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Perfecting holiness in the fear of God
2 Corinthians 7:1-7
2 Corinthians 7:1 . ‘Dearly beloved, since we have the great promises of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20) (adoption, God is our Father and we are his children; justification, we are righteous, redeemed and sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:30); glorification, we shall be like Christ and reign with him for ever (Romans 8:16-18), let us cleanse ourselves from everything that would defile body and spirit.’ By the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10), through the word of God (Psalms 119:9-11), with the aid of God's Spirit, let us keep ourselves clean, not only from fleshly corruption such as intemperance, drunkenness, profanity, dishonesty, sexual impurity and idolatry, but also from error of spirit such as pride, envy, covetousness, malice, evil thoughts and self-righteousness. ‘Perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.’ By holiness is not meant the work of perfect sanctification of the believer before God, for that is wholly the work of Christ, who is our sanctification and righteousness (Hebrews 10:14; Romans 3:19-22; Romans 10:3-4). But this is holiness of life, walk, conduct and conversation to which we are called and which is the mark and evidence of a true believer (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:21-24). This walk of obedience is motivated not only by God's love for us and our love for him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), but ‘in the fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 16:6). The fear of the Lord for a believer is not slavish fear, or a fear of wrath and hell, but a reverential affection as a child for a father. The fear of the Lord arises from awe, trust, respect and dependence upon him, and a view to his glory and approval (2 Corinthians 5:9).
2 Corinthians 7:2 . ‘Open your hearts to us as the ministers of Christ,’ Paul writes. ‘Receive us and love us as we love you; for we have not wronged you, we have corrupted no one by our doctrine, and we have not cheated nor taken advantage of you.’ He is saying that he had done nothing to forfeit their esteem and goodwill (1 Corinthians 2:1-2; Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27; Acts 20:33). He could not understand their alienation of heart when he had done nothing to deserve it, but rather had given himself for their eternal good (2 Timothy 2:9-10).
2 Corinthians 7:3 . Paul did not call attention to their faults and infirmities only to condemn, reproach, or expose them, but because he loved them (Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24-25). He said, ‘You are in my heart and you will remain there; neither death nor life shall change that love nor destroy our fellowship’ (John 13:34-35).
2 Corinthians 7:4 . ‘Great is my liberty of speech toward you. I open my mouth to you and speak freely even of your faults,’ for this is the sign of true friendship and love (Proverbs 27:6). We are more reserved and on guard with those who are not close to us. ‘Great is my glorying (or boasting) of you to others, I rejoice in your faith, your love and your liberality. I am filled with comfort especially with the coming of Titus and the report he brought concerning your state. In spite of the persecution and tribulation we endure for preaching the gospel, my heart is comforted and I am overflowing with joy because of the grace of God manifested in you and other believers’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
2 Corinthians 7:5-6 . The apostle met with trouble and persecution in Macedonia from without (that is, from the Gentiles and religious Jews) and from within the church, being troubled by prophets and unfaithfulness among believers, as well as within his own heart (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). The road of faith is not an easy road. The believer is subject to all of the trials brought upon men by Adam's fall (Genesis 3:17-19), and in addition to these, he will be hated, oppressed and persecuted for the sake of the gospel (2 Timothy 3:11-12; Matthew 10:34-39). ‘Nevertheless God, who comforts, refreshes, encourages and gives strength to those who are depressed and troubled, comforted me.’ Paul is careful to give the glory and praise to God, who is our Comforter. Though the Lord chastens his people, puts them through great trial and suffering for their good and the fulfillment of his purpose, and though he allows the enemy to try them, as in the case of Job, he never leaves them, never forsakes them but gives them grace and strength to sustain and comfort them (Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13). The visit of his brother, Titus, brought Paul great comfort. God is pleased to comfort and strengthen his people in various ways, sometimes by his word, by his special providence, or by encouragement and fellowship of other believers. But whatever the instrumental cause of joy and comfort, God is the principal cause he comforts and is our comfort?
2 Corinthians 7:7 . Paul was glad to see Titus. However, it was not just his visit that rejoiced the heart of Paul, but the news that he brought. Titus had visited the church at Corinth and had been received with respect and kindness. Titus was greatly encouraged by what he found at Corinth in regard to the things Paul sought to correct by his first epistle the divisions, the incestuous affair, going to law before unbelievers, disorders at the Lord's Table and misuse of gifts. Titus told Paul of the earnest desire of the church to do the will of God, of their mourning over the sins among them, of their fervent love for Paul and desire to carry out his instructions. This good news rejoiced the heart of the apostle and abundantly exceeded his troubles and afflictions. Nothing rejoices the heart of a minister or a true disciple of Christ more than a good report from others who name the name of Christ (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:3-4).
Godly sorrow worketh repentance
2 Corinthians 7:8-16
2 Corinthians 7:8 . The apostle refers to his first epistle to the Corinthians. He had to deal with so many errors of the spirit and the flesh that had risen in the church that he was sure he had offended others and caused all to be shaken somewhat. He did not regret writing the letter, for he wrote under divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), but he regretted the sorrow it caused. However, that sorrow was only for a little time, for it led them to repent and correct the errors of which Paul wrote.
2 Corinthians 7:9 . Paul did not rejoice in their sorrow and grief. No one can be glad when a brother weeps and is afflicted, even under the chastening hand of the Lord. But Paul rejoiced in the effect and results of this experience. Their sorrow led them to acknowledge their error, to repent toward God and to correct these abuses of which he wrote. ‘Ye were made sorry after a godly manner’ - that is, their sorrow was of the right kind. They had not just offended Paul and wronged one another, but their sin was against God (Psalms 51:3-4; Acts 5:4). We may grieve and wound others by our evil conduct and words, but we sin against God; therefore, true repentance is toward God and is born of love for God and a desire to do his will. The goodness of God leads us to repentance. The church suffered no loss nor harm by what Paul did; rather they gained, because they repented and corrected matters.
2 Corinthians 7:10 . These words prove that Christians and churches suffer no harm but rather profit by rebuke and correction from faithful ministers (2 Timothy 4:1-2). ‘Godly sorrow,’ which is a work of his grace and spirit, which springs not from fear of hell and damnation, but from a love for God and grief over offending him and which looks to Christ in faith for grace and mercy, leads to salvation and deliverance from evil. Repentance and faith are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. They are like a sheet of paper - there must be two sides (Acts 20:21). No man has ever believed on Christ without repentance, and no man will repent apart from true faith in the Lord Jesus. True repentance will never bring regret, only rejoicing. ‘The sorrow of the world worketh death.’ Esau was sorry that he lost his birthright, not that he had sinned against God. All men are sorry when they lose worldly riches, honour, comfort and reputation, but their sorrow has nothing to do with their relationship toward God, therefore, it results not in true repentance, nor faith, nor forgiveness, only death upon death. True repentance has to do with my relationship with God, not with this world and its influence (Isaiah 55:6-7).
2 Corinthians 7:11 . Godly sorrow, which works repentance and leads to deliverance, produces many evidences of the sincerity and genuineness of it (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). ‘What carefulness, to correct our behavior before God and to avoid future offences in this area. ‘What clearing of yourselves,’ not by denying our guilt and sins, but by confessing them and seeking forgiveness (1 John 1:9). ‘What indignation,’ not against God because of his holiness and law, nor against God's servant for pointing out our sins, but against ourselves for our folly and our rebellion (Job 42:5-6). ‘What fear,’ not of hell and damnation, but of God, of incurring his displeasure and of bringing reproach on Christ (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 16:6). ‘What vehement desire’ to honour God, to right that which is wrong and to live for the glory of Christ in this present evil world (Philippians 3:10-14). ‘What zeal’ for God and his glory, for the testimony of the gospel and for the unity and holiness of the church. God forbid that we should be the occasion for stumbling on the part of one of his sheep or the occasion for the gospel's being ridiculed by outsiders (2 Samuel 12:14). ‘What revenge,’ not against persons in a private way, for that belongs to God, but against sin and disobedience, whether found in us or others. This may refer especially to discipline exercised in the matter of incest found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. In that matter they acted in accordance with Paul's counsel and cleared themselves by dealing firmly with the offender.
2 Corinthians 7:12 . Paul declared in this verse that he did not enter into the problem of the incestuous person for the guilty man's sake only (though he needed to be disciplined, corrected and restored to obedience), nor for the sake of the father who had been wronged, but for the welfare and good of the whole church, lest the church suffer for permitting such a scandal to continue. His chief concern was for the glory of God and the good of Christ's Church.
2 Corinthians 7:13 . What comfort and encouragement Paul received when he learned that the church at Corinth had grieved over their errors, repented toward God and corrected the abuses he had exposed in his letter! True believers grieve over sin and faults, not only in themselves, but in others, and are overjoyed when matters are corrected. They restore the fallen with great joy (Luke 15:10; Galatians 6:1-2). Paul was especially delighted at the joy of Titus, for he was able to give Paul a good report of the church when he came to visit (2 Corinthians 7:6-7). Believers weep with those who weep and are comforted with one another's comforts.
2 Corinthians 7:14 . Evidently Paul had boasted to Titus of the faith, liberality and devotion to him which the church at Corinth had demonstrated. They had not disappointed him, nor proved his words to be false. Titus came to him with a report from the church which confirmed all of the good things he had said of them. Love enjoys a good report and always grieves over any sin (Cor. 13:6, 7).
2 Corinthians 7:15 . ‘The heart of Titus goes out to you more abundantly than ever as he recalls and reports to me how submissive you were to his teaching and leadership (Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17). You received him and his words with humility and respect.’
2 Corinthians 7:16 . The apostle rejoices that he could write and speak to them with confidence that they would hearken to his exhortations in the future as in the past. He may be saying this partly to commend them and partly to pave the way for what he has to say in the next chapter concerning giving.
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28