Chapter 07 – GODLY GRIEF vs WORLDLY GRIEF
I. THE CLEANSING THAT LEADS TO HOLINESS (v1)
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
This opening verse concludes Paul’s argument in the previous chapter about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Notice that the opening word is “since.” In hermeneutics, this is an indicator that the author is concluding his point or argument and is about to present his expected response/action point.
So what is Paul’s conclusion?
Well, Paul concludes that since God promised to treat us as His children if we live in faithfulness to Him (6:18), then we should “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit.” Notice that Paul’s conclusion is an invitation to action. He was inviting the Corinthians to cleanse themselves. What is Paul trying to teach here?
Remember back in chapter 06, Paul described the Corinthian believers as the “Temple of the Living God” and compared association with unbelievers as an act of idolatry. Paul’s point in chapter 7:1 comes from this metaphor. We are not only commanded to have an exclusive relationship with God, but we are also commanded to live in a state of holiness (1 Peter 1:16). The promise from chapter 06 is that if we do this, God will treat us as His children and guide us in our lives (fellowship).
In addition, Paul is teaching them to cleanse themselves from the defilement of the “body and spirit.” Notice that it is both physical and spiritual. The cleansing of the body refers to turning away from our sinful habits while the cleansing of the spirit refers to our spiritual state of mind. The best examples to explain this are the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus called them hypocrites and compared them to “whitewashed tombs.” Outside, they look very religious and holy, therefore they are clean in the eyes of society. But inside, they are defiled. Their hearts are not right with God and they are full of selfish and evil desires. This is what Paul is trying to teach us. When he commanded us to cleanse ourselves, he meant a total and complete cleansing of our outer and inner beings. This is also what he meant by “bring holiness to completion in the fear of God.” We do not become holy overnight. It is a lifelong journey with the Holy Spirit. So as we travel this journey, we are commanded to remain faithful, finish the race, and truly clean ourselves both outside and inside.
II. PAUL’S JOY (v2-9)
“Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.”
In this passage, we can see how Paul expressed his joy. Before we continue, let us remember that 2nd Corinthians is divided into three parts. The first part, chapters 1 to 7, was addressed to the Corinthians who were open to reconciliation with Paul. And since this is the last chapter in this section, we can see how Paul turns to a joyous mood after talking about his sufferings and hardships from the previous chapters. This last passage is the final act in their reconciliation with each other. This is why the contents of this passage are heart-touching. You can notice that it contains messages about making peace, clarification of innocence, and love. Let’s put it to a list:
a) “Make room in your hearts for us” – Paul is asking them to fully open their hearts to reconciliation.
b) “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one” – Paul defends his innocence and goodwill.
c) “You are in our hearts” up to “overflowing with joy” (v3-4) – Paul expresses his love and joy for the Corinthians.
d) “Our bodies had no rest,” up to “your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (v5-7) – Paul presented again his sufferings to prove his sincerity in serving God and them. Paul also expressed his appreciation for the Corinthians who sympathized with his sufferings.
In verses 8 and 9, Paul starts the discussion about grief. When Paul said “For even if I made you grieve with my letter,” he was referring to his earlier letters (probably 1st Corinthians and the missing “painful letter”). Paul acknowledges that those letters “grieved” or hurt the Corinthians. But Paul explains that somehow, he doesn’t regret it for it resulted in something good: and that is their REPENTANCE (v9). Paul calls this kind of grief the “godly grief” which he will explain in the next passage.
III. GODLY GRIEF vs WORLDLY GRIEF (v10-12)
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point, you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.”
In this passage, Paul compared the difference between godly grief and worldly grief, as well as their consequences. To go straight to the point, the definitive difference between godly grief with worldly grief is that the former involves “repentance that leads to salvation.” At first look, godly and worldly griefs can look the same when viewed from the outside. Both demonstrate emotional pain. But the difference of godly grief is that it is the kind of sorrow that admits one’s mistakes and most importantly, has the desire to seek and turn back to God. On the other hand, worldly sorrow also feels pain, but it refuses to accept one’s mistake and refuses to change one’s ways. This is why godly sorrow leads to salvation and worldly sorrow leads to death. From this, we can learn that it is not about feeling guilty or if one suffers from grief. THE KEY IS ACTION; WHAT YOUR GRIEF LEADS YOU TO DO. It is what one chooses to do with grief. If that person chooses to do nothing or refuse to change his ways, then it can be considered only as worldly sorrow and doesn’t produce any real salvific relationship with God. But if a person chooses to turn back to God and truly repents from his heart, then this is the kind of grief that leads to salvation. There are more differences between these two, but in general, it can be summarized that worldly sorrow is all about emotions while godly sorrow is about action specifically, the act of turning back to God. You can tell if it is godly sorrow if it leads one back to God.
IV. TITUS’ JOY (v13-16)
“Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.”
Before we proceed, it is important to explain first why Titus got involved here. Aside from being Paul’s ministry co-worker, Titus was believed to be the one who delivered Paul’s earlier letter, the painful letter, to the Corinthians (He is also said to be the one who delivered 2nd Corinthians as well; 2 Cor. 12:8). From Paul’s opening statement in this passage, it appears that there was a form of “gamble” between him and Titus regarding his visit to the Corinthians. Paul said, “for whatever boasts I made to him ABOUT YOU, I was not put to shame.” This line suggests that Paul was boasting something about the Corinthians that Titus was skeptical of. And from this passage, we can also deduce what it is. Verse 13 reveals that one of these boastings that Paul was talking about is whether they will respect and receive Titus. Paul was confident that the Corinthians will listen and accept Titus, but Titus is not. So when the Corinthians accepted him, it brought Titus and Paul so much joy. Paul was even happier for his boasting about them was not put to shame. Just like Paul said, “I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.”
That last line sums up the reconciliation between Paul and the Corinthians. Despite what the Corinthians did to him, Paul never lost his faith in them. The sending of Titus is an iconic moment for all of them for it is the test that confirmed their love for another. When the Corinthians received Paul’s humble assistant, that kindness extended to Paul which means they also accept him as their founder and leader. This act proved that they have forgiven one another from their hearts.
As we end this section, it is an understatement to say that we have learned so much not just about reconciliation and Paul’s sufferings and hardships, but above all, we also learned so much about the Gospel. In every chapter, on whatever topic, Paul always exalts the Gospel of Christ. This is proof that the Gospel is not just a message we share with others, but also a kind of life that we live. Just as Paul taught in chapter 05, the message of the Gospel is reconciliation, and that is what they just did with another. The gospel transformed their hearts so that they were able to demonstrate its message in their lives.
God Bless!! 🙂