2 Corinthians chapter 7 - Surprised by Joy - Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

Sorrowing into Gods Wonderful Joy 

There is a bitter sweet sorrow which is the gateway into the joy of the Lord. 

This is the door opened by sorrow! 

Through this door the widow of Zarephath entered carrying her dead son 
The thief passed from death to life, the condemnation of the cross to the justification of Christ 
The door which separated the sorrow of broken hearts from the joy of broken bread in the home at Emmaus 
The door into the upper room which separated for ever the doubts of Thomas' unbelief and disappointment from the joy of  certain faith and nail pierced hands 
Through this door any can enter: 'I am the door by me if any man enter in he shall be saved' – on the one side we must leave what was – unbelief like Thomas, the world like Abraham, pleasures of sin like Moses, treasures ill gotten like Zacchaeus, religion like Nicodemus maybe at times legitimate pursuits as well, leave them behind and press on and through to the joy of salvation an new life in Christ. 
Through this the Shunnamite would pass by way of Mount Carmel from sorrow to joy 

There is a door that separates joy from sorrow, in the Christian life and so often that door is the door of repentance – as it is here in 2 Corinthians chp 7! 

This was the experience of: 

John Mark 

Sometimes the path from sorrow to joy is over the threshold of repentance. 

Reasonableness of holiness (v1) 
Rejection of the messenger (v2-4) 
Refreshing of the Apostle 
Repentance of the Corinthians 
Rejoicing of Paul 

Reasonableness of holiness (v1) 

Holiness for Paul is like Romans 12:1 a perfectly reasonable sacrifice in the life of the Christian 

To deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ is perfectly rational, in the light of the joy before us (Hebrews 12:1ff), our sin and condemnation which is behind us and the fellowship of Christ with us (6:16-18). 

This is reasonable holiness 

The Christian does not pursue holiness because it is the rules, because he is legalistic, because he is narrow minded but rather he pursues holiness because it is: 


'having therefore these promises' 

Noah turned his back on the world 
Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees 
Lot fled Sodom 
Moses left Egypt 

Because holiness was: 


These promises of: 

Relationship with Christ 
Reception by Christ 
Reality of His presence with us 


I wondered: 

Would this still be cool if he said the same about you? 
What would he say about my preaching? 
What is his criteria? 

How do we know when God walks amongst His people? 

Authentic experience – Exodus chp3 – fire and yet the bush is not consummed – a self dependant fire 
Conviction of sin – Genesis chp 3 
Objective revelation from scripture – of Christ (Luke 24) 
Subjective revelation of self (1 Corinthians 14) 
Life – God sustains His people – He feeds them as the manna in the wilderness, as the water from the rock, as the bread of life. 
Light – he entrance of thy words bring light (Psalm 119:130) 
Joy – in His presence is fullness of joy 
Peace – that goes beyond understanding (Philippians 4, Psalm 23) 
Preservation – Daniel chp 3 

There must therefore reasonably be a separation from: 

Ways – 'righteousness and unrighteousness' 
Wickedness – 'light and darkness' – moral and intellectual darkness  - the inner darkness of a mind separated from Christ. 

Darkness can have in the scriptures connotations of: 

Moral depravity – 'men preferred darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.' 
Intellectual darkness  

Of course the 2 are intertwinned, intelligence has a moral controlling quality, without that moral imperative the: 

Physician becomes an abortionist 
Leader becomes a dictator 
Businessman becomes a conman 

Intellectual darkness is rarely the absence of intelligence but more commonly intelligence absent of God, abandoned in a state of moral depravity, absent of a pure ethic, devoid of a moral imperative. 
Satan does not lack intelligence but he is the very essence of darkness! 
The wisdom of the world is not necessarily defective in its information nor in its logic but it is defective in its: premises, conclusions, and its application. 

Wisdom (v14) 
Worship (v16) 
Walk (v16) 
Works (v17) 

The corrupted ways / wisdom / worship / walk of the world becomes formed / material / substantial and physical in the 'thing' which it produces. 

Material products of a fallen world. 

Every sphere of a fallen world produces its own corrupt things! 


Separation is not only from the: 

World (6:14-18) 
Flesh (7:1) 
Devil – 'spirit' (7:1) 

Rejection of the messenger (v2-4) 
Refreshing of the Apostle 
Repentance of the Corinthians 
Rejoicing of Paul 

2 Corinthians is the most difficult of Paul's Epistles to study because it is the most epistle like of Paul's Epistles. 

Chapter 7 of the epistle is surely at the heart of this 

Here is a rare and real insight into the relationship between Paul and his converts! 

Does it matter? 

Is this simply us being nosey through Paul's personal communications? 

Are we just trolling through Paul's private mail? 

Are we just snooping into Paul's Facebook posts? 

This is an insight into relationships between Paul and the believers ,between a leader and the flock that ought to be, that is prototypical, and it thus becomes a template relationship for us too. 

Consider Paul's: 

Ethic (7:2-4) 
Experience (7:5-8) 
Effect (7:8-11) 
Expectation (7:12) 

Consider the sorrow of Paul 

The sorrow of rejection 

Paul has to ask to be received by His own letters of commendation (2Co 3:1-3) 

'receive us' – what a strange and sad request for the apostle Paul to have to make. 

Here is rejection by those who owed him most! 

With a hint in v2b of some unjustifiable criticism. 

'I speak not to condemn you.' 

Some were surely seeing his ministry as 'condemnatory' 

We can look back, especially at 1 Corinthians and see an epistle which is dominated by condemnatory ministry. 

He does not fail to: 

challenge error 
teach truth 
rebuke sin 
expose wickedness 
stand  clearly and unequivocally upon the truth 

we have noted in the past: 

Problems between Men (chps 1 to 3) 
Moral problems (chp 5) 
Material problems (chp 6) 
Marital problems (chp 7) 
Meat offered to idols problems (chp 8 to 10) 
Meeting problems (chp 11 to 14) 
Miracle of resurrection problems (chp 15) 
Money issues (chp 16) 

Paul consistently: 

Exposed error 
Taught truth 
Corrected wandering 
Condemned wickedness 

He does not sit on the fence 

And yet he asserts: 'I speak not this to condemn you' 

Paul's object is not to drop an atom bomb, not to destroy 

Paul is not looking to make Casualties 

Paul is looking for converts. 

Sometimes preaching would seem to have the goal of making casualties and not converts. 

Sometimes when we take a stand we will be accused of being destructive and condemnatory and judgemental 

Let us be careful that such criticism is not justified! 

Let us be careful that our ministry does not have as its goal: 


But that correction is with the aim of building up and restoring! 

'ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.' (v3) 

Paul has a real heart for the people of God. 

Paul's corrective ministry comes from a broken heart. 

Ethic (7:2-4) 

Ethic – morality applied 

A system of consistent moral behaviour 

3 Fold Christian ethic 

Chapter 7 commences where chapter 6 concludes, with our relationship to the Lord (6:16-7:1) and our pursuit of holiness (7:1). 

If this relationship with the Lord is wrong then everything else in the Christian life will be wong. 

If this is right all else will be right. 

Upon the foundation of our relationship with God we have an ethic with men (6:16-7:1) 

The ethic is 3 fold in the negative: 

wronged no man – no harm TO them 
corrupted no man – no harm IN them 
defrauded no man – no harm taken FROM them 

When Satan moves against us we will discover these pledges transgressed: 

'by one man sin entered the world and death by sin and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned.' 
Harm done TO man – death 
Harm done IN man – the Sin principle sown 
Harm by taking from man – innocence, relationship with God, life and happiness all taken 

Satan promised heaven and gave us hell 

Satan promised paradise and gave us a wilderness 

Satan promised knowledge and gave us ignorance 

Satan said we would be like god and made us like devils 

Satan promised life and gave us death 

Satan corrupted IN man: 

man's intellect 
mans logic 
mans thinking 
mans relationship with God 
mans soul 
mans desires 
mans appetites 
man's morality 

'Defrauded' – Satan stole from Adam: 

His home in Eden 
His heart 
His heaven 
His hope 

The thief still comes to 'steal, kill and destroy.' 

The same re-echoes down through the generations in every assault upon the people of God by Satan. 

The positive ethic: 

'ye are in our hearts to die and live with you' (7:3) 

cf. 'love thy neighbour as thyself' – the Spirit has brought this commandment to fulfilment in the heart and the life of Paul (cf Romans 8:1ff). 

Such is the strength, the reality of the bond of affection between Paul and the Corinthians that for them to die and suffer means for Paul to die and to suffer with them! 

cf. Jacob and Benjamin (Gen 44:22,30) – Jacobs life is dependant upon Benjamin! 

Is this the bond of affection between us as Gods people??? 

This is more than occasional and causal fellowship! 

Experience (7:5-8) 

of personal trial and tragedy and trouble (7:5) 

of Divine comfort by human instruments (7:6-8) 

Paul although an apostle was not immune from the inner distresses and anxieties of life. 

Spirituality does not result in an emotional coldness 

Christian spirituality is the antithesis of the self absorbed detachment from the world around us ! 

Spirituality allows us to triumph in and over our trials but does not anaesthetise us from them! 

What were these inner 'fears' of the apostle? 

Were these the Macedonian problems? 

Were these the inner wranglings and anxieties over the church at Corinth? 

It would appear at least in part the later is true for the inner anxieties were relieved by the good news of Corinth conveyed through Titus. 

'the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies' (1:3), brought comfort to Paul. 

How does God comfort His people in 2 Corinthians? 

He comforts with His Presence as the 'parakleseos' (2 Co 1:4) – he draws along side. There is perhaps no better illustration than that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo. How do we know His presence? Heard a quote recently used from a platform of a famous preacher of the last century (Lloyd Jones) who on listening to other preachers was known to often remark, 'poor man, up there preaching without the Spirit of God.' This was quoted in a positive light but I wondered as I heard it quoted: 

What if he said the same of your preaching? 
What was his criteria? 
What would he make of my preaching? 

We have noted previously that the Lords presence amongst His people can be perceived by: 

God reveals Christ objectively (Luke chp 24) in the scriptures 
God reveals me subjectively in the scriptures (1 Co 14) 
God convicts of sin (Gen 3) 
Gods presence is authentic, dependant only upon Himself and on no one else and nothing else (Exodus chp 3 – the burning bush). 
God preserves His people and His testimony by His presence (Daniel chp 3) 
Gods presence gives a peace beyond understanding – a subjective peace (Psalm 23, Phil 3) 

Preparation for service through suffering (1:4-6) 

Specific preparation for specific service 

Production of Spiritual Fruit: 

Faith (1:9-10) 
Hope (1:7) 
Love (6:6) 

Proving of Gods servants 

2 Co 6:4 

Presentation of the glory of Christ 

His Glory revealed in the context of human tragedy and trial 

2 Corinthians 4:6 – cf the presentation of Christ in the Gospel of John! 

Production of the character of Christ in me (4:10ff) 

Promotion of Holiness (6:14ff) 

People God sends to us (7:6) 


God comforts by secondary means – by means of Titus 

God comforts by means of His servants 

God comforts by means of Titus 

But what if Titus never came? 

What if Titus was too busy that night? 

A little overtime? 

A little me time? 

A good film on netflix? 

What if Titus never came? 

In chapter 1 God comforts by His presence 

In chapter 7 God comforts by His people 

Effect (7:8-11) 

The effect of his ministry 

What is our goal in ministry? 

To be popular? 

To be liked? 

To be successful? 

To be wealthy? 

Pauls motives are pure and sincere 

To bring the saved away from sin (v8-9) 

To bring sinners to salvation (v10) 

Paul desires more than that they may feel sorry 

Paul desires that they may be sorry 

This is when repentance really works 

'godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation' (v10) 

'sorrow of the world worketh death' 

When God works in our hearts, by His Spirit, convicting of sin and converting, bringing to salvation, this is a work of God we never regret! 

Godly sorrow – the sorrow that leads to repentance 

The sorrow of the conviction of sin 

The sorrow of a smitten conscience 

The sorrow of the spirits working 

The sorrow that comes from turning from sin I repentance 

Godly sorrow not only turns from sin but turns to Christ 

In that there is salvation 

This is the sorrow of: 

David numbering the people 
Saul on the road to Damascus 
Peter glimpsing the Lord he had denied 
Jonah on the ship and in the belly of the whale having fled from the Lord. 

The sorrow of the world: 

Regret without redemption 
Sorrow without salvation 

What is missing from the sorrow of the world? 

There is no 'to salvation' 

The sorrow of the world: 

When Pharaoh's baker failed he lost his life 
When Saul failed – he fell on his own sword and died 
When Absalom failed he hung from a tree until slain 
When Ahithophel failed – he went out and hung himself 
When Hamaan failed he had already built his own gallows for his execution 
When Judas failed, he lost everything, including his soul – he went out and hung himself. 

Life lived without hope, dies without hope 

Life lived in darkness does not end in light 

The sorrow of a damnation sealed with hell as a destiny certain – such was the sorrow of Judas Iscariot – a soul sold to the Devil. 
The sorrow of a cry too late, the sorrow post mortem of the rich man in hell! 
The sorrow of an opportunity missed and of grace witheld – the nation of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years having missed their opportunity to enter the promised land and now under the curse of Numbers 14:29-33; their carcasses destined to fall in the wilderness. The sorrow of the 5 foolish virgins. 

The sorrow of a death past and a life lost and unredeemed – such was the sorrow of David for Absalom; 'Absalom, my son Absalom, would that I had died for thee Absalom.' 
Sorrow of  a life destroyed – as Lot's wife looks back over a life lost, family gone, home destroyed and everything lost. What she had invested was all for the burning – wood, hay and stubble! 
Sorrow of a door closed – 'open to us... depart form me I never knew you.' 
Sorrow of an opportunity missed – Israel in the wilderness – and so their carcasses fell 
Sorrow of a battle lost and a kingdom defeated – Saul – and so he fell on his own sword 
Sorrow of a glory departed – Eli – Ichabod – so he fell from his seat backwards, died of a broken neck and with a broken heart 
Sorrow of a service wasted – Gehazi  
Sorrow of a birthright despised – Esau  - he found no place for repentance, though he sough it with tears! 
Sorrow of a striving ceased –  the world in the days of Noah – an old world that perished 
Sorrow of a soul sold to the Devil – Judas Iscariot – and so he went out and hung himself 

Why such despair? 

Why such 'sorrow of the world'? 

Why no happy ending? 

Does not every life ultimately have a happy ending? 

Does not every funeral have a happy ending? 

There is no happy ending for God's striving ceased 

No forgiveness was extended 

Forgiveness is of Grace and Grace does not have to be! 

This is Grief without Grace! 

7:10 – Don't waste your repentance – genuine repentance 

carefulness: 'σπουδή' : spoude: urge, hasten, press, earnestedness,  diligence, zeal 

Hear is the motive / accelerant for change 

Hear is what triggers, what moves the mind to change 

This is the wave, the crest of the wave that lifts the surfer high and drives him to the shore! 

Don't waste your repentance. 

Don't miss the rising crest of the wave! 

Godly sorrow is not the only way to come to an understanding of the: 


Of sin! 

Hell will do likewise: Luke 16:28 – the rich man clearly understood that it was as a consequence of his sin, his life in time that his soul was lost in eternity: 'for I have 5 brethren that he may testify unto them lest they also come into this place of torment.' He understood that should his brethren continue to live as they do then they would also end their destiny in hell. 

Godly sorrow that leads to repentance brings us to a sooner understanding of the: 


of sin. 

Godly sorrow leading to repentance may be unpleasant and painful but it is ultimately good because it leads us into an appreciation of the true nature of sin, the world, the flesh and judgement! 

Consider the of  'σπουδή' herodius daughter to request the head of John the Baptist. Not the 'σπουδή'  to repentance clearly! But perhaps not so far removed from it either! Offended and convicted by the righteousness of Johns words they speedily act, not to repentance but to rebellion and rejection of his testimony. 

'clearing of yourselves': 'ἀπολογία' : to give an answer or speech in defence of oneself, a plea, defence before a tribunal or elsewhere. 

Some of the greatest defences of the Christian faith come from persecution. 

The expressions of error has most often been responsible for clearest expositions of the truth. 

Error has been most clearly exposed by the clearest expositions of the truth. 

Stephens testimony 
Pauls testimony – Acts 22:1ff 
Pauls trial before Caesar (2 Tim 4:16) 
Pauls imprisonment (Phil 1:7) 
1 Corinthians – moral truth and church truth 
Romans and Galatians – Gospel truth 
Colossians – mysticism and the occult, angel worship 
Hebrews – Person and Work of Christ 
Prophecy and future events – 1 & 2 Thessalonians 
the reformation 

When error is expressed, truth is expounded. 

'ἀπολογία' is the response of the converted heart to error and falsehood. 

The inevitable response of truth in the presence of error. 

'ἀγανάκτησις' – indignation – to be oppressed in mind, grieved, resentful 

cf. Matt 20:24; Mk 10:14,41; 14:4. 

The emotional response to insult. 

'fear' – phobos – fear of the consequences of sin? 


'revenge' : 'ἐκδίκησις' : execution of righteous judgment 

Expectation (7:12) 

Paul deals not primarily with the 2 individual involved in the dispute is not so much that he is not interested in them, nor that they do not matter nor that he is not genuine in his dealings with them but here is a really important pint in our dealings with one another. 

The individual / individuals involved in the dispute can become very self centred and very self obsessed, they can begin to think that it is all about them and of course people who do tend to be self centred and self obsessed tend to run into problems and disputes, that they have a right to do as they please and others will sort it all out for them! 

Such people involved in such disputes may even resort to canvassing and rallying party support and thus dividing Gods people in the process! 

Egocentric people can have the greatest tendency to cause problems to and with others. 

These are the people we often have to deal with when we have disputes, because they are so ego centric and they have not considered the impact of their behaviour on others. 

'but its your job to sort it out' 


'its your job not to cause problems that need sorting out. 

Pauls message here is the ultimate put down! 

Its not about you! 
Its about the church! 
Its about everyone else! 
Its about the effect of your selfish and self centred behaviour on others! 
Its bigger than you! 


Paul's destiny is the Corinthians destiny and they are intimately interdependent 

His destiny is there's 

There destiny is his! 

'His spirit was refreshed' (7:13) 

In a world of much: 


To be refreshed is a great thing! 

Are we able to do this? 

Are we able to refresh the Spirit of others? 

Jesus at the well of John chp 4 

The angel for Elijah – bread 

Joseph for his brothers 

Moses and the daughters of Jethro 

Rebekah and Eliezer 

Jacob for Rachel at the well 

Ahimelech refreshed David with bread from the sanctuary 

David's mighty men with water from the well of Bethlehem 

Moses and Israel at the rock on the wilderness 

We don't have to be great to refresh! 

A young lad would refresh 5000 
A widow would refresh Elijah 
A girl at a well would refresh Eliezer 

To refresh the spirit of Titus. 

Can I by Gods grace: 

Bring bread from an empty barrel – Elijah and the widow 
Water from a rock – Moses 
Fish to an empty net – Christ 
Sweetness from bitter waters – Moses 
Life from a dead child – Elijah and Elisha 
Food from a poisoned pot – Elisha 
Strength from weakness – Samson 
Victory from defeat – Gideon 

Are we able to refresh the spirit of others? 

Maybe we feel our inability 

Maybe we feel we have little enough in our own soul to refresh ourselves – how could we possibly go about refreshing any one else too? 

Go to the well! 

Most of the refreshing in the word of God was achieved at the well 

Jacob refreshed Rachel and her flock at the well 
Rebekah refreshed Eliezer at the well 
Moses refreshed the daughters of Jethro at the well 
David's mighty men refreshed David at a well 
Angel refreshed Elijah at the well 
Isaac redug the wellls of his father Abraham and watered his flocks afresh 
Angel refreshed Hagar at a well 
Isaac meditated and was refreshed in his spirit at the well Beer-Lahai-Roi 

When we move to John chapter 4 there is something profoundly different and new. 

The well will not be a place that you go to like Isaac / Jacob / Rebekah or like the well of Bethlehem like David's mighty men. 

'I shall give Him' 

We will not find that refreshing in the broken cisterns of: 

World and its Society – the pleasures of Egypt 
World and its Sins – Sodom and Gomorrah 
World and its – Spirituality / spiritism - in the religious world of Babylon 
World and its Sophistication – Greek world of 1 Corinthians chp 1 – the world of education and learning and philosophy 

The well is a person that we draw from 

When we have the task of refreshing the spirits of others the resources to so do, do not come from ourselves, they come from the Lord.