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God, Who Comforts the Downcast
2 Corinthians 7:1. 2 Corinthians 7:1 clearly belongs to chapter 6. The promises given at the end of chapter 6 are meant as an encouragement to cleanse yourself. The world is impure and if you stay in touch with the world the impurity will stick to you and defile you. The Lord Jesus would like to present the church to Himself “in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). Spots mar a garment and must be removed. Also the spots that mar the life of a believer must be removed.
“Defilement of flesh” means the visible outside life of the believer. Examine if you are guided by God in your behavior and by His Word in your speech, in your clothes etc. or whether you are led by the motives by which unbelievers are led. If you discover that you are guided by wrong motives you need to cleanse yourself. Again: What was the promise?
In addition to this defilement of the flesh there is also the “defilement … of spirit”. The counsel to cleanse yourself holds true here as well. The defilement of spirit is a danger that you are constantly exposed to. What are your reading materials? What kind of movies are you watching? These are things you choose yourself. What fills your thought field? On top of this there are incredible numbers of things which come to you without invitation.
The current thinking in the world is permeated with demonic principles. This is evidenced in the world’s acceptance of the alternative style of living together, in same sex marriage and in the lack of recognition of authority in relations. I was shocked once when I realized that I also thought the same way as the world thinks on a certain issues. When I looked at this issue in the light of the Bible I saw how my spirit was defiled.
To cleanse ourselves from both the defilement of the flesh and of the spirit we must read the Word of God. The Bible is compared to water. How it works we read in Ephesians 5: “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:25-Ezekiel :). The Lord Jesus is making every effort to bring you in conformity to Himself. The Father desires that He is able to acknowledge you as His child. The Father and the Son give you all that is necessary to help you reach their standard.
The purpose of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is that you will be “perfecting holiness”. God wants you to live totally for Him and for Him alone. If you live “in the fear of God”, that is, in reverence and awe for Who He is, you will meet the purpose He has for your life.
2 Corinthians 7:2. In the previous chapter Paul shows how to identify the servants of God. They are not people who make themselves comfortable. They are people who will not spare themselves in order to serve others. The Corinthians knew Paul as such a man. He had sacrificed everything to bring them the gospel. They also accepted it. Now Paul asks if they would again give him a place in their hearts. Did he do any injustice to them when he preached Christ to them? Did he condemn anyone citing wrong reasons? Did he exploit them?
One gets the impression that some people accused him of doing so. Jealous people claiming to be servants of God were whispering into the ears of the Corinthians evil reports about Paul. The danger was that the believers in Corinth pushed Paul into insignificance and denied him his due place in their hearts. They should not have listened to such people.
2 Corinthians 7:3. Paul says this to teach them a lesson, but please note how he does this. He does this not in the judgmental tone and he does not look down upon them. When someone does this he has already lost what he wanted to win. The apostle reiterates that they had a place in his heart; and what kind of a place? He opens his heart to them. He vents out his feelings towards them, and says how he and they belong to each other in order “to die together and to live together”.
Yes, this is a remarkable order. Normally people say that they would first live together and then would die together. But faith and love argue otherwise. In 2 Samuel 15 Ittai says to David: “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be” (2 Samuel 15:21). David was on the run and Ittai, although he was with him only for a short time, loved him. That brought him to a complete commitment to David regardless of the outcome. Love sees the danger but she is willing to defy that even though it could cost her dearly. So says Paul to the Corinthians. He loves them and expects their love in return. United in this love they can die together for the Lord and if this is not necessary then they can live together for Him. This sequence shows how his love for them was unshakeable.
2 Corinthians 7:4. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he continues to enumerate the things that must touch their hearts. He does not restrain but he gives a free rein to his heart and feelings. He now writes frankly and without any restraint. He can boast of them to others, for his first letter produced the desired result.
2 Corinthians 7:5-Joshua :. How worried he was until Titus arrived with a joyful report. What a consolation his restless heart found in his report. An overflowing joy took possession of him and that in the midst of all afflictions. Indeed Paul had been in great distress in Macedonia. He already mentioned a little about it in chapter 1. In chapter 2 he wrote how troubled he was and how anxiously he was waiting for the arrival of Titus who would come with news from and about Corinth. At that time things were not easy for Paul. He was surrounded by hostile people and he was troubled in his heart over the uncertainty about the Corinthians.
If you ever have been going through such harrowing experience I am sure you will be able to realize what relief it would have been for Paul when Titus brought him the good news that his first letter had the desired effect upon his readers. How much can good news mean for a person! May be you can also be a kind of Titus for believers who have a hard time. Tell or write to them a few nice things from your experience what God can do in the lives of believers. Paul was greatly comforted by what Titus told him.
He received that consolation from the hand of God “Who comforts the depressed”. You see Paul’s mind here. You can be sure that he called upon God for the sake of the Corinthians. He knew that it was not in his hands to change their condition; but it was God who influenced their hearts. That realization brought him down to his knees. He humbled himself before God. A believer who assumes this position always receives consolation.
2 Corinthians 7:7. Paul enjoyed a twofold consolation. Firstly the report of Titus which assured that the threat of a breach in the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians had been averted. Secondly he was comforted when he heard that Titus himself was comforted by the Corinthians. When Titus reported this Paul rejoiced even more.
What beautiful moments both would have experienced when they shared their joyful feelings about the Corinthians. Titus also reports about their earnest desire for the apostle. They loved Paul and would have him once again with them. How they mourned when they realized what terrible evil they had tolerated in their midst. That is why Paul had to admonish them sternly (1 Corinthians 5:1-1 Chronicles :). It made them zealous to do what Paul had told them in his letter. Paul’s letter produced the right result and he was very happy about it.
2 Corinthians 7:8. The fact that the letter caused sorrow was not a matter of grief for Paul. This type of sorrow is very necessary. God is not happy to see superficiality in sensing sin. What God expects is genuine sorrow over evil. First Paul regretted having written this letter. He had posted, so to speak, this letter and then he thought of the stern tone of it. Then the big question that plagued him was how the Corinthians would react to the letter. Paul’s empathy shows that he does not feel exalted over the believers like people who expound the truth coldly and without any feelings for the listeners.
The way he talks here is certainly not inconsistent with the inspiration of the Bible. Some see inspiration as though the writer wrote down like a robot what was dictated to him being completely detached from himself. But that is not inspiration. What inspiration is you can read in 2 Peter 1 (2 Peter 1:21). When you read the Bible you will notice that each writer has his own style which is not apart from his personality. This makes the Bible a book in which every word is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and in which each writer, chosen to be an instrument of God, retains his own character still.
2 Corinthians 7:8 makes it clear that Paul did not feel sorry for what he wrote but that he was worried about the consequences. This gives a beautiful picture of his love for the Corinthians. Similarly it can happen that you have someone who means a lot to you, such as a friend and you have to tell him or her something which is altogether unpleasant. But you are constrained to do so out of your love for him or for her. However, having done that the fear then can be that you would lose your friend. But how happy you are when you discover that your admonition did not lead to a rupture in the friendship but it was well received.
Now read 2 Corinthians 7:1-8 again.
Reflection: What is Paul’s consolation in this section? Write down for yourself what comfort means to you.
2 Corinthians 7:9. To cause grief is never a pleasant thing. Also for Paul it was not a pleasure to write to the Corinthians about things that were wrong with them. But now he rejoices because their sorrow proved that they were brought to their senses and that they repented. They realized how low they had dropped in their spiritual condition. This led to their repentance.
Do you realize that repentance is not something only for unbelievers? It applies to believers also. When a believer deviates from the right path by allowing sin in his life he must repent for it. In the book of Revelation you read in chapters 2-3 over and again of the call to the different local churches to repent for their wrong doing.
Genuine sorrow will bring a sinner to honest confession and he spontaneously goes to God with it. Confession is not something enjoyable. You will certainly find it unpleasant when you have to admit that you have sinned. But where there is such acknowledgement there is joy. Paul rejoiced that the Corinthians understood their faults and confessed them to God. His letter therefore caused no damage but brought profit.
2 Corinthians 7:10. Sorrow according to the will of God is something which you will never retreat nor regret. That means you have the same kind of feelings of grief over sin as God Himself. This is not a sorrow as seen in the world. People who take no account of God are also sad about the wrong things they committed; but that is not sorrow according to the will of God. The sorrow of the world has nothing to do with sin. It has only to do with the misery that they brought upon themselves.
They regret their acts when they suffer the consequences; but they never regret the act itself. The sorrow of the world does not lead to repentance but to second death which lasts for eternity. Sometimes the sorrow of the world is so intense that people in their desperation even commit suicide.
Are you desperate about the sins you committed in the past? The devil might whisper in your ears that your sins are too big to be forgiven. But he is lying. Read 1 John 1:9; do what it says and believe what it says (1 John 1:9).
2 Corinthians 7:11. The Corinthians proved that their sorrow and their repentance were genuine. Paul had written to them earlier that they should put away the evil from their midst (1 Corinthians 5:13). Now he can testify that they had shown “earnestness” in the way they dealt with sin and evil.
Their earnestness was associated with “vindication” or “excusing” [this is a better rendering of the word]. They asked, so to speak, the Lord and also Paul to forgive them for their lax attitude and now they even showed “indignation” for the evil they had allowed in their midst earlier. That indignation was not of a fleshly nature, as if they were better than the evildoer. Therefore it says there is “fear” with them, because they know themselves a bit better now.
None can exalt himself over someone who sinned, for he is prone to the same sin himself. That’s why Galatians 6 says that the one who has to deal with the sin of a fellow believer must do so “looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). In this spirit the Corinthians could exercise discipline over the evil one mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5.
They were seized by a “longing” that impelled them to act as God asked them to do. They showed “zeal” again for the glory of the Lord Jesus in the church. They put everything back in order and that act brought them to the “avenging of wrong”, which means the authentication of their genuine repentance and their zeal to punish evil. Their attitude and the manner of handling issues also showed that they no longer wanted to have anything to do with the sin that happened and was tolerated among them without dealing with it. Thereby they proved themselves “to be innocent in the matter”.
2 Corinthians 7:12. Paul returns to his first letter and says that it was written not primarily because of the one who did wrong or because of the one who suffered wrong. His letter was a kind of a test for them to see if they would obey him. If they would follow the instructions given in it, then it is evidence that they still recognized Paul as a servant of God. By this they also showed that in Paul they met God. Paul’s letter must have given them the feeling that their relationship is directly with God himself. Happily this had happened and the report from Titus about it comforted him very much.
2 Corinthians 7:13. Paul cannot be silent about the comfort and joy he experienced through their attitude and their way of handling issues. He speaks about them over and again in this chapter. Paul is overwhelmed by the joy of Titus. By what Titus witnessed among the Corinthians he was not only “comforted” (2 Corinthians 7:7) but he also was “refreshed”. He had thus, so to speak, received new courage. Isn’t it encouraging that someone breaks his ties with sin and makes a new beginning with the Lord? This will refresh you.
2 Corinthians 7:14. Paul had another reason for his overflowing joy. He had boasted to Titus about the Corinthians on some matters, of course in a good sense. This is really beautiful. There were many things to criticize. I do not know if Paul told Titus all about them. But there were also good things to share and Paul had done that anyway. He expressed his confidence that they would obey him. Now that his boasting has turned out to be true Paul is not ashamed of the Corinthians. He had told the truth to the Corinthians and to Titus he had mentioned the positive things about the Corinthians.
This is an important lesson. If you see in someone things that are not good, then talk to him about them. But when you talk to another about him, talk about the good things you also know about that person.
2 Corinthians 7:15. When Titus thought of the way the Corinthians received him, he felt an overflowing love for them. He again saw how obedient they were, and also their fear and their trembling. Their complacent attitude as sounded in the first letter has disappeared. Titus was able to see the real work of the Spirit in their midst.
When the Spirit receives access to the life of the church obedience to the Word of God is the inevitable result. Fear and trembling are the characteristics of believers who have learned to judge their own views and their own acts before God. They know very well that nothing good can come out of them. That is why they fear and they only want to hear the Word of God.
2 Corinthians 7:16. You can be confident of a local church which works on such a basis. Then everything that is still not in order will come to order. Paul had every reason to be confident about the Corinthians. Can you say the same of the local church you belong to?
Now read 2 Corinthians 7:9-16 again.
Reflection: How are you talking to others about your brother or sister: in a good or in a bad sense?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Corinthians 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany