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2Corinthians 7 (web)

Separation and Intimacy 
in the Christian Community

Separation from Sources of Sin

7:1 Having therefore these promises, beloved,
let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit,
perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Urging Intimacy

7:2 Open your hearts to us. 7:3 I say this not to condemn you, for I have said before,
that you are in our hearts to die together and live together.


Encouraging Confidence

7:4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you.
Great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort.
I overflow with joy in all our affliction.
7:5 For even when we had come into Macedonia, our flesh had no relief,
but we were afflicted on every side. Fightings were outside. Fear was inside.
7:6 Nevertheless, he who comforts the lowly, God, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
7:7 and not by his coming only, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you,
while he told us of your longing, your mourning, and your zeal for me;
so that I rejoiced still more.

Encouraged by Repentance

7:8 For though I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it, though I did regret it.
For I see that my letter made you sorry, though just for a while.
7:9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to repentance.
For you were made sorry in a godly way, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing.
7:10 For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret.
But the sorrow of the world works death.
7:11 For behold, this same thing, that you were made sorry in a godly way,
what earnest care it worked in you. Yes, what defense, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, and vengeance!
In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be pure in the matter.
7:12 So although I wrote to you, I wrote not for his cause that did the wrong,
nor for his cause that suffered the wrong,
but that your earnest care for us might be revealed in you in the sight of God.

Encouraged by Others Being Encouraged

7:13 Therefore we have been comforted.
In our comfort we rejoiced the more exceedingly for the joy of Titus,
because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
7:14 For if in anything I have boasted to him on your behalf, I was not disappointed.
But as we spoke all things to you in truth,
so our glorying also which I made before Titus was found to be truth.
7:15 His affection is more abundantly toward you,
while he remembers all of your obedience, how with fear and trembling you received him.
7:16 I rejoice that in everything I am of good courage concerning you.

Discussion Questions

vs 1 What promises is he referring to?
What kinds of things contaminate the body and what kinds of things the spirit?
vs 2-3 What attitudes are necessary to develop intimacy with God and God's people?
vs 4-7 Have you ever experienced an emotional connection with other Christians of the  degree to which Paul had towards the Corinthians? If not, why not?
vs 8-12  How did Paul show the Christians that he cared for them?
Under what conditions is it best for the sake of developing maturity to make other Christians feel bad?
What is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow?
vs 13-16 What characteristics of the Corithinthians most encouraged Titus?


Purify Yourself

2Cor 7:1
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

The promises he's referring to are mentioned at the end of chapter 6, namely,

(Lev 26:12)  "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
(Is 52:11)"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."
(Hos 1:10) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

While the quotes from Lev and Hos are unconditional, what are we to make of the quote from Isaiah 52? Is this teaching salvation by works? Well if we go back to chapter 6 and review Paul's thinking that led up to sharing these verses we notice that he's not alluding to salvation. For example in 2Cor 6:14,15 the reason he gives as to why believers should not be yoked with unbelievers is not in order to be saved. For he views the Corinthians as already saved. But rather his argument is that it's simply not appropriate behavior Yet he speaks of the Corinthinas along with himself as being the temple of God. "For we are the temple of the living God" 2Cor 6:16b. It's not that the saints purify themselves in order to be saved, but rather having been saved, the saints purify themselves, as that is the appropriate thing to do given our reconciled relationship with God and given that we are the temple of the living God.

This is important. For the gospel gives us significantly different motivation than those under the Law. Those under the Law purify themselves in order to attain a righteous status. But those under the grace given us through faith in the gospel are given a righteous status as a gift from God, and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit affects our attitude and behavior. It's not that the saints need to purify themselves, but rather that the saints do purifying themselves because it's the right thing to do.

Exploit No One

2Cor 7:2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. That is Paul is not arguing that they should take him and his team to heart simply because of their status as messengers of the gospel, and people should not be gullible about whom they take to heart. For cults demand allegiance without discernment, without scrutiny.

Paul hadn't sinned against them, or past one corrupt teachings, nor exploited them by asking for money. In contrast there were other teachers around among whom Peter characterizes, "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." 2Peter 2:3 Though it's difficult for most preachers today to make a similar appeal to appear convincing. But Paul could say, "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." 2Cor 2:17 Getting paid for ministry calls into question one's motivation, even despite the purity of one's doctrine.

Bottom line is that if we expect people to make room for us in heart we must earn that right by proving our pure doctrine through pure behavior and pure motivation by demanding nothing in return for our services.

Till Death Do Us Part

2Cor 7:3,4  I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Rare indeed are spiritual leaders today who could honestly say they would live or die with those they're leading. Ministers must beware of depersonalizing ministry. One's allegiance and heart should not be devoted to the institution. That is not the "church". The institution is merely a tool. The church is composed of the individual Christians who have gathered together.

Furthermore notice that Paul doesn't treat the brethren as a bunch of stupid sheep incapable of doing anything but sitting quietly and listening to him preach. Rather they were actively involved, and not only so but at this time Paul avoided even visiting them so that he would not appear to be micro-managing them. He trusts them to do the right thing.  "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." 2Cor 7:16 But not only so, for he also keeps aware of their activities.

So there are two extremes to avoid here. One is micro-management in which no freedom or trust is given. The other is apathy in which the minister takes no interest in the actual life of the believers.

Ministry Feelings

2Cor 7:5-7 For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn— conflicts on the outside, fears 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 you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

As noted earlier Paul was worried about the Corinthian church and for good reason, given what was written in 1Corinthians. In fact he was so bothered that he left a ministry opportuntity to seek for news of the Corinthians from Titus. "Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia." 2Cor 2:12,13

Again we note the ministry isn't all about doctrine. It should impact one's emotional state, and not just positively. If fellow Christians are not doing well we should feel bad. Notice also that one's emotional state should be affected by others, just like that of a parent to their children's life, but also Paul expresses his emotions. This indeed is a lesson not only to ministers but also to parents who reserve the expression of their emotions unduly.

Now granted that it says, "A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart." Pr 18:2, and there are those who make ministry solely about one's emotions or one's subjective opinions, yet there should be some expression of one's heart.

A Sorrow that Leads to Repentance

2Cor 7:8,9 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it— I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.

Now there's a phrase you'll seldom find used today in this feel society society, "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it." In Christian ministry it's sometimes the right thing to do to write letters which cause people feel sorrow, making people feel hurt. Hurting people is part of Christian ministry as much as a it is necessary for a surgeon to cut open a patient with a knife.

Sometimes God intends for us to be sorrowful or calls us to make other people sorrowful. It's part of the ministry. Jesus made some people feel so hurt, so humiliate that they crucified him. But how joyful when sorrow leads one to repentance.

2Cor 7:10,11 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Sorrow itself is not necessarly beneficial.  Worldly sorrows kills. Consider the seed among the thorns. The worries in life, apart from faith, can crush, cause bitterness and lead to further sin. But notice the effect of godly sorrow. An urgency to repent accompanies godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow only leads to regrets and not repentance. Those of a worldly sorrow simply regret the consequences of their sin, which is not the same as repenting from sin. But godly sorrow actually leads to one being ready to see justice done. Remember the thief on the cross, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Luke 23:41 That man went with Jesus to Paradise that very day. Rather than harm the person godly sorrow brings life.

So the next time someone makes you feel bad, consider how you might benefit from that.

A Tested Devotion

2Cor 7:12 So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.

Certainly not to say that he was not concerned about the one who did the wrong or the injured party, but rather that his primary motive was to test them - to see what kind of spirit they had as a church - one of compliance or rebelliousness. Remember earlier in chapter 2 he wrote of this same incident saying, "The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything." 2Cor 2:9 

But here in particular he wanted to show them their obedience. That is, there are times where we need to be convinced of our own convictions. Ever ask yourself as to whether you really believe? How do you know whether you really believe, or whether you convictions are merely wishful thinking. The distinction is found in one's reaction to stressful circumstances, things that would challenge one's faith. Obedience in the midst of opposition, whether it be the opposition of the flesh to possible humilation, sorrow, or stress, or that of the persecution which comes from the world, or the afflictions of the devil, the man who stands on one's convictions with a clear conscience in the midst of opposition shows his convictions to be true.

Conversely when Peter presumptuously publically announced his allegiance to Jesus even to death (Mt 26:35), he failed to stand the test at the time. Likewise there are many today who pledge allegiance to Jesus. But you will recognize their true convictions by their fruits, by their actions, and not by mere words.

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5

I'm Encouraged

2Cor 7:13-16 By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

John writes, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3John 1:4 This is the case for parents whether they be physical or spiritual. There's refreshment in fellowshipping with obedient Christians. To Philemon Paul writes, "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." Phm 1:7 But beyond obedience, the Corinthians also showed they were reliable. Paul counted on them and they did not disappoint. Let us not be obedient on occasion. Ever been embarrassed by someone you learned was unreliable? Let us be those whom can be relied upon. Personally I find reliability to by one of the character qualities in a person I most highly prize.I value it in both machines and in people. I'm glad when I can have complete confidence in reliable people and reliable equipment.

Notice also the reference to fear and trembling. This is a reflection of the seriousness with which they receive Titus. Likewise Paul spoke of himself in bringing the message to the Corinthians, "I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling." 1Cor 2:3 American culture demands everything in life be about having fun. And such a culture has infiltrated the church to varying degrees. The gospel is serious business, so we should treat it with reverence.  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" Php 2:12

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Oct 03,2010