Paul’s reaction to the news (II Corinthians 7:5-7)
As Paul mentioned before (II Corinthians 1:16), he decided to go to Macedonia before going to Corinth. Yet, the choice was not without problems. He had little opportunity to rest because of many difficulties (II Corinthians 4:8). It appears he met with opposition by others. And he had to deal with his own personal fears. He left for Macedonia to find Titus (II Corinthians 2:12-13), but he wasn’t there when Paul arrived, which left Paul concerned.
Happily, Titus did eventually arrive in Macedonia and Paul found comfort that God allowed them to meet once again.
It wasn’t just Titus’ coming that relieved Paul, the news he brought of the brethren in Corinth was also a relief to Paul. Paul learned that Titus was well-received by the brethren in Corinth. He reported that the letter had produced a sincere desire to improve, sorrow at doing wrong, and a strong attachment to Paul.
Joy in bringing about change (II Corinthians 7:8-12)
Paul understood that he had caused sorrow in Corinth by his letter, but he doesn’t regret doing so, though he did have regrets when he wrote it (II Corinthians 2:4). Paul knew the letter would grieve the Corinthians, even though that sorrow only lasted a short while. But now he can rejoice because of the impact that it had on the Corinthians. He isn’t happy about making them sorrowful, but that they repented because of that necessary sorrow. That time of grief caused them no harm, only discomfort.
Sorrow comes in two forms, there is the sorrow of the world and the sorrow of God (literally, “according to God,” I Peter 4:6). The sorrow of the world results in death (Isaiah 9:13; Revelation 16:10-11). Godly sorrow causes a change that leads to salvation (Psalms 51:4; Jeremiah 31:9; Ezekiel 7:16). Notice that repentance is not the sorrow. Sorrow is the motivation for repentance. Repentance is the response to sorrow – the person making changes in his life and thus removing the cause of his sorrow. Nor is repentance the final step to salvation. It is a necessary step, but one that leads to salvation and not gives salvation.
Paul invites the Corinthians to take note of the changes that sorrow caused in them:
- Diligence (spoude): A word that combines the ideas of being in a hurry, working hard and do your best, and an eagerness or willingness to work. Here is excitement to make a change.
- Clearing of yourself (apologia): a legal term for making a verbal defense, but not in the sense of trying to justify oneself. Here they are offering proof that they have changed.
- Indignation (aganaktesos): anger at himself and at the sin which had entrapped them (Job 42:6; Jeremiah 31:18-20; Psalms 119:104, 128).
- Fear (phobos): a dread of what might happen if they did not change (Proverbs 14:16; Romans 11:20; Philippians 2:12).
- Longing (epipothesis): A sincere desire to be better (Psalms 42:1; Isaiah 26:8).
- Zeal (zelos): On fire to do what is right (Psalms 69:9; Acts 17:16).
- Vengeance (ekdikesis): Setting about to punish or discipline wrongdoing.
In every way, they prove that they were not the same people they were in the past. They were clean, no longer guilty of the sins they had committed.
- Give examples of worldly sorrow.
- Can Christianity be taught positively, without scolding or stepping on people’s toes? Why?
- Is repentance saying you’re sorry?
When Paul wrote the first Corinthian letter, he did not write it for the sake of the man who was sinning, nor for the sake of the one being sinned against, though certainly it had impact on their lives. He wrote the letter so that the Corinthians would discover in themselves how much he cared about their welfare (II Corinthians 2:4).
Joy in seeing Titus’ happiness (II Corinthians 7:13-16)
Paul found comfort in the news he received, especially in Titus’ joy in having been with the Corinthians (II Corinthians 7:7). Paul had spoken highly of the Corinthians to Titus, and he is happy that Titus found the Corinthians living up to his expectations. Just as Paul has spoken the truth to the Corinthians (II Corinthians 1:18), he had spoken the truth to Titus.
Titus was impressed by the respect he received in coming and the Corinthians' willingness to obey. Their love for the truth generated a deep love in Titus for the Corinthians. Thus Paul rejoices that his confidence in the Corinthians was well placed.