Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 7:2 and 3 Paul says, “Make room for us; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together.” Paul’s word here reveals his deep, intimate concern for the Corinthians. This utterance is not merely something ethical, religious, spiritual, or even loving. It is possible to say a word of love and feel love for others, but still not have much concern for them. Our love for others must become our concern for them. Paul had such a concern for the believers at Corinth.
A mother has not only love for her child; she also has a deep concern. Only a woman with such a concern is qualified to be a proper mother. A woman may be lacking in education, but if she has a deep concern for her children, she is qualified to be a good mother. Of course, knowledge and ability are helpful, but they are not prerequisites. The unique prerequisite for being a good mother is concern. The same principle is true regarding caring for the church. It is not adequate for the elders simply to love the church. This love must become a deep concern, a concern for all the young ones and weaker ones. This concern causes our labor to be fruitful. We all need this kind of intimate concern for others.
Not long ago, when I was working on this chapter, I was wondering what word I could use to describe Paul’s feeling. I realized that Paul’s word here is not something that is merely ethical, moral, religious, or spiritual. What he says here is a matter of intimate concern, of deep, tender, affectionate concern for the believers. In verse 2 Paul says, “Make room for us,” and in verse 3 he declares, “You are in our hearts to die together and to live together.” These are not ordinary human words. Rather, they are words from the heavens, words from the heart of God. Paul’s longing was that just as he had the Corinthians in his heart, so he would be in their heart. The believers at Corinth were in Paul’s heart both to live together and to die together. This surely is a word expressing an intimate concern.
In verse 8 Paul goes on to say, “Because even if I caused you sorrow by the letter, I do not regret it, even if I did regret it; because I see that that letter, even if for an hour, caused you sorrow.” By the word “letter” Paul refers to his first Epistle to the Corinthians. His word concerning regret indicates that he was not only bold and frank in rebuking the believers in his first Epistle, but also tender and soft toward them. The words “caused you sorrow” in verse 8 show that the apostle’s first Epistle to the believers at Corinth was effective in regard to them.
In verse 8 Paul uses the expression “even if” three times. He says “even if I caused you sorrow,” “even if I did regret it,” and “even if for an hour.” Why does Paul keep saying “even if”? According to my understanding, if the words “even if” were removed, Paul’s word in this verse would be too hard. Adding in the phrase “even if” has the effect of softening his word. Furthermore, without the use of this phrase Paul in verse 8 would be strongly vindicating himself and arguing on his own behalf. By adding “even if” three times, he reduces the impression that he is vindicating himself.
Married brothers may wish to learn of Paul in order to avoid arguments with their wives. As a brother is talking to his wife, he may find that by inserting the words “even if” he may soften his word to her and thereby keep from offending her.
Moreover, by the phrase “even if” Paul gives a sweet taste to his words. Paul’s use of “even if” in verse 8 may be compared to adding honey to a cup of tea. Just as the taste of tea may be too strong without honey, so Paul’s words may have been too strong to receive without the repeated use of “even if.” By using this phrase three times, Paul softens his word and sweetens it.
As Paul was writing to the Corinthians, all the facts and the arguments were on his side. The Corinthians had no case whatever. Because Paul had won the case, he could easily have written something that would have been very hard for the Corinthians to accept. Therefore, in writing to them he was both wise and tender.
If we have an intimate concern, we shall be tender with others. A crude, insensitive person does not have an intimate concern. If a husband does not have a proper concern for his wife, he may be very strict and demanding of her. But having an intimate concern will cause him to be tender. Once we become tender, our way of speaking will be soft and sweet.
Verse 8 definitely has the element of softness. Paul says, “Even if I caused you sorrow by the letter, I do not regret it, even if I did regret it.” There is softness here. But suppose Paul had said, “In writing you the first Epistle I did not do anything wrong and I had no regrets about it.” Surely that way of speaking would have been offensive. Paul, however, did not express himself in such a manner. He softened his words by adding the phrase “even if.” In this way Paul expressed his tender feeling for the believers.
We need to be impressed by the fact that Paul’s way of speaking in this verse is soft and sweet. Therefore, no matter what he says, he does not cause any offense. The kind of expression Paul uses in verse 8 does not offend others. Instead of being hard and bitter, it is soft and sweet.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul did not speak in a hasty manner. Often when we speak in haste we express anger. For example, if a sister complains to her husband about something he has done, he may hastily reply, “What’s wrong with me? Prove to me that I am mistaken!” This kind of word provokes anger. It is better for a brother not to be hasty in speech in order to calm down the situation with his wife. He needs to speak in a soft, pleasant manner. This is the way Paul wrote to the Corinthians in chapter seven.
In this chapter we do not find theology, ethics, or religion. In a sense, we do not even find spirituality. Without adequate experience, we are not able to describe what is revealed in 2 Corinthians 7. I have begun to understand this chapter not only through study, but also through experience, even though my experience has been limited. From experience I have realized that what Paul is speaking here is not theology or doctrine, ethics or morality, religion or spirituality. He is conveying a deep, tender, and intimate concern for the Corinthians. His word is very touching.
Because Paul’s expression is tender and filled with intimate concern, it has power and impact. It is able to touch the believers deeply. Proverbs 25:15 says, “A soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Even a hard bone can be broken by a soft word of meekness. In speaking the truth to the Corinthians and presenting the facts, Paul knew it was difficult for him to avoid condemning the Corinthians. But his tender concern for them caused him to speak soft words and sweet phrases. May we all learn of him.
In verse 9 Paul says, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to God, that in nothing you might suffer loss from us.” The repentance mentioned here was the result the apostle sought in writing his first Epistle. The apostle’s first Epistle made them sorrowful according to God, not for anything else. This indicates that they have been brought back to God, reconciled to Him.
It seems that in verse 9 Paul has only a small point to make, yet he deliberately lengthens his expression. This also shows his tenderness, his intimate concern.
In this verse we see that Paul’s spirit was soft and that his entire being was filled with sweetness. You may wonder how we know this. By what Paul says in this verse we know that he is a tender person with a softened spirit and a sweet inner being. However, he is not political or even polite. To be tender, soft, and sweet is different from being polite. A person may be very polite, but may not be at all soft or sweet. That kind of politeness may be very uncomely. On the one hand, someone may be polite; on the other hand, at the same time he may be hard, haughty, and proud. Paul, on the contrary, was neither polite nor political, which is even worse. He was tender, soft, and sweet.
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