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Paul's Consolation and Joy because of the Corinthians.
A frank and urgent appeal to sanctification:
v. 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.
v. 2. receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.
v. 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.
v. 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.
The first verse completes the appeal of chapter 6, to receive not the grace of God in vain. And in order to make his entreaty very impressive and winning, the apostle includes himself in the admonition: Since now these promises we have, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Great, exalted promises were those of which the apostle had reminded them, especially of the fact that they were the temple of the living God. Such a great privilege, however, naturally imposed obligations upon them, as it does upon all Christians, namely, those of putting away all pollution, all defilement, as it springs out of all evil associations, with unbelievers and heathen of every description. Such fellowship pollutes the absolute purity of the believer's personal communion with God; it defiles not only the spirit, but the body as well; it is incompatible with the proper reception of the grace of God as offered in the Gospel. Every Christian must rather feel the necessity of growing in the proper fear and reverence toward God day by day, and thus becoming more perfect in holiness. That should be the state of mind, the disposition, of all believers, that they aim to walk before God and be perfect, Genesis 17:1. The consecration to God which was begun by faith in Baptism must be actualized, developed, and perfected during the whole life, and always with the sense of the nearness, of the presence, of God, before whom nothing is concealed.
With this thought to challenge their emulation, Paul now repeats his appeal of chap. 6:13: receive us, that is, make room for us in your hearts; let the former unpleasant narrowness of sympathy he a thing of the past. He is anxious to possess their love, he is concerned about the fact that they were grieved by his letter, he is delighted on being reassured of their affection He assures them, therefore: No man have me done wrong, no man have we corrupted, no man have we taken advantage of. Here is the reason for his appeal to be accepted by them, into their hearts. All charges against his moral conduct were without foundation. For he had done injustice to no one, in his dealings with them he had violated no one's rights by a needless severity of discipline; he had seduced no one by false doctrine, he was no deceiver; in all his dealings with them he had not attempted to take any advantage of them, neither by reminding them of their duty to provide for their teachers, nor by recommending to them a method of systematic collecting for the poor in Jerusalem.
But lest the Corinthian Christians in this very defense of the apostle feel their wrong in not having defended him against the attacks of his detractors, he hastens to add: By way of condemnation I do not say this; for I have stated before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. As a sentence of condemnation they were not to construe his words; he was not accusing them of mistrusting him. Rather it remained true what he had assured them of before, chap. 1:6; 6:11, that his heart was enlarged in loving sympathy for them, just as he felt sure of their affection toward him. Their image was in his heart, they were so inseparably connected with him in love that they would be absent from his heart neither in death nor in life. And the Greek word which he uses implies that this feeling was mutual, that his devotion to their welfare was equaled by their love for him. This fact makes him continue, with all joyfulness: Great is my frankness toward you, great is my glorying on your behalf. The assurance of their loving sympathy gives him the confidence to unburden himself so frankly to them, to boast so trustingly on their account, not only in this letter, but on the occasion of his visits to other congregations. Such was the exultation of his heart over their spiritual progress that he cried out: I am filled with comfort, I am more than filled, I overflow with joy in all our affliction. Misery, distress, sorrow there is indeed always for the faithful minister, both on account of the persecution of the world and by reason of apostasy and enmity within the congregations. But all this is overshadowed by the consolation derived from the success of the Gospel, as a result of which the apostle's heart is filled with joy to overflowing; it could not contain his feeling in silence, but must needs break forth in happy exclamation. It is the experience of all pastors that are unswervingly faithful in the discharge of their duties, consolation and joy overshadowing the affliction of sorrow.
Paul's comfort because they had accepted his rebuke:
v. 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.
v. 6. Nevertheless God, that comforts those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
v. 7. and not by his coining 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.
v. 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.
Paul here elaborates the thought of v. 4, of his being filled with comfort. He had left Ephesus for Macedonia in a frame of mind which was anything but happy, and his anxiety was increased when he had not found Titus in Troas, 2 Corinthians 2:12. Even when he had crossed to Macedonia, therefore, his flesh, his poor, weak, harassed body, with its weak and anxious soul, had felt no relaxation of the strain. His spiritual unrest was increased by the impatience of his flesh: But on every side we were afflicted; without were fightings, within were fears. In every way, on all sides, he was troubled; all circumstances seemed to combine against him, to make life miserable for him. On the outside were fightings, the oppositions of heathen, Jews, and false brethren; in his own mind and heart were fears, anxiety on account of the success of his epistle, "fears lest the severity of it should alienate their affections utterly from him; fears lest the party of the incestuous person should have prevailed; fears lest the teaching of the false apostles should have perverted their minds from the simplicity of the truth; all was uncertainty, all apprehension: and the Spirit of God did not think proper to remove the causes of these apprehensions in any extraordinary way."
At length, however, relief came: But he that comforts the downcast comforted us, even God, in the coming of Titus. God had not permitted His servant to be tempted above his ability, 1 Corinthians 10:13, but had permitted Titus to come in time, to allay the fears of the apostle, for which fact he was duly thankful to the Lord, of whom he states that he make; it a business to comfort those that are in need of consolation, that are humble and downcast. Psalms 148:6. The very fact of the coming of Titus gave Paul the relief which he needed and longed for: the very meeting was an occasion of such joy as people experience but seldom in a lifetime. But the apostle was consoled, not only by the coming of Titus, but also by the comforting news which he brought. By the comfort wherewith he was comforted concerning you. The conduct of the Corinthian congregation had been a source of consoling satisfaction to Titus, and this he had promptly transmitted to his fatherly friend: When he told us your longing, your mourning, your zeal concerning me, that I rejoiced the more The letter of the apostle had had the desired effect: the Corinthian Christians had immediately been filled with the earnest desire to see the apostle and to correct the evil state of affairs in their midst; they had been driven to lamentation and mourning by his rebuke of their laxity: they had been filled with new zeal for his person and authority, with energy to repair the injury they had done him, and thus to give him joy after all the sorrow they had caused him. Thus was his joy over the coming of Titus increased all the more.
The apostle now explains the feeling which he had at this writing: For even though I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it: although I did regret it (for I notice that that letter made you sorry, though but for a while). He knew that his letter had made them sorry, and there had been times when he had felt inclined to regret his apparent harshness. But on the whole, he had no regrets, partly because their sorrow had been only temporary, until they had felt the love which prompted his severity, and partly because his object had been achieved. He had acted like a skillful surgeon, who regrets the necessity of resorting to a serious operation and would rather spare the patient the pain connected with it, but knows that the object he desires can be accomplished in no other way.
Paul's rejoicing over the result of his measures:
v. 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.
v. 10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
v. 11. For, behold, this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, ye a, what clearing of yourselves, ye a, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, ye a, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
v. 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.
The apostle here develops his second thought more fully, that he was exceeding joyful in spite of all tribulation, v. 4. He had shaken off the uneasiness which he had felt on account of his tenderness for them, and openly stated that he now rejoiced, not on account of the fact of their having been made sorry, for the case required such severe measures, but on account of the fact of their grief's having led them to repentance. When Paul wrote his letter, there had been no sign of a change of heart on their part, and the danger was that they might have become stubborn. But now that they have accepted the rebuke and repented, lie sees his desire fulfilled, his object attained, and can therefore sap: For you were made sorry according to God, in the manner which God wants to see in the sinner and which He Himself works, so that you might suffer damage from us in nothing. Far from being affected to their hurt, the Corinthian Christians rather had reason for congratulating themselves on account of the benefit which had come to them as a result of the apostle's measures. Sorrow and grief, in this case, is in itself a blessing, and the entire process is salutary. Mark that it is God that works repentance, and that His aim is the conversion and therefore also the salvation of the sinner.
This thought is brought out in the next verse, where a reason is assigned for this statement: For the sorrow which is according to God, which is wrought by God, which feels grief on account of sin as an offense against God, works out a repentance unto salvation not to be repented of. True sorrow over sins does not exist on account of the apprehension of punishment, but is essentially a feeling of misery and dejectedness on account of the insult which was offered to God by the transgression. Such a repentance sets the sinner on the way to salvation, since such a sinner will he prepared to receive the message of redemption. Therefore this proper repentance brings no regrets. The sorrow of the world, on the other hand, pictures to the eyes of the horrified sinner the terrible consequence:' of his transgression in the matter of temporal and eternal punishments. When this feeling comes upon the sinner, there is nothing but the blackness of death and destruction before him: he is led to despair, as we see in the case of Cain, and still more in that of Judas. "And lest repentance or the terrors of the Law turn into despair, the preaching of the Gospel must be added, that it may be a repentance unto salvation."
The Corinthians themselves offer an example of the value of godly sorrow: For behold this same thing, your being made sorry after a godly sort. Their own case was an excellent illustration of the point which the apostle was trying to make: What diligence it worked in you; how quickly their previous inactivity and slothfulness had given way to activity, especially as to the case of the discipline then in hand! And not only so, but also defense; how they had hurried to clear themselves of the fault found in their midst, to justify themselves before Titus, and thus before the apostle! What indignation; how angry they were at themselves for having ignored and tolerated this matter in their midst for so long a time! What fear; how they had dreaded the coming of the apostle with a rod, 1 Corinthians 4:21! What longing desire; how they had felt the need of him and of his apostolic counsel as soon as they had realized their condition! What zeal; how jealous they had become on behalf of God and His honor in their congregation! What avenging, or, infliction of punishment; how they had hastened to make good their wrong by inflicting upon the offender the punishment demanded by Paul! Thus had the Corinthians given evidence of the godliness of their sorrow; thus had they given proof, approved themselves to be pure in this matter, by clearing themselves from the guilt of this affair.
But the very fact that they had acted so promptly upon all his suggestions, that his admonitions had brought forth such rich fruits in their midst, would cause the Corinthians also to acknowledge the loving purpose of the writer: Accordingly, although I wrote to you, I did it not for his sake that did the wrong, nor for his sake that suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal in our behalf might be made manifest to yourselves before God. The sin to which Paul referred had indeed been one of abominable wickedness, the son living with his stepmother in a relation permitted only in marriage, and that, apparently, while his father was still living! But though Paul also had in mind the putting away of the sin of the one and the repairing of the injury done to the other, his chief reason for writing was to stimulate the Corinthian congregation to a realization of what was due to its founder, the apostle, and to its Lord. He had not been wrong in his estimate of them; the discipline employed by them had strengthened the feeling of fellowship among themselves and had bound them more closely to the apostle. They had vindicated themselves in their own eyes and in his. And it had not been a vain, empty form, a mere pretense, since their deliberations and resolutions had taken place in the sight, in the presence, of God. Note: This last point should be remembered in all cases of church discipline.
The joy of Titus over the good tidings which he brought:
v. 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.
v. 14. For if I have boasted anything 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.
v. 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.
v. 16. I rejoice, therefore, that I have confidence in you in all things.
The first words of v. 13 really are the concluding statement of the previous passage: Wherefore we have been comforted. That was the result of the entire transaction so far as the apostle was concerned. But in addition to his own comfort and consolation he had all the more reason for great joy at the joy of Titus, the bearer of the good news from Corinth. His new joy, which was added to his previous comfort, was more abundant than the comfort itself, because the spirit of Titus had been refreshed by them all. The representative of the apostle had been received well by all the members of the Corinthian congregation and treated with the utmost kindness and respect. There was no trace of a stubborn and conceited behavior, and so his mind was set entirely at rest on their behalf.
This fact pleased the apostle all the more: For if in anything on your behalf I have boasted to him, I was not put to shame. As Paul had boasted in other cities about the excellence of the Corinthian congregation, so he had praised his present readers also before Titus. If the latter had therefore not found matters as his teacher had pictured them so glowingly, the praise which Paul bestowed on them would have been found empty foolishness, mere vanity. But now he is pleased: As we spoke all things to you truthfully, so also our boasting before Titus was found to be truth. On this point Paul was very sensitive. When he had sent Titus to Corinth, he had encouraged him by the description he gave of the good qualities of the Corinthian Christians. That is what caused him to be so well satisfied now, since matters turned out, proved to be, in accordance with the facts: the Corinthians had fully lived up to the expectations of their teacher.
The gratification which Paul felt was equaled by the satisfaction which filled the heart of Titus: And his heart is the more abundantly inclined toward you, since he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him. Titus had been the bearer of a harsh message, even as Paul's letter had been uncompromising in its severity on the point of the scandal in their midst. And so they had received him with profound reverence and had shown all obedience to the suggestions which he had to offer as the apostle's representative. The entire matter had thus turned out well, and Paul concludes: I rejoice that in everything I have good courage concerning you. The encouragement which he had thus received by finding his confidence not misplaced, gave him a happy boldness before them; there was no further reason to fear that they would again be tossed about by matters of a similar nature. When things in any congregation have progressed to such a point that the first serious crisis is weathered, conditions will usually be favorable to a steady growth in Christian knowledge and sanctification.
Paul admonishes the Corinthians to make progress in holiness; he assures them that he, as well as Titus, has been filled with comfort and rejoicing by their godly repentance and cheerful obedience in the case of church discipline.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25