Summary: Bringing people to repentance is tough work. God has a way, and it leads to salvation. Working through compicated relationship factors Paul shares a great success story here.
From Heavenly Hurts to Healing Hearts
What did it take for God to bring you to repentance?
Right in the heart of this chapter we discover a great truth of God about repentance that leads to salvation. We’ve been studying this letter of Paul to Corinth and have noticed how he defends his ministry with them as he prepares for a third visit to this church. Last time he came to Corinth it was deeply troubling. He left and has written a harsh letter that he regretted writing at first. But behold! It has actually caused a revival of zeal toward Christ and Paul’s ministry among them! Titus has brought him a good report about it. Evidently most of the church has responded well, but there are holdouts of unrepentant persons there and Paul knows it. He has to go again for a third visit and recover all he can for Christ. He’s also following up on an earlier promise from this church. They have promised to collect an offering that is to go to Jerusalem to help the Christians there who are suffering from a famine. He wants them to be prepared by the time he makes this third visit because he will be bringing guests who will witness their offering. Imagine writing a letter to straighten out the people that you hope will offer a big contribution to a cause you wish to support. This letter is a delicate work. How do you deal with all these details? We see three major areas in this letter that Paul deals with. One area involves the repentant members who need encouragement and consolation. The second area involves this matter of a contribution the Church there has promised and now needs to complete. The third area involves the camp of opponents of Paul and their accusations and sinful condition. He weaves this letter together and deals with each area. Chapters 1-7 are directed toward the repentant and faithful and the end of chapter 7 introduces the section about their promised gift, which is covered in chapters 8-9. Finally, he will clobber his opponents in chapters 10-13, just wait and see.
Let’s look at this chapter from the 2 Corinthian letter in four sections:
From cleansing to connection 1-4
From conflict to comfort 5-7
From conviction to correction 8-12
From consolation to confidence 13-16
Cleansing to Connection:
7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. 3 I do not speak to condemn you; for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my confidence in you, great is my boasting on your behalf; I am filled with comfort. I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
They have been instructed to separate themselves from those that practice sin and evil, motivated by God’s call to come out from among them and he will be their God and dwell among them and they will be his sons and daughters. It was time for a clear clean break with evil. They need this. There is a mix in the church there that is ruining the whole batch. Paul has been patient up to this point, but the true colors of his enemies have shown themselves. Some false teachers have also come in and made direct attacks on Paul’s ministry and it is time to clean up the house.
Look at the church in our time. There are a lot of warnings today about change agents working in the church to bring the church away from God’s way. I’m not as familiar with what is happening in the churches in the south as I am with what has happened in churches in the Northeast, but I get newsletters and emails warning of this group or that person drifting away from the old paths. When such messages begin to fly there can be a great suspicion that arises within congregations. Some churches even split over things that never should have been brought up. It takes very little to disturb the peace within a congregation. It takes years to work through the pain and division such disturbance brings. I won’t go into it, but our history is cluttered with painful miserable clashes and crashes of Christians on a collision course with division. God hates the sin of division and divisiveness and he punishes those that cause it. God’s word in this letter remind us that this problem has been around a long, long time. As much as we would like to be free from the struggles of this world, we’d best be prepared to face trials and tribulations, because Jesus promised we would go through them.