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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
2 Corinthians 7

 

 

Verses 2-16

SECTION 10. — PAUL IS FILLED WITH JOY BY GOOD NEWS ABOUT HIS READERS AND IS NOT NOW SORRY THAT HE WROTE TO THEM HIS FORMER LETTER. IN HIS JOY, TITUS SHARES. CH. 7:2-16

Make room for us. No one have we treated unjustly: no one have we damaged: no one have we treated with greed. I do not say it to condemn you. For I have before said that in our hearts you are, to die together and to live together. Much openness of speech have I towards you: much exultation have I on behalf of you. I am filled with my encouragement: I abound beyond measure with my joy amid all our affliction. For even when we had come to Macedonia no relief our flesh had, but we were in everything afflicted: without, battles; within, fears.

But He who encourages the lowly ones encouraged us, even God, by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged about you, while announcing to us your longing, your lamentation, your jealousy on my behalf so that I rejoiced the more. Because, if even I made you sorrowful by the letter, I do not regret it. If even I was regretting it. (For I see that that letter, if even for an hour, made you sorrowful.) Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful for repentance. For you were made sorrowful in a way pleasing to God, that in nothing you might receive loss from us. For the sorrow pleasing to God works repentance for salvation not to be regretted. But the sorrow of the world works out death. For see this very thing, being made sorrowful in a way pleasing to God, how much it wrought out for you of earnestness; nay, self-defence; nay, indignation, nay, fear; nay, longing; nay, jealousy; nay, vengeance. In everything you proved yourselves to be pure touching the matter. Therefore, if indeed I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of him who acted unjustly, nor for the sake of him who suffered injustice, but for the sake of your earnestness on our behalf being made manifest in your presence before God. For this cause I have been encouraged.

Moreover, in addition to our encouragement more abundantly did we rejoice the more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has received refreshment from you all. Because, if at all to him on your behalf I have boasted,* (*Or, Exulted, exultation: so to end of the Epistle.) I was not put to shame. But, as all things in truth we have spoken to you, so also our boasting* (*Or, Exulted, exultation: so to end of the Epistle.) before Titus was found to be truth. And his heart is more abundantly towards you, remembering the obedience of all of you, how with fear and trembling you welcomed him. I rejoice that in everything I am in good heart about you.

2 Corinthians 7:2-4. Make room for us: in your hearts. Paul here takes up 2 Corinthians 6:13, “Be you also enlarged.” This sudden return to the same subject, and the sudden and unexpected digression of 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1, suggest that he knew that the disaffection at Corinth was caused by sinful toleration of idolatry.

No one… no one… no one: emphatic repetition. These sudden and unexplained denials must have been prompted by charges against Paul. Some might think that by his strict moral teaching, which required abandonment of idolatry and of all unjust gains, he had inflicted loss on his readers.

Greed; refers perhaps, as it does in 2 Corinthians 12:17 f, to the collection for Jerusalem. Paul declares that while urging them to contribute he was not enriching himself. He denies any unfairness or loss to his readers, or gain to himself. And what he has before said (in 2 Corinthians 6:11-12) about his love to his readers proves that he does not say this to condemn them, i.e. to announce coming punishment for wrong doing. For this is never the ultimate aim of our words to those we love.

In our hearts you are: implied in the similar words in 2 Corinthians 6:11, “our heart is enlarged.”

To die together and live together: Paul’s purpose when giving them a place in his heart. It reveals the greatness of his love to them.

To die together: put first, as in Romans 8:38, because deadly peril was ever before both Paul and his readers. So great is his affection that he has cast in his lot with them, that they and he may stand side by side in face of death ever threatening them and him, and throughout life. Cp. Philippians 1:7.

Openness of speech: 2 Corinthians 3:12; shown in 2 Corinthians 6:11 to 2 Corinthians 7:3.

Boasting or exultation: see under Romans 2:17; 1 Corinthians 1:29. Here and in 2 Corinthians 7:14 it evidently found vent in words. Hence my rendering boast, continued throughout the Epistle. This is an apology for Paul’s bold language to his readers. To them he speaks without reserve strong words of warning: to others he speaks about them glowing words of joy and confidence, examples in 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 9:2. He thus prepares the way for a recognition of the improved state of the Corinthian church, with which he appropriately concludes his “Review of recent events.”

With my encouragement: explained in 2 Corinthians 7:6. It gave him abundant joy. That good news about his readers fills him to overflowing with encouragement and joy, a joy which all his affliction cannot quench, proves the intensity of his love.

Filled with encouragement and abound beyond measure with joy: a double climax.

2 Corinthians 7:5-7. Exposition of 2 Corinthians 7:4 b: 2 Corinthians 7:5 describes the “affliction”; 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 the “encouragement” and “joy.” Paul’s anxiety at Troas (2 Corinthians 2:13) continued even after arriving in Macedonia.

We: probably Paul and Timothy. See under 2 Corinthians 1:1. Contrast 2 Corinthians 2:12.

Our flesh; depicts the effect on their body, in virtue of its constitution, of their anxiety about the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 2:13 the same anxiety is looked upon as affecting Paul’s “spirit.”

Relief: cessation from “affliction,” 2 Thessalonians 1:7. It recalls 2 Corinthians 2:13.

Without, within; expound in everything.

Battles: with opponents in Macedonia unknown to us.

Fears: probably, as suggested by 2 Corinthians 7:6, about the Corinthian church and the effect of his letter. Cp. 2 Corinthians 2:4. The state of that church might well give him dark forebodings.

Encourages: as in Romans 1:12. See under Romans 12:1.

Lowly: in mind body, or estate: opposite to “exalted.” Paul gratefully remembers that God’s kindness to him was His usual treatment of all in similar circumstances. Amid outward perils and inward anxieties Paul received encouragement not only from the face and presence of a beloved helper but also from the encouragement which Titus had evidently received from the conduct of the Corinthians. For, that Titus, who shared Paul’s anxiety, was himself encouraged by what he saw at Corinth, was proof to Paul of improvement there.

While announcing: i.e. the joy of Titus became more intense as he narrated to Paul the effect of the first Epistle. A genuine trait of human nature.

Your, your, your: each time emphatic. The longing, the lamentation, the jealousy, had been Paul’s: now they were implanted in the breasts of the Corinthians.

Longing: to see Paul.

Lamentation: about their former misconduct, especially in tolerating the gross offender of 1 Corinthians 5:1 f.

Jealousy (or zeal: see under 1 Corinthians 12:31) for me: earnest defence of the apostle’s honor. Rejoiced, completes the exposition of the “joy” of 2 Corinthians 7:4.

No scene is more worthy of an artist’s skill than Titus, perhaps surrounded by sympathizing Philippians, narrating with a joy which increases while he narrates, the sorrow and earnestness of the Corinthian Christians, and by his own joy turning into joy the anxiety of the apostle. Well might this joy reveal to Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14) the grandeur, in spite of many hardships, of the gospel ministry. Notice that Paul attributes to God the joy he received through the coming and the joy of Titus; implying that the good done to us by others is an accomplishment of God’s purposes of mercy.

2 Corinthians 7:8-9. Cause of the special joy occasioned to Paul by the coming and the joy of Titus.

By the letter: specially by 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff. Cp. 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 2:4.

If I even was regretting; reveals Paul’s tender sympathy. He wrote the letter in tears, (2 Corinthians 2:4,) and regretted afterwards that he had written so severely.

For I see etc.] The intelligence which removed Paul’s regret shows that there was a temporary cause for it, viz. the sorrow occasioned to the Corinthians. “Although after writing the letter I was sorry that I had done so, (and I now see that in the sorrow I caused you I had reason for myself being sorry,) yet now I rejoice.”

Not that you were made sorrowful] So careful is Paul to show that his readers’ sorrow was not a matter of indifference to him. Not the immediate result, only the final result, of his letter gave joy to Paul.

Repentance: see under Romans 2:4. Their sorrow brought about in them a change of mind and purpose. This sorrow to repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:9 b explains, and shows it to be just cause of joy to Paul.

In a way pleasing to God: literally according to God. Same phrase in Romans 8:27. It represents God Himself as a standard with which something is compared. This sorrow brought about a change of mind for the better because it was such sorrow as, in unfaithful ones, God desires to see.

That in nothing etc.: God’s purpose in causing them this sorrow. Had their sorrow been without result, it would have been an injury, a small and undesigned one, caused to them by Paul. But God designed their sorrow to be a means of blessing, so that not even in the least degree they might receive injury from the Apostle.

Such was the cause of the joy occasioned to Paul by the coming of Titus. He found that he had not inflicted upon his readers the damage of needless sorrow. So deep was his sympathy for them that he had regretted his well-deserved rebuke to them, because of the sorrow he feared it would cause. In this fear, he sees that he was not mistaken. But, to his great joy, he sees that the sorrow he caused had done them good. Consequently, his affectionate regrets about his letter are now altogether past.

That Paul was sorry for having written words which all Christian churches put on a level with those ancient Scriptures which Paul himself accepted as the voice of God, proves how thoroughly human was the composition of the New Testament. It suggests perhaps that he was unconscious that the words he wrote were the words of the Spirit of God. But it by no means proves that they were not such. For his regret soon passed away. We are thankful now that the words which caused regret were written. And we are all sure that he wrote them under the influence of one who cannot regret or err.

2 Corinthians 7:10. A broad general principle, explaining the connection between “sorrowful” and “in nothing receive loss.” The sorrow which accords with God’s will is a sorrow for wrong doing, arising from an intelligent comprehension of the evil of sin and prompting a resolve to forsake sin. It thus works repentance. This is a necessary condition of salvation from sin and from death: and salvation will never be master of regret. Consequently, no one can regret, not even the tender heart of Paul, a sorrow which is in accordance with the will of God. And, by causing this sorrow to the Corinthians, he did them no injury. And God designed it to be so. All this is made more evident by the contrast in 2 Corinthians 7:10 b.

The world: as in 1 Corinthians 2:12.

The sorrow: with which unsaved men are sad.

Death: in its fullest sense, i.e. of body and soul in Gehenna. All mere worldly sorrow tends to deaden spiritual sensibility, and to make us impervious to the divine influences which alone save from death. Such would have been the effect of Paul’ s letter had it produced only worldly vexation. And such was the effect of the sorrow of Cain: Genesis 4:5.

2 Corinthians 7:11. Proof that godly sorrow works repentance; overleaping 2 Corinthians 7:10 b, which was added only to bring out by contrast the force of 2 Corinthians 7:10 a.

This very thing: their own sorrow was a case in point.

Earnestness: explained and proved by the six particulars following.

Nay… nay; again and again breaks off the foregoing as not being a full statement of the case. No sooner did they hear Paul’s charge (1 Corinthians 5:2) against the whole church than in self-defence they repelled it; and with indignation, i.e.: with intense disapproval. This was accompanied by fear of the angry parent (1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21) who threatened to come with a rod, mixed with longing to see the beloved teacher whom they had grieved so much. They were filled with jealousy for the honor of their church, and with vengeance, i.e. a resolve (cp. Romans 12:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:8) to inflict punishment on the wrong doer. This last word gives the chief thought which Paul’s letter left in the mind of those who heard it read in the church at Corinth.

Pure in the matter: not implicated in the sin which one of them had committed.

In everything pure; does not imply that the general rebuke of 1 Corinthians 5:2 was not deserved. Paul is now convinced that the church members generally had not in any way sanctioned the crime. But we have no proof that they were plunged into sorrow by it: nor did they at once remove the offender from their midst. And this would be sufficient proof of the low spiritual state of the church.

2 Corinthians 7:12. Inference touching the purpose of Paul’s letter, which his readers may fairly draw from its just described effect.

Him who suffered injustice: a definite and known person, evidently the stepmother’s husband, and probably the culprit’s own father, still living, and therefore injured by this incestuous marriage. The woman was probably a heathen. See under 1 Corinthians 5:1. And, that her husband was such, is the easier supposition. For this would explain Paul’s silence about him elsewhere, and the comparative indifference expressed here; and the church’s oversight of the offence. A church-member would probably have compelled the church-officers to take action.

Among you: almost the same as to you. Paul wishes that in the church at Corinth, and therefore to the church-members, the earnestness of the whole church on his behalf should be made manifest; in other words he wishes them to become conscious of their loyalty to himself. And this wish prompted him to write; not a desire to inflict punishment, or even to do justice to the injured man. For it was not the apostle’s work to set right all wrongs.

Before God; adds solemnity to Paul’s purpose by pointing to God contemplating, and interested in, the conduct of the church. The word made-manifest suggests that Paul knew that underneath apparent disaffection lay real loyalty to himself. The purposes mentioned here and in 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 2:7 are in complete harmony. Paul wrote in tears: for he knew that his letter would inflict pain. He wrote to arouse the dormant loyalty which he knew existed; that he might put to the proof their full obedience; and that thus by doing them good he might make known to them his great love for them. And, that this was the purpose of his letter, they might infer from its effect.

2 Corinthians 7:13 a. Corresponds with I rejoiced, 2 Corinthians 7:7; marking the completion of the exposition, begun in 2 Corinthians 7:8, of “your jealousy on my behalf,” 2 Corinthians 7:7. Because the purpose of his letter was that just described, the news brought by Titus filled Paul with encouragement: for it showed that his purpose was attained, and that the sorrow which he foresaw his letter would cause had produced its designed good effect.

2 Corinthians 7:13-16. Another joy, in addition to the encouragement just described. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 7:7, we have joy upon joy.

Because his spirit etc.: cause of the joy of Titus, viz. that without exception the Corinthian Christians were to him, in his intercourse with them, a source of spiritual refreshment. Cp. 1 Corinthians 16:18. [The perfect tenses note the abiding effect of the encouragement and of the refreshment, and the abiding position as a responsible witness in which Paul’s boasting about the Corinthians had placed him.] 2 Corinthians 7:14 gives a reason why the joy caused to Titus by his intercourse with the Corinthians was a special encouragement to Paul.

If at all… I have boasted: a delicate compliment to the Corinthians, viz. an intimation that he had expressed to Titus his joyful confidence in them. He is delighted to find that his expressed confidence was justified by what Titus himself saw. Otherwise, Paul’s good opinion about them would have put him to shame. Cp. 2 Corinthians 9:2-4. 2 Corinthians 7:14 b states, in contrast to put to shame, what actually happened, with a reason why Paul was specially glad that his boasting about his readers had proved to be true. As herald of Him who is The Truth, he made it a point of honor to speak always exact truth; that thus by claiming respect for his own word he might claim respect for the Gospel he announced. In this he is a pattern to all Christian teachers. Conversely, in 2 Corinthians 1:18 f he appeals to the Gospel he preaches in proof of his own general truthfulness.

Was found to be true: literally, became true; or, colloquially, turned out true.

Heart: as in 2 Corinthians 6:12. As Christians, Titus loves them. But his intercourse with them called forth a more abundant affection.

Remembering; reveals the abiding, and therefore deep, effect upon his mind.

All of you: emphatic, laying stress on the universality of their submission. Cp. 2 Corinthians 7:13.

Obedience: to the apostle’s words brought by Titus.

How with fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3; Ephesians 6:5; Philippians 2:12) etc.; expounds obedience. It reveals the deep mark which Paul had made in his readers’ minds.

Welcomed him: respectfully and readily, as armed with Paul’s authority.

2 Corinthians 7:16 is the happy conclusion of DIV. I. In every point Paul has good hopes about them: and this gives him joy.

SECTION 10 brings to light Paul’s feelings while writing the first Epistle, and its effect on the church at Corinth. He wrote it with bruised heart and with tears; moved, not by a wish to punish the chief offender or even to vindicate the injured man, but by a desire to put to the test, and thus manifest to himself and to them, the loyalty which he knew underlay his readers’ apparent callousness. He was moved to write by his love to them; which he hoped to make better understood by them even through this stern reproof.

So great was his reluctance to cause them pain that he afterwards regretted his well-intended letter. For the purity of his motive did not save him from anxiety about its effect. And he waited eagerly for the return of Titus, with tidings from Corinth. Not finding him at Troas Paul gave up the good opening for the Gospel there presented, and hasted to Macedonia; but only to be plunged into deeper anxiety by not finding Titus even there. At last he came; and with more pleasant news. The letter has produced its designed effect. It has moved the heart of the Corinthian Christians. They were eager to clear themselves from the charge of intentional complicity in the crime, were alarmed at their toleration of it, longed to see their offended father in Christ, and were determined, for the honor of their church, to punish at once the guilty member. Such was the outflow of spiritual life that it touched and refreshed the heart of Titus. And his mission to Corinth laid the foundation of a lasting friendship. With gushing joy Titus narrates all this to Paul.

The joy of Titus, and the improvement at Corinth, of which it was a witness, filled the apostle with joy. The many perils which still surround him, and of which at times he is so deeply conscious, are for the moment forgotten. For, his anxious fears about the success of his labors in the important city of Corinth are dispelled.

REVIEW OF DIVISION I. Already we have seen that of DIV. I. as of the whole Epistle Paul’s famous exposition and defence, in 2 Corinthians 2:14 to 2 Corinthians 6:11, of the apostolic ministry is the central and chief part. And we have just seen that the framework in which this exposition is embedded tells us its specific occasion.

DIV. I. begins with an outburst of praise to God, and ends with abundant joy. But the praise was prompted by the apostle’s hardships and perils, in a consciousness that these were a means of good to his readers. In view of a wonderful deliverance from death, he expresses hope for continued deliverance, a hope strengthened by an assurance that his readers pray for him. This assurance rests upon his consciousness of having lived unblameably among them. Having thus claimed their confidence, he repels, as unworthy of a herald of the Gospel, a charge of vacillation in postponing his visit to Corinth. His real motive was kindness. This recalls to him the tears amid which he wrote his former letter. He begs them to receive again the church-member, now repentant, whom in that letter he so severely condemned. He claims their affection still further by saying that his anxiety for them moved him to abandon a favorable opportunity for Christian work at Troas, and drove him in haste to Macedonia.

A review, from this point, of his toils, hardships, and perils, reveals to him the grandeur of his apostolic work, elicits a shout of praise to God, and moves him to set forth at length the credentials and the surpassing greatness of his office, and to show that this greatness is consistent with the fact that many reject the Gospel he unreservedly proclaims and with the deadly perils amid which he proclaims it. These perils are designed to make known the power of God, who rescues him from them. And they cannot deter the apostles: for with the eye of faith they look forward to the resurrection of the dead, to an immediate entrance at death into the presence of Christ, and to the reward of the great day. Their devotion to Christ’s great work is prompted by Christ’s great love, and by their own commission from God. With this commission their entire conduct accords.

Supported by this exposition of the principles of his life, Paul claims his readers’ affection. And, remembering the secret source of the disaffection at Corinth, he warns them to shake off all connection with idolatry and sin.

He indignantly repels the charge that he has treated them with injustice and rapacity. And, to strengthen his appeal, he says that to others he speaks confidently in their favor; and that he is now filled with joy by the good news about them which Titus has brought. He rejoices the more because he now sees that his letter to them, which he afterwards regretted, has gained its purpose. The sorrow which he foresaw it would cause has done them good. He is overjoyed to find that their conduct has filled Titus with warm love to them. And he concludes his long defence of himself and his office by a joyful expression of complete confidence in his readers.

Notice that throughout DIV. I., when speaking of the grandeur and the perils of his work and of his faithfulness therein, Paul says we, us, remembering that all this is shared by Timothy who joins him in the letter, and by others. But when (2 Corinthians 2:3-11) speaking of his former letter, in which Timothy had no share, or (2 Corinthians 1:15 to 2 Corinthians 2:2) of the specific charge against himself of vacillation in his purpose to come to Corinth, he says, I, me. About his journey to Macedonia, he says first (2 Corinthians 2:12 f) I, me, thinking only of his own deep anxiety; and afterwards (2 Corinthians 7:5) we came, remembering that he was accompanied by others, and probably by Timothy. Throughout the whole, when speaking of blame, he prefers to stand alone: when speaking of perils and of faithfulness, he associates others with himself.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/2-corinthians-7.html. 1877-90.

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Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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