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7: 1 - 8: 9.
pp. 161 - 165
Chapter 7: of this epistle is obviously carrying on the theme developed in the sixth
chapter. The Apostle Paul had urged the Corinthians to separate themselves from all the
pagan ways that surrounded them. This was practical sanctification and the gracious
promise was made that if they did this God would be a Father to them with all the
wonderful teaching that this close relationship implies.
"Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (7: 1 R.V.).
"Perfecting holiness" on the surface seems impossible. How can holiness ever be
improved? Epiteleo, perfecting, does not mean this, but `to take to completion', to `reach
its goal' and this is achieved in the believer when the sanctification he has already in
Christ (I Cor. 1: 30) is made actual in practice. The present participle is used, teaching us
that this must be a continual experience day by day.
The Apostle now goes back to his theme in 6: 11-13 and he urges them to `open
their hearts to him' (7: 2). He has wronged no man or taken advantage of them and is
prepared to die or live together with the believers at Corinth, so closely does he feel the
tie to be between them. He expresses his confidence and pride in them and is overjoyed
(verse 4), especially by reason of the good news Titus had brought of their renewed
regard for him. Paul goes back to the memorable meeting with Titus in Macedonia,
recorded in 2: 13. He recalls the restlessness which he felt before this meeting, his
anxiety as to what was happening at Corinth, whether his enemies there were getting the
upper hand, and then the wonderful relief that he felt when Titus was able to tell him that
the Corinthians were repentant and keen to see him again and restore the happy
fellowship they had previously enjoyed. Not only this but they mourned for their past
behaviour (verses 5-7). In this way God comforted the Apostle and Titus too was
comforted when he saw the complete change of heart at Corinth.
As Paul thought over this, he could now see that the painful letter he sent them (see
introductory studies) had achieved its object, though he wondered at the time of writing
whether it would produce this result or harden them still further against him. This painful
letter, as we have shown, cannot be I Corinthians but must be an epistle that does not
form part of inspired Scripture.
"For even if I made you sorry 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. For godly grief produces a
repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death"
(7: 8-10 R.S.V.).