2 Corinthians 7-13

2 Corinthians 7‑13  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Here this long digression about Christian ministry comes to an end. The character of it, the need of it, the message conveyed by it, and the practical effect it should have on souls, the apostle has set forth. He now returns to that about which he had been writing-the effect made on him by his meeting with Titus, who rejoined him in Macedonia, on his return from Corinth. How truly could he rejoice! Grave had been his exercise of heart about the Corinthians. Great now was his joy respecting them. “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” (7:4) God, who comforteth those that are cast down, had comforted him by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but by the encouragement wherewith Titus was encouraged through their deep expression of godly sorrow-a sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of. They had dealt with the offender, and they had cleared themselves. His letter had the desired effect. He had written, not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that had suffered the wrong, but that their care for Paul might be made manifest to them before God. “Therefore,” he adds, “we were encouraged, and in addition to this our encouragement, we exceedingly the more rejoice for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if I have boasted anything to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him “
Encouraged by his visit there, we can well understand the readiness of Titus to return, in order to collect their contributions for the poor saints at Jerusalem. About this Paul next writes (chaps. 8., 9), acquainting them with the liberality of the saints in Macedonia, and reminding them of that readiness to help to which they had begun to give expression a year previously. The liberality of the saints in Macedonia had exceeded the apostle’s expectations-the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. This outflow of real Christian love was beautiful and spontaneous. Beyond their power they gave, and even entreated of Paul the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints. It was favor bestowed on them to be able to help, and to be allowed to help. They owned it, and desired to have fellowship in that service; for they had first given themselves to the Lord, “and to us,” writes Paul, “by God’s will.” Cheered by such tokens of love in these saints, he encouraged Titus to finish the work of collecting the alms from Christians at Corinth. And what a motive does he bring to bear on them! Even “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, being rich, for their sakes became poor, that they through His poverty might become rich.” (8:9) The willing mind would produce a cheerful giver. Two points should here be noticed. The offering should be spontaneous, and according to that which a person had. Grace and righteousness were both to be displayed. God did not ask any one to go beyond what he had. (vs. 12) Being generous at the expense of others formed no part of Christian practice. On the other hand, to give grudgingly, or of necessity, could not be the true fruit of Christian love. God loves a cheerful giver, and glory flows to him by that proof of divine grace in the giver, and by the thanks which ascend upwards from those who share in the bounty. Paul had reminded them of the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He would encourage them by the remembrance of what God can do, and will do, for His people, quoting from Psa. 112, which, the reader may see on reference to it, is the counterpart, as displayed in the saints, of the acting’s of the divine nature as seen in God.
He had written the first epistle “that your care for us,” as he tells them, “might be made manifest unto you;” for this seems to be the best attested reading. That having been markedly proved, of which Titus was the witness, he was free now to enter on the matter of his apostleship (10.-13), the validity of which some at Corinth had called in question. Looking on the outward appearance they disparaged the apostle, and, it would seem, questioned the validity of his commission to concern himself with Corinth. Little did such would-be teachers know about Paul. Weapons he was furnished with by the Lord that would be used for their edification or for casting them down. Man in nature might have used these weapons for the latter purpose; Paul aimed at their edification. Powerful indeed were his letters-all felt that; but his personal appearance was not in harmony with the power of his writing. He terrified by words, but who would be afraid of him when present? His speech was contemptible. Such were the thoughts and sayings of those people. Well, as regards his personal appearance and his speech, their remarks might be true. His figure was probably not a commanding one; his speech was anything but eloquent; but as to power, what he was when absent, that he would be when present. Nor had he overstepped his commission in going to Corinth.
Looking at the outward appearance would not do. “Let him that glorieth,” he writes, “glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” (10:17, 18)
From this he passes on to a comparison between others and himself. But why this line of things in an inspired epistle? He tells them he fears lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, their minds should be corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ. Hence he enters on a comparison as to his preaching, his Jewish descent, his endurance of trials and hardships, his sympathy with others. Then he tells them where he excelled all others, and claimed them as being witnesses of the truth of his apostleship. What could others preach of truth which he had not preached? Unskilled in speech he might be, but not in knowledge. As to correct Jewish descent, who could surpass him? As to labors and sufferings, who had outdone him? He preached at Corinth, feebly it is true; he would continue to do it, that the false apostles should have no ground of boasting over him.
But he had been where they had not, even in the third heavens, and in paradise; and he bore in his person the marks of these favors in the thorn in the flesh, which the Lord, though thrice entreated by Paul, refused to remove. Of how much could he have boasted! But he forbore. And why? Lest any man should think of him above that which he saw him to be, or heard of him (12:6) What a reason for his reticence! Paul, who had been in the third heavens, and had heard when in paradise what he could not utter on earth, was looked down on by these really false apostles, who had enlisted the Corinthians on their behalf. How utterly contemptible they must have appeared after the bare recital of his labors and sufferings for Christ! Completely crushed they ought to have been by the mention of his visions and revelations. Before he had ever visited Corinth he had been in the third heavens, yet they apparently knew nothing of it till they forced him to mention it. “I am become a fool,” he writes; “ye have compelled me:for I ought to have been commended of you:for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” (12:11, 12) Trying it must have been for him to have to write thus. Condemnatory of them it was that he should be worked upon to do it.
Yet his love was unwearied. He could revisit them, and gladly spend and be spent for them, though the more abundantly he loved the less he was loved. (12:15) And did they think that in all this he was excusing himself to them? “We speak before God in Christ,” he says, “and all things are for your edifying;” for the moral condition of some in the assembly he well knew. (vss. 20, 21) So coming again he would not spare. Did any doubt that Christ spoke in Him 2 They had but to examine themselves to see. By whom were they evangelized? Christ Jesus was in them unless they were reprobates. Was it then in vindication of himself that he thus wrote? Again he reminds them that it was their real edification which he sought, that he might not be called upon to use sharpness towards them.
Now, after an exhortation and salutations, he closes with, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.”