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.