Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 7:11-13 ESV
For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.  So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.  Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
For a long time, Christianity in America has struggled with a quest for spiritual perfection that goes far beyond the reality presented in the Bible. Too many taught and acted like they were perfect or that perfection could be achieved in this life. This forced many to put on a masquerade about their spiritual condition, acting like they were perfect. This is one factor in the world calling Christians hypocrites. As bad as that situation has been, the spiritual masquerade has deeply discouraged others, who in trying to be real before God, knew that they struggled hard with sin, and failed many times. And so they gave up or fell into hypocrisy like the rest. But the true Christian way of life is a battle; it is a war! And we sin too many times. However, we need to know that the Lord welcomes us back. A passage like the one before us ought to encourage us to pursue repentance and its good fruit.
Connection with previous messages: Paul has told the Corinthians about his joy when he received good news from his coworker Titus about their repentance. Now he reaffirms their godly response to the painful letter that he had sent. He is glad to talk about the godly fruit that their repentance or change of mind produced in their way of life.
I. The positive fruit in the response of the Corinthians
A. A review of the process that produced their repentance
1. They had a godly sorrow for their sin. The living God and pleasing him was in their minds when they heard what Paul had written.
2. This godly sorrow brought about repentance or a change of mind or outlook about their previous conduct. They turned back to God’s ways in their thoughts.
Comment: This is what occurs in true conversion. It also continues to happen in the lives of true believers. When confronted with God’s word, we have godly sorrow and change our minds about what we been doing, and we trust in the Lord Jesus and his blood for forgiveness of our sins.
B. The seven-fold fruit of their repentance – A true, godly change of mind produces fruit or actions consistent with the new godly outlook.
1. Earnestness – They wanted to quickly make a change. Reluctant repentance is unlikely to be real repentance.
2. Eagerness to clear yourselves – They were ready to act in such a way that showed they were no longer worthy of blame, and they did so.
3. Indignation – They were probably angry at what the offender had done and at themselves for tolerating such conduct. Repentance is hostile against sin.
4. Alarm – Better translated as “fear”, meaning fear of the Lord and of being in the sinful condition the whole matter had produced. Godly people grieve about committing sin, since we know how damaging it is.
5. Longing – Probably refers to their longing to be in a right relationship with Paul and/or Timothy again, instead of their former coldness to him. True repentance leads to better relationships with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
6. Concern – Better translated as “zeal”, meaning enthusiasm and energy to do what was right in the situation. They were no longer apathetic. When we start acting godly, we know we have truly changed our minds.
7. Readiness to see justice done – They were determined to discipline the wrongdoer, as they did (2:6), and they were not lukewarm in doing so, as Paul’s previous counsel to restore the person shows (2:5-11).
Comment: Notice Paul’s summary evaluation: “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” After their repentance, they became pure or innocent from any blame. This is a great encouragement to repent.
Point: These seven in combination show a thorough repentance on their part. They provide a model to which we ought to compare ourselves when we repent.
II. An explanation of important results of their repentance.
This might seem anticlimactic in a theological sense, until we realize that relationships between people are very important to the Lord. Paul didn’t pursue his own peace in this matter. Nor did he seek to inflict punishment on someone who had caused harm. His concern was the ultimate good of the whole church.
Comment: Clearly, correct teaching is important. We are far from wanting to toss doctrine aside. However, we must never toss love aside with a supposed passion for the truth. Love is also essential (Rm 12; 1 Cor 13).
A. For them – Paul tells them that he did not write out of a primary concern for the one who caused the problem or even those injured (a discreet way of referring to Timothy and himself). Paul had larger issues in view. Every Christian needs to evaluate personal matters within the greater context of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ
1. Now they can see how devoted to Paul they really are. This might seem egotistical on Paul’s part, unless we keep this in the context of how Paul has been writing to them. He writes as Christ’s apostle and minister of the new covenant. If they had rejected Paul, they were in fact rejecting Christ and the gospel. The latter part of the letter will make this point clear (2 Cor 10-11), if it is not understood already.
2. Observe also the importance of life in God’s presence. We ought to keep in our minds that we, as God’s living temple, are in his presence. The Holy Spirit lives in us!
Apply: Our lives with each other are lived in the presence of God. He knows what is happening between his people. This is why we must esteem one another highly in love, why we must build up one another in love, why we must serve one another in love.
B. For Paul and his coworkers
1. He restates his joy in other words (cf. 7:7).
We are too quick to move on from expressing our joy in one another—as we do most relationship matters much too fast! For example, it might be all right to want to get in and out of the store quickly, but not at the expense of brushing someone off in our hurry. People matter. We must invest time in telling them that they matter.
2. Encouragement that comes from a repentant way of life is a great gift that we can give to each other.
Apply: Paul’s actions in this matter provide a paradigm or model for us to follow in our relationships with other believers. He did not give up on the Corinthians after disappointing behavior on their part. Believers will disappoint and/or hurt each other from time to time. We are not in heaven yet! May the Lord give us grace to reach out to one another in love and to grow together as he directs us in his word!
Apply: Is there a relationship that you need to restore? Ask the Lord for grace to seek it!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]