An exhortation to holiness, and the whole church entreated to bear affection to the apostle. (1-4) He rejoiced in their sorrowing to repentance. (5-11) And in the comfort they and Titus had together. (12-16)
Verses 1-4 The promises of God are strong reasons for us to follow after holiness; we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. If we hope in God as our Father, we must seek to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven. His grace, by the influences of his Spirit, alone can purify, but holiness should be the object of our constant prayers. If the ministers of the gospel are thought contemptible, there is danger lest the gospel itself be despised also; and though ministers must flatter none, yet they must be gentle towards all. Ministers may look for esteem and favour, when they can safely appeal to the people, that they have corrupted no man by false doctrines or flattering speeches; that they have defrauded no man; nor sought to promote their own interests so as to hurt any. It was affection to them made the apostle speak so freely to them, and caused him to glory of them, in all places, and upon all occasions.
Verses 5-11 There were fightings without, or continual contentions with, and opposition from Jews and Gentiles; and there were fears within, and great concern for such as had embraced the Christian faith. But God comforts those who are cast down. We should look above and beyond all means and instruments, to God, as the author of all the consolation and good we enjoy. Sorrow according to the will of God, tending to the glory of God, and wrought by the Spirit of God, renders the heart humble, contrite, submissive, disposed to mortify every sin, and to walk in newness of life. And this repentance is connected with saving faith in Christ, and an interest in his atonement. There is a great difference between this sorrow of a godly sort, and the sorrow of the world. The happy fruits of true repentance are mentioned. Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed. It wrought indignation at sin, at themselves, at the tempter and his instruments. It wrought a fear of watchfulness, and a cautious fear of sin. It wrought desire to be reconciled with God. It wrought zeal for duty, and against sin. It wrought revenge against sin and their own folly, by endeavours to make satisfaction for injuries done thereby. Deep humility before God, hatred of all sin, with faith in Christ, a new heart and a new life, make repentance unto salvation. May the Lord bestow it on every one of us.
Verses 12-16 The apostle was not disappointed concerning them, which he signified to Titus; and he could with joy declare the confidence he had in them for the time to come. Here see the duties of a pastor and of his flock; the latter must lighten the troubles of the pastoral office, by respect and obedience; the former make a due return by his care of them, and cherish the flock by testimonies of satisfaction, joy, and tenderness.
2 Corinthians 7:1-16 . SELF-PURIFICATION THEIR DUTY RESULTING FROM THE FOREGOING. HIS LOVE TO THEM, AND JOY AT THE GOOD EFFECTS ON THEM OF HIS FORMER EPISTLE, AS REPORTED BY TITUS.
1. cleanse ourselves--This is the conclusion of the exhortation ( 2 Corinthians 6:1 2 Corinthians 6:14 , 1 John 3:3 , Revelation 22:11 ).
filthiness--"the unclean thing" ( 2 Corinthians 6:17 ).
of the flesh--for instance, fornication, prevalent at Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 6:15-18 ).
and spirit--for instance, idolatry, direct or indirect ( 1 Corinthians 6:9 , 1 Corinthians 8:1 1 Corinthians 8:7 , 1 Corinthians 10:7 1 Corinthians 10:21 1 Corinthians 10:22 ). The spirit ( Psalms 32:2 ) receives pollution through the flesh, the instrument of uncleanness.
perfecting holiness--The cleansing away impurity is a positive step towards holiness ( 2 Corinthians 6:17 ). It is not enough to begin; the end crowns the work ( Galatians 3:3 , 5:7 , Philippians 1:6 ).
fear of God--often conjoined with the consideration of the most glorious promises ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 , Hebrews 4:1 ). Privilege and promise go hand in hand.
2. Receive us--with enlarged hearts ( 2 Corinthians 6:13 ).
we have wronged . . . corrupter . . . defrauded no man--(compare 2 Corinthians 7:9 ). This is the ground on which he asks their reception of (making room for) him in their hearts. We wronged none by an undue exercise of apostolic authority; 2 Corinthians 7:13 gives an instance in point. We have corrupted none, namely, by beguilements and flatteries, while preaching "another Gospel," as the false teachers did ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 2 Corinthians 11:4 ). We have defrauded none by "making a gain" of you ( 2 Corinthians 12:17 ). Modestly he leaves them to supply the positive good which he had done; suffering all things himself that they might be benefited ( 2 Corinthians 7:9 2 Corinthians 7:12 , 2 Corinthians 12:13 ).
3. In excusing myself, I do not accuse you, as though you suspected me of such things [MENOCHIUS], or as though you were guilty of such things; for I speak only of the false apostles [ESTIUS and Greek commentators]. Rather, "as though you were ungrateful and treacherous" [BEZA].
I have said before--in 2 Corinthians 6:11 2 Corinthians 6:12 ; compare Philippians 1:7 .
die and live with you--the height of friendship. I am ready to die and live with you and for you ( Philippians 1:7 Philippians 1:20 Philippians 1:24 , Philippians 2:17 Philippians 2:18 ). Compare as to Christ, John 10:11 .
4. boldness of speech--(compare 2 Corinthians 6:11 ).
glorying of you--Not only do I speak with unreserved openness to you, but I glory (boast) greatly to others in your behalf, in speaking of you.
filled with comfort--at the report of Titus ( 2 Corinthians 7:6 2 Corinthians 7:7 2 Corinthians 7:9 2 Corinthians 7:13 , 2 Corinthians 1:4 ).
exceeding joyful--Greek, I overabound with joy ( 2 Corinthians 7:7 2 Corinthians 7:9 2 Corinthians 7:16 ).
our tribulation--described in 2 Corinthians 7:5 ; also in 2 Corinthians 4:7 2 Corinthians 4:8 , 2 Corinthians 6:4 2 Corinthians 6:5 .
5. Greek, "For also" (for "even"). This verse is thus connected with 2 Corinthians 2:12 2 Corinthians 2:13 , "When I came to Troas, I had no rest in my spirit"; so "also" now, when I came to Macedonia, my "flesh" had no rest (he, by the term "flesh," excepts his spiritual consolations) from "fightings" with adversaries "without" ( 1 Corinthians 5:12 ), and from fears for the Corinthian believers "within" the Church, owing to "false brethren" ( 2 Corinthians 11:26 ). Compare 2 Corinthians 4:8 , Deuteronomy 32:25 , to which he seems to allude.
6. Translate in the order required by the Greek, "But he that comforteth those that are cast down, even God." Those that are of an high spirit are not susceptible of such comfort.
7. when he told us--Greek, "telling us." We shared in the comfort which Titus felt in recording your desire ( 2 Corinthians 7:13 ). He rejoiced in telling the news; we in hearing them [ALFORD].
earnest desire--Greek, "longing desire," namely, to see me [GROTIUS]; or, in general, towards me, to please me.
mourning--over your own remissness in not having immediately punished the sin ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 , &c.). which called forth my rebuke.
fervent mind--Greek, "zeal" (compare 2 Corinthians 7:11 , John 2:17 ).
toward me--Greek, "for me"; for my sake. They in Paul's behalf showed the zeal against the sin which Paul would have shown had he been present.
rejoiced the more--more than before, at the mere coming of Titus.
8. with a letter--Greek, "in the letter" namely, the first Epistle to the Corinthians.
I do not repent, though I did repent--Translate, "I do not regret it, though I did regret it." The Greek words for regret and repent are distinct. Paul was almost regretting, through parental tenderness, his having used rebukes calculated to grieve the Corinthians; but now that he has learned from Titus the salutary effect produced on them, he no longer regrets it.
for I perceive, &c.--This is explanatory of "I did repent" or "regret it," and is parenthetical ("for I perceive that that Epistle did make you sorry, though it was but for a season").
9. Now I rejoice--Whereas "I did repent" or regret having made you sorry by my letter, I rejoice NOW, not that ye were caused sorrow, but that your sorrow resulted in your repentance.
ye sorrowed--rather, as before, "ye were made sorry."
after a godly manner--literally, "according to God," that is, your sorrow having regard to God, and rendering your mind conformable to God ( Romans 14:22 , 1 Peter 4:6 ).
that--Translate in Greek order, "to the end that (compare 2 Corinthians 11:9 ) ye might in nothing receive damage from us," which ye would have received, had your sorrow been other than that "after a godly manner" ( 2 Corinthians 7:10 ).
10. worketh . . . worketh--In the best Greek reading the translation is, "worketh (simply) . . . worketh out." "Sorrow" is not repentance, but, where it is "godly," "worketh" it; that is, contributes or tends to it (the same Greek word is in Romans 13:10 ). The "sorrow of the world" (that is, such as is felt by the worldly) "worketh out," as its result at last, (eternal) death (the same Greek verb is in 2 Corinthians 4:17 ; also
repentance . . . not to be repented of--There is not in the Greek this play on words, so that the word qualified is not "repentance" merely, but "repentance unto salvation"; this, he says, none will ever regret, however attended with "sorrow" at the time. "Repentance" implies a coming to a right mind; "regret" implies merely uneasiness of feeling at the past or present, and is applied even to the remorse of Judas ( Matthew 27:3 ; Greek, "stricken with remorse," not as English Version, "repented himself"); so that, though always accompanying repentance, it is not always accompanied by repentance. "Repentance" removes the impediments in the way of "salvation" (to which "death," namely, of the soul, is opposed). "The sorrow of the world" is not at the sin itself, but at its penal consequences: so that the tears of pain are no sooner dried up, than the pleasures of ungodliness are renewed. So Pharaoh, Exodus 9:27 Exodus 9:28-30 ; and Saul, 1 Samuel 15:23-30 . Compare Isaiah 9:13 , Revelation 16:10 Revelation 16:11 . Contrast David's "godly sorrow," 2 Samuel 12:13 , and Peter's, Matthew 26:75 .
11. Confirmation of 2 Corinthians 7:10 from the Corinthians' own experience.
carefulness--solicitude, literally, "diligence"; opposed to their past negligence in the matter.
in you--Greek "for you."
yea--not only "carefulness" or diligence, but also "clearing of yourselves," namely, to me by Titus: anxiety to show you disapproved of the deed.
indignation--against the offender.
fear--of the wrath of God, and of sinning any more [SCLATER and CALVIN]; fear of Paul [GROTIUS], ( 1 Corinthians 4:2 1 Corinthians 4:19-21 ).
vehement desire--longing for restoration to Paul's approval [CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. "Fear" is in spite of one's self. "Longing desire" is spontaneous, and implies strong love and an aspiration for correction [CALVIN]. "Desire" for the presence of Paul, as he had given them the hope of it ( 1 Corinthians 4:19 , 16:5 ) [GROTIUS and ESTIUS].
zeal--for right and for God's honor against what is wrong. Or, "for the good of the soul of the offender" [BENGEL].
revenge--Translate, "Exacting of punishment" ( 1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:3 ). Their "carefulness" was exhibited in the six points just specified: "clearing of themselves," and "indignation" in relation to themselves; "fear" and "vehement desire" in respect to the apostle; "zeal" and "revenge" in respect to the offender [BENGEL]; (compare 2 Corinthians 7:7 ).
In all--the respects just stated.
clear--Greek, "pure," namely, from complicity in the guilty deed. "Approved yourselves," Greek, "commended yourselves." Whatever suspicion of complicity rested on you ( 1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:6 ) through your former remissness, you have cleared off by your present strenuousness in reprobating the deed.
12. though I wrote unto you--"making you sorry with my letter" ( 2 Corinthians 7:8 ).
his cause that suffered wrong--the father of the incestuous person who had his father's wife ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ). The father, thus it seems, was alive.
that our care for you, &c.--Some of the oldest manuscripts read thus, "That YOUR care for us might be made manifest unto you," &c. But the words, "unto you," thus, would be rather obscure; still the obscurity of the genuine reading may have been the very reason for the change being made by correctors into the reading of English Version. ALFORD explains the reading: "He wrote in order to bring out their zeal on his behalf (that is, to obey his command), and make it manifest to themselves in God's sight, that is, to bring out among them their zeal to regard and obey him." But some of the oldest manuscripts and versions (including the Vulgate and old Italian) support English Version. And the words, "to you," suit it better than the other reading. 2 Corinthians 2:4 , "I wrote . . . that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you," plainly accords with it, and disproves ALFORD'S assertion that English Version is inconsistent with the fact as to the purpose of his letter. His writing, he says, was not so much for the sake of the individual offender, or the individual offended, but from his "earnest care" or concern for the welfare of the Church.
13. The oldest manuscripts read thus, "Therefore (Greek, 'for this cause,' namely, because our aim has been attained) we have been (English Version, 'were,' is not so accurate) comforted; yea (Greek, 'but'), in OUR comfort we exceedingly the more joyed for the joy of Titus," &c. (compare 2 Corinthians 7:7 ).
14. anything--that is, at all.
I am not ashamed--"I am not put to shame," namely, by learning from Titus that you did not realize the high character I gave him of you.
as . . . all things . . . in truth, even so our boasting . . . is found a truth--As our speaking in general to you was true ( 2 Corinthians 1:18 ), so our particular boasting to Titus concerning you is now, by his report, proved to be truth (compare 2 Corinthians 9:2 ). Some oldest manuscripts read expressly, "concerning you"; this in either reading is the sense.
15. his inward affection--literally, "bowels" (compare 2 Corinthians 6:12 , Philippians 1:8 , 2:1 , Colossians 3:12 ).
obedience--( 2 Corinthians 2:9 ).
fear and trembling--with trembling anxiety to obey my wishes, and fearful lest there should be aught in yourselves to offend him and me ( 2 Corinthians 7:11 ; compare 1 Corinthians 2:3 ).
16. therefore--omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The conclusion is more emphatical without it.
that I have confidence in you in all things--rather, as Greek, "that in everything I am of good courage concerning (literally, 'in the case of') you," as contrasted with my former doubts concerning you.