2 Corinthians 7

Chapter seven contains one of the most personal parts of this letter. Paul’s genuine love and care for his churches were nothing rare; we find it all over his letters. Mentions of his coworkers are also plentiful throughout his writings. What makes this chapter special, though, is that digs to the very heart of his dealings with the Corinthian believers. In the first three verses, he begged yet again that they would embrace him the way he did them. This continued theme hints that it was more than just a few factions; he was afraid they had rejected him altogether, and this chapter finally reveals why.

In his previous letter, Paul had “spanked” them for their sinfulness in several areas (1 Corinthians 3-6), but he had not yet heard back on how well they received it. Titus had gone (either with that letter or later) to evaluate the church and bring news back to Paul. While Titus was gone, Paul was devastated by the thought that he may have been too harsh and possibly crushed them. When Titus finally rejoined Paul in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:4-7; 1 Corinthians 16:5-6), he brought great news. The majority (2 Corinthians 2:6) had accepted Paul’s message and repented! This brought such a wave of relief over Paul that he had to write them again, resulting in 2 Corinthians.

Although he was sorry that he had saddened them by his letter, Paul noted that there are two kinds of sadness. The first kind is from God, who often uses sadness in our lives to lead us to repent of sin (2 Corinthians 7:10-12). Repentance is a change of mind, ideally resulting in new actions as well. Their change of actions showed that they truly had a change of heart and mind because of the sorrow they experienced from his letter. This type leaves “no regret” but leads “to salvation” – not just justification from sin, but the full picture of life with God, spiritual growth, and eternal reward. The second type of sadness is “worldly sadness” that offers none of that. It leads only to regret, depression, and despair. Judas Iscariot is a sad example of this type of sadness (Matthew 27:3-5).

Paul finished by praising them for their obedience. He had bragged about them to Titus (2 Corinthians 7:13-16) and was glad to hear that he had not lied or exaggerated. This caused Titus to love them even more, which helped him minister to them, which ultimately helped them as well.

2 Corinthians 6

Chapter six contains two primary sections. As Paul wrapped up the self-defense of his authority and ministry that he had spent the past several chapters declaring, he presented the Corinthians with two challenges. First, he challenged them to not turn away from the message he had presented (2 Corinthians 6:1-10). “To receive the grace of God in vain” does not have anything to do with losing their salvation. If we were to remove the chapter and verse divisions, Paul had just explained that the purpose of their salvation was “so that in him we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). To receive God’s grace without growing in righteousness, he explained, would be to receive it “in vain” or “for no purpose.” He urged them to reconsider their rejection of his ministry and message because he and his team had “commended [themselves] in every way,” risking life and limb to make sure the Corinthians had the truth. “Please,” he begged, “reciprocate our love for you by turning your affection back toward us again” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

Paul’s second challenge was toward their thinking and associations (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). For some reason, they had welcomed Paul’s accusers and false teachers into their community with open arms (see 2 Corinthians 11:4). They had no spiritual discernment and apparently were willing to listen to whoever was right in front of them. Rather than simply saying, “Don’t associate with them!”, Paul challenged their thinking. “Consider this: what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness . . . Christ with Belial . . . a believer with an unbeliever . . . the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) It seems he thought they could answer that well enough; there is nothing in common at all. Paul would not always be there to tell them which individual to listen to; instead, they needed to be able to identify false doctrine and choose to disassociate from it. Paul reminded them that “we are the temple of the living God,” home of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Because of this relationship and status with God, they had no business attaching themselves to anything that goes against God, his character, or his truth.