Make Room in Your Hearts – 2 Corinthians 7:2–4

In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul says he went to Troas and after a long digression he picks up that thread again in 7:5. If we were reading the letter straight through, or hearing the letter read to us for the first time, we might have expected Paul’s response to meeting Titus and hearing the report that of a favorable response to the tearful letter.

Paul seems a little defensive in this verse, he claims to have wronged no one.

  • “We wronged no one.” To “wrong” someone (ἀδικέω) can refer to physically mistreating someone, but can also refer to a legal injury, with the sense of doing an injustice to someone. Perhaps Paul’s opponents in the Corinthian church accused Paul of being too harsh in dealing with the incestuous man, perhaps treating him in a way that damaged his honor in the city of Corinth.
  • “We have corrupted no one.” The verb φθείρω can mean either “ruin financially” or “corrupt” in the matter of doctrine or morals” (Harris, 517). This accusation has the connotation of ruining someone financially. It is true Paul has told his congregations to be wary of business relationships with the unsaved. If some in the church followed that recommendation, then his opponents could accuse Paul of intentionally ruining people financially.
  • “We have taken advantage of no one.” The verb (πλεονεκτέω) has the sense of cheating someone financially. This might be a hint of some accusation about the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, a topic Paul will shift to after this section of the book. Paul’s opponents may have been suspicious of this collection since it was not at all common for someone to collect money and even less common to give collected money to another city.

Since he has behaved properly toward the church, Paul asks the church to open up to him so that he may be reconciled with the church. This is a common metaphor even in contemporary English, to be “in someone’s heart” is to have a close personal relationship; “openheartedness” implies such a close relationship that being completely transparent is possible.

Image result for open heartPaul had already opened his heart to them when he confronted them about their sin and what they needed to do to deal with that sin. Paul is now hopeful the church would also find some room for him so reconciliation can happen.

Paul’s love for the congregation leads to a level of frankness which could be understood as offensive. Since Paul had to correct obvious sins, the church could potentially be hurt by his words (v. 3-4).

The tone of the tearful letter could be interpreted as “putting them in their place.” Tone is almost impossible to convey in writing, and after the Paul’s last visit to the church it would have been easy to read the tearful letter as a harsh condemnation.

A factor modern readers may overlook is the social status of Paul and the church at Corinth. By speaking frankly, Paul could be interpreted as asserting his higher social status, perhaps “pulling rank” on the Corinthians. This was not the relationship Paul wanted to have with his churches. Paul and the Corinthians are “fellow-servants” of Christ and Paul regularly calls them “brothers.” Paul’s love is so deep for the Corinthian believers that he is willing to “live or die with them (v. 3). Some might think of this as a rhetorical flourish, but Paul was genuinely willing to lay his life down on behalf of the church, something he often demonstrated in ministry.

In summary, at the beginning of the letter Paul was concerned the tearful letter had caused the church sorrow, and perhaps caused the rift between himself and the church. After 2:14 he drops this feeling, only now expressing joy in the positive response from the church. But there was a long, tense period of time when Paul was unsure how the letter would be received, so in this next section he describes the depth of his sorrow and how that sorrow turned to joy when he finally heard from Titus the good news from the church.

9 thoughts on “Make Room in Your Hearts – 2 Corinthians 7:2–4

  1. I find it interesting how we can read this as a tearful letter, because, like it was stated, tone is difficult to read in text. While reading the letter to the Corinthians, I definitely feel that it is important to look at the statements like “I do not say this to condemn you” (2 Corinthians 7:3) because this shows Paul’s feelings. His change to expressing joy towards the church, I believe, helps show that he sincerely cares for their well-being and loves them dearly. He wants them to be able to succeed and live for God, but he also knows that the sins needed to be addressed and pointed out to them. By pointing out the sins, Paul is expressing he cares for the people, but, as we know in our own world, sometimes pointing out the sins in others leads to tension. However, I feel that Paul does a good job in making sure to stay strongly connected to the church by expressing his joy in them as well.

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  2. Paul seemed to always have sacrificial love for Christ and all the churches that he reached. Paul went though many hardships and almost near death experiences to show his loyalty not only to Christ but to the church. So it should be no surprise that he felt like this towards the Corinth church. Paul especially loved them so much so to have enough guts to point out their sin. It takes a true Christ like love to show someone their sin with love and help them through it. Paul was not a hypocrite, so when he preached about faith, hope, and love and out of these the greatest is love he meant it and lived by it. Paul’s commitment to the churches should never be underestimated, especially that he would go back or send a messenger to check in on them. This should really show his loyalty and devotion to the church and Christ.

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  3. Its always challenging to have struggles or “rifts” with people from church. Being brothers and sisters in Christ, we know reconciliation needs to be pursued, but it is still challenging. With Paul devoting his life to the churches and pouring so much into them to help them grow, it must have been heart wrenching for him to go through that rough period in his relationship with the corinthians. It is always challenging to regain trust with people, and for Paul, he had to regain the trust of the corinthians and their respect for his teachings once more. Paul was extremely committed to the gospel and reaching the Corinthians in particular. After pouring so much into them and the churches, it would be hard to write the tearful letter, but also to mend their relationship after sending it. This is why the rest of 2 Corinthians is so crucial!

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  4. The “openheartedness” and reconciliation Paul asked the Corinthians to have is related back to being brothers in Christ (7:3). Earlier in second Corinthians, Paul mentioned being new through Christ: “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a mew creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (5:17). As mentioned, Paul and the Corinthians were “fellow servants of Christ” (Long). Paul calls on the church members of Corinth as brothers and sisters (p.116). However, Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians in the second letter is stretched. The Corinthians requested proof of Paul’s credentials (11-12), did not send a relief gift when Jerusalem needed help (8), and chose to follow the super apostles instead of Paul (11). Paul also mentioned that the people first rejected Paul because he was poor, homeless, lived on the run, and did not live up to their public speaker criteria (1-2). Even though the Corinthians made these decisions, Paul mentioned forgiveness multiple times and asks them to humble themselves for the love of Jesus. Paul does this because they are fellow followers of Christ, brothers and sisters, who need reconciliation.

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  5. Rachel Smith

    For most of my life, I have not thought of Paul having a personal relationship with the churches to whom he wrote. I had thought that he was just sending the churches instructions and encouragement on how to live godly lives because that was his job. Though I was not entirely wrong in my prior thought processes; I now have a better understanding of the background behind Paul’s writings. This blog post and chapter five of TTP have helped me to understand that Paul had a personal relationship with the people of the church in Corinth. He cared deeply about them and wanted to see them reunited with him again. Paul’s heart was so desperate for reconciliation that he waited in anxiety to hear from Titus about the reception of his tearful letter. Upon Titus’s report Paul was filled with joy. “Overjoyed that reconciliation was established, Paul writes 2 Corinthians 1 – 9” (TTP, 154). Because I have learned that Paul had a personal relationship with the church in Corinth and in other churches, I have been able to view Paul more as a loving apostle, rather than just an apostle with lots of wordy instructions and encouragements.

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  6. When reading the contrast of Paul’s attitude at the beginning of the letter and a bit further into the letter, I become confused as to how his command to “give thanks in all circumstances…” comes into play (1 Thes 5:18). After sending the letter, Paul was extremely worried. He was concerned that he had caused the church pain and would never be able to mend their relationship. After Paul receives the news from Titus, he begins to rejoice because the church responded positively. In between these few chapters, Paul has a complete shift of emotion from worry to joy. Concerning that emotion shift, I have a question: is one able to be worried while still giving thanks? It seems as if one could ask: in what ways was Paul giving thanks while he was completely fearful that the church was not going to accept his message? Does giving thanks solely relate to one’s heart and where they stand in terms of knowing who is in control of their lives?

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  7. To me, how Paul goes about reaching to the churches is “tough love.” No one wants to hear that they are wrong. They want to hear everything they are doing right. I think that it is admirable that Paul has that frankness with churches. It is the kind of love that I believe is needed even in the church today. The way he went about reaching the churches has proven to be effective. “Paul begins this letter by noting that his own life had been severely threatened but that God had rescued him for further ministry,” (TTP, pg.154). I appreciate so much that Paul points all his works back to Christ. Whenever there was a victory in his ministry he pointed it back to God and his goodness. Even when there were hard moments, he stayed loyal to God and thanked him for all he was learning in the chaotic moments. We need to strive to be more like Paul in this sense.

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  8. It’s odd that you say there’s such a love from Paul that leads him to confronted come across as mean. We still have those kinds of relationships and banters today. Having room in our hearts for others is a key to ministry. Sometimes a good, endearing relationship forms and there’s that space and openness that allows us to be frank with others. There’s a sense of honesty. But more than anything, Paul is open with a people he loves.

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