Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 7:1 - 7:16

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 7:1 - 7:16

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


Conclusion of his appeal (2Co_7:1). The apostle's feelings towards them (2Co_7:2-4). Explanation of the objects of his last letter, and expression of his joy at the good results it had brought about (2Co_7:2-16).


Having then these promises.
The promises of God's indwelling and fatherly love (2Co_6:16-18
). Dearly beloved. Perhaps the word is added to soften the sternness of the preceding admonition. Let us cleanse ourselves. Every Christian, even the best, has need of daily cleansing from his daily assoilment (Joh_13:10), and this cleansing depends on the purifying activity of moral effort maintained by the help of God's grace. Similarly St. John (1Jn_3:1-3), after speaking of God's fatherhood and the hopes which it inspires, adds, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure" (comp. Jas_4:8). From all filthiness; rather, from all defilement. Sin leaves on the soul the moral stain of guilt, which was typified by the ceremonial defilements of the Levitical Law (comp. Eze_36:25, Eze_36:26). The word used for "filth" in 1Pe_3:21 is different. Of the flesh and spirit. From everything which outwardly pollutes the body and inwardly the soul; the two being closely connected together, so that what defiles the flesh inevitably also defiles the soul, and what defiles the spirit degrades also the body. Uncleanness, for instance, a sin of the flesh, is almost invariably connected with pride and hate and cruelty, which degrade the soul. Perfecting holiness. This is the goal and aim of the Christian, though in this life it cannot be finally attained (Php_3:12). In the fear of God. There is, indeed, one kind of fear, a base and servile fear, which is cast out by perfect love; but the fear of reverential awe always remains in the true and wisely instructed Christian, who will never be guilty of the profane familiarity adopted by some ignorant sectarians, or speak of God "as though he were some one in the next street" (Heb_12:28; 1Pe_3:15).


Receive us;
rather, open your hearts to us; make room for us. It is an appeal to them to get rid of the narrowness of heart, the constricted affections, of which he has complained in 2Co_6:12
. We have wronged… corrupted… defrauded no man. The "no man" in the original is placed first, and this emphatic position, together with its triple repetition, marks St. Paul's insistence on the fact that, whatever his enemies might insinuate, there was no single member of their Church who could complain of injury, moral harm, or unfair treatment from him. Clearly he is again thinking of definite slanders against himself. His sternness to the offender may have been denounced as a wrong; his generous sanction of broad views about clean and unclean meats, idol-offerings, etc., may have been represented as corrupting others by false teaching (2Co_2:17) or bad example (2Co_4:2; 1Th_4:6); his urgency about the collection for the saints (2Co_12:16; Act_20:33), or his assertion of legitimate authority, may have been specified as greed for power. The verb pleonektein is often used in connection with other verbs, implying sensuality. It is difficult for us even to imagine that St. Paul had ever been charged with gross immorality; but it may have been so, for in a corrupt atmosphere everything is corrupt. Men like Nero and Heliogabalus, being themselves the vilest of men, openly declared their belief that no man was pure, and many in the heathen world may have been inclined to similar suspicions. Of Whitefield, the poet says—

"His sins were such as Sodom never knew,

And calumny stood up to swear all true."

We know too that the Christians were universally charged with Thyestean banquets and promiscuous licentiousness. It is, however, more natural to take pleonektein in its general sense, in which it means "to overreach," "to claim or seize more than one's just rights" (see 2Co_2:11) In 1Co_9:1-6 he is defending himself against similar charges, as also in this Epistle (1Co_5:12; 1Co_6:3; 1Co_10:7-11; 1Co_11:1-34.; 12., passim). For similar strains of defence, see those of Moses and of Samuel.


I speak not this to condemn you.
"Not by way of condemnation am I speaking." My object is to maintain the old love between us; what I say, therefore, is merely to defend myself, not to complain of you. I have said before. He has not said it in so many words, but has implied it in 2Co_3:2
, 2Co_3:3; 2Co_6:11-14. Ye are in our hearts. So he says to his beloved Philippians, "I have you in my heart" (Php_1:7). To die and live with you. Similarly he tells the Thessalonians that he was ready to give them even his own life (1Th_2:8). This is no mere conventional expression of deep affection, like Horace's, "Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens;" nor is it the description of some compact for life and death like that of the Theban Band. It has the deeper meaning which was involved by the words "life" and "death" on the lips of a Christian (2Co_4:11.; 2Co_6:9). And one whose life was, for Christ's sake, a daily death, naturally mentions death first.


Boldness of speech.
St. Paul feels that he may address them with perfect frankness and openness (2Co_3:12
). My glorying of you. "My boasting on your account". I am filled with comfort. "I have been filled with the consolation." "Consolation" is the word which occurs so frequently in 2Co_1:3, 2Co_1:4. I am exceeding joyful. "I superabound in my joy" (2Co_2:2-14). In all our tribulation. The clause belongs to both the preceding clauses. Joy in the very midst of affliction was an essentially Christian blessing (Php_2:17).

"Thou shalt have joy in sadness soon;

The pure calm hope be thine

Which brightens the Eastern moon,

When day's wild lights decline."

(See 2Co_6:10; Gal_5:22; Rom_14:17; Joh_15:11.)


For, when we were come into Macedonia.
"For even when we came." The word "affliction" reminds St. Paul to resume the thread of the narrative which makes this letter almost like an itinerary. He has spoken of his trials in Ephesus (2Co_1:8
) and in the Troad (2Co_2:12, 2Co_2:13), and now he tells them that even in Macedonia he was no less troubled and agitated. Our flesh had no rest. External troubles assailed him as well as inward anxiety. "Had" seems here to be the best reading (B, F, G, K); not "has had," which may be borrowed from 2Co_2:13. Rest; rather, remission, respite. But we were troubled on every side; literally, but in everything being afflicted. The style, in its picturesque irregularity, almost seems as though it were broken by sobs. Without were fightings, within were fears. "From without battles, from within fears." No light is thrown on these "battles." The Acts of the Apostles has no details to give us of this brief stay in Macedonia. The "fears" were doubtless still connected with anxiety as to the reception of Titus, and of his First Epistle (1Co_12:20).


Who comforteth those that are cast down.
"The Comforter of the humble comforted us, even God." The word "humble" has in classical Greek the sense of "mean," "abject." Pride, not humility, was the virtue even of Stoic morality. Christ was the first to reveal the beatitude of lowliness (Mat_11:29
; Luk_1:52). Doubtless the word still retained some of its old associations, and had been used of St. Paul in a disparaging sense (2Co_10:1). But he whom his opponents accused of so much egotism, ambition, and arrogance, meekly accepts the term and applies it to himself. God (2Co_1:4). "The God… of consolation" (Rom_15:5). By the coming of Titus. This was the cause of that outburst of joy in 2Co_2:13, 2Co_2:14, which passage here finds its explanation. The absence of Titus from the Acts is another proof of the fragmentariness of that book. It is evident that he was an ardent, able, active fellow worker, and most beloved friend of the apostle (Gal_2:1, Gal_2:3; 2Ti_4:10; Tit_1:4; Tit_3:12). We learn most about him from this Epistle.


And not by his coming only.
The mere fact of Titus's arrival cheered St. Paul, because Titus seems to have been of a strong and cheery temperament. St. Paul, partly because of his infirmities, was peculiarly dependent on the support of human sympathy (1Th_3:1-8
; Php_2:20; 2Ti_4:4; Act_17:15; Act_28:15). It was not, however, the mere arrival of Titus which cheered him, but still more the good news which he brought, and which partially lightened his anxieties. In all probability this letter was written almost immediately after the arrival of Titus, and while the joy caused by his presence was still glowing in the apostle's heart. It is characteristic of the seclusion of an austere life that St. Jerome supposes the cause of the apostle's distress to have been that Titus was his interpreter, and that in his absence he could not preach! Your earnest desire. Your yearning to see me once more. Mourning; rather, lamentation (see 2Co_2:12). They were aroused to lament their past "inflation" (1Co_5:2) and remissness. Your fervent mind toward me. This rendering well expresses the kindling affection implied by the word zelos. So that I rejoiced the more. More than he had even anticipated could be possible; or, as the next verse may imply, all the more because of his past anguish (2Co_2:4).


With a letter;
rather, with my Epistle. Probably the First Epistle, though some suppose that the allusion is to a lost intermediate letter. I do not repent, though I did repent; better, I do not regret it. Every one has experienced the anxiety which has followed the despatch of some painful letter. If it does good, well; but perhaps it may do harm. The severity was called for; it seemed a duty to write severely. But how will the rebuke be received? Might we not have done better if we had used language less uncompromisingly stern? As St. Paul thought with intense anxiety that perhaps in his zeal for truth he may have irrevocably alienated the feelings of the Corinthians, whom, with all their grave faults, he loved, a moment came when he actually regretted what he had written. He himself assures us that he had this feeling. Those who try all kinds of fantastic hypotheses and tortuous exegesis to explain away this phrase as though it were inconsistent with St. Paul's inspiration, go to Scripture to find there their own a priori dogmas, not to seek what Scripture really says. The doctrine of inspiration is not the fetish into which it has been degraded by formal systems of scholastic theology. Inspiration was not a mechanical dictation of words, but the influence of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of men who retained all their own natural emotions. For I perceive, etc. There are various ways of taking this clause. Nothing, however, is simpler than to regard it as a parenthetic remark (for I see that that Epistle, though it were but for a time, saddened you). Though it were but for a season. (For the phrase, see Phm_1:15
; Gal_2:5.) He means to say that their grief will at any rate cease when they receive this letter, and he can bear the thought of having pained them when he remembers the brevity of their grief and the good effects which resulted from it.


Not that ye were made sorry.
They might have drawn this mistaken conclusion from his remark that he "rejoiced" when he heard of their "lamentation" (2Co_7:7
). After a godly sort; literally, according to God; i.e. in a way which he would approve (Rom_8:27). In nothing. Not even when we rebuked you, and caused you pain.


For godly sorrow,
etc. "For the sorrow Which is according to God worketh out a repentance unto salvation which bringeth no regret." Sin causes regret, remorse, that sort of repentance (metomeleia) which is merely an unavailing rebellion against the inevitable consequences of misdoing; but the sorrow of self-reproach which follows true repentance (metanoia, change of mind) is never followed by regret. Some take "not to be regretted" with "salvation," but it is a very unsuitable adjective to that substantive. The sorrow of the world. Here sorrow for the loss, or disappointment, or shame, or ruin, or sickness caused by sin; such as the false repentance of Cain, Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, etc. Death. Moral and spiritual death always, and sometimes physical death, and always—unless it is followed by true repentance—eternal death, which is the opposite of salvation (Rom_5:21


For behold,
etc. The effects produced by their repentance showed that it was "according to God;" for it brought forth in them "the fruits of good living to the honour and glory of God." Carefulness; rather, earnestness, active endeavour. Yea what. There is an untranslatable energy about the original Greek. The same use of ἀλλὰ (Latin, immo vero) in a climax is found in 1Co_6:11. Clearing of yourselves; literally, apology, self-defence, addressed to me through Titus. Indignation. Against themselves for their neglect. Fear. Of the measures which I might take, if I came to you "with a rod" (1Co_4:21). Vehement desire. Longing that I should return to you (see verse 7). Zeal. To make up for past remissness. Revenge. Judicial punishment of the incestuous offender. The "apology" and "indignation" referred to themselves; the "fear" and "yearning" to the apostle; the "zeal" and "judicial retribution" to the offender. In all things. His summing up is, "In every respect ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter." Whatever may have been your previous carelessness and connivance, the steps you took on receiving my letter vindicated your character. In this matter; rather, in the matter. It is quite in accordance with St. Paul's usual manner that "he speaks indefinitely of what was odious" (1Th_4:6).


Wherefore, though I wrote unto you.
"So then, even if I did write you," namely, about that matter. For his cause that had done the wrong, etc. My object in writing was not to mix myself up with the personal quarrel. I had in view neither the wronger nor the wronged, directly and primarily, but wrote for the sake of the whole Church (1Co_5:1
, 1Co_5:2; 1Co_6:7). Nor for his cause that suffered wrong. Apparently the father of the offender (1Co_5:1). Our care for you, etc. Among the diversity of readings in this clause, which seem to be still further confused by mere mistakes of copyists, the best supported reading is "your care for us" (B, C, E, K, L, and various versions, etc.). The Sinaitic manuscript has "your care for yourselves." The variations have partly risen from the apparent strangeness of the remark that his letter had been written in order that their care for him might be manifested to themselves; in other words, that they might learn from their own conduct the reality of their earnest feelings for him. He has already spoken of this "earnest care" of theirs (2Co_7:11), but not in quite the same sense. Certainly, however, the reading followed by our Authorized Version, even if it be a correction, furnishes a more natural meaning, and the other may have arisen from a clerical error.


Therefore we were comforted,
etc. Since my Epistle secured the result of manifesting your true feelings towards me, "we have been comforted." The Revised Version and many editions put the stop here, and continue (reading δὲ after ἐπὶ ), and in addition to our consolation, abundantly the more did we rejoice at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. Exceedingly the more. In the Greek this is expressed by double comparatives. Was refreshed; rather, has been (and is) refreshed. The same verb is used in 1Co_16:18; Phm_1:7, Phm_1:20.


I am not ashamed.
The due rendering of the tenses brings out the sense much more accurately. "Because if I have boasted anything to him on your behalf, I was not put to the blush;" in other words, "One reason of my exceeding gladness was that you fully justified that very favorable picture of you which I had drawn for Titus when I was urging him to be the bearer of my letter." Is found a truth; literally, proved itself to be a truth. Here again there is a most delicate reference to the charge of levity and unveracity which had been brought against him (2Co_1:17
). I always spoke the truth to you; but I might well have feared that, in speaking of you to Titus, my affection for you had led me to overstep the limits of perfect accuracy. But you yourselves, by proving yourselves worthy of all I said of you, have established my perfect truthfulness, even in the only point where I might have thought it doubtful. Nothing could exceed the tact and refinement, the subtle delicacy and beauty, of this gentle remark.


His inward affection.
The same word which is so needlessly rendered "bowels" in 2Co_6:12
. More abundant. His love for you has been increased by his recent visit. With fear and trembling. On this Pauline phrase, see 1Co_2:3.


I rejoice therefore.
The "therefore" concludes the whole paragraph, but is omitted in many manuscripts. I have confidence in you; literally, I am bold in you; i.e. I feel courage about you. The phrase in 2Th_3:4
expresses a calmer and less hazardous trust.


2Co_7:1-4 - A minister's address to his people.

"Having therefore these promises," etc. In these verses the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to two things.

I. TO THE PURSUIT OF SPIRITUAL PURITY. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." He seems to regard the attainment of spiritual purity as consisting in two things.

1. Getting rid of the wrong. "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." Perhaps the reference to "filthiness" here referred especially to the idolatry and unchastity which was so prevalent in the Corinthian Church. All sin is "filthiness," and cleansable; it is not nature, it is a stain on nature; it is not something inwrought into the very texture of our being, otherwise it could not be cleansed away. It is no more ourselves than the soil on the white robe is the robe. It can, it should, it must, be washed out, that we may appear "without spot or wrinkle."

2. Attaining the right. "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Holiness implies the consecration of our entire nature, flesh and spirit, body and soul, to the Divine will, and this requires habitual, solemn effort in "the fear of God." Now, the grand end of Christ's mission to the world is to produce this purity in man. "Having therefore these promises" (viz. the promises in the last verse of the preceding chapter, which are in substance the promises of the gospel), this spiritual purity should be struggled for. "The grace of God hath appeared to all men, teaching them that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts," etc. The supreme desire of every true minister of the gospel is that his people shall become pure.

II. TO REGARD HIM WITH AFFECTION. "Receive us [open your hearts to us]," etc. He grounds his claim on their affection:

1. On the fact that he had done harm to none. "We have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man." This is said, no doubt, in answer to some of the charges which his enemies had brought against him—said in self-vindication. He had "wronged no man," done injustice to none; he had "corrupted no man" in doctrines or morals; he had "defrauded no man," he had availed himself of no circumstance in order to extort from them money or power. A grand thing this for a minister to be able to say to his people without any fear of contradiction, and in the sight of God.

2. On the fact that he loved them. "I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to live and to die with you." Although I might "condemn" you, I still love you; you are so strong in my affections that I will not only visit you, but would live and die with you, if my mission would allow.

3. On the fact that he rejoiced in the good that was in them. "Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort," etc. Thus he commends himself to their affection. It is self-commendation, it is true; but who else could commend him? There were none greater than he living. There is no egotism in his self-commendation.

2Co_7:5-7 - The good tried and comforted.

"For when we were come into Macedonia," etc. Here we have—

I. A GOOD MAN GREATLY TRIED. "For when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." In 2Co_2:13
he refers to one circumstance that troubled him on his way to Macedonia. "I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother." He had come from Troas full of excitement and agitation, fully expecting to meet with Titus, who would convey to him some information concerning the Church at Corinth, which would allay his intense anxieties. But he was disappointed. What the other particular troubles were that he refers to here, the "fightings without" and "fears within," we know not; but well we know that everywhere in the prosecution of his apostolic mission he met with trials—great, varied, and most distressing. The best of men in this life are frequently "cast down." There are many things that "cast down" the spirits of good men.

1. The prosperity of the wicked. Asaph felt this. "My feet had almost gone, my steps were well nigh slipped," etc.

2. The triumphs of wrong. Fraud in trade, corruption in politics, errors in science, moral filth in popular literature, blasphemies, sectarianism and cant in religion. What noble souls are depressed here in England with these things!

3. The non-success of Christly labour. How many preachers of spiritual thought, disinterested love, inflexible loyalty to truth, are subject to depressing moods on account of the little success apparently resulting from their arduous and self-denying toils! Often, like Elijah, they feel inclined to retire into the caves of solitude; like Jeremiah, who resolved "to speak no more" in his Name, and like One greater than either or all, who wailed out the words, "I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought."

II. A GOOD MAN DIVINELY COMFORTED. "Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus." God is a Comforter. No one requires higher qualifications than a true comforter. He must have a thorough knowledge of the sufferer, know his constitution, and the causes of the complaint; his diagnosis must be perfect. He must possess the necessary remedial elements; he must have the antidote at command. He must also have the tenderest sympathy; an unsympathetic nature can never administer comfort, whatever the extent of his knowledge or the suitableness of his means. God has all these qualifications in an infinite degree. Hence he is the Comforter. God comforted Paul by sending him Titus.

1. The appearance of Titus was comforting. The advent of his young friend was as the rising of the morning sun in the dark heavens of his spirit. God comforts man by man. Moses was comforted in the wilderness by the unexpected visit of his father-in-law Jethro (Exo_18:7). Hannah was cheered in spirit by the talk of old Eli (1Sa_1:18). David, dejected in the wood, had his heart strengthened by Jonathan (1Sa_23:16).

2. The communication of Titus was comforting. "And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more."


1. That Christianity in its highest form does not exempt from the trials of life. A more Christly man than Paul perhaps never lived. Yet how great his trials!

2. That the vicarious sufferings of love are amongst the most depressing. The more love a man has in him in this world of affliction and sorrow, the more, by the law of sympathy, will he endure. Paul now suffered for the Corinthians.

3. A genuine disciple of Christ carries comfort into the house of his distressed friend. Young Titus carried comfort into the saddened home of the Apostle Paul.

"He who hath most of heart

Knows most of sorrow; nor a thing he said

Nor did but was to him at times a woe,

At times indifferent, at times a joy.

Folly and sin and memory make a curse

Wherewith the future fires may vie in vain,

The sorrows of the soul are graver still."


2Co_7:8-11 - Godly sorrow.

"For though I made you sorry," etc. Three remarks here concerning the godly sorrow that was wrought on the minds of the members of the Corinthian Church.

I. IT WAS PRODUCED BY A FAITHFUL REPROOF OF WRONG. There were, as we have seen, certain evils more or less prevalent in the Church at Corinth, such as schism, idolatry, unchastity, and abuse of the Lord's Supper. These so affected the mind of the apostle that his letter abounded with strong reproof. Concerning the reproofs he administered to them, two facts are noteworthy.

1. They caused him much pain. "For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent." Men, more or less malign in their nature, take pleasure in dealing out reproaches and reproofs, but to those whose natures are of the genial and the generous type, few things are more painful than the administration of reproofs. Paul no doubt felt it so; still it had to be done. Loyalty to his conscience and his mission demanded it. A loving nature recoils at the idea of giving pain to any one.

2. They were administered with the tenderest affection. In almost every reproving sentence contained in his letter there beats the pulse of affection, and it is evermore this love that invests reproof with a heart penetrating and melting power. With the tenderest love ministers should always reprove, admonish, and exhort.

II. IT WAS ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT TO THE SORROW OF THE WORLD, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance," etc. Great is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.

1. The one is selfish, the other is generous. In the former the man regrets having done the wrong thing simply on account of inconvenience to himself; in the latter the anguish is in the wrong itself.

2. The one results in future regret, the other in future joy. All the sorrow that an ungodly man has felt will lead to some deeper, darker, more terrible distress.

3. The one leads to ruin, the other to salvation. See the results of worldly sorrow in Cain (Gen_4:12
); in Saul (1Sa_31:3-6); in Ahithophel (2Sa_17:23); in Judas (Mat_28:3 -25). See godly sorrow in the prodigal son (Luk_15:1-32.); in Peter (Mat_26:1-75.); in the converts on the day of Pentecost (Act_2:44-47).


1. Solicitude. "What carefulness it wrought in you!" Careful to resist the wrong and pursue the right.

2. Deprecation. "What clearing of yourselves!" How anxious to show your disapproval of the evil of which you have been guilty!

3. Anger. "What indignation!" Indignation, not against the sinner, but against the sin. This is a holy anger.

4. Dread. "What fear!" Dread, not of suffering, but of sin; not of God, but of the devil. This fear is, indeed, the highest courage. He who shrinks from the morally wrong is the truest hero.

5. Longing. "What vehement desire!" What longing after a better life! All these expressions mean intense earnestness, and earnestness, not about temporal matters, which is common and worthless, but about spiritual matters, which is rare and praiseworthy. Genuine repentance is antagonistic to indifference; it generates earnestness in the soul, it leads to the most strenuous efforts, to the most vehement cries to Heaven. "Sorrow in itself," says F.W. Robertson, "is a thing neither good nor bad; its value depends on the spirit of the person on whom it falls. Fire will inflame straw, soften iron, or harden clay; its effects are determined by the object with which it comes in contact. Warmth develops the energies of life or helps the progress of decay. It is a great power in the hothouse, a great power also in the coffin: it expands the leaf, matures the fruit, adds precocious vigour to vegetable life; and warmth, too, develops with tenfold rapidity the weltering process of dissolution. So, too, with sorrow. There are spirits in which it develops the seminal principle of life; there are others in which it prematurely hastens the consummation of irreparable decay."

2Co_7:12-16 - Church discipline.

"Wherefore, though I wrote unto you," etc. The subject of these words may be regarded as that of Church discipline, and two general remarks are suggested.

I. CHURCH DISCIPLINE SHOULD BE EXERCISED FOR THE GOOD OF THE WHOLE CHURCH. "Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you." The particular individual referred to here, on whom Paul calls discipline to be exercised, was the incestuous person (1Co_5:1
). The apostle here states that this was done, not merely for the offender's sake, nor indeed for the sake of the person whom the offender had injured (viz. his father, whose wife he had taken as his own). His object in writing was, not merely to chastise the one and to obtain justice and redress for the other, but that "our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you," He had a larger aim; it was to prove to them how much he cared for their spiritual purity and reputation. Punishment should not only be for the reformation of the wrong doer, but as an example to others. The unhealthy branch should be cut off for the sake of the tree's health and growth. All true chastisement for wrong aims, not only at the good of the offender, but at the good of the community at large.

II. WHEN THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH IS MANIFESTED THEREBY IT IS A JUST MATTER FOR REJOICING. "Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all." The Church was improved by Paul's disciplinary letter. Of this Titus had assured him, for they had "refreshed" his "spirit" during his visit among them. Their improvement, too, justified the high testimony which he had given Titus concerning them. "For if I have boasted anything to him of you, I am not ashamed," etc. The love of Titus for them was increased by the discovery of it. "His inward affection is more abundant toward you." Thus the godly sorrow which they manifested on account of that which was wrong amongst them, was in every way satisfactory to him; it gave him comfort, it greatly refreshed the spirit of Titus, increased his affection for them, and inspired the apostle himself with confidence and with joy.


2Co_7:1 - An exhortation to perfection.

"Having therefore these promises," which the apostle had just mentioned (2Co_6:16-18), what were the Corinthians expected to be? "Sons and daughters" of the Father, God in Christ. But the condition was, "Be ye separate, touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." There was a character involved ("sons and daughters"); there was something to be done; then "I will receive you." St. Paul is specific in his appeal: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness [defilement] of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The enlarged heart, of which he had been speaking and would soon speak again, has a tender voice, addressing them as "dearly beloved." Nothing magisterial appears; he is one of them—"Let us cleanse ourselves;" nor has he any doubt of their ability to do this thing. Separation from old associations, changes in customs and habits, call for firm resolution and self-denial; but he is well assured that God makes no promise without giving ample strength for the accepting party to comply with the terms offered. If the promises embraced every good connected with their relation to God as a Father, then they must be like God in Christ; they were to entertain no views of God, except as God in Christ, but were to reverence, love, serve him in this one single and complete relationship. The ground, motive, impulse of action, were to spring from this consideration—God in Christ as a Father. If so, the righteousness of Christ was not only to be the reason of their justification before the law of rectitude, but they were also to have that righteousness as a property of personal character. By nature they were far gone from righteousness; they were defiled, born in sin; grace had already been communicated to renew their evil character; he had written to them as "washed, sanctified, justified," in the "name" of Christ, and by "the Spirit of our God." As yet the work was only begun. Much was to be done. Sinful tendencies were in them which had never come under the eye of consciousness. Enemies lurked within and without, of whom they were unaware. Imperfect as they and he were, they must go on to perfection. Strength consisted in putting forth strength, to be stronger. First of all, this perfection was to be sought by purifying themselves from evil. What an amount of corruption still remained was seen in the fact of the filthiness in the flesh and spirit. Each part of our complex nature was vitiated, and each combined with the other in opposing the progress necessary to attain holiness. There were vices of the animal man. There were vices of the moral man. And there were vices resulting from the union of the two, so that a thorough and complete cleansing was required. "All filthiness;" no matter of what class or kind, hereditary or acquired, local as respected the wickedness of Corinth, or general as belonging to the human family, the wrong doing among you from the Judaizers, from the free thinkers, from all your ambitious partisanships,—"cleanse" yourselves from "all filthiness," whether of the "flesh" or the "spirit." This was the negative side of a great and imperative duty, not all, but much, and very much, since, until this were done, they could take no direct steps towards perfection. Observe now that gross bodily sins were not the only lusts. Tempers and dispositions were just as urgent as passions and appetites in seeking unlawful enjoyments. Reflect on this point. "The spirit in us lusteth to envy." Inordinate affections led to transgression. Nay, they often excited the body to wicked indulgences. Physical organs are frequently torpid; they are aroused by images in the intellect, and stimulated by an impure imagination; and, furthermore, after these organs, because of age or over gratification, have little or no originating force, and are well nigh worn out, the recollections of past pleasures kindle the expiring embers into a flame. Thus, indeed, depravity assumes its most licentious forms. For it is not the animal man that is the chief or the most dangerous factor in this sort of iniquity. The intellectual and moral man descends into corporeal abuses, and then it is these temptations are strongest. In many of these sins there is an element of sentiment supplied by an unholy imagination, which makes them far more tyrannical and debauching than they would be otherwise. And hence it is not the beastly possibility in man that is the greatest danger, but the Satanic agency brought to bear on the body by means of the spirit. It is the devil of the spirit that is the devil of the body. A terrible conjunction this, and yet it is not a common spectacle. Ordinarily the incipient stage of vice is a bodily evil merely. It is a matter of blood and nerves. Not such does it remain long. Satan knows his citadel, and hastens to its occupancy. While it does continue, a man may be reasoned with; he is open to shame, conscience may be reached, and concurrent motives made operative on his feelings, but when physical vice allies itself with spirit, men "glory in their shame," and are "taken captive by Satan at his will." In the final outcome there is but one will, and it is Satan's will. Much more than this cleansing from the "filthiness of the flesh and spirit" is necessary, if "these promises" are to be fully realized. Therefore he adds, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Here we have the positive side of that experience which is demanded of those who are the "sons and daughters" of God in Christ. It is inward holiness. Under the Law, beasts were clean and unclean; things, vessels, places, were externally holy; emblems and symbols of purity abounded; manners, customs, domestic and national usages, were so ordered as to impress on the senses the difference between good and evil. Under the gospel, spiritual holiness is demanded. The circumcision is of the heart, not of the flesh; the sanitary idea of the human body, so frequently set forth in the Old Testament, is changed into that of the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost; and hence, no sooner does the Lord Jesus begin to unfold the constitution of the new kingdom in the sermon on the mount, than he speaks directly to the heart. Righteousness must exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. Impure thoughts are forbidden. Passions that have no outward voice utter their sinfulness in the ear of God; and feelings that escape not into visible acts are realities in the light of eternity. Inasmuch as the cleansing was a purification of body and spirit, St. Paul argues that the sanctification, begun in regeneration, was to continue, body and spirit sharing together the Spirit's influence. Neither the one nor the other was to be lost sight of; neither part of the work was to be carried on in a way detrimental to perfect unity; neither was to be exaggerated at the expense of the other. But as body and spirit had been redeemed by Christ's blood, so were both to be hallowed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Throughout St. Paul's Epistles there run these two leading ideas—the sanctification of body and of spirit and if, at times, the idea of the former is prominent, and then, at other times, the idea of the latter, we must recollect that this variation was necessary to the full presentation of his subject. Great truths are not to be vividly seen except in great moods, and great moods are not habitual, but occasional. Now, this mode of displaying his subject by a rotation of. its aspects exposes the apostle to misconception. The ascetic takes him in one mood of thought, dominant at the moment, because of the nature of his argument. The mystic takes him in another. And they both do him injustice, the ascetic by laying an undue stress on bodily mortifications, the mystic by extravagance in spiritual abstractions. St. Paul is always true to his theology. He never loses his balance, never exalts spirit at the expense of body, never forgets that body is mated with spirit under an economy of permanent neutrality. Hence the argument for inward holiness, that cleansing of spirit and flesh which proceeds from the Holy Ghost in the conscience and heart, and works from the centre and seat of vitality through all the organs of life. It is growing holiness. Growth is the law of existence. The body grows until it attains its physical development, say from twenty-one to twenty-five years of age in men, and then another and much higher growth sets in, that of intellectual and moral adaptiveness to the mind, whereby the nerves, the ganglia, the brains, are brought into closer union with thought, volition, sensibility, But it is in religious life that growth is most perceptible—a growth in the fear of God, a filial and tender fear, that is jealous of its sense of sonship, and ever watchful lest it grieve the witnessing Spirit. There is an increasing delight in the discharge of duty, in taking up the daily cross, in practising self-denial, and especially in a clearer view of the ground and reason of self-denial. How the Scriptures grow upon us, the exercises of the closet, the Holy Communion, the fellowship of Christians! And, as we advance, we feel more and more the evil of sin as it is in itself. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." This psalm, the roost profoundly heart searching and personal of the psalms, is nevertheless most representative of that sense of sin which forgets all else in the thought of an offended God. In that bitterest hour of David's life, his home, other homes, a nation's homes, involved in his terrible transgression, there is the one overwhelming reflection, "Against thee!" The growing Christian sees the innate quality of sin, its deep-seated hold, its presence in the life blood of his old nature, and learns from thence to perfect holiness, by realizing, as far as may be, the holiness of God. "By studying the character of Christ and imitating his example, this Divine holiness defines itself to his mind and engages his affections. "Looking unto Jesus" is the secret of his growth. He looks to him as the "Author" of his faith; how long ago it was! How feeble then! What gracious forbearance! The bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched! And the "Author" is the "Finisher;" for he is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Law changes into love, and love advances from one degree of strength and beauty to another, from one relation of life to another, from one victory to a victory still greater, the holy ideal rising before him and assuming new glory, and yet, as it retreats to a loftier height, drawing him towards itself with a stronger charm. "Blessed are the pure in heart." It is far on in the Beatitudes; but it is there, thanks to God, it is there as an attainment. The pathway to it is very clearly marked out, the successive steps, the preparatory agencies, the gradual advances, the blessedness of poverty of spirit, of mourning, of meekness, of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, of mercifulness. One may know what progress he is making towards it, and this is the great thing to be known. Milestones along the road record the onward tread and assure the pilgrim of the certain goal. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."—L.

2Co_7:2-7 - Appeal for affectionate relations between himself and the Corinthians; sorrow and consolation.

The rendering of 2Co_7:2
, Revised Version, is full of vigour, "Open your hearts to us: we wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we took advantage of no man." Room in their hearts for whom? Room for him who had violated no rights, led no one astray, acted fraudulently in nothing towards any person, so that, he challenges their confidence to the full. But had he not done this before, and that very earnestly? Had he not done it again and again? Yes; but his enemies had their headquarters at Corinth; they were untiring, ever inventing new scandals, ever increasing in zealotry, for his overthrow. Now, it is a matter of interest to understand St. Paul's motive in this frequent and vehement defence of himself. From the outset his position had been singular. Not one of the original twelve who had "companied" with the Lord Jesus, a converted persecutor and blasphemer, an apostle called to an exceptional apostleship, and placed in the forefront of that battle which was to liberate Christianity from Jewish thraldom, and preserve it from Gentile corruptions. It was inevitable that the man and the apostle should be subjected to a most critical and severe inquisition. Yet how wonderfully was this overruled! Only think of the spiritual biography that has grown out of this painful necessity of his attitude before the Church. Somewhat of this kind of writing we have in the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Job, in the Psalms, and in Ecclesiastes, but nothing as to depth, variety, profundity, compass of experience, such as we have in St. Paul's Epistles. In the latter we see the Christian consciousness in its early realizations, and that too in all its important aspects. For what is there in the struggles of the "new creature" with the "old Adam"? What is there in outward conflict we have not here in exactness of detail? No finer illustration of this could be given than the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Was he simply giving his spiritual history? Nay, indeed, but writing a typical biography of the human heart under the training of the Holy Ghost. This is its distinctive merit—the portraiture of the human soul forming and shaping in the image of Christ for eternal glory. Such a mirror was needed. Of what avail a standard of doctrine without a standard of experience? Of what utility a knowledge of duties, and yet entire ignorance of the legitimate results of precepts carried into practice? From his pen we have Christianity as a system of truths; from the same pen, Christianity in personal consciousness; and the two are so wrought together and interblended, that we are no more at a loss to understand what Christianity is as an inspiration of life than a revelation of Divine wisdom. Follow the man in this chapter. Do you admire manly boldness? There it is in that second verse. Are you, touched by delicacy and tenderness? You have them in the third verse: "I say it not to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die together and live together." Is this commonplace sentiment? Is this the language, the air, the spirit of a persecuted hero of the world? Match it if you can. "To die together and live together"—this would be poetry, if it were not that rarer thing, the most impassioned and exalted prose. "In our hearts;" there they abide to die and live together. If he had written to them, it was not to condemn, but to save them, Inclined to find fault and harshly criminate? Far from him a censorious temper, "Great is my boldness of speech towards you;" and why bold? "Great is my glorying on your behalf;" and why glory? The glad spirit, free once more from its oppressive burden, cannot repress its exultation. "My boldness," "my glorying;" just before "we" and "us" and "our," the personal intensity bursting forth. "I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our affliction." Such a heart authenticates itself instantly to our confidence and love. To doubt its truthfulness would be treachery to our own instincts. We all love a fervent lover. However cold and constrained our temperament, there is something divinely contagious in a spirit like St. Paul's; and, for the sake of humanity, "great" is our "glorying" on his "behalf." If, there, we find him in the next verses (5-7) referring to his individual solicitudes, we may be sure that this has its place in the development of Christian doctrine, going on in the history of the Church. Instead of being an insight into the private heart of the apostle only, it is likewise a most trustworthy record of religious experience, to which we may come for instruction and help when burdened by cares and anxieties. Unable to remain in Troas, because of his deep concern to hear from Corinth, he passed into Macedonia; but there was no relief from the pressure. "We were troubled on every side," His whole nature shared the suffering of the mind, his "flesh had no rest," and the sorrow reached such an extent that he sums it up in the condensed expressions, "without were fightings, within were fears." Things had put on their darkest look. Yet in that very hour consolation was near by. Titus came with good tidings from Corinth, and, in his opportune arrival, St. Paul sees the good hand of God. The statement is given in an emphatic form. At first it is he "who comforteth the lowly;" and then even God "comforteth us by the coming of Titus;" and how happy Titus himself was! The visit to the Corinthians had been a blessing to his young friend, and this added much to his joy, for he participated in "the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you." Grace to others is often grace, and the richest grace, to our own souls. And in this instance we can easily understand how a man with St. Paul's quick sympathies entered into the experience of Titus. A delicate task had been assigned to his youthful companion, and it had been managed with success. Added to his intense pleasure growing out of the favourable change at Corinth was the gratification from the skill and efficiency of Titus's mission. One pictures the scene of the meeting, the narration, the questions asked and answered, the frequent interruptions of the story by the sudden outbreaks of the listener's emotion, the happy exclamations, and the surprise increasing as the detail of incidents progressed to the completion of the history. Had not St. Paul a valuable helper now? Was not God giving him a coworker precious to his heart? Could he not see the future Titus, the same who was afterwards to be associated so closely with him, and to whom he would write a pastoral letter? Those were gracious hours, and he might well say, "I rejoiced the more," since he was not only greatly cheered by the "earnest desire," the "mourning," the "fervent mind" of the Corinthian brethren towards him, but was confirmed in the impression that Titus was to be a valuable auxiliary in the work now enlarging on his hands, and daily getting to be more complicated.—L.

2Co_7:8-16 - True repentance and its effects; ministry of Titus.

There are reactions from our highest moods. There are reactions from our wisest deeds. Nor can it be otherwise under the present constitution of our nature. That St. Paul should have had these reactions was perfectly natural, the more so as his temperament made him liable, in an unusual degree, to their occurrence. If they did not appear in his writings we should be surprised, nor could their absence be explained but on the supposition that he was an exception in this respect to the ordinary laws of mind, and particularly to those laws as seen in men of his class. Some persons think it very strange that he should say, "Though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent." What was his inspiration, they ask, if he could "repent" of writing his former Epistle to the Corinthians? Whatever he meant by "repent," he did not mean moral self-reproach, nor indeed any permanent state of mind, but simply a transient emotional condition, due probably to excess of nervous sensibility. His inspiration from the Holy Ghost was the inspiration of a man. It did not set aside his temperament. It was in perfect harmony with the characteristics of his intellect, and quite likely intensified those characteristics as related to his physical peculiarities. Who has not had these seasons of experience in which things that were very clear a few days before have been suddenly darkened? Judgments were then formed, committals made, promises given, that now seem unwise or even rash; and bow gladly would we undo what was done!—and that too in matters which were entered on after long and earnest deliberation, and which proved in the sequel to be eminently fortunate. Are the arguments that led us to certain conclusions less valid now than then? No; the arguments are the same, but nerves and brain are not in the same state, not in the same vigorous tension, and, consequently, we do not see the truth and the grounds of the truth as we did when we were in fuller possession of ourselves. The logic of nerves and brain is a very wayward and fitful thing, and a very different thing from the logic of the intellect. Pascal says, in the 'Pensees,' "To have a series of proofs incessantly before the mind is beyond our power." Now, in the instance under review, St. Paul would have been more or less than man not to have undergone precisely this temporary reaction. Ill health, an unusual combination of exciting circumstances, dangers of an extraordinary sort threatening the Church, a new and most promising sphere of labour and by far the greatest that had opened in his ministry overcast with sudden gloom, Titus still absent, suspense wearing upon a fortitude taxed already to the uttermost; what a lack of the human and of the genuine manliness of the human, if he had felt no uneasiness, no misgivings, no rebound! It was not weakness, but weakness struggling into strength, that led him to say, "I did repent." Let us take comfort from the apostle's human nature and the grace manifested in its infirmities. Companionship in weakness aspiring to get the victory is very precious to honest souls. Men are never wanting to teach us the ideals of life. What is needed far more is to have traced in a distinct manner the progress of the soul towards perfection. Who in this respect can compare with the Apostle Paul? Who has delineated the Christian consciousness in all its various moods, in all its alternations, in its baffled endeavours, in its victorious strength, and done it in such a natural way that the lowliest heart feels at home in his fellowship and finds no language of its own so much its own as the words in which he tells how he sorrowed and how he rejoiced? Lest they should misunderstand his joy by supposing that he had any pleasure in their pain, he explains (verse 9) why he was happy. They had "sorrowed to repentance." Instructed by the doctrinal truths he had unfolded in the First Epistle, moved by his entreaties, made conscious of their delinquencies, made ashamed of their gross inattention to discipline, they had repented of their backslidings and reformed their evil doings. A "godly sorrow" had they shown, and could anything "godly" be deplored? Least of all, could a "godly sorrow" over envy and jealousy, over strife and schismatic partisanships, over vices tolerated in the bosom of the Church—could such a sorrow be regretted? It was "godly," indeed, for it had wrought out its true nature and was known by its fruits. Of course he gave it a doctrinal form, and, for all time, thus reads one of the most vital and solemn of all Christian verities: "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of." Well might he claim that they had received "damage in nothing." It was all gain, infinite gain. Notice the development of the thought. A true repentance is from God. Christ said that the Holy Spirit should come to rebuke "the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." It is not our idea of sin, but God's idea, that enables us to realize what sin is, and this proceeds from the Spirit. Think of it as we may, study its consequences, feel its enormity as far as we can, look at the paradise it blighted, read its records on the earth, picture the hell it has created; this is not that sense of the guilt of sin which leads to repentance. Not what sin is in our sight, but what it is in God's sight, determines the estimate of the penitent. And just in the degree that this initial process is from the illumination and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in that same degree is the work genuine and profound. Large allowance must be made for individuality of character. Modes of thinking, habits of feeling, education and circumstances, must be taken into consideration, since men are very thoroughly personal when God comes to dear with their souls. Nevertheless, the truth cannot be stated too strongly, that repentance is a "godly sorrow" only so far as the Holy Ghost is concerned in the work. And, further, it is salutary. It works no "damage." Now, at this point, the apostle confesses that he had been anxious, and certainly there was ground for anxiety. To rebuke men for their sins is the most difficult and the most hazardous of all the functions devolved on a minister of the gospel. Happy the minister who can say that he has not done "damage," some time in his career, in this particular. But in the present case all had turned out well. The censure, the exhortation, the personal lovingness, he had put into his letter, had blended in one gracious influence, so that conscience had witnessed to conscience, heart to heart, energy on their part to decision and resoluteness on his part, and a result most blessed to him, to Titus, to the Church, had been effected. It was not the sorrow of the world that "worketh death." Instead of that, it had wrought life, a renewed and most hopeful life, a change so glorious that it would never be repented of. But he would particularize. If the repentance had been "godly," and therefore without "damage," he would show them the full meaning of these worsts. "Behold this selfsame thing." He would arouse their attention and concentrate thought on this manifestation of God's mercy. To see it they must look within. What a transformation! Lately so careless, so insensible, so puffed up, even the Holy Communion shockingly abused; what save a "godly sorrow" could bring about a radical change? It was a sorrow to humble them, not to "damage" them. It was not the sorrow of the world, mortifying to pride and vanity, intensifying to selfishness, driving to desperation, and arming the soul in deadlier hostility to goodness. The proof of all this was at hand. Carefulness; activity and diligence in ferreting out evils and extirpating them. Clearing of themselves; anxiety to get rid of the stain on their Church character, and stand fair with the apostle. Indignation; not only against the incestuous man, but that feeling of self-vexation which arises when we see the folly and evil of our conduct. Fear; lest a heavier punishment should come from God than that already experienced. Longing; fervent desire to do better. Zeal; industrious effort in discharging their duties, and especially such duties as concerned Church discipline. Avenging the wrong done by punishment so as to evince their sincerity of amendment. Yea; repeated in every item, specified that each element of the sentence might maintain its proper degree of force. Finally, his hearty commendation; in every respect, approving themselves to be right minded in this matter. A word of justification for himself follows. Not for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for his sake who had suffered the wrong, had he written, but that their earnest care in his behalf might be manifested And his apostleship honoured. In the name of God he had called them to repentance, and they had promptly hearkened to the Divine message. Once more the power of the gospel had been vindicated, and "therefore we have been comforted." Throughout the affair he had been intensely personal, but had he been actuated by selfishness, or had any element of selfishness mixed with his motives, this personal intensity could not have assumed the form presented in his conduct. Yet in that hour of gladness there was an uppermost joy. A beautiful touch of nature it is when he says that he "joyed the more exceedingly" on account of his young associate Titus, "because his spirit was refreshed by you all." The long-continued trouble seems over now. The unrest, the fightings without and the fears within, Ephesus and Troas and Macedonia, pass out of presence, and the only spectacle left in the horizon of vision is Paul the apostle standing firmly on the historic soil he has won for Christ, with Titus at his side, in whose blooming spring time his eye reads the harvest not far off. "O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged." Can he express his gratification too often, too freely? Once again, "I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.&quo