Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

August 26, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians


II. Apology for Paul’s Ministry. (1:12–7:16)

  1. The Challenge of Paul. (6:11-7:16)

2. The encouragement from their response. (7:5–16)                                                   

               Lesson II.C.2.b:Correction of the letter.         (7:8–12)


2nd Corinthians 7:8-12 (NKJV)

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.





8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.


For even if I made you sorry with my letter

“For even if I made you sorry,” or rather, caused you much distress and pain of mind. Titus had told Paul about their distress; and for him to have caused pain to others would have been a source of grief for him


“My letter” was probably the First Epistle he wrote to the church at Corinth, though some suppose that the allusion is to an intermediate letter, which has been lost for centuries.  There are various ways of considering this clause. Nothing, however, is simpler than to regard it as a parenthetic remark (for I see that that Epistle, though it were but for a time, saddened you).In the First Epistle which he had sent to them he had felt it necessary to scold them for their disagreements and other disorders which had occurred and which were tolerated in the church; particularly, the part dealing with the incestuous person. That Epistle was designed to produce pain in them—as severe and just reproof always does; and Paul felt very apprehensive about its effect on them. It was painful to him to write it, and he was well aware that it must cause deep distress among them to be scolded in this manner.


I do not regret it; though I did regret it

“I do not regret it,”but did he have any misgivings? Didn’t he question whether the letter might have been dispensed with? Was there no internal struggle; no sorrow; no emotion which may be called regret at the action which he has taken? Yet there is no repentance, like a parent whose punishment was too severe might show. He feels that he has done what was right and necessary. He approves of his own actions, and has cause for rejoicing because of the good effects which follow. This appears to have been the mindset of the Apostle Paul in this case; and it shows that he had a tender heart that he did not delight in giving pain and that he had no desire to overwhelm them with grief. When the effect was observed, he was willing to appraise them of the pain which it had caused him. When a parent has corrected a child, there is nothing wrong with informing him of the internal struggle which ensued, and the deep pain and anxiety caused by the necessity of resorting to chastisement.And he adds that he is now glad that he drove them to that sorrow even though it was against his will, since it was so profitable to them. For there is a sorrow not only praiseworthy, but also necessary, by which repentance grows by degree: and he highly praises them for their repentance.


The Apostle used rebukes calculated to grieve the Corinthians; but now that he has learned from Titus the beneficial effect it produced in them, he no longer regrets it. I do not regret it”—I have seen such happy effects produced by it; it has so completely answered the outcome which I had envisioned; it was so kindly received, that I no longer regret that I wrote it. It gives me no pain when I recall the experience, but I have good reason to rejoice that it was done. The severity was called for; it seemed my duty to write severely.


Though I did regret it (writing it), because I feared it might irritate some of you, and produce some bad effects. Or the meaning is, I felt a sympathetic sorrow for having grieved you, until I saw the happy fruit of it.  I do not regret it; though I did regret it.”Although he was sometimes upset, because (probably) he understood that some truly pious persons in this church would be troubled by his letter, since they may mistakenly believe it was intended for them. He was once sorry that it had this effect, being troubled that he had done anything to grieve them, whom he so affectionately loved. Every one has experienced the anxiety which has followed the mailing of some painful letter. Paul was an inspired man, and what he had said was proper and right. But he was a man of deep feeling, and of tender affections. He was pained at the necessity of giving rebuke. And there is no improbability in supposing that after the letter had been sent off, and he reflected on its nature and on the pain which it would cause to those whom he tenderly loved, there might have been some misgivings about it, and the deepest anxiety, and regret at the necessity of doing it. What parent is there who has not had the same feeling as this? He has felt it necessary to correct a dearly loved child, and has resolved to do it, and has carried out it.


Some people cannot understand how an inspired Apostle could regret what he had done: if it were done by inspiration, what room could there be for misgivings? And if he regretted an act done under God’s guidance, just as any common man might regret a foolish act, how could the Apostle be inspired? But this, which might puzzle some, exhibits the beauty and naturalness of the whole narrative. God’s inspiration does not take a man and make a passive machine out of him. When God inspires, His spirit mixes with the spirit of man in the form of thought, but not without struggles and misgivings of the human element. Otherwise it would not be inspiration at all, but simply a Divine echo through the man. Similar conflicts of the human with the Divine in the inspired writers maybe seen in Exodus 4:10-14Exodus 6:12Jeremiah 1:6-9Jeremiah 14:13Jeremiah 20:7-9;Jeremiah 20:14-18, and in the whole book of Jonah.


For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

“For I perceive”—I recognize the good effect of the Epistle. I perceive that the good results it produced in you is the kind of sorrow which I desired. I see that the results it has produced are permanent. The sorrow which it caused in you will only last for a while; the good effects will be enduring. I have, therefore, good reason to rejoice that I sent the Epistle. It produced permanent repentance and reformation (v. 9), and thus accomplished all that I wished or desired.


“For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry.”Paul had taken the right course when he sent them the First Epistle, which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But after the Epistle was sent, the tender human heart of Paul doubted whether he had done the right thing, whether he had given unnecessary pain, etcetera, and his mind was not fully put at rest until the arrival of Titus showed him clearly the hand of God in the matter. Such self-questioning is constantly going on in the mind of every conscientious man, even when he has been acting totally under the guidance of God’s Spirit. The word translated here as “made sorry, is the same word which has been rendered caused grief and grieved in chapter 2.


“Though only for a while” (For the phrase, see Philemon 1:15; Galatians 2:5. Some versions have, “for a season.”)—their sorrow was a temporary sorrow, lasting only until they could reform those abuses, which they were made aware of by that first Epistle, and give the Apostle that wrote it reasonable satisfaction. Their grief will at any rate cease when they receive this letter, and he can bear the thought of having pained them when he remembers the brevity of their grief and the good effects which resulted from it.



9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.


Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry,

“Now I rejoice”—though “I did regret” having made you sorry by my letter, I rejoice NOW, not that you were caused sorrow, but because your sorrow resulted in your repentance. This is another instance of the tender consideration of Paul. He will not run the risk of being supposed, even for a moment, to have taken pleasure in the pain of others. The Corinthian believers may have mistakenly concluded that he was glad they were sorry from his remark that he "rejoiced" when he heard of their "lamentation" (v. 7). 


When people are brought to repentance under the preaching of the Gospel, the ministers of the Gospel do not find pleasure in their grief as such. They do not want to make people unhappy by calling them to repentance, and they take no pleasure in the deep distress which is often produced by their preaching. It is only because such sorrow is an indication of their return to God, and will be followed by happiness and by the fruits of good living, that they find any pleasure in it, or that they seek to produce it.


But that your sorrow led to repentance

“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance”: the Apostle takes advantage of this opportunity to gain the respect and affections of the members of this famous church, and to do away with any misrepresentations of him to them from those false teachers that had crept in among them, for fear that they would take some advantage of his saying that he did not regret that he had made them sorry. Now he opens up, and tells them, he did not rejoice in their sorrow, but in the blessed effect of it; which was their reformation of those abuses and errors which he had rebuked them for, the effect of this rebuke was that they sorrowed for a little while.


It cannot be insisted upon too strongly that the Greek word translated “repentance” contains neither the idea of sorrow or of chastening discipline. The word means change of mind or purpose. Sorrow may or may not accompany it. In most cases, as in this, it will do so. But the essence of Gospel repentance is not the sorrow it produces, but the change it makes in people. “Repentance” is different from the regret of verse 8, indicating a moral change, as shown by the next clause. It was not mere grief; it was not sorrow producing melancholy, gloom, or despair; it was not sorrow which led you to be angry at him who had admonished you for your errors—as is sometimes the case with the sorrow that is produced by criticism and rebuke; but it was sorrow that led to a change and reformation—If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:7). Sorrow according to the will of God, working toward the glory of God, and produced by the Spirit of God, makes the heart humble, contrite, submissive, and disposed to take down every sin; and the person to walk in newness of life. And this repentance is connected with saving faith in Christ. It was sorrow that was followed by a putting away of the evil for which they were rebuked. Their sorrow erupted in true evangelical repentance, and this was the ground of his rejoicing; for as there is joy in heaven among the angels, at the repentance of a sinner, so there is joy in the church below, among the saints and ministers of the Gospel, when either sinners are brought in, or backsliders returned by repentance.


For you were made sorry in a godly manner

 There is a great difference between this sorrow in a godly manner, and the sorrow of the world. The happy fruits of true repentance are mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed. It brought into being, indignation at sin, at themselves, at the tempter and his methods. It spawned a cautious fear of sin. It created a desire to be reconciled with God. It lead to enthusiasm for doing our duty toward God, and against sin. Deep humility before God, hatred of all sin, faith in Christ, a new heart and a new life, bring about repentance unto salvation. (For like phrases see Romans 8:27; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 2:8.)  


“In a godly manner” means “according to God;” that is, your sorrow with regard to God, and rendering your mind conformable to God. Compare:

  • Romans 14:22: “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Either he does not act contrary to his own conscience, and so condemns himself by what he allows himself to do; or exposes himself to the censure, judgment, and condemnation of others, by doing that which he approves of as lawful, and so it is, but unlawful when his doing it offends others.
  • 1 Pe 4:6: “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”One interpretation of this verse has been explained as meaning those spiritually dead. But the dead must be the same as in verse 5 , and there they are opposed to the living. The idea is that Christ, in the Spirit, preached to the antediluvians. Here, Peter affirms that all the dead who lived before Christ came had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in some form; hence when the living and dead are judged, none can plead that they had no chance of life. 
  • Romans 8:27: “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” These speechless groanings are understood by God, because it is according to his will that the Spirit intercedes.


That you might suffer loss from us in nothing

That you might suffer loss from us in nothing; the wise God was so in control of things by his providence that nothing which the Apostle said or wrote could prove detrimental, but rather advantageous to this church which he loved.


See Matthew 16:26, where “suffer loss” is translated loseLuke 9:25, where it is translated cast away. See also 1 Corinthians 3:15, where it says, “If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  The sense here seems to be, "So that on the whole no real injury was done you in any respect by me. You were indeed put to pain and grief by my reproof. You sorrowed. But it has done you no injury on the whole. It has been a benefit to you. If you had not reformed, if you had been pained without putting away the sins for which the reproof was administered, if it had been mere grief without any proper fruit, you might have said that you would have suffered a loss of happiness, or you might have given me occasion to inflict severer discipline. But now you are gainers in happiness by all the sorrow which I have caused." Sinners are gainers of happiness in the end by all the pain of repentance produced by the preaching of the Gospel. No man suffers loss by being told of his faults if he repents; and people are under the highest obligations to those faithful ministers and other friends who tell them of their errors, and who are the means of bringing them to true repentance.


What brought the Apostle great pleasure was that his Epistle to them, and the effect it produced, had not been in the least bit detrimental to them. Things had gone so well, and this sorrow had been crafted in such a manner that they were not hurt in their souls, but had profited from the experience; in their church, they had not lost one member because of it; even the offender himself, who had caused all this trouble, was recovered and restored by these means.



10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.


For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation

“For godly sorrow,” or “Sorrow according to God” is the kind of sorrow that has a high regard for God, or is according to His will, or that leads the soul to Him. This is a very important expression in regard to true repentance, and shows the exact nature of that sorrow which is connected with a return to God. The phrase may be regarded as implying the following things:

(1)   It is the type of sorrow that God approves of, or is suitable to or conformable to His will and desires. It cannot mean that it is the kind of sorrow or grief that God has, for he has none; but rather, it is the kind of sorrow which God demands from those who return to him. It is a sorrow which His truth is able to produce in the heart; a sorrow that arises from seeing one’s sin as God sees it; the sorrow that exists in the mind when our views on sin coincide with His in regard to the existence, the extent, the nature, and the destructive effects of sin. Such views will lead to sorrow that it was ever committed; and such views will be "according to God."

(2)  Such sorrow shall be expressed toward God in view of sin committed; which shall arise from the knowledge that all sin is committed against a holy God. It is not chiefly that it will lead to pain; that it will overwhelm the soul in disgrace; that it will forfeit the favor of God or lead to the contempt of man; or that it will lead to an eternal hell; but it is a belief which arises from the idea that the evil of sin committed against a holy and just God, derives its main evil from the fact that it is an offence against his infinite Majesty. David expressed such sorrow in Psalm 2:4, when he said, “against thee, thee only have I sinned;”when the offence regarded as committed against man, enormous as it was, was lost and absorbed in its greater evil when regarded as committed against God. So all true and genuine repentance is that which regards sin as deriving its main evil from the fact that it is committed against God.

(3)  It is sorrow which leads to God. It leads to God to obtain forgiveness; to seek for solace. A heart truly contrite and penitent seeks God, and begs pardon from Him. All other sorrow than that which is genuine repentance, leads the person away from God. He seeks consolation in the world; he attempts to drive away his grim impressions or to drown them in the pleasures and the cares of life. But genuine sorrow for sin leads the soul to God, and conducts the sinner to the Redeemer, to obtain the pardon and peace which He alone can give to a wounded spirit. In God alone can pardon and true peace be found; and godly sorrow for sin will seek them there. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation; these words contain a reason, proving that they had received no damage, but profit by the sorrow that had possessed them, from the nature of it, a "godly" sorrow; a sorrow which had God for its author; it did not arise from the power of free will, nor from the dictates of a natural conscience, nor from a work of the law on their hearts, or from a fear of hell and damnation, but it sprung from the free grace of God; it was a gift of His grace, by the work of His Spirit, and the product of His almighty power; no other means, mercies, or even the most powerful ministry of themselves could do it; it was due to divine instructions; it was heightened and increased with a discovery of the love of God, and the true perception of pardoning grace and mercy which accompanied faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: it was a sorrow for sin, because it was committed against a God of infinite holiness, justice, and truth, goodness, grace, and mercy; and it was a sorrow, according to the mind and will of God.

God's sorrow occurs when we are not terrified with the fear of punishment, but because we feel we have offended God our most merciful Father. Contrary to this there is another sorrow, that only fears punishment, or when a man is vexed for the loss of some worldly goods. The fruit of the first is repentance, and the fruit of the second is desperation, unless the Lord quickly helps.


 “For godly sorrow worketh repentance,” rather, “For the sorrow which is according to God worketh a change of mind.” Godly sorrow is that sorrow which is according to God, either commanded by Him, (as sorrow for our own or others’ sins, or for the judgments of God, since they are the indications of God’s wrath and displeasure for sin), or which he, as the God of grace, produces in the soul. Or that sorrow which has as its objective the glory of God by reforming the person sorrowing, by a hatred and loathing of sin, and a hearty turning from it. 


“Worketh repentance,” or produces a change that is permanent; a reformation. It is not mere regret; its effects do not rapidly pass away, but it produces permanent changes. A man who mourns over sin because it is committed against God, and who goes to God for pardon, will reform his life and truly repent. He who has grief for sin only because it will lead to disgrace or shame, or because it will lead to poverty or pain, will not necessarily break off from it and reform. It is only when it is seen that sin is committed against God and is evil in His sight that it leads to a change of life.


Not to be regretted

Salvation is not to be regretted; it is not regretted by God, who has never regretted anything, neither is salvation itself, nor is the way and manner in which it is accomplished, nor the persons saved by it, and His choice of them to it; nor is it regretted by them, who believe in Christ to the saving of their souls: nor is true repentance, which is connected with it, to be regretted. God does not regret giving it, for “his gifts and calling are without repentance;” nor does the repenting sinner regret it; nor has he any reason to regret it, since it is salvation unto life, even "unto eternal life", and it is called “repentance that leads to life,” in Acts 11:18—“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”


Has anyone ever regretted of having truly repented of sin? Who is there, who has ever truly repented, and became a true Christian, who regretted it? Not an individual has ever been known who regretted his having become a Christian. Not one who regretted that he had become one too soon in life, or that he had served the Lord Jesus too faithfully or too long.


But the sorrow of the world produces death

“But the sorrow of the world,” untouched and un-regenerated by the Spirit of God—the sorrow of the natural man, the opposite of the sorrow according to God: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Worldly sorrow is common to men of the world, men like Cain, Pharaoh, Judas, and others. It springs from worldly selfish principles, and proceeds on to holding worldly views; it is often nothing more than a concern for the loss of worldly things, such as riches, honors, etc.; or disappointment in the gratification of worldly lusts and pleasures; or shame, or ruin, or sickness caused by sin; such as the false repentance of Cain, Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, etc. 


Paul probably refers here to the sorrow which arises from worldly causes and which does not lead to God for consolation—all sorrow which is not directed to God, and which does not arise from the point of view which says, “All sin is committed against God.” It may include the following things:

(1)   Sorrow arising from the loss of property and friends, and from disappointment.

(2)  Sorrow for sin or vice when it overwhelms the mind with the consciousness of guilt, and when it does not lead to God, and when there is no remorse of soul from viewing it as an offence against God. For example, a female who has committed adultery, and disgraced her family and herself; or a man who has been guilty of forgery, or perjury, or any other disgraceful crime, and who is discovered; a man who has violated the laws of the land, and who has disgraced himself and his family, will often feel regret, and sorrow, and remorse, but it arises solely from worldly considerations, and does not lead to God.

(3)  When the sorrow arises merely from the point of view of worldly consequences, when there is no looking to God for pardon and comfort, and when people lose their property or friends—they often pine away in grief without looking to God. Thus, when they have wandered from the path of virtue and have fallen into sin, they often take into consideration only the disgrace among people, and see their names lambasted, and their happiness gone, and they pine away in grief. There is no looking to God for pardon or for comfort. The sorrow arises from this world, and it terminates there. It is the loss of what they valued in this world, and it is all they had, and it produces death. Their grief is for the consequences rather than for the sin as sin.


“But the sorrow of the world produces death,” temporal and eternal death; it sometimes brings diseases and disorders on the body, which ends in death; and sometimes causes men to destroy themselves, as it did Ahithophel and Judas; it creates in the minds of men a fearful apprehension of death, and, if grace doesn’t prevent it the outcome is always death; moral and spiritual death, and sometimes physical death, and always, unless it is followed by true repentance—eternal death, which is the opposite of salvation—“So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21). 


 “The sorrow of the world”(that is, the sorrow felt by the worldly) has a tendency to end in death—spiritual, mortal, and eternal. It does not incline to life, but rather:

(1)   It produces distress only. It is not accompanied with consolation.

(2)  It tends to break the spirit, to destroy the peace, and to mar the happiness.

(3)  It often leads to death itself. The spirit is broken, and the heart pines away under the influence of the unremitting sorrow; or under its influence people often take their own lives. Life is often terminated under the influence of such sorrow.

(4)  It ultimately leads to eternal death. There is no looking to God for help; no looking for pardon. It produces bellyaching, grief, complaining, and criticism of God, and as a consequence leads to His displeasure and to the condemnation and ruin of the soul.

(5)  It “Produces death; but all sorrow except that which results in repentance is “the sorrow of the world,” the effect of which is often natural death. It also produces spiritual death, since it makes men unfit for doing their duty, (as it did in the case of Elijah), and is a temptation to them to be angry at God, (as in the case of Jonah), to fret, complain, and become discontent with God’s providence: and by this means it steadily moves towards eternal death, which is the wages belonging to sin.



11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner

The Apostle having showed the harmful effects of worldly sorrow, all which he associated with death, now shows the blessed effects of that sorrow which is conferred by God. He proceeds to describe godly sorrow by its effects, which are so many evidences of the sincerity and genuineness of it; some of the things mentioned are peculiar to the case of the Corinthians, and others common to evangelical repentance in general. That you sorrowed in a godly mannermay be better if changed to read, “that you sorrowed after the will of God.” The effects produced by their repentance showed that it was "according to the will of God;" for it produced in them "the fruits of good living to the honour and glory of God."  The series of emotional words that follow represent the Apostle’s recounting of what he had heard from his friend, Titus.


What diligence it produced in you

The first product of Godly sorrow he mentions is “diligence,” both to make our peace with God for our former violations of His law, (using all means He has prescribed for that purpose), and also to preserve our peace, by avoiding similar breaches in the future.  “What diligence (carefulness; earnestness) it produced in youto remove the incestuous person from your church, which they were very neglectful to do before; to no longer sin in this manner; to keep up, in the future, a more strict and regular discipline in the church; to perform good works in general, and not to offend God. Here it is evidently used to denote the diligence and the great anxiety which they manifested to remove the evils which existed among them. They went to work to remove them. They did not sit down to merely mourn over them, nor did they wait for God to remove them, nor did they plead that they could do nothing, but they set about the work as though they believed it might be done. When people are thoroughly convinced of sin, they will set about removing it with the utmost diligence. They will feel that this can be done, and must be done, or that the soul will be lost.

The object of Paul is to illustrate the effects of godly sorrow, to which he had referred in 2 Corinthians 7:10. He appeals, therefore, to their own case which revolved around incest, and says that it was beautifully illustrated among themselves. There was, in the case of the incest which had existed there: Diligence where there had once been indifference to evil, or even approval of it—And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1Corinthians 5:2), and this was shown:

(1)   In the vindication of their conduct which they had sent through Titus.

(2)  In their stern “indignation” against the offender.

(3)  In their “fear,” partly of the supernatural chastisement which Paul had threatened, and partly of the judgment of God, which was against such things.

(4)  In the longing to have him once more among them which mingled with their fear.

(5)  In their new “zeal” for the law of purity.

(6)  In their actual vengeance, that is, their sentence of condemnation passed upon the offender.

What clearing of yourselves

The Corinthians’ sorrow might work in some of them as a means of clearing or purging themselves of that guilt which had been incurred by certain members of that church. But there is another clearing of ourselves, which true repentance accomplishes, not by denying the reality of a thing done, or lessening, or defending it, but by confessing it, and taking to ourselves the shame of a thing done; which, though it may not be a clearing of a person from the facts of it, yet, through Divine grace, joined with a reformation, it clears him from the guilt of it. 


What indignation

Indignation which is not against the offender, but against his sin; and not his only but their own too, for not disciplining the offender, and moving sooner to correct the situation; and particularly that they acted in a manner that deserved the just rebuke of the Apostle. Their indignation was a sort of feeling between anger and disgust at themselves for having been ‘puffed up,’ instead of lamenting that he that had done this deed had not been taken away from among them. (See 1 Corinthians 5:2.)


What fear

Fear, not of hell and damnation, such as wicked men and devils have, who do not repent; but fear of God, and of grieving his ministers; and fear that the corruption could spread in the church, as the Apostle had suggested, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump;” and fear of Paul (1 Co 4:2, 19-21), of the measures which he might take, if he came to them “with a rod” (1 Corinthians 4:21); and fear of the wrath of God—“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1); and fear of sinning any more, in case you should fall again into like temptations, and be overcome by them. 


What vehement desire

The “vehement desire” is  longing” for Paul’s presence (See Philippians 1:82:261 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 5:29:14). Longing that he would return to them (he had given them the hope of it (1Co 4:19; 16:5), and longing for restoration to Paul's approval, and longing to behave in quite another manner in the future, and to be kept from evil, and to honour God by their conversation. “Fear” is in spite of one’s self. “Longing desire” is spontaneous, and implies strong love and a desire for correction.


What zeal

“Zeal” is defined as fervor (enthusiasm, passion) for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor—for God and his glory, for restoring the discipline of the church, for right and for God's honor against what is wrong, for the good of the soul of the offender; to make up for past negligence of the doctrines of the Gospel, the ordinances of Christ's house, and for not supporting the character of the Apostle, and other ministers of the word, against the false Apostles: here it includes love of God, hatred of sin, fear of offending God, desire to please him! “And not by his coming only, but by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more” (2 Corinthians 7:7).


What vindication

 The word “vindication” is used here in the sense of “revenge,” and in the case of the man involved in incest, it refers to punishment inflicted by judicial process—“And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:6). Such a process had taken place in this case. Compare:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:4-5: “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
  • 2 Corinthians 2:6: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”


The six results mentioned by the Apostle fall into three pairs. The first two, “clearing of themselves,” and “indignation,” relate to their feelings towards themselves, the next two, “fear” and “vehement desire” to their feelings towards the Apostle, and the last two, “zeal” and “vindication” to their feelings towards the offender and his offence.


In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter

In all things, or rather, “In every respect you have “proved yourselves” to be innocent in the matter.” Whatever may have been your previous carelessness and involvement, the steps you took on receiving my letter vindicated your character.  It is quite in accordance with Paul's usual method that “he speaks unclearly of what was objectionable”—“and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. (1 Thessalonians 4:6).


“To be clear in this matter”—Literally, in the matter, is possibly an exclusive reference to the sin condemned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord:” but, it is possible that it also refers to 1 Thessalonians 4:6, as an inoffensive expression for the sin of impurityand that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.”


With regard to the incestuous person: it appeared plainly that they did not consent to, and approve of his sin; and though at first they were unconcerned about it, did not mourn over it as they should have, nor did they promptly deal with the offender as they should, yet having truly repented for their apathy, carelessness, and tolerance, they are acquitted, and stand, in the Apostle's view of them, as if they had never committed the offence.


“Proved yourselves to be clear in this matter,” that is,clearing yourselves in the sense of making an apology. Here, the meaning of apology is “a plea or defense before a tribunal or elsewhere;” and it probably refers to the effort which would be made by the sounder part of the church to clear themselves from blame in what had occurred. It does not mean that the guilty, when convicted of sin, will attempt to vindicate themselves and to apologize to God for what they had done; but it means that the church at Corinth were anxious to state to Titus all the mitigating circumstances of the case: they showed great concern to free themselves, as far as could be done, from blame; they were anxious, as far as could be, to show that they had not approved of what had occurred, and perhaps that it had occurred only because it could not have been prevented. We are not to assume that all the things referred to here occurred in the same individuals, and that the same persons precisely exhibited diligence, and made the apology, etc. It was done by the church; all of whom showed deep feeling; but some manifested it in one way, and some in another. The whole church was roused, and all were emotionally stirred to take action, and all endeavored in the proper way to free themselves from the blame, and to remove the evil from among them.   Compare:



12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.


Therefore, although I wrote to you

In this verse Paul states the main reason why he had written to them on the subject of incest in their church. It was not principally on account of the man who had done the wrong, or of him who had been injured; but it was from tender anxiety for the whole church, and in order to show the deep interest which he had in their welfare.


“Therefore, although I wrote to you” is a reference to his former Epistle, meaning that he included a lot of sharpness and severity, and that it may have been thought to be too much, since it made many of them “sorry,” and then repentant (v. 8).


The reference, in the next clause, to the man that had suffered wrong implies that the offender in 1Corinthians 5:1 had married his step-mother while his father was still living. All other interpretations—such as those which make Paul or the community the injured party—are fantasy. But in what sense was the father injured? The union was a marriage, not merely having a concubine or committing adultery, and it could not have been so unless the first marriage had been dissolved by a divorce. But if the husband had divorced the wife, then, though the son’s marriage may have shocked men as immoral, the father could hardly be said to have suffered a wrong to which he had exposed himself by his own actions. The most likely explanation is found in supposing that the wife was seduced by her step-son or that she seduced him, and hence had divorced herself. Wives had this power under Roman law; and it was used frequently, especially by women of rank.On this assumption the father had, of course, sustained a very grievous wrong. There is an obvious tone of impatience, almost of annoyance, in the way in which Paul speaks of the whole business. It was one of those scandals in which, though it had been necessary to assert the law of purity and enforce the discipline of the Church, he could not bring himself at the time to feel any special interest in either of the parties. Afterwards, when the sinner was repentant, there came a new feeling of pity for him, as in 2Corinthians 2:6-8. But when he wrote, it was with a larger purpose; to show them how much he cared for his disciples at Corinth, how anxious he was to clear away any stains that affected their reputation as a Church. Notice that there is no mention of the woman’s repentance, nor, of her coming, in any way, under the discipline of the Church. The facts of the case suggest the conclusion that both husband and wife were heathens, and that the son was the only convert of the family. In this case we may fairly assume that she had played the part of temptress, and that his conscience, though weak, had been the more sensitive of the two. With this explanation the warnings against being “unequally yoked together” with unbelievers gains a fresh significance.


I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong,

My object in writing was not to involve myself in a personal quarrel. I had in mind neither the one committing the wrong, nor the one wronged, but I wrote for the sake of the whole Church (See 1 Corinthians 5:1, 21 Corinthians 6:7). 


Nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong

Nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, that is, the father of the incestuous person, who had been injured by this wicked deed; it was not only or merely to do him a favor, or out of respect for him; nor was it to provide some compensation from the church in detesting the crime, casting out the offender, and declaring themselves on the side of the injured person, and against him that had caused the injury. The offence was that a man had taken his father's wife as his own (1 Corinthians 5:1), and the person injured, therefore, was his father. It is evident from this passage, I think, that the father was living at the time when Paul wrote this Epistle.


But that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you

“But that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you”—the sense of this last clause is that you might have an opportunity to show your affection for us, and your regard for us, how readily you obey us in all things; but the other reading is preferred, that the Apostle when writing the letter did not consult with any particular person, neither the offender or the injured person, though their well-being was on his mind; but primarily, he wrote in the manner he did, in order to make known to them his concern for their good and the welfare of the whole church. In other words, so that they might learn from their own experiences the reality of their earnest feelings for him. He has already spoken of this "earnest care" of theirs (v. 11), but not in quite the same sense. His concern (care) grew out of fear that the Church would be corrupted, and damaged, because they had tolerated such a notorious delinquent and connived among themselves to ignore or hide his great sin. The Apostle’s care and concern was real, strong, and sincere; and it was well-known to God, and therefore, he could appeal to Him.



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