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Good Grief (2 Cor. 7:2-16)

2 Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged [acted unjustly toward] no one, we corrupted [seduced, mislead] no one, we took advantage of [“cheated,” NKJV; exploited] no one. 3 I do not speak to condemn you; for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my confidence in you, great is my boasting on your behalf; I am filled with comfort. I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.

5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.

8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.

And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 And his affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.

Introduction

I think of but one thing whenever I see the expression, “Good Grief!”: Charlie Brown in the Peanuts comic strip. I really don’t know where the expression came from, but I do think there is a “good grief” and an “evil grief.” Paul distinguishes these two kinds of grief, or sorrow, in our text. Good grief is that which leads to repentance, and ultimately to life. Evil grief is that which leads to death. It is vitally important then that when we grieve or sorrow, we have the right kind of grief.

Charlie Brown’s expression, “O good grief!” is one we have come to expect from him. Paul’s response in our text is not what I would have expected, though I do think he is saying, in effect, “Good grief!” It took a few readings of the text before I realized a kind of uneasiness about the passage. I finally realized that, to my mind, it just does not seem to fit into the context. Here is Paul describing some very serious problems he faces at Macedonia as he writes this epistle. Paul has had his troubles in Macedonia, and he also has had problems with the Corinthian church. Some who are not even believers have arisen and managed to gain a following. But they are proclaiming another gospel and undermining Paul and the authentic apostles, claiming apostleship for themselves. Many of the Corinthians seem to be buying their “gospel.” Some of the Corinthians who boast in these false apostles are embarrassed by Paul and his colleagues, and they have drawn back from them.

How, with all these problems both in Macedonia and in Corinth, can Paul be so upbeat? How can he be as optimistic and encouraged as his words in our text indicate? How can Paul be so encouraged about the Corinthians and so confident about them, so much so that he boasts of them to others? Am I missing something? What enables Paul to think and write with such confidence when so many wrongs have been committed against God and against him? The answer to this question is the key to our text. Let us look more in depth at Paul’s words, seeking to learn how Paul can feel as he does toward those who have disappointed him, causing him sleepless nights and even drawing back from fellowship with him.

Tracing the Argument of the Passage

Paul’s Appeal (vss. 2-4)

2 Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. 3 I do not speak to condemn you; for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my confidence in you, great is my boasting on your behalf; I am filled with comfort. I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.

Paul appeals to the Corinthians to “make room” for him and for the authentic apostles. As he has just said in chapter 6, the apostles have not closed themselves off to the Corinthians, but the Corinthians have withdrawn themselves from the apostles (see 6:11-13). Paul, speaking for all the authentic apostles, communicates their desire for the restoration of their relationship.

Paul then goes on to enumerate a number of evidences of his (their) love and affection toward the Corinthians, which should encourage them to “open up.” Paul first mentions some of the things he and the apostles are not doing, which show their great love for the Corinthians. The apostles have “wronged no one.” Literally, Paul claims that they have not acted unjustly toward them. They have “corrupted no one.” He means by this that they have not seduced or misled any of them. Neither have they “taken advantage of” any of them. The Corinthians have not been exploited or cheated (NKJV) by the apostles.

It would be one thing for the Corinthians to be “gun shy” toward the apostles if they knew they had been wronged by them in some way. Paul’s words remind and assure them that this has never been the case, nor will it ever be. The same cannot be said for the “false apostles” who have opposed the authentic apostles, their message, and their methods. False shepherds do not lay down their lives for the sheep; they feed off of the sheep:

7 Jesus therefore said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:7-15; see also Jeremiah 23:1-2; Ezekiel 13:1-7; 34:1-6; 2 Peter 2-3).

In addition to the integrity of the apostles in their relationship with the Corinthians, Paul mentions that even in the writing of this epistle, he is not doing so to condemn them. He is not trying to “put them down,” as our kids might say. The Corinthian false apostles elevate themselves by putting others down. Paul elevates others by putting himself down, by subordinating himself and his personal interests to the interests of those whom he serves (2 Corinthians 4:5, 15; see Philippians 2:1-8, 19-24; 1 Peter 5:3).

It is not just the absence of negative feelings or actions which should encourage the Corinthians to “open up” to the apostles. Paul also summarizes the positive feelings which the apostles have toward the Corinthians. The “Corinthians are in the apostles’ hearts, to live or die” together with them (verse 3). “We are in this with you, through thick and thin, through life or death,” the apostle affirms. Paul is not half-hearted about the Corinthians and their chances of spiritual growth. Paul tells the Corinthians that he is so confident about them that he boasts of them to others, including Titus (verses 4, 14). Paul is not in despair over the Corinthians; he is filled with comfort and overflowing with joy (verse 4).

Joy in the Midst of Affliction (vss. 5-7)

5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.

This comfort and joy Paul describes is not due to the pleasantness of his surroundings in Macedonia. He enjoys comfort and encouragement in “all our affliction” (verse 4). In verses 5-6, Paul informs the Corinthians about his afflictions in Macedonia and how the report of Titus on their spiritual condition comforts and encourages him.

We have already heard from Paul about the circumstances which led to his departure from Troas and his arrival at Macedonia:

12 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13).

These words, in chapter 2, when compared with Paul’s words in our text, give us a different picture from the one I had in my mind. I had always thought things were very tough in Troas, and that a lot of Paul’s agony there was caused by his preoccupation with the situation in Corinth. Then, after Paul arrived in Macedonia, I assumed things were different. The way I now read chapter 7, things were very difficult in Troas. There were problems there, along with an open door for ministry, but in addition to his problems in Troas, Paul was preoccupied with concern over Corinth. But when he arrives in Macedonia, things are difficult for him there as well. Things really did not improve that much in Macedonia: “… even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within” (verse 5).

Paul’s trials and tribulations did not end when he left Troas; they were there to greet him upon his arrival in Macedonia. Both externally and internally, Paul is distressed. But in the midst of his distress while in Macedonia, “the God who comforts the depressed” comforts Paul (verse 6).49 It is the way God comforts Paul which I find most instructive and encouraging. God encourages Paul through the arrival of Titus, and the good report Titus brings with him about the Corinthians’ response to Paul’s strong letter of rebuke and correction, referred to in verses 8-13a.

In summary, Paul tells the Corinthians that the return of Titus encourages him as he had become concerned that they had not met up with Titus as was originally supposed to happen in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:13). Titus’ arrival in Macedonia greatly relieves Paul, but the report Titus brings that he has been personally comforted by the Corinthians comforts Paul as well. Titus informs Paul of the Corinthians’ longing, a longing to restore their fellowship with Paul, I assume. He also speaks of the Corinthians’ sorrow, a sorrow which I can only understand to be an evidence of their genuine repentance. He tells Paul of the Corinthians’ zeal for Paul! Those who once were his critics, Titus says, are now his zealous supporters and defenders! Paul’s “comfort” at this news turns to rejoicing.

Paul’s Painful Letter (vss. 8-13a)

8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.

Paul has made several visits to Corinth and also written several letters, only two of which are preserved for us in the New Testament. Having read all the letters Paul has written to them, the Corinthians immediately understand what he is talking about when he refers to the “sorrowful letter.” That letter was sorrowful because it caused both Paul and the Corinthians to sorrow. Paul had his regrets in sending this letter, because he knew at the time the pain it would cause them. He no more enjoyed causing them pain by this letter than a parent enjoys watching a child suffer when he or she must be spanked. But he also knew that there was no other way to deal with their sin other than to expose and confront it with a letter of rebuke.

Paul’s sorrow turns to joy when he learns that his sorrowful letter produced its desired effect—repentance50 on the part of the Corinthians. It was the will of God that they be caused to suffer sorrow from that letter, because it prevented them from suffering any loss through the apostles. What does Paul mean when he speaks of the possibility of the Corinthians “suffering a loss through Paul and his colleagues”? I believe Paul indicates that when a brother or sister is caught up by some sin, they are headed for “loss” if that sin is not rebuked and they do not repent of the sin. If we fail to speak up when we see a brother or sister caught up in sin, we become partners in their sin. We contribute to their downfall. They suffer loss because of our passivity and silence. We become accessories to their sin.

There is a sorrow which is according to the will of God, and that sorrow produces a repentance without regret. By law, if you buy a vacuum cleaner from a door-to-door salesman, you have three days to change your mind. If you buy a vacuum cleaner and then have second thoughts about it, you may change your mind and get your money back, assuming the three days have not passed. You don’t need three days when you repent, because the path of sin leads to death, and repentance leads to salvation and life.

Repentance is without regrets. Repentance leads to salvation, and salvation is never regretted. If I understand what the Bible teaches about heaven, there are no regrets there. There is no sorrow there, there is no death, there are no tears there (see Revelation 21 and 22). Hell is just the opposite. Hell is men living in eternal regret. Now men realize their own wickedness and sin and their foolishness in rejecting God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. In hell, men forever ponder the thought, “If only I had …” How blessed we are to know that godly sorrow leads to a repentance which knows no regrets.

How interesting in our text that Paul speaks of not two kinds of repentance, but only one. He does, however, speak of two kinds of sorrow. The first sorrow is “according to the will of God.” This godly sorrow produces a repentance without any regrets and leads to life. It does so by bringing about repentance, which turns our faith to Jesus Christ and His completed work of redemption by means of His death, burial, and resurrection. The sorrow of the world is very different, leading men to death. Worldly sorrow does not regret having sinned, because it offends a holy and righteous God. The one who sorrows wrongly is not sorry because of their sin, but because of the suffering their sin causes them. Worldly sorrow regrets having to “pay the fiddler” for the wrong they have done. Judas was sorry he had betrayed our Lord (Matthew 27:3), but his sorrow did not lead him to repentance. The same could be said of Esau, who regretted having sold his birthright (Hebrews 12:16-17). I cannot help but wonder how many of those who have committed suicide have done so out of ungodly sorrow. The sorrow that is according to God leads to repentance, a repentance with no regrets; this in turn leads to salvation, the deliverance from sin, guilt and its condemnation.

It is clear to Paul that the sorrow he caused the Corinthians was the right (godly) kind of sorrow, for it led them to repentance. This was evident by the “fruits of genuine repentance” which Titus reports to Paul. The Corinthians were earnest; they took his rebuke and the issues involved very seriously. Some of the “fruits of repentance” which Titus reported to Paul are listed in verse 11:

11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

The Corinthians do not casually brush Paul’s rebuke aside. They have a genuine sorrow over their sin and seek to vindicate themselves by making things right. They are incensed at their sin and have an appropriate sense of the fear of God (see also 5:11). Longing to see Paul and be with him, they become his zealous supporters and defenders. They take action to deal with wrongs they once overlooked or rationalized away.

Just what is the “wrong” Paul rebukes, for which the Corinthians repent? Verse 12 informs us in general terms and in a way that might surprise us. There is a specific problem in Corinth. I do not think it is the problem of incest Paul dealt with in 1 Corinthians 5, but it is a specific sin committed by one individual (“the offender”) and against another (“the one offended”). If I understand Paul correctly, the Corinthians are aware of this sin and yet fail to act on it. Paul’s painful letter is to the church as a whole, rebuking them for not dealing with this sin. On receiving Paul’s letter of rebuke and reflecting on it, they realize that Paul is right, and they are wrong. In a word, they repent. And the evidence of this is their dealing with the offender appropriately. The letter Paul writes to the Corinthians is not primarily for the sake of the offender, or for the one offended, but for all those who passively stand by and look on without dealing with this sin. Paul’s concern is with the whole church. Once they repent of their sin of omission, he knows that they can, and will, deal with the specific problems evident in the church. In short, the Corinthians are seemingly soft on sin, and Paul’s letter brings them up short, leading to their repentance. For this, Paul greatly rejoices.

Rejoicing Over the Response of Titus (vss. 13b-16)

13 And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 And his affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.

Paul and his colleagues are greatly comforted and encouraged by the report Titus gives concerning the Corinthians. But his encouragement is even greater as Paul sets out to explain in these closing verses of chapter 7. In verse 7, he identifies two sources of comfort: “And not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.” Paul is comforted by the report Titus gives of the Corinthians and their repentance in response to Paul’s letter. He is also comforted by the comfort which Titus personally received as a result of his stay in Corinth. Things were difficult for Paul, as he indicates in 2:13-14. Things were likewise difficult for those associated with Paul, as indicated in 6:1-13, where Paul speaks not in the first person singular, but in the first person plural. Titus too had been put to the test, not only by outward difficulties, but by inward agonies as well. Titus went to Corinth with a heavy heart and a good measure of fear and trepidation. He comes back with his spirit refreshed as a result of having been among the Corinthians.

What a joy Titus’ change of countenance is to Paul. Even though Paul has massive problems to face, he is not oblivious or insensitive to the personal struggles of those who serve with him. He takes note of the struggles that Titus, his fellow-laborer, faces and also notes the tremendous refreshment Titus experienced in Corinth. The improvement in Titus is noted by Paul and becomes one more source of encouragement to him as he presses on in his ministry as a fellow-servant with Titus and the apostles.

The change in Titus especially encourages Paul because he has boasted to Titus about the Corinthians. Paul had told the Corinthians of his confidence in them (1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 7:4), and it is apparent that he has also boasted of his confidence in the Corinthians to others like Titus. Paul’s boasting was “on the line” when Titus arrived with Paul’s sorrowful letter. Would the Corinthians live up to their calling and Paul’s confidence? The countenance of Titus tells it all. They certainly did live up to Paul’s expectations!

Because of this, Titus now feels toward the Corinthians as Paul does. His affection abounds toward them even more, and his heart is warmed by ever fond remembrances of his time spent among them. They received him with “fear and trembling,” with deep humility and a willingness to hear what God would say to them through him. Their obedience to Paul’s words (and, we would expect, those of Titus as well) was proof of their godly sorrow and repentance. Paul greatly rejoices because his confidence in them regarding all things has not been ill-founded. Titus is even more deeply in harmony with both Paul and the Corinthians. And this is the way it should be. If the false apostles produce competition and disunity, the true apostles produce just the opposite.

Conclusion

In reading this chapter in 2 Corinthians, I am reminded of the words of a celebrity, whose name and time I have forgotten, which go something like this: “It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.” The days Paul spends in Macedonia, from which this epistle is written, are very difficult days—the worst of times. And yet, in the midst of these terrible times, Paul is filled with confidence, with comfort, and with joy regarding the Corinthian saints. Paul’s joys come at a time when he is experiencing adversity and affliction to the full. What gives Paul—and every Christian—comfort, encouragement and joy?

We should quickly recognize that Paul’s circumstances are not what give him comfort and joy, but the report of Titus. Paul’s joy comes not as the result of his personal comfort or success or pleasure, but from the spiritual growth of the saints. So often it is not success but sorrow which is the instrument of promoting spiritual growth and maturity. Sorrow and pain are often the instruments God uses to draw us to Himself, by faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder our Lord could say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Through the sorrow produced by Paul’s painful letter, these Corinthian saints are brought to repentance. It may well be through sorrow that God will work in our lives. If sorrow and suffering bring us nearer to God, it is indeed a blessing to suffer.

In reflecting on this text, I realize that Paul is strong in two areas where most Christians tend to be weak. First, Paul is willing to endure the personal pain of rebuking saints who are giving in to sin. Paul does not enjoy being alienated from the affections of those who are his spiritual children. He does not delight in causing them pain by writing his letter of rebuke. But he does it anyway, because it is the right thing to do, and it is the divinely appointed means of correcting his fellow-believers.

Many Christian parents are unwilling to discipline their children, because they cannot stand the pain doing so creates. They can’t stand to see their child cry or suffer momentary rejection from them. The same is true for their relationships with fellow-believers in the church. When they know of sin in the life of a close Christian friend, they may inform an elder or a pastor or a leader, urging them to act, but they do not want to pay the price of doing so personally, even though this is what the Scriptures require (see Matthew 18:15-20). Let us learn from Paul that when rebuke and correction are required of us, it will cause us pain, but it is the right thing to do. And through this painful process of rebuke and correction, we minister to our fellow-believers in a way that leads to their repentance and spiritual growth. The end of this process, if received properly, is great joy.

Second, Paul is not only ready and willing to rebuke saints who are going astray, he is ready and willing to receive them back into fellowship when they repent of their sin. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul urges the Corinthians to exercise church discipline on the man living with his father’s wife. He does so by informing them that he has already turned this one over to Satan, even though far removed from Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul must now urge the Corinthians to receive a repentant brother back into their fellowship. Even after this person has repented, the Corinthians are reluctant to take him back. We see in our text that Paul is not only ready to rebuke those who are wrong, he is also ready to receive repentant sinners back into fellowship.

How easily we write off those who have done wrong, continuing to shun them even when they have repented. In our text, Paul is much like the father of the prodigal son described in Luke 15:11-32. He is also like our Heavenly Father, who calls for sinners to repent and return to fellowship with Him, through Jesus Christ:

20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20).

Paul said it earlier, and it certainly applies here:

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Have you never experienced the forgiveness of your sins and intimate fellowship with the Holy God? If not, you can do so by simply acknowledging your sin and by trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on your behalf. He was punished for your sins. He died in your place. And He was raised from the dead so that you could be pronounced holy, not through a righteousness of your own, but through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I urge you, if you have never repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ, do so this very moment.

But perhaps you have come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and have fallen into sin. God is a Holy and Righteous God, who hates sin. But He has made provision for your sin through the person and work of Jesus Christ. By repenting of your sin and turning back to a life of trusting and obeying Him, you can once again know the joy of fellowship with God. And by so doing, you can once again enjoy the fellowship of the saints. Just as you must turn from your sin and return to your Christian brothers and sisters, we are obliged to receive you back, as warmly as Paul did the Corinthians.

I should add an important point which my friend and deacon in our church, Bruce Beaty, pointed out to me as we discussed this text. The Corinthians had repented of a particular sin and had sought to make this matter right. They were not perfect. All of their sins were not seen by them, or repented of, but they were on the path of repentance. There was no willful rebellion against God’s Word, and thus they should be received back into that kind of fellowship where holiness and purity will be encouraged by fellow-believers. Let us beware of harboring those in the church who need to be put out (1 Corinthians 5), but let us also beware of refusing to receive those who have repented and who desire to live in a way that pleases God, even though imperfectly.

Paul sets the example for us in this text of how we can be a true brother or sister in Christ and a true friend to those who name the name of Christ. Real friends (and brothers or sisters) are those who are able to see the sin in our life and willing to risk our rejection by graciously, but firmly, dealing with it as they confront us with the truth of God’s Word. All too often we refuse to risk our relationship with those we love, and we ultimately fail to act in love by accepting what is unacceptable. I often hear the term “unconditional love” being tossed about in Christian conversations, but I must say that this is not a biblical expression, and I fear it can be used to justify a most unbiblical cowardice. We dare not accept a fellow-believer unconditionally, if they willfully persist in known sin. We must confront with biblical correction and rebuke. But when there is repentance, we must welcome the wayward home.

As I read this chapter, I cannot help but think of 1 Corinthians 13. Are we not seeing here in Paul a living example of what true love looks like? True love is willing to rebuke when it is required by sin, but it is willing to believe the very best when a wayward sinner repents and seeks to return to fellowship with God’s people. Let us consider 2 Corinthians 7 to be an illustration of 1 Corinthians 13.

There is a Proverb which says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Paul not only has great hope for the Corinthians, he gives hope to them as well. By his words in our text, he has shown them a way back and expressed his confidence that they will indeed experience full restoration.

Yet another lesson our text teaches is this: our attitudes and action have a very profound impact on our fellow-believers, for good or evil. Listen to these words written by Asaph centuries ago in the Psalms:

10 Therefore his people return to this place; And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, And washed my hands in innocence; 14 For I have been stricken all day long, And chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children (Psalm 73:10-15).

Asaph agonized that while God promised to prosper the righteous, the wicked seemed to be doing well in this life while the righteous (including Asaph) were suffering. While we do not have time to consider the entire psalm, let me draw attention to the psalmist’s words in verse 15: “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children.” Had Asaph thrown in the towel, it would not only have meant devastation to his relationship with God, it would have also negatively affected all those who knew him and looked up to him as a Christian leader. When a Christian falls, he or she hurts others, just as when Christians triumph they encourage and edify others (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). The repentance of the Corinthians and their heart-warming reception of Titus are great encouragements to Titus, to Paul, and to the others who heard of it. And it is a great encouragement to us as well. Let us seek to serve God faithfully—because it pleases God, it benefits others, and it benefits us.


49 It has been pointed out that Paul’s expression here is very similar to the words of Isaiah 49:13 in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. You will recall that Paul has already cited Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:2. Second Corinthians 6:12 and 7:2 employ either the word or the thought of Isaiah in 49:19-20. One begins to get the feeling that Paul had his devotions in Isaiah while he was writing 2 Corinthians! The theology and terminology of the Old Testament prophets provided much of the fabric for Paul’s thinking and writing. Would that this were true of us as well.

50 There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance. (1) The verb metamelomai is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Mt 27:3). (2) Metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised. Evangelical repentance consists of (1 a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness; (2 an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ; (3 an actual hatred of sin (Ps 119:128 Job 42:5,6 2 Co 7:10) and turning from it to God; and (4 a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps 51:4,9) of pollution (Ps 51:5,7,10) and of helplessness (Ps 51:11 109:21,22) Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps 51:1 130:4). (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, in loc.).

Related Topics: Suffering, Trials, Persecution