2 Corinthians 7:2-16
God Has Blessed You
I began reading a book called “Hero’s of the Reformation” this week to my boys. We’ve read about Peter Waldo in the early 1300’s and John Wycliffe in the late 1300’s. I do not know if you are aware of what incredible undeserved blessings and privileges we have. To be able to read God’s word is an undeserved blessing. To have God’s Word right here in our hands is an incredible underserved privileged. And to have it read and preached to us without fear of persecution is a rare and wonderful gift. Praise the Lord for His many gifts! I hope you are eager to hear from God and thankful that God has made even this provision for our souls.
Context of 2 Corinthians
The apostle Paul had made a painful visit to the church in Corinth (painful because sin had not been dealt with in the church in a Christ honoring way) and upon leaving that local church Paul had planned to return to it in order to continue helping them address this sin in a way that Christ would be honored and the church built up, but then Paul had decided not to come in person, but to write a letter instead. And the letter he wrote to the church in Corinth was a hard letter to those believers, calling for the church to disciple a man caught in sin.
Every true church is made up of sinners, but every true church is also made up of those who have acknowledged their sin, repented of it, and have been raised to spiritual life, have been given God’s own Spirit, have been set apart unto holiness, are led now by God’s own Spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the body and pursue holiness.
And so even as each one of us who remain in these bodies will continue to struggle with sinful inclinations, those do not define us, neither do they control or overpower us. True Christians, are those who have been born from above and are living stones in God’s temple. Christ’s people do not go on living in sin – we do not live in harmony with it. We do not continue to pursue or embrace sin. We are those who acknowledge it and who run to Christ and who rest in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, and turn from sin to serve the living God.
As Paul explained in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians the New Covenant in Christ, which is received by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, comes with justification (the declaration that we are righteous) and comes with the Spirit of God who brings with Him regeneration and indwelling, freedom and transformation. God actually takes up residence with us and is at work in us.
So, when Paul came into the Christian community in Corinth and he witnessed blatant sin being tolerated and going unchallenged, not dealt with as God requires, Paul was compelled by love (2 Cor 2:4) to speak into that body of believers and to write to them some words that were hard to hear. The entire community needed to repent for allowing this sin to go unopposed and they needed to take action, for the purity of their gospel witness, for the good of those who were sinning, but also, as Paul says in our passage, to prove that they, as a local community bearing the name of Christ were truly of Christ.
Read: 2 Corinthians 7:1-16
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 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 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. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
Context of 7:1
Last time we finished by looking at 7:1 –
“Since we have these promises (of being God’s people and God’s dwelling place, God’s temple) beloved, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear the God (in other words, let us live in harmony with who we are in Christ).”
Verse two, now, is an immediate application of this living in harmony with who we now are as God’s temple and God’s beloved children. And this section reveals to us how the body of Christ, the church, should be interacting with each other and dealing with sin in our midst.
Exposition of 7:2-16
Make room in your hearts for us.
Paul is calling the Corinthian believers to the love and unity that is produced by the gospel. Remember that there were some in Corinth calling Paul and his ministry into question, so Paul is speaking to the those on the fence, it seems. But, this is how we are to live together in Christ: with each other in our hearts! Do the people in this room have a secure place in your heart? Do they take priority in your affections and time? Make room for one another in your hearts.
We have wronged no one,
we have corrupted no one,
we have taken advantage of no one.
I do not say this to condemn you,
for I said before that you are in our hearts,
to die together and to live together.
Again to those on the fence, Paul claims that he has been behaving in an accord with the gospel; he has been an example of a living stone whose actions accord with Christ and His New Covenant. Namely, wronging no one, corrupting no one, taking advantage of no one.
But, Paul is quick to clarify that he is not pointing out his own right actions in order to condemn or reject or dismiss the rest of the body of Christ. On the contrary, he states the reality that in the body of Christ we are intimately and unchangeably united together in Christ. His brothers and sisters in Christ, are in his heart – he loves them and that is not going to change – we are together in dying and living (a phrase that should remind us of the death and resurrection of Jesus with whom we have all be united by faith).
Application: Do we have this kind of unwavering love for one another in this church? Do we have this kind of heart posture? Do we recognize like Paul the connection that Christ has created between us who are genuinely in Christ? To die together and to live forever together? We are not a social club; we are a spiritual house, united by faith in Christ.
I am acting with great boldness toward you;
I have great pride in you;
After clarifying that he is not condemning or rejecting them he continues explaining his behavior, which accords with the gospel. Namely, that he has been acting with great boldness toward them – boldness, meaning with great openness honesty, frankness, forthrightness.
Application: One of the fruits of the gospel that should be present in the life of church together is a being frank, open, and honest with one another. We are to speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15).
So often we are motivated by the desire to be liked by others and not cause waves and not offend and so we don’t speak the whole truth. Paul is speaking into a context where speaking with frankness about what he was convinced was right and wrong in the Corinthian church was to run the risk of being misunderstood, slandered, personally rejected, publicly dismissed, offending people, causing waves in the church, causing pain. And yet Paul was committed to behaving in a way that honored Christ in the church – no matter the personal cost.
But notice that right alongside Paul’s boldness toward the Corinthian church is ‘great pride in’ the Corinthian church. In other words, Paul is not speaking the truth like a wrecking ball hoping to condemn and destroy and demolish these people. He loves them – he and they are truly together in the most intimate and enduring of families. He has great pride in them – he glories in who they are. Remember again that this body of believers came to Christ through the means of Paul’s evangelistic efforts. They are the fruit, the increase that God gave as a result of Paul’s planting and watering the seeds of the gospel.
And undergirding this pride is a confidence that they have proven themselves to be truly of Christ (as we will see as we keep moving through this passage).
Application: Are we committed to the truth of God’s Word here? Are we willing to speak the truth of God’s Word into one another’s lives regardless of how popular it is, regardless of how popular or unpopular it makes us – not because we are seeking to condemn or destroy one another – on the contrary, because we love one another and are committed to one another’s good in Christ?
And do we have a kind of pride in one another – that you are my people, in whom I have invested Christ and in whom the Lord has been at work through my means and through whom the Lord has been at work in me through your means? The local church is to be a place where we unwaveringly speak the truth, even when painful, because we are devoted to one another – because we love one another – and long for each other’s progress and joy in the faith.
I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
Now what Paul is expressing here will become more plain as we keep moving through this passage, but let’s remember the context. Paul has visited and then written a hard letter to this church who had not been dealing with the sin in their midst. We will soon see, though, that after Paul wrote to them, he had received word that they had indeed responded in a Christ-honoring way to his hard words.
The comfort he says he is filled with is the comfort that comes from the knowledge that this beloved church is walking in the truth – that they have responded well to Paul’s words and received them as God’s truth. And so even as Paul is experiencing affliction in the world, on mission for Christ, persecuted, imprisoned, facing possible execution, yet because of the fruit of God’s Spirit in God’s people Paul is overflowing with joy.
Application: Does fruit and growth in your brothers and sisters in this local church overflow our hearts with joy? Is that what we are longing for in this world? Can we say with honesty, like John in 1 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Is our great concern in this short, vapor of a life to see the saints, particularly the saints of WBC, the people in this room have progress and joy in the faith? Are we zealous to see each one here flourish in believing and in godliness and holiness and to be learning of Christ and walking in a way that pleases Him and that strengths others? Is it our great comfort to hear about what God is doing in one another’s lives? What is our great desire in this life? Is our great desire the comfort of a pain free life, getting along with everyone or the is it comfort of knowing that our brothers and sisters are growing and persevering in Christ?
Now, how is it that Paul can have such confidence in the Corinthian church? Isn’t this the church that has been struggling with sin, divisions, and even from whom accusations against Paul had come? Why are they in his heart? Why doesn’t Paul reject and dismiss them as some in the church seem to have rejected and dismissed Paul?
Paul now explains what has given him such confidence and overflowing joy:
Verse 5 and 6
For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
So, Paul had come to Macedonia, eager to hear word from Titus, and in Macedonia, Paul was afflicted at every turn (ministry as usual). BUT GOD! God, who comforts the downcast, comforted Paul. God was at work.
So what was God’s work of comfort in Paul’s life? God comforted Paul by the coming of Titus, as he reports about the response of the Corinthian church. In other words, God comforted Paul being at work in and among the Corinthians believers. God was a work in them! And what was the evidence that God was a work among them? Titus had reported about their longing, their mourning, their zeal for Paul. And all this resulted in Paul rejoicing still more.
Application: Is it our great comfort and a source of still more joy when we see evidence of God’s grace at work in the lives and hearts of others in the church? Is that what delights us and comforts us as we ministry through difficulty?
In verse 8 Paul unpacks why he is overflowing with joy as he hears about the response of the Corinthians to his severe letter.
Verse 8 (and here we need to pay careful attention to the words Paul uses, because the english of the ESV is not overly helpful).
For even if I made you grieve (lype – sorrow, pain, grievousness) with my letter, I do not regret (metamellomai – repent, care afterwards) it—though I did regret (lype – grieve about) it (it’s not that Paul wishes he didn’t send it, but all the same it did pain him to send it), for I see that that letter grieved (lype) you, though only for a while.
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved (lype), but because you were grieved (lype) into repenting (metanoia- to change one’s mind). For you felt a godly grief (lype), so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief (lype) produces a repentance (metanoia) that leads to salvation without regret (lype), whereas worldly grief (lype) produces death.
So, Paul’s grief about sending the sever letter was real because he knew it would grieve those he cared for, the Corinthians. Paul did not enjoy what he knew he had to do. He had to confront the sin of his brothers and sisters who had allowed and tolerated sin in their midst. But because of love, Paul was constrained to say hard words to them. He had to tell them their fault clearly, with boldness/frankness and call them to repentance. And he does not regret doing it.
But he knew his true and needed words would cause the Corinthians grief/sorrow/pain. No one likes being told their wrong. But Paul says he does not regret his decision to write the words. His mind is as sure as ever that he did what was right and necessary – but it grieved him to have to do it.
So, after hearing from Titus about the church’s response to the letter he is filled with joy, he rejoices, not because they were grieved but because the grief led them to repentance and the result was that the Corinthian church suffered no loss though the grief of the sever letter.
And here is why:
Paul says, godly grief – that is people who are godly, god’s people, in whom the Spirit lives, who are led by the Spirit, they do grieve when confronted with their sin – it’s painful, but the grief of the godly produces repentance. Godly grief produces repentance, which leads to salvation without grief/sorrow.
Whereas, Paul says, worldly grief, that is those who are not god’s people, in whom the Spirit of God does not live, who are not led by the Spirit, they may be grieved by being shown their sin but they are not led to repentance and so they suffer much loss, their sin results in death.
Application: Do you see the vital connection between repentance and salvation. Last week we read Ephesians 5:3-6, which says,
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
The New Testament is very clear that Christians, that is those who are believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, are led by the Spirit of God and are sons of God – they are those who put to death the misdeeds of the body; they do not live in harmony with their sinful inclinations (Romans 8: 12-14).
And so repentance and the pursuit of holiness is an essential hallmark of a Christian.
So in Paul’s thinking it was of utmost importance that the Corinthians should respond to being confronted about their sin by repenting – because that response, the response of the godly, leads to salvation without regret, whereas if they had responded to Paul’s words of confrontation with hurt and grief but without repentance – continuing to allow sin to go on in their midst, that would be the response of the world and leads to death.
Application: I wonder if we have the same priorities that Paul had when we think about loving one another in this body. Do we put the same priority on holiness in the church that Paul did? Do we understand that repentance and the pursuit of holiness are essential marks of the Christian and the Christian community and that there is no salvation without them? When the grace of God visits a people and is at work in them there will be a humble sensitivity to God’s Word and humble repentance when sin is pointed out and there will be the pursuit of holiness.
As Paul describes in verse 11,
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.
Paul’s main concern here was not simply that individuals in the church get along, or that those who did wrong be punished or those that were wronged be repaid – no, his main concern was for the church as a whole to prove themselves truly in Christ. The questions on Paul’s heart were these: Is this a true church? Will they acknowledge there own faults and sins and repent and pursue what is right? Or will this congregation prove to be godless, of the world, Christians in name only? Paul wrote in order that their genuineness in Christ might be revealed by their response of submission, agreement, eager obedience to the apostles letter (that is what Paul means by “your eagerness for us…”).
And in this case, the Corinthians proved themselves genuine. A spiritual house.
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 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. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
Now, the applications of this seventh chapter of 2 Corinthians are many and I hope you spend some focused time today and this week asking yourself where God is speaking to you directly from this passage.
Perhaps you are being convicted that there is very little room in your heart for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are sitting in this room. Perhaps you are being convicted that you should be more eager and passionate about seeing fruit, progress, and joy in your brothers and sisters here and you recognize have not been investing in them with your gifts or with your words of gospel encouragement like you should.
Or perhaps you are being convicted that you have not seen the absolute necessity of holiness in your own life and in the life of the local church:
Perhaps you are being convicted that you yourself have been knowingly walking in harmony with sin, unwilling to repent, and you are seeing clearly, that you must repent, that believing upon the Lord Jesus for the cleansing and forgiveness of sin means you cannot any longer live in sin, but having been made alive, you must press on toward holiness.
Perhaps you are being convicted that you must go to a brother or sister who appears to be caught in sin, behaving in a way that does not accord with godliness. And in love, gentleness, and humility but also with frank honesty you know you must confront them and call them to repentance and a renewed embrace of Christ in the gospel.
I read a book this Friday called, Stop Dating the Church: fall in love with the family of God by Pastor Joshua Harris. I highly recommend it to you. It is an easy read, I started and finished it before lunchtime. In it Pastor Harris gives us some questions to ask in assessing the health of a church we are thinking about joining. One question he says we should ask is this, “Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?“
This is what Paul was wondering about the Corinthian church when he wrote his severe letter to them. Are they a true church – spiritual house, where Christ dwells? Are they willing to function and live in obedience to Christ and to love one another enough not to allow sin to take hold and not to allow the gospel be undermined? Church discipline is not ever pleasant – it is painful – and yet it is a hallmark of a true church – that we would love one another enough to hold one another to the truth of the gospel and the life that accords with it.
If we are the temple of the living God, our lives must reflect that. Not by being sinlessly perfect, but being marked by grief that produces repentance and the pursuit of holiness.
Are we that people?
Let us grieve when we are shown to be in sin, but not like the world. Let us grieve unto repentance which leads to salvation in Jesus Christ. And let us love one another well – lovingly working for each other’s progress and joy in the faith and that involves sometimes bold frank speech (not nasty, wrecking ball speech), bold, frank, loving speech, calling one another to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and pursue what is pleasing to the Lord.
The local church is not a club designed to be attended as long as it pleases us. It is the blood bought bride of Christ. These people around you are beloved of Christ, He purchased them with his own life, and they should be precious to you.
And if we will prove ourselves a genuine spiritual house
- …we will love one another and that love will sometimes look like boldness as we say hard words when sin is in the camp, and
- …we will grieve unto repentance when we are shown to have sinned,
- …we will overflow with joy and comfort when there is evidence that God is at work in our midst bring us to repentance and faith and the pursuit of holiness.