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2 Corinthians 7:5–9

“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” (vv. 8–9).

Sound biblical interpretation, we have noted from time to time, requires that we gain an accurate understanding of the historical background of the text we are reading. Every book of the Bible was originally written to a specific audience for a specific purpose, and if we do not know that audience or purpose, we run the risk of asking questions that the text did not intend to answer and of drawing conclusions that are disconnected from the inspired words themselves. Given that most of the New Testament epistles address very specific problems, it is especially vital to have a good sense of the circumstances that moved an Apostle to write the letter we are reading.

When we come to a text such as today’s passage, which mentions several historical details that led to Paul’s authoring 2 Corinthians, we are particularly conscious of the importance of the text’s historical setting. To understand what the Apostle is saying, let us remember that 2 Corinthians did not immediately follow 1 Corinthians in the series of letters that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. It is actually the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians after he sent them 1 Corinthians. Having heard that many of the problems addressed in 1 Corinthians had not been solved, Paul changed his plans and came back to Corinth to deal with the issues in person. This was the “painful visit” during which Paul faced opposition from an individual in the Corinthian church whom the church did not stand against (1 Cor. 16:5–9; 2 Cor. 2:1–4). The Apostle then left Corinth, resolving to come back to the city one more time before going to Macedonia. After a time, he decided that it would be better to go on to Macedonia first and send a letter to the Corinthians instead, hoping that the letter would get them to discipline the man who opposed him. That letter, delivered to Corinth by Titus, is the letter mentioned in today’s passage (2 Cor. 7:5–8). It was penned between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.

We have no copies of this letter that Titus brought and that was written between Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. However, we know that this letter moved the Corinthian church to a sorrow that led to repentance, and that the Apostle rejoiced over this (v. 9). Yet, note that he did not take joy in the Corinthians’ sorrow merely for its own sake but because it ended in their repentance. We should not rejoice when others suffer, but we can rejoice when their pain moves them to repentance.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God promises to work all things together for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28). Thus, it is not surprising to see that He often uses emotional and other kinds of pain to move people to repentance or to otherwise draw them closer to Himself. We can rejoice when this happens, not for the sake of the pain itself but because our gracious God uses even hardships to sustain His people in their salvation.


For Further Study
  • 2 Chronicles 6:36–39
  • Esther 4
  • Psalm 35
  • Psalm 51
  • James 4:9–10

Paul’s Pastoral Heart

Repentance that Leads to Salvation

Keep Reading The Doctrine of Justification

From the October 2021 Issue
Oct 2021 Issue