Correction of the Letter - Part 1 (series: Lessons on 2 Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

August 26, 2014
Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.C.2.b: Correction of the Letter. (7:8–12)

2nd Corinthians 7:8-12 (NKJV)

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.
9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.


8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter
“For even if I made you sorry,” or rather, caused you much distress and pain of mind. Titus had told Paul about their distress, and for him to have caused pain to others would have been a source of grief for him

“My letter” was probably the First Epistle he wrote to the church at Corinth, though some suppose that the allusion is to an intermediate letter, which has been lost for centuries. There are various ways of considering this clause. Nothing, however, is simpler than to regard it as a parenthetic remark (for I see that that Epistle, though it were for a time, saddened you). In the First Epistle which he had sent to them he had felt it necessary to scold them for their disagreements and other disorders which had occurred and which were tolerated in the church; particularly, the part dealing with the incestuous person. That Epistle was designed to produce pain in them—as severe and just reproof always does, and Paul felt very apprehensive about its effect on them. It was painful for him to write it, and he was well aware that it must cause deep distress among them to be scolded in this manner.

I do not regret it; though I did regret it
“I do not regret it,” but did he have any misgivings? Didn’t he question whether the letter might have been dispensed with? Was there no internal struggle; no sorrow; no emotion which may be called regret at the action which he has taken? Yet there is no repentance, like a parent whose punishment was too severe might show. He feels that he has done what was right and necessary. He approves of his own actions and has cause for rejoicing because of the good effects which follow. This appears to have been the mindset of the Apostle Paul in this case, and it shows that he had a tender heart that he did not delight in giving pain and that he had no desire to overwhelm them with grief. When the effect was observed, he was willing to apprise them of the pain which it had caused him. When a parent has corrected a child, there is nothing wrong with informing him of the internal struggle which ensued, and the deep pain and anxiety caused by the necessity of resorting to chastisement. And he adds that he is now glad that he drove them to that sorrow even though it was against his will since it was so profitable to them. For there is sorrow not only praiseworthy but also necessary, by which repentance grows by degree: and he highly praises them for their repentance.

The Apostle used rebukes calculated to grieve the Corinthians; but now that he has learned from Titus the beneficial effect it produced in them, he no longer regrets it. “I do not regret it”—I have seen such happy effects produced by it; it has so completely answered the outcome which I had envisioned; it was so kindly received, that I no longer regret that I wrote it. It gives me no pain when I recall the experience, but I have good reason to rejoice that it was done. The severity was called for; it seemed my duty to write severely.

Though I did regret it (writing it) because I feared it might irritate some of you, and produce some bad effects. Or the meaning is, I felt a sympathetic sorrow for having grieved you until I saw the happy fruit of it. “I do not regret it; though I did regret it.” Although he was sometimes upset, because (probably) he understood that some truly pious persons in this church would be troubled by his letter, since they may mistakenly believe it was intended for them. He was once sorry that it had this effect, being troubled that he had done anything to grieve them, whom he so affectionately loved. Everyone has experienced the anxiety which has followed the mailing of some painful letter. Paul was an inspired man, and what he had said was proper and right. But he was a man of deep feeling, and of tender affections. He was pained at the necessity of giving rebuke. And there is no improbability in supposing that after the letter had been sent off, and he reflected on its nature and on the pain which it would cause to those whom he tenderly loved, there might have been some misgivings about it, and the deepest anxiety, and regret at the necessity of doing it. What parent is there who has not had the same feeling as this? He has felt it necessary to correct a dearly loved child, and has resolved to do it, and has carried out it.

Some people cannot understand how an inspired Apostle could regret what he had done: if it were done by inspiration, what room could there be for misgivings? And if he regretted an act done under God’s guidance, just as any common man might regret a foolish act, how could the Apostle be inspired? But this, which might puzzle some, exhibits the beauty and naturalness of the whole narrative. God’s inspiration does not take a man and make a passive machine out of him. When God inspires, His spirit mixes with the spirit of man in the form of thought, but not without struggles and misgivings of the human element. Otherwise, it would not be an inspiration at all, but simply a Divine echo through the man. Similar conflicts of the human with the Divine in the inspired writers may be seen in Exodus 4:10-14; Exodus 6:12; Jeremiah 1:6-9; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 20:7-9; Jeremiah 20:14-18, and in the whole book of Jonah.

I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.
“For I perceive”—I recognize the good effect of the Epistle. I perceive that the good results it produced in you is the kind of sorrow which I desired. I see that the results it has produced are permanent. The sorrow which it caused in you will only last for a while; the good effects will be enduring. I have, therefore, a good reason to rejoice that I sent the Epistle. It produced permanent repentance and reformation (v. 9), and thus accomplished all that I wished or desired.

“For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry.” Paul had taken the right course when he sent them the First Epistle, which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But after the Epistle was sent, the tender human heart of Paul doubted whether he had done the right thing, whether he had given unnecessary pain, etcetera, and his mind was not fully put at rest until the arrival of Titus showed him clearly the hand of God in the matter. Such self-questioning is constantly going on in the mind of every conscientious man, even when he has been acting totally under the guidance of God’s Spirit. The word translated here as “made sorry,” is the same word which has been rendered caused grief and grieved in chapter 2.

“Though only for a while” (For the phrase, see Philemon 1:15; Galatians 2:5. Some versions have, “for a season.”)—their sorrow was a temporary sorrow, lasting only until they could reform those abuses, which they were made aware of by that first Epistle, and give the Apostle that wrote it reasonable satisfaction. Their grief will, at any rate, cease when they receive this letter, and he can bear the thought of having pained them when he remembers the brevity of their grief and the good effects which resulted from it.

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry,
“Now I rejoice”—though “I did regret” having made you sorry by my letter, I rejoice NOW, not that you were caused sorrow, but because your sorrow resulted in your repentance. This is another instance of the tender consideration of Paul. He will not run the risk of being supposed, even for a moment, to have taken pleasure in the pain of others. The Corinthian believers may have mistakenly concluded that he was glad they were sorry from his remark that he "rejoiced" when he heard of their "lamentation" (v. 7).

When people are brought to repentance under the preaching of the Gospel, the ministers of the Gospel do not find pleasure in their grief as such. They do not want to make people unhappy by calling them to repentance, and they take no pleasure in the deep distress which is often produced by their preaching. It is only because such sorrow is an indication of their return to God, and will be followed by happiness and by the fruits of good living, that they find any pleasure in it, or that they seek to produce it.

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