Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 7

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 7:1. Having, therefore, these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. It is a pity that this verse has been detached from the preceding chapter, of which it forms the natural close; for the “promises” meant are no other than those in 2 Corinthians 7:16, and the exhortation here given is simply a more comprehensive form of the call to separate themselves from all contamination. In the preceding verses it was the contamination of too close an association with unholiness in others; here, it is to separate themselves from unholiness in themselves. First, from defilement of the flesh ("the lusts of the flesh"); next, “defilement of the spirit.” The apostle regards the whole nature as thoroughly defiled by sin; and classing himself and his Jewish fellow-converts along with the Gentiles, he says, “Among whom (‘the children of disobedience’) we all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind (or ‘thoughts’);” calling both kinds of desires alike “the lusts of the flesh” (Ephesians 2:3), or carnality. Also, in Galatians 5:19-21, in a long catalogue of the “works of the flesh” one-half of which are of so spiritual a nature, that if there be “defilement of spirit” at all, these must belong to it there, too, they are called “lusts of the flesh.” But whereas there, it is said, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts” (Galatians 5:24), in virtue of their union with Christ; here the exhortation is to continue doing this. And there is no inconsistency. In principle, it is done at once, when if “any man is in Christ, he is a new creature,” the death-blow being then given to the reigning power of sin in the heart; but this seed has to be gradually developed into universal holiness. Accordingly it is added, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (1 Peter 1:15-16).

What had been merely alluded to in chap. 2 Corinthians 2:12-14, is here explained in touching detail.

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 7:2. Open your hearts to us ( Gr. ‘ Make room for us,’ in your hearts), (see on 2 Corinthians 6:11-13); we wronged no man (when we were with you), we corrupted no man, we took advantage of no man referring to the cruel insinuations by which it was sought to poison the minds of his converts against him.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 7:3. [1] I say it not to condemn you ‘I charge none of you with having said this of me; but since it has been insinuated in some quarters, I must repel it as a cruel wrong; against yourselves I have nothing to say,’

[1] Here the apostle resumes the singular in speaking of himself (from chap. 2 Corinthians 2:13), and after this the singular and the plural alternate to the end of the chapter.

for I have said before (several times in effect, 2 Corinthians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 6:11-12), that ye are in our hearts (so Philippians 1:7) to die together and live together an expression of enduring affection, not unknown in classical writings (and see 1 Thessalonians 3:8).

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 7:4. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying on your behalf: I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our tribulations. Now follows the cause of this exuberance of feeling.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 7:5. For even when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no relief (see on chap. 2 Corinthians 2:12-13), but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings (from enemies), within were fears for his work, his converts, his reputation.

Verses 6-7

2 Corinthians 7:6. Nevertheless he that comforteth the bowed down, even God, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

2 Corinthians 7:7. and not by his coming only, but also by the comfort wherewith he was comforted in you bringing back such gladdening intelligence of your spiritual state, when he told us your longing to see me again, your mourning, your zeal for me in spite of malicious insinuation against me, so that I rejoiced yet more than at his mere return.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 7:8. For though I made you sorry with my former epistle, I do not regret it, though I did regret it a strong expression of the pain it gave him to write as he had done, insomuch that he was haunted ‘with the impression that he had expressed himself too strongly, which he was now glad to find was not the case: for I see that that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season.

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 7:9. Now I rejoice . . . that ye were made sorry unto repentance unto a complete change of mind about this case; the sorrow, though sharp, was short and it was salutary, for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing our treatment of you proved to be of God for your good.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 7:10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, a repentance bringing no regret. The two words here used mean quite different things, and the difference is so important that the same word should not have been used for both in the Authorised Version. The first word means that gracious change of mind which the English word “repentance expresses;” but the second word means only regret for something previously done, even though unaccompanied by any change of heart. Thus it is said of Judas, that when he saw that the Lord whom he had betrayed was condemned, he “ repented himself. . . went away, and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3; Matthew 27:5). But it is the second word here used, not the first, which is there employed. Although, therefore, one might like to retain the happy alliteration of our Authorised Version here, it could only be done by sacrificing a most important distinction in the sense; this, namely, that the “repentance unto salvation” which godly sorrow worketh is what no one will ever have cause to ‘ regret or be sorry for, ’ [1]

[1] The whole idea seems to have been suggested by the play upon the two Greek words which the preposition in composition suggested metanoian a-meta meleton (as Neander notes).

but the sorrow of the world worketh death mere regret for wrong done. Such remorse of conscience, however pungent which is all that “the world” reaches at its best has no subduing, chastening, saving effect, but on the contrary, has an embittering, corroding, consuming effect, “working death;” a death which being put in contrast with “salvation” as the fruit of genuine repentance, must mean (as Meyer rightly says) eternal death. In the case of many besides Judas, when the “sorrow of the world” works despair, existence is felt to be intolerable, and self-destruction sends them to “their own place” (Acts 1:25).

Now follow the features of that godly sorrow, the effect of which had been so remarkable, that the apostle was transported at the tidings he received of it

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 7:11. For . . . what earnest care in contrast with former indifference, yea, what clearing of yourselves from all real connivance at the deed, yea, what indignation against the deed, at length seen in its true light, and against yourselves for so long and so tamely enduring it, yea, what fear of his having to “come to them with a rod” (1 Corinthians 4:21),

yea, what longing for another visit, even though in severity, if necessary,

yea, what zeal in the cause of church purity, too long neglected,

yea, what avenging of the offence committed.

In every thing ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter not free of blame, but thoroughly in earnest, straightforward, and thoroughgoing in the case.

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 7:12. So then, although I wrote unto you, I wrote not for his cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong. Who this was has been much disputed. The only natural interpretation is, the father of the incestuous person supposed by most in that case to be still alive. But how in that case there could be a marriage at all, it is hard to see. On 1 Corinthians 5:1 we expressed the presumption that the father must have been dead; in which case the dishonour done to his memory may be what is here referred to. But if that be thought not natural, since no other than the father can well be meant, we shall have to suppose that the incestuous act was done in the father’s lifetime, which, of course, would place it in a more monstrous light,

but that your earnest care for us [1] might be made manifest unto you in the sight of God. All the principal authorities read thus. But since at first sight the sense seems rather to be “that our care for you” might appear, the reverse way of reading it has been substituted in our Authorised Version (doubtless from Beza, certainly on slight external authority). But the true reading, when narrowly looked at, will be found to suit the context best that he wrote in order that by executing the order which he gave them, trying and peremptory as it was, ‘their regard for his apostolic authority and himself too might be manifest to themselves before God.’ What follows seems to confirm this.

[1] So beyond doubt reads the true text.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 7:13. Therefore we were comforted: and in our comfort we joyed the more exceedingly for the joy of Titus, because his spirit hath been refreshed by you all (as already stated, 2 Corinthians 7:7). The exuberance of feeling here can be explained only by a combination of things the extraordinary hold that this church of Corinth had taken upon his interest and affections, as in all its circumstances the most wonderful fruit which his apostolic labours had ever produced insomuch that he had held them up “boastingly” to other churches; the deep disappointment which divisions and disorders among themselves had occasioned; the heart-breaking distress and alarm for them which the breaking forth of old sensualities, and the manifestations of incipient scepticism on such vital matters as the resurrection, had caused; the feverish anxiety with which he awaited the arrival of Titus, to know whether his sharp letter to them had been well or ill taken; and now, the fact that not only had the effect of his Epistle far exceeded his expectation, but that Titus himself had come to him brimful of the comfort he had had in them and the delightful fellowship he had enjoyed amongst them.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 7:14. For if in any thing I have gloried to him on your behalf, I was not put to shame ‘the event has justified to himself the high character I gave him of you.’

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 7:15. And his inward affection is more abundantly toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him ‘how, instead of receiving him with cold suspicion, with a haughty disposition to justify yourselves and resent his interference, ye received him with a trembling anxiety to yield implicit obedience to whatever might be deemed necessary to repair the injury that had been done.’ No wonder, then, that he adds, as a closing word,

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 7:16. I rejoice that in everything I am of good courage concerning you.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.