mistakes, as well as the deeds themselves, is a factor in making our calling and election sure. “Perfecting holiness in the [reverential] fear of God” is a process.

Comment: When a serious subject is being considered, it is wrong to interject humor or jesting.

Reply: Yes, the improper use of humor is distracting and can change the nature of the study, undercutting the atmosphere. Humor has its place but should not be used inappropriately.

2 Cor. 7:2 Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.

2 Cor. 7:3 I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.

Paul’s mathematical mind is again seen in verse 2. Three times he used the words “no man.”

“We have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.” He was trying to convey a tremendous amount of information in as few words as possible. The implication is that Paul had been falsely accused, and now he was defending himself.

Verse 2 reads as follows in the RSV: “Open your hearts to us; [for] we [Paul, Timothy, and Titus] have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”

And the word “together” is inserted in verse 3: “to die together and to live together.”

The end of verse 3 can be paraphrased as follows: “You are in our hearts to die for, and if we live, we want to live for you.” If Paul did not decease but was spared to live longer, he would gladly live and suffer on behalf of the Corinthians. He was totally focused on their spiritual welfare. He was deeply involved in their spiritual growth and progress in the truth.

Paul seems to have been saying, “I am so appreciative of your heeding my advice and taking the right stand on the fornication issue by putting out that wicked man [1 Corinthians 5] that I would live and die in your midst for the rest of my ministry, if that were God’s will.” As far as his heart and feelings were concerned, he would gladly have sacrificed his life and died in their midst on their behalf, serving them, but duty, a higher service, called him to other places. What a remarkable statement to make!

Just as he was strong and authoritative in giving advice in the first letter, sternly admonishing the Corinthians, so now, after they had taken the proper course, he just as affirmatively stated his joy. He spoke with strength in a loving and commendatory way. He had some of the characteristics of the apostles Peter, John, and James in his thinking and actions; that is, he was impulsive, loving, and wise along practical lines, respectively.

Comment: Paul was saying, “We have opened our hearts to you, so why not reciprocate and open your hearts to us?” It is good to see how much Paul cared for those who had committed their life to Christ. We, too, should feel a sense of loss and sorrow if one leaves our midst and abandons present truth.

2 Cor. 7:4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.

2 Cor. 7:5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

Paul had started out from Ephesus, but instead of sailing from Ephesus to Corinth direct, which was the southern route, he took the more roundabout northern route up the coast of Asia Minor to the seaport of Troas, where the Lord blessed his ministry. From Troas, he went to Macedonia, of which Philippi was the chief city. Paul had expected Titus to come to him earlier.

Evidently, when Titus did not come to Asia Minor to bring the news, there was an agreement as to what route Paul would take so that he could be intercepted and thus get the news of Corinth before he arrived there. Accordingly, Titus came to Paul in Macedonia. Timothy was sent to Corinth earlier, but Titus seemed to have a more successful rapport with the brethren there. The Corinthians had a greater affection for Titus as the representative of Paul, whereas Timothy was held in higher esteem by the apostle.

If the apostles had not been able to do miracles, they would not have been recognized as apostles. If their ministries had been based on just their pure message without the authority to back up their words with great signs and wonders, they would not have been successful. Even if Jesus Christ himself had not done many marvelous works in conjunction with his ministry, his wisdom alone would not have carried as much weight down through the centuries.

“Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you.” Paul praised the Corinthian brethren where he could. He praised and complimented when actions merited such words. Why did he add, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation”?

Comment: Titus informed Paul that the Corinthians had taken the correct action against the unrepentant fornicator.

Reply: Yes. Also, by example, Paul showed the importance of suffering for Christ and being in want. Even though he felt the sufferings, he counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ. By inference, he was saying that the Corinthians should do the same and not exalt as leaders those who had pleasing personalities but did not suffer for Christ. It is enjoyable to talk to brethren who are sweet and affable, but nice dispositions in themselves are not a proof of spirituality.

Neither is oratorical ability necessarily a proof of one’s relationship with the Lord. All of Paul’s “down” experiences were really “plus” experiences, or credits.

“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” Even the great Apostle Paul had fears within and fightings without. What were some of his outer fightings? He was openly opposed and persecuted by Jews, Gentiles, and false brethren. Also, he had physical discomforts, including a sickness nigh unto death in Asia Minor that briefly affected his physical strength, body, and thinking, so that he became disconsolate in spirit and “downcast” (verse 6, RSV).

Paul was not immune to feelings. At the time of the early Church, Greek philosophers included the Stoics, who did not show any pain or distress. They believed that a wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief. Not only did they get themselves hyped up into a condition where they had no feelings at all, but they taught that others should likewise get into this state. An illustration along another line is the state of Nirvana, which is achieving a blank mind by supposedly being in a paradise condition. Of course one is especially vulnerable to suggestions by the Adversary when the mind is vacant. Jesus pointed out the danger of demonic suggestion by teaching about a “house” that is “empty, swept, and garnished” (Matt. 12:44,45). The house must be filled with new furniture lest “the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Paul was saying that in suffering untold things, he was not a stoic.

“Within were fears.” What inner fears did Paul have? For one thing, he did not consider himself to have apprehended the prize—to have proven faithful unto death—until the end of his life (Phil. 3:13). He warned others not to boast as if they had put off the armor, for in the present life, the Christian should always feel he is in a fight (Eph. 6:13). In addition, he might have feared that the technique of his ministry was not the best or the wisest, and perhaps he was concerned that his advice to the Corinthians could have been presented better. In other words, he feared that the brethren at Corinth might not react favorably and obey. Proof that these were his thoughts is the fact that as soon as he learned of their obedience, his spirits were lifted, and he regarded the news as God’s answer to the needs of his present struggling circumstance. He might have feared whether he was properly conducting his ministry, let alone his own personal salvation. Hearing the news boosted his morale, for then he knew not only that the advice he had given was rightly received but also that God had blessed him. In other words, it was like a twofold commendation—of his method and of God’s dealing with him. The news from Titus provided both comfort and assurance.

Comment: With Jesus, Paul, or any other Christian, to be considered a blasphemer or an unfaithful minister of God is an unpleasant experience.

Reply: Yes, ups and downs are part of every Christian’s experience.

2 Cor. 7:6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

2 Cor. 7:7 And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.

“Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down [that is, the downcast], comforted us by the coming of Titus.” The arrival of Titus was comforting to Paul, who had been longing patiently for him. With Paul feeling that the burden, or care, of all the churches was on his shoulders, we can appreciate how anxious he was to hear from Titus what the results were with the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:28).

Titus told of the Corinthians’ earnest desire, mourning, and fervency of mind toward Paul’s ministration to them. In the first epistle, Paul had said with regard to tolerating the presence of the sinner in their midst, “Your glorying is not good” (1 Cor. 5:6). Instead of glorying, they should have been mourning. First, the brethren had to see that they were wrong, for if they were not in a contrite attitude, they could not begin to make steps of progress and retrieval.

Before they listened to Paul’s counsel, they had to see that their glorying was wrong. The majority of the Corinthians heeded Paul’s advice and saw that he was a true minister of God.

Likewise, if we realize we have a wrong view of an important subject and are sorry, we should appreciate the one whom God used to point out the wrong, open our eyes, and give us understanding. Most of the Corinthians now appreciated Paul’s ministry as that of an apostle, and they had a fervent mind toward him.

Evidently, too, Titus had a rather upbeat disposition. When someone of that nature comes into another’s presence, the atmosphere becomes buoyant and cheerful. The good news he brought from Corinth was particularly comforting to Paul, who not only rejoiced when Titus came but “rejoiced the more.” Paul was twice as happy, as it were.

Initially, the Corinthians were pleased with Paul’s ministry because he founded the class, but they had a change of mind when others came in and demeaned his ministry. Their respect for him tended to diminish because of the influence of these others in their midst. When Paul’s first letter arrived, the majority once again esteemed him as an apostle and true servant of God.

“He [Titus] was comforted in you [in his visit to the Corinthians].” Paul was downcast because of his own experiences, but he rejoiced to hear from Titus the good news about the Corinthians and their concern for him. Paul then knew that his ministry had been meaningful to them.

The Corinthians’ “mourning” could have been of two types—(1) their repentance and (2) their concern for Paul because of the persecutions they had heard he was undergoing. Their “fervent mind” toward him especially boosted his spirit, so that he “rejoiced the more.” When a person is in a “down” period, there is a greater contrast when the “up” period comes than if he just lives a placid life. The experience is more memorable.

2 Cor. 7:8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

At first, verse 8 seems to be a contradiction: “I do not repent, though I did repent.” The point is that Paul had some second thoughts as to the wisdom he had used in his stern first letter, but now he rejoiced and no longer had any regrets, for the desired results were achieved. He had expostulated and given the Corinthians a tongue-lashing and commanded them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to take action. Subsequently, he questioned the propriety of the way he had expressed the advice, asking himself, “Did I handle the matter correctly?” But now, having heard the results, he was assured not only that what he had done was right but that he had done it in the proper manner.

Comment: The meaning is clearer in the RSV, which uses the word “regret” instead of “repent.” “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.”

Reply: Christians sometimes have a similar experience, with second thoughts about a letter they mailed. No matter how a subject is stated, it can be misunderstood at times.

Paul was happy that the sorrow produced by his first letter was only temporary (“for a season”). Because the brethren rectified the matter by following his counsel, the sorrow was removed. Stated another way, the sorrow was constructive, for Paul’s instruction was helpful and the Corinthians obeyed it.

In verses 8-11, the words “sorry,” “sorrow,” and “sorrowed” are used eight times. Observing this repetition helps us to understand what Paul was saying. He provided a great deal of information with brevity of words.

2 Cor. 7:9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

Paul rejoiced not in the Corinthians’ sorrow but in the results, and he was glad he had sent the letter. Of course there were other discouraging moments, but as of that moment, the ending was happy. God blessed Paul with an assurance that he had done the right thing. However, the ultimate value in the final analysis was another matter, for the obedience of others was in the hands of Providence. More information is given later on in this second epistle.

“That ye might receive damage by us in nothing.” Sometimes a letter is carefully written and meant for good, but with human nature being what it is, the wording can be inadvertently garbled and even taken the opposite way by the recipient. Paul rejoiced that everything worked out all right, for he certainly had not intended to damage the Corinthians in any way.

His desire was to recover and develop them as new creatures.

2 Cor. 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

“Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation … but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” There are two types of sorrow: (1) godly sorrow, which brings repentance, and (2) worldly sorrow, which brings death. To determine which type of sorrow is being experienced, we see that sorrow has three aspects:

1. Cause—what produced the sorrow?

2. Characteristics—what characterizes the sorrow?

3. Consequences—what are the results or effects?

Worldly sorrow is caused by the loss of fame, money, friends, business, health, or natural family; by the failure to achieve a worldly goal; etc. In other words, it is a personal loss. In contradistinction, godly sorrow is caused by displeasing God in some manner and/or the fear of not making one’s calling and election sure. It is a loss along spiritual lines.

Worldly sorrow is characterized by peevishness, anger, fretfulness, malice, envy, bitterness, etc.

The disappointment is manifested in outward social behavior. Others can see that the individual is disturbed. Godly sorrow is characterized by repentance. The individual feels a loss in his relationship with God and thus wants and makes efforts to come into closer contact with Him.

The person expresses the desire for forgiveness either privately or publicly (to the brethren), or both. In one way or another, the desire for rectification “worketh repentance.”

The consequence, or end, of worldly sorrow is death through sickness, degradation of morals and character leading to a premature death, or suicidal tendencies. In one way or another, worldly sorrow leads to destruction. The effect, or end, of godly sorrow is fellowship with God and salvation—in other words, life. Notice how mathematical this subject is: worldly sorrow ends in death; godly sorrow leads to repentance and life.

Both Judas and Peter were sorry, but by contrasting them, we have examples of worldly sorrow and godly sorrow, respectively. Judas realized he had done wrong, he manifested some sorrow, and he tried to return the money, but the startling thing is that he did not go directly to Jesus and ask forgiveness. Because the one he betrayed was Jesus, he should have made an attempt to contact the Master and ask his forgiveness. Instead, in a roundabout way, he went to the priests, but the damage had already been done. After Judas had betrayed Jesus, what good was done by returning the money? That act was not restitution or repentance, for he did not go to the one he had wronged and try to make amends. Judas felt he had made a mistake in judgment because his act did not produce the results he had anticipated. Jesus did not miraculously free himself and set up his Kingdom but was apprehended, put on trial, and would be crucified. Realizing that crucifixion was now inevitable, Judas committed suicide, taking his sacrifice off the altar.

When Peter realized what he had done and the Master looked at him, he went out and wept bitterly—and no doubt prayed to God for forgiveness. Evidently, he also made an effort to contact Jesus after the third denial, but the trial was over and Jesus would be brought to Pilate the next morning for execution. The chief priests, scribes, and elders had already questioned him, found fault, and judged him. Therefore, we do not think Peter could have gained access to Jesus and yelled out, “I’m sorry!” The moment passed too quickly as Jesus was being led away and gave Peter a searching look. Then the cock crowed, and Jesus was gone. However, Jesus knew what would happen, for he had told in advance that before “cock crow” that night, Peter would deny him thrice (Matt. 26:34). When the resurrection took place, Peter was recognized and retrieved, and Jesus had a private audience with him, the details of which are not recorded (1 Cor. 15:5).

Peter’s deep sorrow and regret were also evidenced in an incident after Jesus’ resurrection.

Peter was in a boat naked when he recognized the Master on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He girt his fisherman’s coat about him, jumped in the water, and swam to shore (John 21:7). Two feelings were involved: (1) Even though the coat would hinder his speed in getting to the shore, Peter put it on because he felt his nakedness before the Master. (2) He compensated for the drag of the coat in the water by expending extra energy to get to shore and show his affection for the Master.

Comment: Judas premeditated the betrayal, whereas Peter’s denials occurred on the spur of the moment and thus were not planned in advance.

Reply: The premeditation of Judas was a large factor in the judgment, but he also tried to circumvent the issue by returning the money to the chief priests instead of going to Jesus direct and pleading for forgiveness.

Many feel that a brother (or sister) can commit suicide and still be a member of the Little Flock.

This belief manifests erroneous thinking on the magnanimity of God’s love, which teaches that one can sin unto the uttermost after consecration and still get life. However, there is a limit to sin, beyond which there is no return, even with a form of repentance.

There are different types of sorrow. For example, a politician may say he is sorry he made a mistake, but that sorrow is not remorse, or real repentance. If sorrow is genuine, the first thing a person does is try to make amends. A slip of the tongue, which is injurious and is noted as a mark on one’s record, may not be unto Second Death even if not repented of, but in a course of conduct over the years, these acts accumulate, forming a character. All of us are battling the world, the flesh, and the devil.

2 Cor. 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Paul described what accompanied the Corinthians’ godly sorrow: earnestness, eagerness to clear themselves, indignation, alarm, longing, zeal, and punishment of themselves (see RSV).

They fully rectified the matter in the proper manner. The balanced wording with the use of “yea” six times reminds us of the previous chapter, in which Paul repeatedly used the words “in,” “by,” and “as.” He had a mathematical mind, the mind of a genius, yet he was impulsive, open, and fervent—qualities that generally do not accompany an analytical mind. For an individual to be emotional, zealous, and analytical is almost an impossible combination. Paul’s character was well rounded out. Not only was he remarkably analytical, as many of the saints will be, but in addition, he had the fervency of Peter and the warmth and love of John. Indeed he was “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5). No doubt he is the chief of the apostles in honor—but sufficiently way below Christ to make Christ the Head.

Comment: Earlier, following the incident on the way to Damascus, Paul experienced godly sorrow with regard to his persecution of Christians before he accepted Jesus.

Paul had advised the Corinthians to excommunicate the man who had committed fornication.

Now the report came back that the man was so sorrowful over his excommunication that he was almost at the point of suicide if he was not received back into fellowship. Paul was moved at the individual’s repentance, but he saw that something even more important had happened.

With the Corinthians’ earlier behavior, not only would the individual be lost, but all those who tolerated the grievous sin and thought that love was a covering would be damaged. Therefore, now that the man had responded properly and repented, Paul addressed the more serious matter of the class. Normally, because of emotion, one would think of the individual more than the group, but with Paul it was otherwise because more brethren were involved. The Corinthians “sorrowed after a godly sort” and took expeditious action. Paul said, “In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” What a wonderful commendation!

The Corinthians obeyed Paul’s command with fervency. They were shocked into obedience by his first letter, which really packed a punch. The letter caused them to sit up, take notice, and bestir themselves to obey. Once awakened to their false idea of love, they acted, not wanting to displease God. Not only were they aghast at what they had done, but they realized how culpable they were for their behavior. As a result, their repentance took a frenzied form, and they did not let anything stop them from obeying Paul’s advice. They were not merely sorry but also determined to excommunicate the individual regardless of the thinking of a minority in the class.

After receiving the first letter, the Corinthians realized the necessity to act. Paul had to speak strongly because they lacked an understanding of carnality. When we live in a carnal world, our values are surreptitiously eroded. Our standards are brought down inch by inch by what is happening around us. If we succumb and do not fight the deterioration in morality, then after a while, the old man, the old heart, rationalizes that everyone else is doing the same thing.

Q: Does “revenge” in verse 11 mean “punishment”? One translations has, “What readiness to mete out punishment!”

A: Yes. That was true in regard to following Paul’s advice. The end of 1 Corinthians 5 reads, “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

2 Cor. 7:12 Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.

Verse 12 is important for showing where Paul put the emphasis. The main reason he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians was on their behalf. Secondarily, he wrote the letter for the fornicator, who purported to be a brother, and for his father, the one who had suffered the wrong. Evidently, this method of reasoning was employed when Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel so that the chief thrust of a subject could be discerned. Many people speak on a topic and give a lot of detail, but the main point of the discourse is never known, for the valuable motive is lost in the detail. Therefore, by this line of reasoning, Paul was saying, “I did it not [merely] for his cause that had done the wrong, nor [merely] for his cause that suffered wrong, but [primarily] that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.” The welfare of the ecclesia was his utmost concern.

Paul had been fearful that the example of the class in this matter might cause many others to suffer spiritually, which would be a more dangerous condition than just the individual who had sinned. In our day, Satan has changed almost every standard of righteousness. Because there is a wrong slant on many matters of righteousness, we, as brethren, have to overcome and try to obtain God’s thinking. Certainly the death penalty was taught in the Old Testament, but the death penalty is not enacted today for fear that an innocent person might die. God’s laws are to be our laws. However, we are not to judge the ultimate destiny of others, for only in very rare cases would we know what it is.

The implication is that when Titus was sent to Corinth, he was familiar with Paul’s thinking on the immorality matter. Just as Paul did not know how his letter would be received, so Titus did not know what type of reception he would get. In time, Titus brought back word that the Corinthians had obeyed Paul’s command. Both Titus and Paul rejoiced. The Bible was purposely written low-key so that our obedience to God will not be done on an emotional basis. However, when we reason on the content, we can see that the Bible is high drama.

2 Cor. 7:13 Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

Titus was also refreshed by the repentance of the Corinthians. No doubt his supplying Paul with the details of the zeal of the ecclesia prompted Paul to say, “What carefulness it wrought in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire,” etc. (verse 11). Paul was summarizing what Titus had told him.

“Therefore we were comforted in your [the Corinthians’] comfort.” When we do something wrong and are able to correct the matter, there is some comfort. Conversely, when we do something injurious and cannot correct it, a nagging guilt follows us. The Corinthians were relieved after they saw their error and took the proper stand. And then, when they saw the godly sorrow of the individual who was put out, they realized that Paul’s advice was effectual.

They were comforted by seeing the retrieval of the lost soul who had had the illicit relationship. They were comforted in that the matter could be corrected, in that they had acted, and in that, as a result, he came back into the fold.

“Exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.” Paul liked to hear Titus boast about the brethren in Corinth for having taken the right action. In fact, he rejoiced exceedingly.

2 Cor. 7:14 For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.

How would Paul have “boasted” of the Corinthians to Titus? From one standpoint, Paul’s words seem to be a contradiction. He had had doubts, but now he was happy to have his doubts evaporate by the knowledge that the Corinthians had complied with his advice. When Paul first founded the church at Corinth, there was a good response. His preaching had borne a lot of fruit among both Jews and Gentiles, and their zeal was evident. Several leading characters even forsook their worldly pursuits to accompany Paul in his ministry. Then, in his absence from Corinth, he received a disturbing letter telling of multiple problems including divisions among the brethren. He wrote a strong letter of admonition, which was followed by a time lapse before the second letter. Therefore, he was waiting to hear from or about the Corinthians. Earlier, perhaps even before the first letter, he had boasted to Titus of the zeal of the Corinthians. Now, after waiting for a length of time, Paul rejoiced to hear from Titus that his much earlier boasting was ultimately justified because of their favorably receiving his hard-toned letter. Otherwise, without this background information and understanding, the “boasting” would seem to conflict with Paul’s reasoning since writing the first letter.

The RSV reads, “For if I have expressed to him [Titus] some pride in you [the Corinthians], I was not put to shame; but just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting before Titus has proved true.” If this rendering is the correct thought, there is another additive here. It would seem that after Paul wrote the first letter, he had some misgivings about what he had written—and thus some anxiety as to how the letter would be received. But he evidently thought on the effect of the letter for a while and felt a little optimistic at one period in the interim before Titus came with his report. Paul must have had confidence that certain individuals in the class at Corinth would react favorably to the letter. When Titus arrived with the wonderful news that the majority had so responded, Paul replied, “Didn’t I tell you before you left that some would heed the advice?” Now his joy and enthusiasm were real.

At the time, Paul had probably told Titus it would be worthwhile for him to take the dangerous and arduous trip to Corinth, for he felt Titus would be blessed because of the zeal of the Corinthians. Now Paul was saying, “I told Titus that you would react favorably after getting the correct instruction. Now he has come back with good news.” We are given an insight into both the nuances of the trials in the church at Corinth and the growth of the brethren.

2 Cor. 7:15 And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

The Corinthian brethren feared and trembled after getting Paul’s first letter. He wrote, “I am pronouncing judgment as though I were right there with you. My advice is what you must do.” They took the corrective measures, but they were afraid that perhaps more needed to be done. When something is done after the fact to make a correction, it is natural to wonder if the action will be accepted. However, Titus felt so confident upon seeing the obedience of the Corinthians that he did everything in his power to reassure them Paul would rejoice.

Timothy, who was younger, was not accepted by the Corinthians in the sense that Titus was.

The appearance and personage of Titus were much more impressive than Timothy’s, so when Titus came with an august mien and exterior forcefulness, the Corinthians were fearful. They did not have the same respect for Timothy because of his outward appearance, culture, training, and background. Moreover, Titus, knowing the whole story, might have been indignant about how the Corinthians had treated Paul. But to his happy surprise and realization, he found that many appreciated Paul as a true and faithful minister of Christ.

In the first epistle, Paul said he had more gifts than any of the other apostles. Therefore, the “fear and trembling” of the Corinthians was partly due to the realization that he could use those gifts with power as, for example, Peter had done with Ananias and Sapphira. The brethren in Corinth knew Titus was coming as a representative of Paul, and perhaps they even saw the second letter (scroll) in his hand as he approached. How apprehensive they would have been!

2 Cor. 7:16 I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.

Chapter 7 concludes with Paul’s rejoicing over the Corinthians’ response to his advice. What wonderful news he had received from the mouth of Titus! When there are stable characters in an ecclesia, good things are generally portended. Christians have many trying experiences in the trials of life, and some are very critical. In the present life, we do not know how near the brink we come, and how many times we narrowly escape. Of course we are conscious of some overrulings but not all of them.

One lesson from this seventh chapter is that there are certain priorities with regard to principles. Of course our conscience needs to be educated on God’s principles. In verse 12, Paul showed that the majority are to be given more priority than the few. He knew that the matter had to be corrected and that the Corinthians’ inaction could not be condoned. He did not say, “We should forgive the fornicator because he did not know what he was doing when he consecrated. His consecration was not accepted.” Paul was more concerned that the class be not mortally wounded. There are different degrees of sin. With adultery, for example, the thought is not equivalent to the deed. The thought might momentarily come into the mind, but carrying out the act is far worse. In addition to different degrees of sin, there are different levels of righteousness and overcoming. There are overcomers and more-than-overcomers.

1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies

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