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.

Proverbs 6

Chapter six contains some of the well-known sections of Proverbs: the foolishness of co-signing, the industrious ant, and the seven deadly sins. Still, there are only three main sections of the chapter. In the first section, Solomon warned his son about foolishness regarding finances (Proverbs 6:1-15). Co-signing a loan for a financially risky person is foolish, and he should do everything within his power to get out of it, like a gazelle running for its life. Laziness is also foolish, and the “sluggard” was worse than an ant, which actually works for its food, while the lazy man sleeps, makes excuses, and expects everyone else to help him. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

The second section contains the infamous seven deadly sins, “seven things that are an abomination to him” (Proverbs 6:16-22). This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it represents the categories of actions and attitudes that God despises. It is worth noting that, although only two of these are direct violations of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes are a kind of opposite list of proper actions and attitudes that God desires in his people. 1 Solomon persisted in his claim that his instructions were the best for his son and would keep him protected both physically and spiritually as he walked life’s path, but it required diligence and commitment to know and keep them.

The third section returns to the area of sexual morality (Proverbs 6:23-35). Once again the adulterous woman is in view and is considered worse than a prostitute. Solomon’s reasoning is that, though a prostitute may bankrupt a man, an adulteress will have a jealous husband. “Can a man hold fire against his chest without burning his clothes?” Can a man have an affair with his neighbor’s wife without repercussions? What compensation will the husband accept for this kind of theft?

Notes:

  1. Technically, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 are instructions and principles for the Messianic Kingdom, but some of the underlying attitudes are timeless.

Jude

As is the case with James, the identification of Jude has caused much debate. Jude and Judas were popular names honoring the great tribal patriarch, Judah. However, because Jude called himself “THE BROTHER OF JAMES” (Jude 1), with no clarification of which James, it is best to see this as a reference to the most well-known James at that time, Jesus’ half-brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. This would also make Jude Jesus’ half-brother. (The other two named in Matthew 13:55 were Joseph and Simon, also named after patriarchs.)

Although Jude’s letter was never officially rejected by the Early Church, some were hesitant to recognize it as inspired, primarily because of his references to other Scripture (2 Peter) and extra-biblical literature. His reliance on the book of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15 and the reference to the body of Moses in Jude 9 has caused some to question its integrity. However, Paul quoted Greek poets, philosophers, and traditional sayings multiple times within his inspired letters, so this is not automatically cause for disqualification. In fact, except for the specific account in Jude 9, there is nothing in Jude that contradicts other Scripture or creates new doctrine. Ironically, it is instead a short, yet strong, reminder of our need to maintain doctrinal accuracy.

Jude had intended to write a longer letter on the doctrine of salvation, but the influx of false teachers in the church (Jude 4; likely the same ones Paul and Peter warned about earlier) caused him to set that aside for a quick memo on doctrinal integrity. Specifically, he wrote, believers must “CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH” (Jude 3). It is important that we do not simply “believe” or “uphold” the faith. We must fight for it, knowing that our opponents will certainly fight for their side. Jude seems to quote 2 Peter 2:1 when he referred to those “WHO DENY OUR ONLY MASTER AND LORD, JESUS CHRIST” (Jude 4).

Showing a penchant for cadence in his oratory, Jude created four lists to describe these false teachers. First, he compared their coming judgment to the plagues of Egypt, the angels of Genesis 6, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7). Second, he compared their attitude toward God to Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 11). Third, using visuals from nature, he compared their activity to dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wayward stars (Jude 12-13). Fourth, describing their spiritual state, he called them divisive, worldly, and devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19).

In contrast to this dangerous threat to local churches, Jude provided two lists for believers as well (Jude 17, 20-21 and Jude 22-23). First, regarding ourselves, we must: 1) remember this was prophesied; 2) pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) maintain ourselves in God’s love; and 4) anticipate Christ’s mercy. Second, regarding others, we must: 1) have mercy on those wavering in the truth; 2) rescue some from the fire; 3) have mercy on others, while paying attention to ourselves (see Galatians 6:1).

Jude’s final exhortation reminded his readers – and us – that succumbing to false teaching is not inevitable. Not only can God keep us from falling, but he can also cause us to stand, “REJOICING, WITHOUT BLEMISH BEFORE HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE” (Jude 24) for eternity.