Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The apostle's inference from the preceding exhortation, Co2 7:1. He presses them to receive him with affection, because of his great love towards them, Co2 7:2-4. He tells them what distress he felt on their account in Macedonia, till he had met with Titus, and heard of their prosperity, Co2 7:6-7. He rejoices that his first epistle was made the means of their reformation, Co2 7:8, Co2 7:9. States how they were affected by his letter, and the process of their reformation, Co2 7:10, Co2 7:11. Shows why he had written to them, Co2 7:12. Rejoices that his boasting of them to Titus is found to be a truth; and takes occasion to mention the great affection of Titus for them, and his own confidence in them, Co2 7:13-16.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises - The promises mentioned in the three last verses of the preceding chapter, to which this verse should certainly be joined.
Let us cleanse ourselves - Let us apply to him for the requisite grace of purification; and avoid every thing in spirit and practice which is opposite to the doctrine of God, and which has a tendency to pollute the soul.
Filthiness of the flesh - The apostle undoubtedly means, drunkenness, fornication, adultery, and all such sins as are done immediately against the body; and by filthiness of the spirit, all impure desires, unholy thoughts, and polluting imaginations. If we avoid and abhor evil inclinations, and turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, incentives to evil being thus lessened, (for the eye affects the heart), there will be the less danger of our falling into outward sin. And if we avoid all outward occasions of sinning, evil propensities will certainly be lessened. All this is our work under the common aids of the grace of God. We may turn away our eyes and ears from evil, or we may indulge both in what will infallibly beget evil desires and tempers in the soul; and under the same influence we may avoid every act of iniquity; for even Satan himself cannot, by any power he has, constrain us to commit uncleanness, robbery, drunkenness, murder, etc. These are things in which both body and soul must consent. But still withholding the eye, the ear, the hand, and the body in general, from sights, reports, and acts of evil, will not purify a fallen spirit; it is the grace and Spirit of Christ alone, powerfully applied for this very purpose, that can purify the conscience and the heart from all dead works. But if we do not withhold the food by which the man of sin is nourished and supported, we cannot expect God to purify our hearts. While we are striving against sin, we may expect the Spirit of God to purify us by his inspiration from all unrighteousness, that we may perfectly love and magnify our Maker. How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?
Perfecting holiness - Getting the whole mind of Christ brought into the soul. This is the grand object of a genuine Christian's pursuit. The means of accomplishing this are,
1. Resisting and avoiding sin, in all its inviting and seducing forms.
2. Setting the fear of God before our eyes, that we may dread his displeasure, and abhor whatever might excite it, and whatever might provoke him to withhold his manna from our mouth. We see, therefore, that there is a strong and orthodox sense in which we may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and thus perfect holiness in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 7:2
Receive us - Χωρησατε ἡμας. This address is variously understood. Receive us into your affections - love us as we love you. Receive us as your apostles and teachers; we have given you full proof that God hath both sent and owned us. Receive, comprehend, what we now say to you, and carefully mark it.
We have wronged no man - We have never acted contrary to the strictest justice.
We have corrupted no man - With any false doctrine or pernicious opinion.
We have defrauded no man - Of any part of his property. But what have your false teachers done? They have beguiled you from the simplicity of the truth, and thus corrupted your minds. Co2 11:3. They have brought you into bondage; they have taken of you; devoured you; exalted themselves against you, and ye have patiently suffered all this. Co2 11:20. It is plain that he refers here to the false apostle or teacher which they had among them.
2 Corinthians 7:3
I speak not this to condemn you - I do not speak to reproach but to correct you. I wish you to open your eyes and see how you are corrupted, spoiled, and impoverished by those whom ye have incautiously preferred to the true apostles of Jesus Christ.
I have said before, that ye are in our hearts - He has in effect and substance said this, Co2 1:6-8 (note); Co2 2:4 (note), Co2 2:12 (note); Co2 3:2 (note), and Co2 3:13 (note); where see the passages at length, and the notes.
To die and live with you - An expression which points out the strongest affection, as in cases where love blinds us to the faults of those whom we love, and causes us to prefer them to all others; like that in Horace: -
Quanquam sidere pulchrior
llle est, tu levior cortice, et improbo
Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam tibens.
Odar. lib. iii. Od. ix. ver. 21.
"Though he exceed in beauty far
The rising lustre of a star;
Though light as cork thy fancy strays,
Thy passions wild as angry seas
When vex'd with storms; yet gladly I
With thee would live, with thee would die."
From all appearance there never was a Church less worthy of an apostle's affections than this Church was at this time; and yet no one ever more beloved. The above quotation applies to this case in full force.
2 Corinthians 7:4
Great is my boldness of speech - He seems to refer to the manner in which he spoke of them to others.
Great is my glorying of you - They had probably been very loving and affectionate previously to the time in which they were perverted by their false apostle. He therefore had boasted of them in all the Churches.
I am filled with comfort - My affection for you has still the most powerful ascendancy in my soul. Here we may see the affection of the most tender father to his children.
I am exceeding joyful - Ὑπερπερισσευομαι· I superabound in joy; I have a joy beyond expression. Ὑπερπερισσευω is an extremely rare verb. I have not met with it in any Greek author; and it occurs no where in the New Testament but here and in Rom 5:20.
In all our tribulation - Perhaps επι here should be rendered under instead of in, as it signifies, Mar 2:26; Luk 3:2; Act 11:28. Under all our tribulations, I feel inexpressible joy on your account.
2 Corinthians 7:5
When we were come into Macedonia - St. Paul, having left Ephesus, came to Troas, where he stopped some time; afterwards he came to Macedonia, whence he wrote this epistle,
Our flesh had no rest - So exceedingly anxious was he to know the success of his first epistle to them.
Without were fightings - The oppositions of pagans, Jews, and false brethren.
Within were fears - Uncertain conjectures relative to the success of his epistle; fears lest the severity of it should alienate their affections utterly from him; fears lest the party of the incestuous person should have prevailed; fears lest the teaching of the false apostle should have perverted their minds from the simplicity of the truth; all was uncertainty, all apprehension; and the Spirit of God did not think proper to remove the causes of these apprehensions in any extraordinary way.
2 Corinthians 7:6
Comforted us by the coming of Titus - Who brought him a most satisfactory account of the success of his epistle, and the good state of the Corinthian Church.
2 Corinthians 7:7
He told us your earnest desire - To see me, and correct what was amiss among yourselves.
Your mourning - Because you had sinned.
Your fervent mind - The zeal you felt to testify your affectionate regard for me.
2 Corinthians 7:8
I do not repent, though I did repent - Though I had many doubts in my mind concerning the success of my letter; and though I grieved that I was obliged to write with so much severity, the case absolutely requiring it; yet now I am not sorry that I have written that letter, because I find it has completely answered the end for which it was sent.
2 Corinthians 7:9
Ye sorrowed to repentance - Ye had such a sorrow as produced a complete change of mind and conduct. We see that a man may sorrow, and yet not repent.
Made sorry after a godly manner - It was not a sorrow because ye were found out, and thus solemnly reprehended, but a sorrow because ye had sinned against God, and which consideration caused you to grieve more than the apprehension of any punishment.
Damage by us in nothing - Your repentance prevented that exercise of my apostolic duty, which would have consigned your bodies to destruction, that your souls might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow - That which has the breach of God's holy law for its object.
Worketh repentance - A thorough change of mind unto salvation, because the person who feels it cannot rest till he finds pardon through the mercy of God.
But the sorrow of the world worketh death - Sorrow for lost goods, lost friends, death of relatives, etc., when it is poignant and deep, produces diseases, increases those that already exist, and often leads men to lay desperate hands on themselves. This sorrow leads to destruction, the other leads to salvation; the one leads to heaven, the other to hell.
2 Corinthians 7:11
What carefulness it wrought in you - Carefulness of obeying my directions, Co2 7:15; yea, what clearing of yourselves from guilt by inflicting censures on the guilty person, and putting away evil from among you, Co1 5:13; yea, what indignation against him who had dishonored his profession, and defiled the Church; yea, what fear of my displeasure, and the rod which I threatened, Co1 4:21; yea, what vehement desire to rectify what was amiss in this matter, Co2 7:7; yea, what zeal for me; yea, what revenge in punishing the delinquent. See Whitby.
In all things, etc. - In the whole of your conduct in this affair since ye have received my letter, ye have approved yourselves to be clear, ἁγνους; not only to be clear of contumacy and obstinate persistence in your former conduct, but to have done all in the compass of your power to rectify the abuses which had crept in among you. The Corinthians were not clear, i.e. innocent or void of blame in the fact, but they were clear of all blame in their endeavors to remove the evil.
2 Corinthians 7:12
Not for his cause that had done the wrong - viz. the incestuous person.
Nor for his cause that suffered wrong - Some think the apostle means himself; others, that he means the Church at Corinth, the singular being put for the plural; others, the family of the incestuous person; and others, the father of the incestuous person. If this latter opinion be adopted, it would seem to intimate that the father of this person was yet alive, which would make the transgression more flagrant; but these words might be spoken in reference to the father, if dead, whose cause should be vindicated; as his injured honor might be considered, like Abel's blood, to be crying from the earth.
But that our care for you - might appear - It was not to get the delinquent punished, nor merely to do justice to those who had suffered in this business, that the apostle wrote his epistle to them, but that they might have the fullest proof of his fatherly affection for them, and his concern for the honor of God; and that they might thereby see how unnatural their opposition to him was, and what cause they had to prefer him, who was ready to give up his life in their service, to that false apostle or teacher who was corrupting their minds, leading them from the simplicity of the truth, and making a gain of them.
2 Corinthians 7:13
For the joy of Titus - Titus, who had now met St. Paul in Macedonia, gave him the most flattering accounts of the improved state of the Corinthian Church; and indeed their kind usage of Titus was a full proof of their affection for St. Paul.
2 Corinthians 7:14
For if I have boasted - The apostle had given Titus a very high character of this Church, and of their attachment to himself; and doubtless this was the case previously to the evil teacher getting among them, who had succeeded in changing their conduct, and changing in a great measure their character also; but now they return to themselves, resume their lost ground, so that the good character which the apostle gave them before, and which they had for a time forfeited, is now as applicable to them as ever. Therefore his boasting of them is still found a truth.
2 Corinthians 7:15
And his inward affection - Τα σπλαγχνα αυτου· Those bowels of his - his most tender affection. For the meaning of this word see the note on Mat 9:36.
Whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all - This is a very natural picture; he represents Titus as overjoyed even while he is delivering his account of the Corinthian Church. He expatiated on it with extreme delight, and thereby showed at once both his love for St. Paul and his love for them. He loved them because they so loved the apostle; and he loved them because they had shown such kindness to himself; and he loved them because he found so many excellent and rare gifts, joined to so much humility, producing such an exemplary and holy life.
With fear and trembling ye received him - Ye reverenced his authority; ye were obedient to his directions; and ye dreaded lest any thing should be undone or ill done which he had delivered to you in the name of God.
2 Corinthians 7:16
I have confidence in you, in all things - It appears that the apostle was now fully persuaded, from the accounts given by Titus, that every scandal had been put away from this Church; that the faction which had long distracted and divided them was nearly broken; that all was on the eve of being restored to its primitive purity and excellence; and that their character was now so firmly fixed, that there was no reason to apprehend that they should be again tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.
1. Thus a happy termination was put to an affair that seemed likely to ruin the Christian Church, not only at Corinth, but through all Greece; for, if this bad man, who had been chief in opposing the apostle's authority, bringing in licentious doctrines, and denying the resurrection of the dead, had ultimately succeeded at Corinth, his doctrine and influence might soon have extended over Greece and Asia Minor, and the great work of God which had been wrought in those parts would have been totally destroyed. This one consideration is sufficient to account for the apostle's great anxiety and distress on account of the divisions and heresies at Corinth. He knew it was a most pernicious leaven; and, unless destroyed, must destroy the work of God. The loss of the affections of the Church at Corinth, however much it might affect the tender, fatherly heart of the apostle, cannot account for the awful apprehensions, poignant distress, and deep anguish, which he, in different parts of these epistles, so feelingly describes; and which he describes as having been invariably his portion from the time that he heard of their perversion, till he was assured of their restoration by the account brought by Titus.
2. A scandal or heresy in the Church of God is ruinous at all times, but particularly so when the cause is in its infancy; and therefore the messengers of God cannot be too careful to lay the foundation well in doctrine, to establish the strictest discipline, and to be very cautious whom they admit and accredit as members of the Church of Christ. It is certain that the door should be opened wide to admit penitent sinners; but the watchman should ever stand by, to see that no improper person enter in. Christian prudence should ever be connected with Christian zeal. It is a great work to bring sinners to Christ; it is a greater work to preserve them in the faith; and it requires much grace and much wisdom to keep the Church of Christ pure, not only by not permitting the unholy to enter, but by casting out those who apostatize or work iniquity. Slackness in discipline generally precedes corruption of doctrine; the former generating the latter.