Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
Last week, we learnt what our attitudes to service should be as ministers and co-workers in the vineyard, through the life of Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church in Chapter 6. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Paul was able to maintain a winning and godly attitude in all tribulations, distresses, tumults and imprisonments. Remember, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philipians 4:13).
This week, we will continue our study of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthian Church in chapter 7.
Vs 1: It is our responsibility and not God’s
The promises of God about His dwelling among His people (Chp.6:16b) are the basis for Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians, and to us, to put off all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Special attention to the following;
- It is the believer’s responsibility to consciously cleanse and walk in holiness. How?
- We must be conscious that a holy God is dwelling in our midst (and will do so even more in the kingdom of God)
- We should fear God in a way that prompts us to put off all sin.
- We should pursue holiness because He is holy. Any defilement, whether in spirit or flesh, should be cleansed. If God is holy and can only dwell amongst those who are holy, how can Christians become partners with unbelievers? The thought is inconceivable.
Vs 2-4: Attributes of a Godly Leader
- Paul appeals to the Corinthians to “open their hearts” or make room for him and the authentic apostles because the Corinthians have withdrawn themselves from them (6:11-13) This is a great display of humility from Paul. Remember, the better person does the best thing first. This is no display of weakness, rather a display of strength stemming from spiritual maturity. He communicates their desire for restoration of relationship.
- Paul also enumerates evidences of their love and affection towards the Corinthians by stating they have “wronged no one” i.e. not acted unjustly towards them; “corrupted no one”, i.e. not seduced or misled anyone; “cheated or taken advantage of” any of them. The Corinthians have not been exploited or cheated. This is a learning point, especially for those of us in authority.
Vs 5-7: Maintain Joy In The Midst of Affliction
- “We were troubled from every sides” - Paul shows that the Apostles were not exempted from real life issues – conflicts and occasional fears.
- He however acknowledged the comfort of God in the midst of troubles. 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” (vs 4)
- 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.
Vs 8-12: A Time for Every Purpose
- Paul has made several visits to Corinth and also written several letters, only two (1st and 2nd Corinthians) of which are preserved for us in the New Testament.
- 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. 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.
- As the writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1puts it – “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” As body of Believers, we must not shy away from being corrected and also correcting others, no matter our levels. Jesus will rather chastise us with the truth than pamper us with flattery. Keeping mute (most times) is never effective.
- We should however correct or chastise prayerfully, trusting that this will result in a godly sorrow which will eventually lead to godly repentance which is the desired effect of the correction in the first place.
- What does Paul mean when he said “that you might suffer loss from us in nothing” or speaks of the possibility of the Corinthians “suffering a loss through Paul and his colleagues”? The inference here is 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. Repentance is without regrets. Repentance leads to salvation, and salvation is never regretted.
- 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 (and the exposure). Judas was sorry he had betrayed our Lord (Matthew 27:3), but his sorrow did not lead him to repentance.
- Paul’s letter to the Corinthians led to 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.
- Some of the “fruits of repentance” which Titus reported to Paul are listed in verse 11: what vindication of yourselves [against charges that you tolerate sin], what indignation [at sin], what fear [of offending God], what longing [for righteousness and justice], what passion [to do what is right], what readiness to punish [those who sin and those who tolerate sin]!
- Just what is the “wrong” Paul rebukes, for which the Corinthians repent? According to Verse 12, there is a specific problem in Corinth. It is a specific sin committed by one individual (“the offender”) and against another (“the one offended”). 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. 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. 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.
Conclusion: Vs 13-16: Rejoicing over Good Reports
- Paul and his colleagues are greatly comforted and encouraged by the report Titus gives concerning the Corinthians. How relieved and excited Titus must have been at the repentance and total change of attitude by the convicted Corinthians. That’s what our response should be when an erring member of the Body have a change of heart. This is opposite to what Jonah felt at Nineveh.
- 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. 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 Cor.1:4-9; 2 Cor.1:7; 7:4)
- 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.
Most of this teaching is culled from bible.org