I am going to try something new here at 3:10 and start posting my study notes that I make during my sermon prep throughout the week. I usually use a template similar to this as I am preparing so I have only slightly modified it for blog posts. Hopefully this will help someone in their personal study and preparation for the sermon on Sunday. I believe prepared listeners are the best listeners!
Study Notes: 2 Corinthians 7:2-16 “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”
Text: 2 Corinthians 7:2-16 (ESV)
Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 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. 4 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.
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
- 2-5 The apostle’s plea – Paul’s desire is for a restored relationship with the Corinthian believers. There were some who had tried to drive a wedge between him and these Christians, at times, successfully. However Paul has proven up to this point that he had done them no wrong but rather had demonstrated the faithfulness and validity of his apostolic ministry.
- 6-7 Comfort and Joy through Titus – Paul was comforted not only by Titus but also by the news that he brought concerning the Corinthians church.
- 8-13a Comfort from the Corinthians’ repentance – When one sees genuine repentance and its fruits in the lives of other Christians it is a reason for rejoicing.
- 13b-16 Comfort from knowing his confidence was well founded – This is the second time that he speaks of being comforted through Titus’ visit, but this time he adds the fact that his confident boasting in the Corinthians’ was well placed.
Theme / Main Idea:
Theme(s): Ministry hardships; Comfort in Affliction; Sanctification; Repentance; Body of Christ.
Main idea: For Paul, his greatest hardships came from his concern for others. Consequently his greatest joy and comfort came from others also. This passage teaches us how God can bring us comfort and joy through others as we see him at work in their lives.
Aim / Complementary Ideas:
This passage causes us to check our motives and priorities. As Christians, our greatest joy should be to see God accomplishing his work. It stands to reason that we would find joy in seeing God at work in the lives of others. Although Paul was experiencing great personal difficulty (v. 5, cf. 2 Cor. 11:16-28), he found comfort and joy in his trials through the visits of Titus and his reports of God’s work among the Corinthians. One of the reasons God has placed us in the church is so that we might receive comfort as we see and hear of his work in the lives of others.
Only the gospel can give us the change of heart described in this passage. As real and painful as Paul’s hardships were, he was able to look beyond them as he witnessed with joy the gospel’s fruit in the lives of this troubled church. One of the most blessed fruits of the gospel is the genuine repentance described in this passage.
Preaching / Application Points
- Comfort and Joy from restored relationships (2-5): Paul, more than anyone, understood the closeness between believers because together they are “in Christ.” He speaks of “living together and dying together” in verse 3 because his heart is bound to their well-being. He can’t help but seek their good because his joy is tied to their growth and sanctification. We too are to seek restored relationships between our brothers and sisters in Christ. No Christian can remain truly happy while being estranged from others in the church. Since all relationships between believers will be one day restored in heaven, we are called to seek unity and harmony between believers now.
- Comfort and Joy from good news received: (6-7): We must be clear that the ultimate source of comfort is God (6a). But God often sends us comfort through others just as the coming of Titus comforted Paul. We learn something here about the importance of visitation as we minister to one another. We never know what comfort God may be sending to someone else through us. But is was not merely Titus’ coming that lifted Paul’s spirits, but also his news about the Corinthians dramatic turn-around in their attitude toward him. We learn something about our attitude toward suffering in these verses. Paul’s suffering was real, but his greatest joy didn’t come from the removal of affliction, but rather the good news of God’s work in the lives of others. We must learn to find joy and comfort in God and his work rather than the absence of hardship.
- Comfort and Joy from grief that leads to repentance (8-13a): It may sound strange to hear of someone receiving joy from another’s grief, but Paul knew that this was a grief produced by the conviction of sin that led to repentance. This is one of the most exquisite passages on repentance in the New Testament. The Christian learns that sin produces grief as we realize we have done something that displeases God. This causes the Christian to repent, or turn away from their sin (an action involving the mind, heart and will). The fruits of repentance will be seen in the following ways: 1) earnestness, 2) eagerness to clear oneself, 3) indignation against the sins and the one who caused it, 4) fear of God and his judgment against sin, 5) longing to make things right, 6) a zeal for holiness and righteous living, and 7) punishment, most likely against the one who caused the offense.
- Comfort and Joy from God’s faithfulness to his people (13b-16): Paul’s joy was made complete by two things: First, he was happy because Titus was happy (13b). This is a clear demonstration of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” The apostle Paul was a magnificent of example of what it means for us to be “others-centered.” We need to learn to find genuine joy in the happiness of others. Second, he was happy that his confidence in the Corinthians had been well-founded. Paul described this confidence to the Philippians in this way, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul was seeing that very principle worked out in the lives of these Christians as God worked in their lives despite of their failures and shortcomings to accomplish his good purpose. This passage gives us assurance that God will ultimately sanctify his own and that even when we fall into sin he will bring us to the place of repentance and usefulness again. We ought to take joy when we see that work being carried out in our lives as well as others.