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2 Corinthians 7

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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2 Corinthians 7:2-16


A Warning
(2 Corinthians 6:11-4)
Paul's Joy at the Church's RepentanceThe Corinthian's ResponsePaul's JoyPaul's Joy
2 Corinthians 7:2-42 Corinthians 7:2-122 Corinthians 7:2-42 Corinthians 7:2-42 Corinthians 7:2-4
Paul in Macedonia: He is Joined by Titus
2 Corinthians 7:5-13a 2 Corinthians 7:5-13a2 Corinthians 7:5-72 Corinthians 7:5-7
2 Corinthians 7:8-112 Corinthians 7:8-13a
The Joy of Titus 2 Corinthians 7:12-13a
2 Corinthians 7:13-16
2 Corinthians 7:13-16 2 Corinthians 7:13-162 Corinthians 7:13-162 Corinthians 7:13-16

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Titus' report so important to Paul?

2. Define the three different words for "sorrow" found in vs. 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 and relate their theological significance.

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 7:1 1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1 "having these promises" This is a Present active participle. Paul quoted the OT prophetic words from God as if they currently applied to the Corinthians (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:2). The OT is also quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, showing YHWH's continual desire to have a people who reflect His character. Paul is trying to motivate the Corinthian believers to live godly, separated lives. They have experienced "grace" (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1), now they must live in it. This verse is a call to Christlike holiness (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10).

"beloved" This phrase is used in Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 as a title for Jesus. Paul uses this same term to describe Jesus' followers (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:19; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Romans 12:19; Philippians 2:12; Philippians 4:1). This term speaks of God's established, loyal covenant love (Hebrew, hesed; Greek, agapç) for us in Christ, but here it speaks of Paul's love for this fractious, arrogant, disruptive church.

"let us cleanse ourselves" This is an aorist active subjunctive. The aorist tense is the way Koine Greek affirms an action. It can have many different implications (see D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed., pp. 68-73). Here it is a call for decisive action (i.e., hortatory subjunctive used as an imperative. The subjunctive mood gives an element of contingency. Believers must cooperate with God in salvation and then cooperate in maturity.

"of flesh and spirit" This speaks of our whole human being. Many people have disallowed this verse as being original because of Paul's technical use of these two terms in other contexts. However, 2 Corinthians 7:5, when linked with 2 Corinthians 2:13 (which is the beginning and end of Paul's extended parentheses), used these two terms synonymously. Paul often uses the same terms in different senses (read A Man in Christ by James S. Stewart, Harper and Row).

"perfecting holiness in the fear of God" This is a present active participle. It is theologically true that when we are saved, we are both instantaneously justified and sanctified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30, also see SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at 1 Corinthians 1:2). This speaks of our position in Christ. However, we are to live in light of our position. Therefore, we are urged to fulfill our calling by progressive sanctification or Christlikeness (cf. Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 4:1). This is an ongoing struggle (cf. Romans 7:0). As salvation is both a free gift and a costly commitment, so too, is sanctification. This same concept is true of believers being called saints (indicative) and then called to be saintly (imperative). I do not believe in the possibility of sinlessness in this life, but I do believe in the appropriateness of believers sinning less and less! This is the theological and practical tension caused by believers being in the Kingdom, but the Kingdom not being consummated (cf. Fee, Stewart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 131-134).

Verses 2-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 7:2-4 2Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. 3I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.

2 Corinthians 7:2 "Make room for us in your hearts" This paragraph picks up the thought of 2 Corinthians 6:13. It is an aorist active imperative, a decisive command, but with a continuing emphasis. Paul mentions this same idea in 2 Corinthians 6:13. He uses an antonym in 2 Corinthians 6:12 (i.e., restrain). Paul desires that they open themselves up to him as he has opened himself up to them.

The term "heart" in 2 Corinthians 6:11 is a way of referring to himself. Paul does the same thing with "flesh" in 2 Corinthians 7:5 and "spirit" in 2 Corinthians 7:13b. See fuller note at 2 Corinthians 7:5.

"we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one" These are all aorist active indicatives. "No one" is repeated and fronted in each phrase for emphasis. These relate to the actions of the false teachers or the charges made by Paul's critics against him and his ministry (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:17-18).

"corrupted" See Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 15:42.

2 Corinthians 7:3 "to die together and to live together" The Greek has, "I would die with you or continue to live with you." The first verb is an aorist active infinitive and the second is a present active infinitive. This may refer to 2 Corinthians 6:1. Paul desires a mature, functioning church in Corinth. If they follow his leadership and authority they will bear fruit, but if not, they will have come into existence in vain. It is also possible that this is a cultural idiom of devotion to the end.

2 Corinthians 7:4 "confidence" See Special Topic: Parrhçsia at 2 Corinthians 3:12.

"boasting" See full word study at 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 1:12.

"I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy" This seems to refer to Titus' report in 2 Corinthians 7:6-13a. Paul was very emotional about the spiritual status of his churches (cf. Galatians 4:19).

The term overflowing (i.e., huperperisseuomai, cf. Romans 5:20) is an intensified form of perisseuô. It and its related forms are used often by Paul in his letters to Corinth. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at 1 Corinthians 2:1.

1. perissos/perissoteros

a. exceedingly (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:23, 1 Corinthians 12:24; 1 Corinthians 15:10)

b. excessive (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 10:8)

c. superfluous (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:1)

2. perissoterôs, more abundantly (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:13, 2 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 12:15)

3. perisseuô

a. to abound (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 9:12)

b. abundantly gifted (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:12; 2 Corinthians 8:7)

c. to abound in performance (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58)

d. abound in food (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:8)

e. cause to be abundant (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 9:8)

4. perisseuma, superabundance (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:13, 2 Corinthians 8:14)

5. perisseia, superabundance (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 10:15)

"in all our affliction" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TRIBULATION at 2 Corinthians 1:4.

Verses 5-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 7:5-13a 5For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. 8For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it-for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while-9I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13aFor this reason we have been comforted.

2 Corinthians 7:5 "For even when we came into Macedonia" Paul resumes the account related to Titus' report which he started in 2 Corinthians 2:13. There has been a wonderful Pauline digression between 2 Corinthians 7:3 and 7:5, where he discusses the joys and sorrows of apostolic ministry.

"our flesh had no rest" Paul was worried sick over this church (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, both perfect active indicatives). It is helpful for me in the midst of my worry and doubts to know the great apostle to the Gentiles was also plagued with his doubts about the abiding results of his ministry (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1).

Paul uses the term "flesh" as a synonym for himself (see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:26). He does the same thing in connection to spirit in 2 Corinthians 7:13b (see parallel in 2 Corinthians 2:13, "rest in my spirit"), referring to Titus. The NT does not support a trichotomous view of mankind. Mankind is a unity (cf. Genesis 2:7). Paul expresses this multifaceted unity in several ways.

"but we were afflicted on every side" This is the present passive participle. This verse is a brief summary of the problems Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 1:4-10; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; and 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.

"conflicts without, fears within" Since the time of Chrysostom, this phrase has been interpreted as referring to problems with unbelievers and believers (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28). Paul worried about Satan's schemes (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

2 Corinthians 7:6 "But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us" What a wonderful title for God-"the One who continually comforts" (present active participle). See full note on comfort at 2 Corinthians 1:4-11.

2 Corinthians 7:7 Paul's prayers and letters had proven effective. The majority in the church had responded appropriately to his apostolic authority and gospel presentation. They had rejected the immoral and heretical teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-13a).

2 Corinthians 7:8

NASB"For though I caused you sorrow" NKJV, NRSV"for even if I made you sorry" TEV"for even if. . .made you sad" NJB"so now, though I did distress you"

This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true.

"by my letter" This seems to refer to the third letter by Paul to Corinth which is called by scholars "the severe letter" (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:3. 2 Corinthians 2:4. 2 Corinthians 2:9). This is one of the two lost letters unless chapters 10-13 are excerpts from it.

2 Corinthians 7:8-11 "sorrow. . .regret. . .repentance" There are three very significant Greek terms used in this passage to describe sorrow and repentance. The first term (i.e., lupeô) is the general term for "grief" or "distress." It is a theologically neutral term found twice in 2 Corinthians 7:8; three times in 2 Corinthians 7:9; twice in 2 Corinthians 7:10; and once in 2 Corinthians 7:11 (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 6:10).

The term regret (i.e., metamelomai), found twice in 2 Corinthians 7:8 and negated in 2 Corinthians 7:10, is a term that means "after care." This seems to mean sorrow over the consequences of past acts: Example: (1) those who did not truly repent in Jesus' parable, Matthew 21:29, Matthew 21:32; (2) Judas, Hebrews 12:16-17; and (3) Esau, Matthew 27:3.

The last term (i.e., metanoeia), found in 2 Corinthians 7:9 and 10, is extremely significant theologically. Literally, it means "after mind." It not only involves a change of attitude, but a change of action (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16; Acts 20:21). Examples of this type of repentance can be found in King David and the Apostle Peter.

Paul is referring to his "painful" letter, which he had written to the church in Corinth. He fully and truly expressed himself, but worried that the letter might cause overwhelming sorrow instead of a healthy repentance, which would result in a restored fellowship. They had forced Paul to act as a spiritual surgeon instead of a spiritual father. Paul addressed the inappropriate actions and attitudes and fully expected for them to respond appropriately. But, as a father disciplines his children in sorrow, Paul wrote in sorrow and feared the worst, that they would not respond in true repentance and that fellowship would not be restored and his work there would be in vain (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1).


2 Corinthians 7:9

NASB"for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God" NKJV"for you were made sorry in a godly manner" NRSV"for you felt a godly grief" TEV"that sadness was used by God" NJB"your distress was the kind that God approves"

Literally this is "for you were grieved according to God." You can see the different theological perspectives in the different translations. Does God use sorrow, pain, even evil, for His purposes? Some would quote Romans 8:28 and say "yes." Others would quote James 1:13, James 1:17 and say "no." Paul lists the problems and sufferings he faced as an Apostle. He lists the source of these in Ephesians 2:2-3 as Satan, the fallen world system, and mankind's fallen Adamic nature. God is willing to forgive, work with, and welcome sinful people. He uses evil for His purposes, but is not personally involved in it. Suffering and problems often produce a positive effect. In this context it produced repentance (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

"so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us" This is an aorist passive subjunctive. Notice there is an element of contingency. Paul wanted to be a blessing to this church and not a hindrance in any way. However, the church must receive Paul and his ministry.

2 Corinthians 7:10 "leading to salvation" Repentance is one of the necessary elements of salvation. Repentance was mentioned as a requirement by John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 3:2), Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:17), Peter (cf. Acts 2:38), and Paul (cf. Acts 26:20). Repentance is turning from sin and faith is turning to Christ; both are required (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21). I have come to believe there are several normative requirements for a mature salvation: repentance, faith, baptism, obedience, service, and perseverance. Christianity is a lifestyle relationship, not a set of hoops to jump through, yet eternal life does have observable characteristics!

The covenantal tension between a sovereign God and a mandated human response can also be seen in this area of theology because Acts 11:18 asserts that God gives repentance. Salvation can be seen biblically as all of God and yet also requiring a human response. This is the paradox of a free salvation and a cost-everything Christian life.

The NT concept of salvation is described as an initial act of faith followed by a growing faith relationship and to be culminated at the future coming of Christ. This text seems to imply a future consummation. See Special Topic: Greek Verb Tenses for Salvation at 1 Corinthians 3:15.

"but the sorrow of the world produces death" This sentence has the three key words that must be understood in their NT context.

1. "Sorrow." This verse contains all three Greek words for sorrow, regret, repentance. In this phrase sorrow is lupeô, which means grief. Humans are sorry for past actions, but for selfish reasons.

2. "The world." This is a reference to human society organized and functioning apart from God. This is fallen humanity!

3. "Death". The use of this term is possibly purposeful ambiguity. It refers to spiritual death (cf. Genesis 3:0) and physical death (cf. Genesis 5:0).

2 Corinthians 7:11 Godly sorrow (i.e., lupeô) produces spiritual results (i.e., true repentance, metanoeô and its fruit). The godly results are listed in verse 2 Corinthians 7:11.

"what avenging of wrong" The literal term is "vengeance," but it is used in the sense of meting out justice. There has been some divergence of opinion among scholars as to what exactly this verse is referring. Some assert that (1) it refers to 1 Corinthians 5:5, while others believe (2) it refers to the factions or false teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:12).

2 Corinthians 7:12 Verse 12 seems to be a Hebrew idiom of comparison, not a negative statement (cf. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 283).

Verse 13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 7:13-16 13bAnd besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.

2 Corinthians 7:13b "we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus because his spirit has been refreshed by you all" The church treated Titus well (i.e., he was refreshed, perfect passive indicative). Apparently Paul was worried about this because of the treatment that Timothy had received earlier.

Notice Paul is using "spirit" as a synonym of the person of Titus, not just an aspect (i.e., body, soul, spirit, cf. Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pp. 676-680). See full note on "spirit" at 2 Corinthians 4:13.

For "much more" see Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 2:7.

2 Corinthians 7:14 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purpose. Paul had boasted about the Corinthian church to Titus.

"boasted" See Special Topic: Boasting at 1 Corinthians 5:6.

"in truth" See Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 13:8.

2 Corinthians 7:15 "affection" This is literally the Greek word, splagchna. See the full note at 2 Corinthians 6:12.

"abounds" See Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 2:7.

"as he remembers the obedience of you all" This is a present middle participle (i.e., Moulton's Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 24) or a present passive participle (i.e., Friberg's Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 562). How churches treat God's ministers says something about them (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17).

2 Corinthians 7:16 This statement concludes this literary unit (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16) with a note of confident assurance.

confidence" See note at 2 Corinthians 5:6.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/2-corinthians-7.html. 2021.
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