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"The Joyful Results of Godly Sorrow"

2 Corinthians 7.12-16

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 17, 2008

Jesus said that there will be "more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). And if this would be true of the angels in glory, it should also be true among us! A truly godly heart never rejoices over the fact that sinners receive judgment. Rather, it is characterized by love that "does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6); and has "no greater joy" than to hear that brothers and sisters "walk in truth" (3 John 4).

Paul had written a difficult letter to the Corinthians, calling them to repentance from sin. It represented a risk taken in love; and he had sent Titus to check on their response. And, as we saw in 2 Corinthians 7:2-11, Paul celebrated the great news from Titus that the Corinthians had, indeed, responded with genuine humility and with "godly sorrow" that led to "repentance" (7:9-10). And now, Paul further glories in the good results that were brought about by this sorrowful repentance—and in the process encourages the hearts of his beloved brothers and sisters.

Here, we see . . .


Paul states his ultimate purpose in writing that hard letter. It wasn't simply to rebuke the sinning man (1 Corinthians 5:1ff), or for the sake of the person harmed by his sin (apparently a particular individual who was especially victimized). Rather it was so that genuine care could be revealed. There is some differences in the way this verse is translated. Some translations (such as the King James Version and New King James Version) follows the Latin Vulgate; and translates it, "but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you". Other translations follow the better traditions of the original text and have it "that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are" (as the New International Version has it) . In the one form of translation, the focus is on revealing the apostles' care for the Corinthians; and in the other, the focus is on revealing the Corinthian's care for Paul and his co-workers. In either case, the painful sorrow brought of that hard letter brought about the revealing of genuine care in the sight of God.


The apostle and his beloved people were so joined together in spirit that the comfort of the repentant Corinthians resulted in his own comfort. In a sense, his actions toward them had a godly self-interest. He and they were so joined together, that their sorrow was his sorrow (2:2), and their comfort was his comfort (1:3-7).


Not only did Paul rejoice in the shared comfort experienced between himself and the Corinthians, but he was also overjoyed at the things that blessed Titus. Titus had, no doubt, gone to the Corinthians with some apprehension. But far from being brought into despair by the experience, the Corinthians—in their repentance—positively "refreshed" Titus. He came away built-up and energized (see 7:7). This "refreshing" experienced by Titus also refreshed Paul (2:12-14).


Somewhere along the way, it must be that Paul had assured Titus that the Corinthians would respond in good faith; and that Titus would find good encouragement at their repentance. Paul was clearly balanced in the things he said about the Corinthians. He not only spoke the truth about the sin they were embracing; but he also spoke the truth about the repentance they would demonstrate. Paul thought and spoke the best about them. Just as he spoke truth to them, he also spoke truth about them. And as it turns out, he was proven truthful in what he said on both accounts.


A wonderful side-benefit of the challenge that everyone had just experienced was that "affection" was increased. Titus came away from the experience with a greater love for the Corinthians—particularly as he witnessed their obedience to Paul's call. We need to remember this. Those "hard times" we may have with one another in the body of Christ—those times of confrontation of sin and calls to repentance, those times of tension and strain—can result in greater love for one another if we faithfully get to the other side of it in obedience to God.


Titus particularly noted to Paul the zeal with which the Corinthians repented (see 7:11). Paul makes mention of the "fear and trembling" with which they received Titus and his task from Paul. It wasn't a fear and trembling of a negative sort; but rather a matter of reverence toward God and a hatred of sin. Titus was drawn to a greater love for the Corinthians when he saw the earnestness with which they sought to make things right.


These closing words are, really, the conclusion of everything that Paul has had to say from the beginning of the letter to this point. But it has particular significance in this context because (1) it summarizes his feelings of confidence toward the Corinthians on the other side of their repentance; and (2) sets the way for the confident request he is about to make of them in chapter 8.

* * * * * * * * * *

As Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." Sharpening sometimes involves the sort of strikes that cause sparks. But on the other side of those times is greater love. May we so love one another, that we will take the risk of calling one another to greater holiness in Christ—and, as a result, make way for even greater love afterwards!


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