2 Corinthians 7:1-16

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2009-11-04 11:28.

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The promises are that God would reside with those whom he recognized as his people and be their Father and that they would be his sons and daughters. These promises should have moved believers to live upright lives, purifying themselves from all “defilement of flesh and spirit.” In a manifestation of their fear of or reverential regard for God, they should seek to be complete in “holiness,” or in the purity of their thoughts, words, and deeds. (7:1)

Besides all forms of sexual immorality, use of the physical organism or any of its members for injurious or debased purposes would constitute pollution of the flesh. Idolatry, hatred, jealousy, envy, maliciousness, mercilessness, and a host of other hurtful or destructive attitudes or emotions defile the spirit or the inner life of an individual. For believers to be complete in holiness, they, by yielding to the guidance of God’s spirit, need to exert themselves to shun all defiling practices and attitudes. (7:1)

Paul deeply loved the Corinthian believers, but a considerable number among them appear not to have had like affection for him. For this apparent reason, he urged them to make room for him (the pronoun “us” evidently being an editorial first person plural). The apostle reminded them that he had done nothing to justify feelings of alienation from him. He had not wronged, corrupted or seduced, or exploited anyone. (7:2)

His purpose in reminding the Corinthians of his sincerity and uprightness did not spring from a desire to condemn them or to reject them. Paul’s love and concern for them remained undiminished. As he had expressed previously (6:11, 12), the Corinthians were in his “heart.” They were very dear to him. Paul was willing to share both life and death with them. Another possible meaning is that, regardless of whether he lived or died, the Corinthians would have a secure place in his affections. (7:3)

The apostle’s positive expressions about the Corinthians appear to reflect the good effect the visit of Titus had on them. His love for them made it possible for Paul to be outspoken, holding nothing back. (See the Notes section regarding parresía, which term can denote “outspokenness.”) He took pride in them as believers whom he had aided to come into an approved relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and who had responded favorably to needed correction. Their commendable improvement comforted Paul, freeing him from the anxiety he previously had when the conduct and attitude of certain ones among the Corinthian believers merited strong censure. Consequently, despite personally experiencing distress, he was filled with joy to overflowing. (7:4)

Paul’s positive expressions contrasted sharply with the way he felt upon leaving Troas and arriving in Macedonia. He found no relief for his “flesh,” for his whole organism proved to be in an unsettled or disturbed state. Paul felt distressed in every way, with “fights without” and “fears within.” The “fights without” could either have referred to the disharmony in the Corinthian congregation or the opposition unbelievers directed against Paul. Within himself, he was apprehensive, anxious about how the Corinthians would respond to the letter he had written to them and concerning the kind of reception they would give to Titus. (7:5)

The distress Paul had experienced brought him low, and he attributed to God the comfort or consolation he received upon meeting Titus. It is likely that the apostle considered the desirable change that had occurred among the Corinthians to have resulted through the working of God’s spirit. Appropriately, then, Paul acknowledged the comfort he received through the good report from Titus as having been from God, the one who consoles those who are downcast. (7:6)

Although the arrival of Titus brought welcome comfort to Paul, relieving his anxiety about the Corinthians, the consolation was not limited to the presence of Titus. Having been favorably received, Titus himself was comforted by the Corinthians, putting him in a position to tell about their “longing,” their “sorrow,” and their “zeal” for Paul. The Corinthians yearned to see the apostle again, were saddened on account of their failures, and manifested genuine concern for him. This development among the Corinthians moved Paul to rejoice still more. (7:7)

The letter of reproof he had written to the Corinthians saddened them, but the apostle did not regret having written it. Based on the context, his not regretting having written the letter must have been because they accepted the correction and made the needed changes. At the time Paul wrote the letter, though, he did regret it. He regretted that the troubling circumstances among the Corinthians had made it necessary for him to direct strong reproof to them. The apostle, however, appears to have been relieved that his letter saddened the Corinthians only a little while (literally, an “hour”) and produced the desired results. (7:8)

It was not the saddening effect his letter had on the Corinthians that occasioned Paul’s rejoicing. His reason for joy was that their sadness produced repentance or genuine regret about the wrong course they had taken. They were saddened “according to God.” Their sorrow was of a nature that God approved. As a consequence of the good results, no injury had come to the Corinthians from Paul. (7:9)

“For the sadness according to God,” or the kind of sorrow that harmonizes with his way, prompts repentance and leads to salvation, or to deliverance from the condemnation that a wrong course merits. No regret is associated with this godly sadness. The sadness of the world, however, does not produce anything that is good. Individuals may be sad about being exposed as wrongdoers, but they are not moved to genuine repentance. They are merely sorrowful about having been caught as practicers of bad. So their sorrow produces death. In their unrepentant state, they continue to be subject to the condemnation that their lawless ways warrant. (7:10)

Paul invited the Corinthians to take a look at what had happened in their case. Their having been saddened in a divinely approved manner produced “earnestness,” an eager willingness to change, or a zeal for what is right. Paul used the Greek word apología, meaning “defense,” to identify another result of godly sadness. This may signify that the Corinthians wanted to vindicate themselves as no longer deserving of censure. Their sorrow also led to “indignation,” “fear,” “longing,” “zeal,” and “punishment” (ekdíkesis) or the rendering of justice. (7:11)

The Corinthians would have become indignant with themselves on account of the error of their ways. Upon recognizing how wrong they had been in their attitude and conduct, they would have become fearful or apprehensive about the consequences. Their “longing” may have involved a desire to restore a good relationship with Paul, one of love and loyalty. Besides eagerly following through on the apostle’s admonition and giving no support to his detractors, the Corinthians may also have demonstrated their zeal for him through expressions of genuine care and concern. (7:11)

The Greek word ekdíkesis could apply to the punishment the Corinthians imposed on the flagrant wrongdoer, thus seeing to it that justice was rendered. They had proved themselves “chaste,” or cleared themselves from blame, in everything pertaining to the matter involving the offender concerning whom Paul had written. (7:11)

It was not because of the wrongdoer nor on account of the one who had been wronged that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. His primary objective was that, before God, their earnestness, or their earnest commitment to him as a beloved brother, would be manifest to them. This did not mean that the apostle had no concern for the injured party and that he did not care about what the wrongdoer had done. In this particular case, the entire community of believers in Corinth was involved. The attitude of the congregation had deteriorated toward Paul, to the injury of the individual members. Accordingly, the restoration of the proper relationship of love and loyalty proved to be of greater importance than the situation involving the wrongdoer. (7:12; see the Notes section.)

Paul drew great encouragement from the commendable way in which the Corinthians had responded, resulting in personal joy. He rejoiced even more on account of the joy of Titus. The manner in which the Corinthians accepted Titus “refreshed his spirit.” This could mean that the mind of Titus had been set at rest, relieving him of any anxiety he may have had about them. (7:13)

Although the Corinthians had previously disappointed him by the way they had conducted themselves and had failed to be supportive of him, Paul must have felt that they would make the essential changes in attitude and action. This appears to have been the nature of his “boast” regarding them to Titus. The Corinthians did live up to the apostle’s confidence in them, and so he was not put to shame as one whose boasting about them had been unfounded. Just as everything Paul had said to the Corinthians proved to be true, so also had his boasting to Titus regarding them. (7:14)

In view of his experience with them, Titus came to have greater and deeper affection for the Corinthians. He fondly remembered their obedience, and how they had accepted him “with fear and trembling.” They did not resist him or reject his words, but responded submissively to the way in which Titus handled the assignment the apostle had entrusted to him. In his letter, Paul had exposed the error of the Corinthians, leaving no doubt that they deserved strong censure. This doubtless prompted them to receive Titus with “fear and trembling.” They were apprehensive about how he would react to their missteps. (7:15)

Paul’s previous anxiety and disappointment regarding the Corinthians had yielded to joy. He rejoiced, because he had confidence in them “in everything.” This could mean that he had complete confidence in the Corinthians or that his confidence in them had proved to be true in every respect. (7:16)


In verse 4, the Greek word parresía can mean “outspokenness,” “openness,” “frankness,” “confidence,” or “boldness.” Translators have variously represented Paul as often boasting about the Corinthians (NRSV), as speaking “with great frankness” to them (REB), as feeling “very sure” of them (NCV), as trusting them completely (CEV), as always speaking the truth to them (CEV, footnote), or as speaking freely to them (CEV, footnote). The thought of openness or speaking freely or frankly appears to fit the context best. Moreover, the apostle next mentioned taking pride in the Corinthians, which is not significantly different from boasting about them or expressing confidence in them.

In verse 8, many manuscripts introduce the thought about the temporary saddening effect of the letter with the words, “for I see,” but a number of manuscripts do not include “for.”

The wrongdoer mentioned in verse 12 may have been the incestuous man concerning whom Paul had written in his previous letter. If this identification is correct, the father would have been the injured party. (1 Corinthians 5:1) This, though, is not explicitly expressed in 2 Corinthians. There is a possibility, as some have concluded, that the offender had sinned against Paul, possibly by defiantly disregarding his apostolic authority and slandering him.

According to the Greek text of verse 12, the concluding words are, “before God.” Modern translations vary in the placement of this phrase, with resultant different meanings. “I wrote the letter so you could see, before God, the great care you have for us.” (NCV) “My aim in writing was to help to make plain to you, in the sight of God, how truly you are devoted to us.” (REB)