2 Corinthians 7
1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Paul’s conclusion after speaking of the importance of holiness in order to be effective ambassadors for Christ is to hold to the promise of God that He will enable His children to better and better imitate their Father. Thus, we are to continually grow towards perfection by the grace of God, part of which means walking in holiness as we are able today. We don’t have excuses as if sin is allowable simply because we are not glorified yet (1 Corinthians 10:13). God will give us an escape route from every temptation, so our job and calling is to fear the Lord and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). We must cleanse ourselves by turning from sin and receiving the forgiveness that is in Christ. We have been forgiven once and for all at salvation, but there are practical things to be cleansed of in the day to day course of life. These we must confess and then obey, putting away any contaminating force or thought from our bodies, minds, and hearts. We have no reason to continue in sin with our body or with our mind, for we have all we need in Christ to walk in godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We need to let God control what we do with our bodies, for they are His temple. We need to ask God to make us steadfast in spirit, thinking rightly, and ready and eager to do His will (Psalm 51:10).
2Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one.
3I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together.
Paul wants the Corinthians to repent, to trust him, and to rest in his kind heart toward them. Never in the past had he defrauded them or wronged them in any way. Even now, his goal is not to condemn them because they are near and dear to his heart as a father loves his children. In life he views them as dear to him, and even in death, he expects to be rejoined with them. Yet he desires that they put away sin and be all that Christ wants them to be.
4Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
5For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.
6But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
7and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.
Paul is not only upset at their sin, but he is grateful for the comfort which they have brought him. This brings him great pride and encouragement that those whom he has led to the Lord are showing some evidence of Christ working in their hearts as they cared for him. Despite his affliction, he is able to overflow with joy and be filled with comfort because of the work they have done for him. When Paul had left for Macedonia, he was troubled. He was physically worn out and anxious in spirit. He had left an open door for ministry to go and find Titus (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). When Titus came to him, he greatly encouraged Paul simply by his presence but also because he had been so impacted and encouraged himself by the care of the Corinthians. So there were some signs of contrition and change among the Corinthians as they we grieved by what Paul had sent to them in the earlier letter. They were zealous to see him and desired to be with him, which demonstrated that they didn’t ignore what he had said but that they respected him and looked forward to additional teaching and direction. This demonstrated their humility and gave Paul reason to rejoice even more.
8For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it--for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while--
9I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
Paul evidently had some regrets initially about sending the letter that he did probably because of how harsh of a rebuke it was. Yet, now knowing that the Corinthians received it with humility such that it made them seek the Lord more, he no longer had reason to regret it. God used it, and the sorrow that the Corinthians had was a healthy, temporary sorrow, leading to repentance. It was a sorrow produced by the Holy Spirit and according to the will of God as they realized the severity of their sin and turned from it. True repentance carries with it a sorrow over sin, not merely because of the consequences of sin but because it hurts the heart of God and the hearts of those who care. God used Paul’s letter to keep them from suffering loss (1 Corinthians 3:15) in the day of Christ because of a lack of faithfulness. Now that they had repented, they had a chance to begin storing up eternal rewards once again. The motive for confrontation ought always to be for the restoration of the sinner for their own eternal well-being.
10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.
Sorrow that is according to God’s will is a sorrow that leads to repentance. The repentant person will take joy in being forgiven, he won’t regret having to give up the sin, and he will not have to wallow in the mire of sin forever. God’s sorrow is a temporary sorrow that accompanies the turning from sin such that Christians can be free of regret and moved to change. This true repentance leads to salvation and continued sanctification, whereas merely regretting the destructive effects of sin accomplishes nothing that would edify spiritually. Those who abandon sin in true repentance don’t regret doing so. The sorrow they have is a sorrow over having offended God, and this is sorrow that is quickly replaced by joy. The sorrow that the world gives is the direct result of sin. Sin is always destructive, and it destroys the heart, mind, and body in addition to sending the soul to hell. Godly sorrow creates an earnestness to do right. Godly sorrow makes us want to have a clean slate before God, whereas while we are in sin, we don’t care so much. Godly sorrow leads to irritation and vexation at sin and having wasted time in sin. It creates a healthy fear of God as we come to respect His authority and judgment, and it makes us long for righteousness and truth. We become zealous and passionate for the things of God, and we quickly desire to do what we can to right what we have wronged. Rather than participate with the devil, we quickly despise what we have done and switch allegiances back to serving God. God’s promise to us is that when we turn from sin, He forgives and forgets our sin such that we are innocent in His sight. We stop sinning as we were, and we change directions such that we start doing right and seek the forgiveness of those whom we have offended (James 5:16, Matthew 5:23-24). Repentance is a return to reverence for God and innocence in how we live.
12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.
Paul’s purpose for writing his letter in which he confronted the Corinthians about their sin was not merely for the sake of the offender or one offended but for the sake of seeing the Corinthians repent and be restored. He wanted them to have the chance to experience God’s forgiveness and thus know what it is like to be earnest and eager to do what is right. Paul wanted to see repentance and restoration of broken relationships, but he had in mind, first and foremost, the result and fruit of repentance. He knew that when a person truly repents, he is set free and has more joy than ever before. Thus, Paul’s ultimate motive was for the joy of the believers and to be able to see them seek out eternal rewards rather than fleeting, self-centered, destructive sin.
13For this reason we have been comforted And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
Because the Corinthians did repent and long to see Paul again and to do right, Paul and his fellow apostles were able to be comforted and rejoice because of the news Titus brought and because of how their repentance had so encouraged him. Seeing God work and people change such that they are freed from sin always brings joy to those who love the truth and the Lord. It is refreshing to have sin and bondage washed away and exchanged for healing and forgiveness. This is why churches must deal with sin, for it is the only road to the freedom and joy that the church has a right to in Christ.
14For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth.
15His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.
16I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.
Paul had confidence in the Corinthians that they would come around and repent at some point, which they were gradually doing and which delighted Paul. What he had said to Titus about being confident of the Corinthians’ eventual repentance was coming to be reality as they did repent. Paul had sent Titus to deliver his letter, and the Corinthians treated him warmly and openly, choosing to repent and obey. If Paul had met Titus sooner, perhaps he might have made a second trip to Corinth, but fearing having to give another rebuke, he passed on to Troas. Once he met Titus, Titus brought him good news and refreshed his spirit. They had received Titus in humility, trembling before Paul’s words, and they responded in obedience. Paul had confidence that they would do this eventually, and the news that they were being humble greatly encouraged his heart. He had joy that the church in Corinth would keep growing and being humble, continuing to trust him and listen to him.