Sorrow That Leads To Repentance

November 20, 2012

Sorrow That Leads to Repentance

“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing   For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.    For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:9-11).

The Apostle Paul was advised of a case of immorality in the Corinthian church.  It’s a heartbreak to church leaders to hear such news.  In his first letter to the church he rebuked them for not disciplining the man who was guilty of having sexual relations with his step mother.  In I Corinthians 5:1 he wrote “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”  He must have had reference to what he wrote in that letter when he wrote in his second letter “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season” ( II Corinthians 7:8).  In II Corinthians 2:4 he said that he wrote to them “with many tears.”  It’s never a pleasant task to correct someone living in sin.  It’s even worse when it’s a whole church that is guilty.

The Apostle was rather direct in what he said to them.  In I Corinthians 5:2 he said “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.”  In verse 6 he went on to say “Your glorying is not good.”  From what he wrote in II Corinthians chapter 7 it   appears as though at first his letter was well received.  From II Corinthians 7:8, at least we know that his first letter made them sorry.  Not only that; from II Corinthians 2:1-11 we know that the man was disciplined, and he recognized his fault and repented.  Paul encouraged them to forgive and console him.  This is always the desired result when a church finds it necessary to discipline one of its members.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always the result.

Paul took advantage of the occasion to write something about the good that results from repentance.  Genuine repentance always begins with dismay and shame.  It means we have to accept the fact that we have done something we shouldn’t have done.  Perhaps we have been covering up our sin, but we come to the realization that others are aware of it.  If we truly repent, it means that we agree with what others and God think about our sin.  We have a change of attitude regarding our sin.  Repentance always includes a change of mind.  That’s why II Corinthians 2:7 says the man needed to be comforted.

The case in first and second Corinthians has to do with a believer.  The same feelings should be felt by an unbeliever before his salvation.  He is ashamed before God that he has rejected for so long God’s offer of forgiveness.  If he comes to God in repentance, it’s more certain that his salvation was genuine.  This is the “repentance to salvation” that he mentions in II Corinthians 7:10.

In II Corinthians 7:10 Paul mentions two types of sorrow.  First there is “godly sorrow.”  God can, and often does, produce sorrow in order that he can do what he wants to in our life.  When this happens it always has a good result, even though it is preceded by sorrow.  A child cries because of the pain he suffers for having touched a hot surface, but he learns not to do it again.  In like manner, a sinner suffers because of wrong he has done, but it should teach him that sin doesn’t pay.

There is also the “sorrow of the world that worketh death.”  Most often the sorrow of the world leads only to remorse and despair, and not to a happier and more fruitful life.  It leads to death where, in contrast, godly sorrow leads to life and salvation.  The death isn’t always physical death.  In some cases it’s the loss of pleasure and advantage that the sinner expected to gain by his sin.  Instead of repenting, an unbeliever may curse God and be even more bitter.

In II Corinthians 7:11 Paul mentions some of the good results of repentance.  Although it began with sorrow, it had a happy end.  “What carefulness it wrought in you” means it made them diligent in doing their duty in protecting the purity of the church and in restoring the sinner.  “What clearing of yourselves” speaks of delivering them from the guilt of neglecting to deal with an ugly situation that was corrupting the testimony of the church.  “Indignation” speaks of the repulsion they now had for the sin that they had been overlooking, or perhaps condoning.  They were brought to the realization that they should have a fear of God’s judgment for not having the proper attitude toward this sin.  They were brought to a “vehemenent desire” to do what was right.  They showed “zeal” whereas before they were casual and indifferent.  They had zeal to restore the testimony of the church and rescue a wayward believer.  The Greek word “revenge” could also be translated “vindication.”  That means to make something right that was wrong.  They now stood approved whereas before they were disapproved and condemned.

Repentance brings a clearing and cleansing of ourselves before God and before others. It’s a good feeling, but to get there we have to experience the sorrow that goes with repentance. If you need to repent of something, I trust this article will give you the initiative to do it.  You won’t regret it.


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