2 Corinthians 7
The most important partnership in life is marriage. There are other kinds of union, but the union of husband and wife transcends any other. God created sexual intimacy as a unique gift to marriage. Its purpose goes beyond pleasure and procreation. As a man and a woman join their bodies together, the Spirit does a unique work of binding these two individuals as one person. But the involvement of the Spirit is not possible when a believer is intimate with a nonbeliever. They are not filled with the same Spirit and cannot experience the fullness God intends. Paul’s instructions are practical, simple, and clear.
7 Because we have these promises, dearly loved ones, out of respect for God we should scour the filth from our flesh and spirit and move toward perfect beauty and holiness.
2 Take us into your hearts; love us as we love you. You have nothing to fear. We have hurt no one, ruined no one, swindled no one. 3 I am not writing these things to condemn you, as I said before. Our hearts embrace you, so we stand beside you whether facing life or death. 4 I am completely confident and incredibly proud of you. Even in all this turbulence I am at peace—I am overflowing with joy.
5 When we came into Macedonia, we were completely worn out—under attack from every angle—nagging opposition on the outside, our own nagging fears from the inside. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, brought us comfort when Titus arrived from Corinth. 7 We were relieved, not just to see him, but because he told us how he was encouraged to learn about your longing, your grieving, and your continued enthusiasm for me. So these were all more reasons for me to rejoice!
Jesus said blessings come out of mourning (Matthew 5:4). The very thought is ridiculous to some; but from Paul’s perspective, God uses weaknesses and is present in pain. This truth is revolutionary. In the midst of suffering, the mourner abandons pretense and self-consciousness. There we meet God and one another in honest ways that open the doors to redemption when we are willing.
God chose a people for Himself—a people that make up a body, bound together in a covenant. The forces of this world seek to divide and isolate, but God seeks to unite and reconcile. We must all learn to serve one another and hold our self-interests in abeyance to find a greater good in community.
The believers in Corinth were struggling to find unity and harmony in their local church. Some were living selfishly by eating all the food at their common meals or emphasizing issues that create division in the community. For Paul it was not enough that they learn to live well with one another, although that was important. They had to know they were part of a larger body—they belonged to the churches in Jerusalem, Ephesus, Philippi, and the new frontier of Christianity. We are also part of a global church. What would happen if the church would begin to live this simple truth and generously share all it has with our brothers and sisters across the globe?
8 I knew you would be upset with my last letter, but I do not regret sending it. If there were times I did have second thoughts, it was because I could see that the letter did hurt you, even if only for a while. 9 Now I am glad—not because it caused you grief but because you were moved to make a permanent change[a] that can happen only with the realization that your actions have gone against God—I’m glad to know you suffered no long-term loss because of what we did. 10 Now this type of deep sorrow, godly sorrow, is not so much about regret; but it is about producing a change of mind and behavior[b] that ultimately leads to salvation. But the other type of sorrow, worldly sorrow, often is fleeting and only brings death. 11 Look at what is happening among you! Notice how authentic and diligent you have become because this godly sorrow has been at work in your community. But there’s more: your desire to clear your name, your righteous anger, your respect, your longing, your zeal, and your concern for justice. All these demonstrate how you have been made clean. 12 So when I wrote my last difficult letter, it was not to comfort the victim or confront the perpetrator—it was to stir up your sincere devotion for us under God’s watchful eye. 13 In the midst of all that has happened, though it has been difficult, we are comforted and encouraged. When we saw the relief and joy on Titus’s face, we celebrated even more because his spirit had been totally refreshed by you. 14 Now if I have bragged in the past about you to Titus, I have nothing to be ashamed of. Just as we’ve spoken the whole truth to you, I’m glad to know that our boasts to Titus about you have proven true as well. 15 His love for you overflows even more as he recalls your obedience and how you respectfully and somewhat nervously, with fear and trembling, took him in. 16 I have great joy now because I have great confidence in you.