2 Corinthians 7:13-16 ESV
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
In his first letter the apostle John makes one of the great statements about God: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Through all eternity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit live in a community of love. Jesus testified to this matchless experience (Jn 17:24).
We must clearly understand that we are to reflect God’s character of love as his people. We, the temple of the living God, are also to be a community of love. This is not a small matter! We must glorify God by displaying love for one another in verbal and tangible ways. Yet American Christians have been rather careless, perhaps even defiant against this part of the believer’s way of life. Too often we have heard the objections like “I just don’t like him/her” or “we have nothing in common” or “they rub me the wrong way” or “I don’t have time”.
Such talk has no place in the church of the living God! We are members together of Christ’s body, and so we must esteem one another highly in love. The apostle Paul lived in love, and he wrote about loving one another many times. In this section he models love to his dear friends in Corinth to lead them on to a greater conformity to Jesus Christ.
This section provides a transition to the next topic. It reaffirms the apostle’s regard and affection for them before he talks about what they ought to do as Christ’s dearly loved people.
Four evidences about the practice of love
I. The experience of joy in regard to the joy of another (7:13b)
A. Paul found joy in Titus’ joy from the reception the Corinthians gave him.
1. As we have seen in earlier parts of the letter, there were some tense situations that Titus had to handle as Paul’s coworker. They were undoubtedly concerned if there would be a godly outcome in the visit Titus made to them.
2. When Titus visited them, they demonstrated godly sorrow that produced the repentance mentioned in the previous verses (7:8-13a).
B. Their repentance brought joy to Titus.
1. It refreshed him or put him at rest. (The word means both and it is unnecessary to draw too fine a distinction in this context.) Any anxieties were gone when he saw the evidence of their change of mind.
2. When Christians act according to the gospel, we refresh each other’s spirits, because true believers rejoice when other people walk in the truth (3 Jn 1:4). This is the way of refreshing others: live a gospel-formed life. Be the kind of person that shows they are crucified with Christ and risen with Christ. Look unto Jesus (Heb 12:1-2).
II. The experience of boldness about the character of others (7:14)
A. Before Titus had gone to Corinth, Paul had boasted about them.
1. This boasting reveals his certainty about the work of God’s grace in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 1:1-9). Usually when Christians think about the Corinthian believers, they think of a people with problems, problems, and more problems. Paul knew about their problems, but their struggles with sin were not the basic matter that formed his opinion about them. Paul first looked at them as in Christ Jesus. When people profess faith in the Lord Jesus, their position in him must form the way they look at him. The exception to this would be if they refused to obey the Lord after repeated warnings (Mt 18:15-20).
2. Such certainty leads us to speak confidently about one another. Many Christians in our culture have gone through severe disappointments with other Christians. As sad as this is, it has produced a knee-jerk negative outlook about other believers. It seems the first reaction is to expect the worst about those who we claim are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This must change, and since we’re considering this text together, we are in a good position to start the change.
Years ago I used to clean up when construction was completed on a new home. One thing was obvious; you can never clean up anyplace by simply talking about the mess. You have to act to clean up the mess. So then, we clean up our attitudes about other believers by having confidence that they will act like those who are in Christ. Paul had this in the Corinthians, he boasted about them to Titus, and guess what happened? They acted like followers of Christ!
B. Paul lists two pleasant outcomes.
1. His opinion about them proved to be correct. His dear friends had not embarrassed him.
2. He is able to commend them for demonstrating the truthfulness of his words. Everything he had told them was true. (Remember how some had questioned his integrity about his travel plans, 1:12-2:4?) And everything he said about them was also true. The apostle will pick up on this idea to urge them on regarding the gift in the next section.
III. The experience of testifying to the obedience of others (7:15)
A. Their positive reception of Titus made him love them more.
1. He had come to have strong, loving feelings about them.
2. This is traced back to their obedient actions. Talk about being a Christian is cheap, especially in our culture. But Titus could see that they were disciples, because not only had they been taught to obey everything the Lord commanded (Mt 28:20), but they were actually obedient according to the gospel.
B. The key was in the way they received him—“with fear and trembling”
1. We ought to read this expression in light of its background in the OTS. It “describes the human reaction to God’s power in protecting his people (Ex 15:16; Deut 2:25; 11:25; Is 19:16) or the appropriate human attitude before the divine majesty” (Harris).
2. Paul uses this expression in three other places (1 Cor 2:3; Eph 6:5; Ph 2:12). It speaks of proper reverence and awe in the presence of God, of the right attitude to have before the Lord in what he calls us to do. This is what Titus saw in the believing and obeying response of the Corinthians.
Point: We need to reference all our actions toward God. When we see other believers acting in reverence for the Lord, we ought to be ready to commend them.
IV. The experience of reaffirmation of confidence in others (7:16)
A. Their positive response to Titus provided a base for the next steps that they needed to take. He knows that he can have full confidence in them in the other matters in which they will need to obey the Lord.
1. The completion of the collection
2. Elimination of the influence of false teachers among them
3. Growth in matters of sexual holiness
B. He is happy to reaffirm his joy in them. I will gladly say this again: We must tell other believers with words our joy in them. We must join together in affirming our love for one another.
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.