This Chapter contains many earnest Exhortations, arising out of the foregoing. Paul adds several affectionate Observations, as expressive of his Good-will to the Church.
2 Corinthians 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.
This verse seems to be unconnected with what follows, but rather as the inference, from what was said before, in the preceding Chapter. And, as a right apprehension of the doctrine contained in it, appears to me to be of great moment, I would beg to consider it separately.
The Apostle having laid down the certain truth, that God hath condescended to such a wonderful act of grace, as to dwell in his people, and walk in them; and to call himself their God, and they his people; Paul makes this conclusion, as the result of such unspeakable mercy: that the Church should cleanse herself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. But what cleansing doth the Apostle mean? Not human cleansing surely. For cleansing-work, as much as creating-work, is the Lord's. And God's promise is to this amount: I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and, ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, Ezekiel 36:25. And the cries of God's children, for the Lord to cleanse them, is a plain proof, they are conscious, they cannot cleanse themselves. But the cleansing themselves, both here, and in various other parts of Scripture, where the child of God is called upon to cleansing work, is, to act faith upon God's promises, on this ground, that in a daily, hourly, communion, with God in Christ, they may, by heart-felt experience, know that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
In like manner, they are said to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God. What holiness? They have no holiness, but what is in Christ, and from Christ. He is made of God unto them, both wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30. And the Church is expressly, said to be perfect in Christ Jesus, Colossians 1:28. But the perfecting holiness in the fear of God, consists in the lively actings of faith, upon all God's promises in Christ, and which is instanced in this Scripture, in one feature of them, namely, God's fear; when he said: I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me, Jeremiah 32:40. So That the Apostle is not calling upon the Church, to cleanse themselves from their filth, which is God's work; neither to perfect holiness in their own attainments, which is God's glory: for he had told the Church of the Corinthians in a former Epistle, that they were washed, and were sanctified, and were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Corinthians 6:11. But he is calling upon them to live by faith on God's promises; and by faith to enjoy their blessings, in seeing themselves in a justified state before God, and cleansed from everything of evil, in the Adam-fall of corruption, by the perfection of holiness which is in Christ Jesus.
And I take occasion from this sweet Scripture to observe, how much the comfort and happiness of the Church of God, depends upon a right apprehension, under divine teaching, of this grand truth. A regenerated child of God is regenerated only in spirit. It is the Spirit which quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, John 6:63. The flesh of a child of God is neither quickened nor renewed. Its whole nature is carnal, sensual, and earthly-minded. And hence, the renewed souls of God's children from the opposition their sinful bodies are continually making, to their spiritual desires; groan from day to day. To look therefore for holiness, from an unholy body, is as absurd, as to expect an act of life from the dead. But to perfect holiness in the fear of God, by the soul's daily, hourly, act of faith, upon God's promises, that he will cleanse us, and we shall be clean; and that the Lord will, by his blessed Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body that we may live: Romans 8:13, this is scriptural, and the true life of faith. And the promises are to this amount: that the Lord will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. For all that are kept, are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, Isaiah 26:3; 1 Peter 1:5.
(2) Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. (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. (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. (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. (6) Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; (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. (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. (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. (10) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (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.
I see no reason to detain the Reader with any particular observations on these verses: at least in that part, of what the Apostle saith, with respect to the special state of the Corinthian Church, at the time he wrote to it. The trouble Paul felt, from some particular exercises he had, on their account, gave occasion for him to observe, the sweetness of divine comforts, which are administered by the Lord, as those exercises his people required. And I believe the Reader will find that in all the afflictions of the faithful, strength is suited to the day. Supposing a child of God be brought into soul, or body sorrow: and supposing the distress he ever so great, or in duration ever so long; yet, in exact proportion to what the state needs, Jesus gives the suited supply. It is very blessed to eye the Lord's hand in every appointment. And it is very blessed to discover the Lord's presence in the sorrow. A faithful soul, through grace, will find a strength imparted by such a contemplation, as will bear him up under the heaviest pressure, until the storm be past. And while a child of God can, and doth, wait the issue of things, with that patience which the Lord alone gives, and which Jesus bids his disciples to possess their souls; Luke 21:19, there will be an assured end, of holy triumph in Christ. It is a precious thing to have faith to give credit to God. Wherever this is found, God will crown that faith with success.
I detain the Reader to notice what the Apostle saith of godly sorrow, distinguished from the sorrow of the world, which worketh death. The sources, from whence they spring, being as opposite, as light and darkness: so must be their consequences. Godly sorrows comes from grace, in the ascension gifts of Christ. Worldly sorrow wholly from the world. The former, which comes from God, leads to God. The latter, ariseth from the world, and with the world perisheth forever. Lord Jesus! send down those immense blessings on thy Church and people, which as a Prince, and Savior, thou art exalted to give: and these will bring with them repentance to thy true Israel, and remission of sins., Acts 5:31; Zechariah 12:10.
(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. (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. (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. (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. (16) I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.
There would have needed no occasion to have offered any observation on these verses, as they had a particular relation to the Church at Corinth; the personal circumstances Paul referred to, would have rendered it unnecessary, had that been all. But there are some things here noticed, which have a general tendency to benefit the whole Church of Christ; and as such, should not be passed by. It is always profitable to believers, to mark in their own persons, the blessed operations of grace. When God pours out a spirit of grace and supplication, upon any of his people; it is refreshing to the soul, to mark their gracious properties, and effects. And when the eye of the soul, is thereby directed to Christ, until the heart is suitably affected with the melting contemplation, the promise of God is confirmed and assured. We then prove the truth of Scripture, and we are God's witnesses in point.
Neither is this all. For as these things relate to ourselves, we discover the divine love by the effect. Ordinances, means of grace, public worship, closet exercises; all, and everyone of these, are unprofitable, until the Spirit comes to give them life and energy, as Paul saith, behold this self-same thing, how graciously the Lord hath wrought when are induced those blessed effects: godly sorrow for sin: carefulness to avoid sin: indignation against the authors of sin; the world, the enemy of souls, and our corrupt hearts: yea, an holy, jealous fear, which the Lord puts into the heart to keep his people from sin, in departing from him: a zeal for his glory, and a revenge against all that would oppose that glory. These sweet and gracious effects, spring from the first great cause; and prove, that the repentance is God's gift, not man's setting up: and as it comes from God; so it leads the soul to God; who alone can, and doth say, fear not, I am thy salvation. I hope the Reader, through grace, will discover in both views the Lord's mercy, and man's advantage; and learn to whom is to be given, all the glory.
How very encouraging it is to the true believer in Christ, to behold where his security is, and in whom is his strength found! Lord! thou knowest, and thou hast in some measure taught me to know, that I can do nothing of myself, and all my sufficiency is of thee. I bless thee, my gracious God, that I have these sweet promises of thy indwelling abode, in my heart. Keep me therefore, by thy Almighty power; and by faith, give me daily, hourly, to see, and know, that thou art cleansing me, and I am cleansed: thou hast perfected holiness, yea, thou art thyself the holiness of thy people; and, by faith, I am made the blessed partaker of it, in the fear of God.
And, oh! thou risen and exalted Savior! send down thine ascension gifts in holy profusion, upon Churches, ministers, and people. Sweet will it be to my soul, and to every child of God, to receive from thine own hand, the genuine grace, which worketh godly sorrow, in a true, and sincere repentance, not to be repented of. Lord keep open this spring in our souls. Divorce us from all self-righteousness. Let everything tend to hide pride from our eyes; and open the Lord Jesus to our view. And let a daily sense of our nothingness, and creatureship, and unworthiness, endear our Lord, more and more to our apprehension; that we may behold Jesus, and Jesus alone, as the whole of salvation. Not tears, not prayers, not repentance, no, nor faith, as an act of ours. These are effects, not the cause. Neither anything wrought by us, or anything wrought in us; but Christ himself; and his own Personal, incommunicable work, the whole of salvation! Oh! for grace, daily, hourly to know, and as often to sing; the words of him of old: The Lord is my strengths and my song, and he is become my salvation!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany