New Covenant Characteristics: Doctrine, Repentance, & Comfort
“Therefore we are comforted.” These words come from the apostle Paul. He is describing a comfort that is unique to Christians. It is based upon the fellowship that they have because of the gospel (Philippians 1.5; 4.15). The reason for his comfort is attributed to the news he received of Corinthian brethren. The Bible teaches that this comfort is unknown outside of Christ. It is based upon a particular behavior that is only produced by those who are growing from the “sincere milk” of the word (1 Peter 2.2).
Paul attributes comfort to God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are partners in our sufferings, so also you are in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 1.3-7).
Paul points out how this comfort abounds to himself and his companions, as well as to the other apostles. They held a unique position in the kingdom. in 2 Corinthians 2.17, we read, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” They were entrusted with the gospel (Galatians 2.7; 1 Thessalonians 2.4). Their message was a “ministry of reconciliation.” It is from their message of reconciliation that “comfort” came to them from God, thus, God is the ultimate source of comfort (2 Corinthians 5.11-20).
While God is the source of comfort, the context of 2 Corinthians 7 is specific as to how God provides this comfort. The means through which comfort from God comes is in accordance with his eternal purposes for man. This comfort was purposed to come as a result of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. By it we are reconciled to God. This is why the gospel is a message of reconciliation. The comfort that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 7 spans a period of time and a sequence of events within the congregation at Corinth which was also prompted by news. The initial news was in part why Paul wrote his first epistle. It provides the background for the comfort mentioned here in his second epistle. In both instances, it was because of his concern for their souls that he addressed this news of the circumstances within the congregation at Corinth. In the second epistle, Paul describes his joy in 7.4-13. There are many lessons for Christians in this context. A few such lessons are: How can they have joy in the midst of affliction; God’s comfort during their afflictions; There is a right way to grieve over afflictions and a wrong way to grieve over them (godly grief versus worldly grief). We also learn that grieving does not save but leads to salvation.
While all of these lessons are connected by the context, they point to a greater and more important lesson: Repentance. Repentance is an action that God has required of all men (Acts 17.30-31). Genuine repentance will reflect a change in behavior in a specific way…a manner that evidences you change of attitude toward God’s word. Since sin constitutes disobedience to God’s commands, forgiveness for that sin would necessarily involve obedience to those same commands of God. It is impossible to repent without this specific change.
This is why repentance is inseparably tied to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 24.2) and a part of the “form of doctrine” they delivered to those in need of being made “free” from sin (Romans 6.17-18). But godly grief is not repentance. It produces repentance (i.e., it is the motive for repentance). Repentance is accomplished through a particular behavior befitting the true gospel. The remainder of 2 Corinthians 7.13-16 explains the key component of true repentance and links forgiveness from God to man’s attitude and response to God’s word to man.
What was it about the Corinthians that brought joy, comfort, and refreshment to Paul and Titus? What was it about the Corinthians that caused Paul and Titus to boast, to have affection and confidence toward them? Their repentance? Certainly so, but what prompted their repentance? It was the message of truth, the gospel. This is why true repentance is tied to the true gospel message. The key component of repentance as found in these verses is tied to their faith, and their faith is tied to the gospel message delivered to them (Romans 10.17; 6.17-18).
The motivation to repent is with a view to be made “free from sin.” Only the doctrine of Christ will produce godly sorrow in man’s heart. Only godly sorrow will work repentance (2 Corinthians 7.10). Only repentance will lead us to eternal life (Acts 11.18). This is the comfort that comes to all who trust and obey.