Setting

Paul has been making an appeal to the Corinthians to see how great and glorious his ministry is. By recognizing the value of the gospel they have received, believers would be able to treasure the status they have in Christ and not receive God’s grace in vain. As we will see in the present study, Paul continues his appeal by asking the Corinthians to make room in their hearts for the ministers. Not only so, he also urges them to cleanse themselves of all defilement before God. This passage ends on a positive note of joy as Paul recounts the great comfort he received when Titus brought him encouraging news from the Corinthians.

Key Verse

(7:4)

Did You Know...?

  1. We have spoken freely to you” (6:11): The Greek is literally “our mouth is open to you.”
  2. Belial (6:15) is from a Hebrew word that means “worthlessness.” It is used in pseudepigraphic literature for the name of Satan. [ref]
  3. Paul does not appear to be quoting verbatim from one OT scripture in 6:16–18. Instead, the words are a redaction of the statements in Exodus 25:8, Leviticus 26:11–12, and Isaiah 52:11.

Outline

  • Appeal to Widen Hearts
    (6:11–13)
  • Cleansing from Defilement
    (6:14–7:1)
  • Appeal to Make Room in Hearts
    (7:2–3)
  • Joy and Comfort
    (7:4–16)

Segment Analysis

  • 6:11–13

    1.

    How has Paul spoken freely to the Corinthians and how is his heart wide open?

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    As evident in his letter, Paul has been completely open to the Corinthians, expressing his profound affection for them, revealing his own emotions and vulnerabilities, and sharing his convictions about his ministry (e.g. 2:1–4; 3:4–6; 4:8–12; 6:3–10).

     

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  • 2.

    What is Paul asking the Corinthian believers do?

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    Paul is asking the Corinthians to be as open to the ministers as the ministers have been to them. There has been some tension between the Corinthians and Paul. Paul had postponed his visit to Corinth to avoid another painful visit (1:23; 2:1). He also mentioned the influence of those who boast about outward appearance (5:12). In the latter part of the letter, we will read more about the forces of opposition in Corinth (cf. 10:2, 10; 11:5–6, 12–15, 20–23; 12:11). Under such an adverse climate, it would have been natural for believers in Corinth to become guarded against Paul and his fellow workers. But Paul hopes that they will come to see that his love for them and his dedication to God are genuine. He is making an appeal to them to accept the ministers as true servants of Christ and as workers who have the best interest of the believers at heart.

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  • 3.

    What kinds of obstacles do we need to overcome to open our hearts wide to each other in Christ?

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    Brothers and sisters in Christ can be open with each other only if everyone has a sincere desire to please the Lord. When we are not centered on Christ’s will, our own ambitions and ego tend to create competition and strife. We would judge each other based on outward criteria instead of embracing one another with Christ’s love and compassion.

     

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  • 6:14–7:1

    4.

    What are some examples of being unequally yoked with unbelievers?

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    From this segment we may infer that being unequally yoked with unbelievers means sharing the godless values of unbelievers through a close communion with them. Forming a kind of bond in which our own faith and spiritually become affected can happen in different situations, including friendship and business ventures with unbelievers whose values are opposed to God. Perhaps the most intimate form of partnership in which we may become influenced is marriage. Joining in marriage with an unbeliever entails compromising our faith and Christian values in many ways.

     

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  • 5.

    What does God require of His people for Him to dwell among them and be their God?

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    God wants us to come out from the midst of unrighteousness and unbelief and be separate from them. If we do so, He would be our God and we would be His people. God is holy. If we make no distinction between what pleases God and what God detests, God cannot abide with us or be close to us, for He is a jealous God who hates sin (Ex 20:5; Deut 4:24; Jas 4:4–5).

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  • 6.

    Why does fellowship with unbelievers lead to defilement?

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    When we share the same values as unbelievers, God’s place in our hearts diminishes. We start to think and behave as if there is no God or as if God is no longer important. When we become conformed to the godless value of the world godless lives, we become defiled in body and spirit (cf. 7:1).

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  • 7.

    How can we be separate from this world but still be effective ambassadors for Christ?

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    The Bible is not teaching us not to associate with unbelievers or sinners (cf. 1 Cor 5:9). Even our Lord Jesus ate with sinners when He was in this world (Lk 15:2). To reach out to others who are in darkness and to save them, we must go to them and relate to them (cf. 1 Cor 9:19–23). But being an ambassador for Christ does not mean that we agree with everything that unbelievers think and do. The teaching we can draw from the current passage is to not compromise our faith and holiness as God’s children by forming a close bond with those who do not believe in God and by serving their godless purpose and goals. As we interact with unbelievers, we must stand firmly in our beliefs and in God’s commandments, being salt and light rather than being conformed to their values and their ways (cf. Mt 5:13–16; Php 2:14–16). That way, we can bring them to God instead of being led away from God by them.

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  • 7:2–3

    8.

    What can we learn from Paul in these two verses in terms of his relationship to the believers?

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    Paul’s motivation in serving the brothers and sisters are perfectly pure. As such, he can speak with such confidence that he has corrupted no one and taken advantage of no one. Such genuineness in serving is worthy of our imitation. Secondly, we can learn from the way Paul’s heart is knit so closely to the believers. He shares their joy and their pain, and his mind is constantly on them. Paul’s affection toward the believers fully exemplifies the love of our Lord Jesus for His own sheep.

     

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  • 7:4–16

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    How does the phrase “fighting without and fear within” describe situations we may face in our ministry?

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    The Greek word for “fighting” means “being afflicted or oppressed.” When we share our beliefs and the good news of Christ with others, we may meet oppositions from those who refuse to accept our message. When we speak the truth, others may not like us and may slander us. These are different forms of “fighting from without.” Internally, we may fear the hurtful words and actions of those who oppose us. At times, we may even fear that we may be too weak to withstand the hardships that surround us in our ministry.

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  • 10.

    What brought Paul joy and comfort in his affliction?

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    Paul rejoiced and received great comfort when Titus brought news to him of the Corinthians’ change of heart and attitude. Rather than opposing Paul, they had repented of their wrongdoing and expressed their longing for Paul.

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  • 11.

    Why does Paul rejoice for having made the Corinthians grieve (v. 9)?

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    He rejoices because they were grieved into repenting.

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  • 12.

    What are godly grief and worldly grief?

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    Godly grief is God-centered whereas worldly grief is self-centered. Godly grief is grief that comes from our awareness of our sins and shortcomings, leading to repentance and salvation. Worldly grief, on the other hand, is to be drowned in our sorrow over our loss, insecurities, or sufferings without turning to God for help and guidance. Such grief produces death because it is destructive emotionally and spiritually.

     

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