These verses contain a double exhortation:—
I. To make a progress in holiness, or to perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. 7:1. This exhortation is given with most tender affection to those who were dearly beloved, and enforced by strong arguments, even the consideration of those exceedingly great and precious promises which were mentioned in the former chapter, and which the Corinthians had an interest in and a title to. The promises of God are strong inducements to sanctification, in both the branches thereof; namely, 1. The dying unto sin, or mortifying our lusts and corruptions: we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Sin is filthiness, and there are defilements of body and mind. There are sins of the flesh, that are committed with the body, and sins of the spirit, spiritual wickednesses; and we must cleanse ourselves from the filthiness of both, for God is to be glorified both with body and soul. 2. The living unto righteousness and holiness. If we hope God is our Father, we must endeavour to be partakers of his holiness, to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. We must be still perfecting holiness, and not be contented with sincerity (which is our gospel perfection), without aiming at sinless perfection, though we shall always come short of it while we are in this world; and this we must do in the fear of God, which is the root and principle of all religion, and there is no holiness without it. Note, Faith and hope in the promises of God must not destroy our fear of God, who taketh pleasure in those that fear him and hope in his mercy.
II. To show a due regard to the ministers of the gospel: Receive us, 2 Cor. 7:2. Those who labour in the word and doctrine should be had in reputation, and be highly esteemed for their work’s sake: and this would be a help to making progress in holiness. If the ministers of the gospel are thought contemptible because of their office, there is danger lest the gospel itself be contemned also. The apostle did not think it any disparagement to court the favour of the Corinthians; and, though we must flatter none, yet we must be gentle towards all. He tells them, 1. He had done nothing to forfeit their esteem and good-will, but was cautious not to do any thing to deserve their ill-will (2 Cor. 7:2): “We have wronged no man: we have done you no harm, but always designed your good.” I have coveted no man’s silver, nor gold, nor apparel, said he to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:33. “We have corrupted no man, by false doctrines or flattering speeches. We have defrauded no man; we have not sought ourselves, nor to promote our own secular interests by crafty and greedy measures, to the damage of any persons.” This is an appeal like that of Samuel, 1 Sam. 12:1-25. Note, Then may ministers the more confidently expect esteem and favour from the people when they can safely appeal to them that they are guilty of nothing that deserves disesteem or displeasure. 2. He did not herein reflect upon them for want of affection to him, 2 Cor. 7:3, 4. So tenderly and cautiously did the apostle deal with the Corinthians, among whom there were some who would be glad of any occasion to reproach him, and prejudice the minds of others against him. To prevent any insinuations against him on account of what he had said, as if he intended to charge them with wronging him, or unjust accusations of him for having wronged them, he assures them again of his great affection to them, insomuch that he could spend his last breath at Corinth, and live and die with them, if his business with other churches, and his work as an apostle (which was not to be confined to one place only), would permit him to do so. An he adds it was his great affection to them that made him use such boldness or freedom of speech towards them, and caused him to glory, or make his boast of them, in all places, and upon all occasions, being filled with comfort, and exceedingly joyful in all their tribulations.