Friday, 18 September 2015
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
Many English translations deviate from the Greek in the structure of this verse. There is no adverb in it. Using the word “godly” causes the verse to be cumbersome and unnatural. The New Living Translation makes it much easier to understand –
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
The “godly sorrow” then that Paul is speaking of is a sorrow that explains verses 8 and 9. Paul made them sorry with his letter, but there was a good reason for it. When they regretted of their ways and then repented, the purpose was realized. This is exactly what Paul is now explaining to them. Through the sorrow that God would want in them, they repented of their actions. It is a repentance that would not be regretted because it was in line with what God intended for them in the first place.
In a non-believer, such sorrow will lead towards salvation. In a believer, it will lead towards restoration and renewed fraternity between God and His wayward child. For the most part, Paul was writing his letter to saved believers at Corinth, but how could a non-believer come to know Christ with no correct example to follow? Therefore, this “salvation” isn’t speaking of those who were already saved, but of those who still needed to be saved. Those who repent will not regret of their repentance because it will lead to salvation.
It must be remembered though that salvation is based on faith in what Christ did, not on works. One cannot be saved by merely repenting from sin. If a drunk gives up drinking and yet has no faith in Christ, he will never be saved. We cannot use this verse as a verse which says “repentance leads to salvation” in and of itself. Instead it is the grace of Christ which saves. The repentance of a sin may lead to faith in Him, or it may not. Either way, it is only by grace through faith that one is saved.
On the other hand, there is a sorrow of the world that he also writes about. There are many types of sorrows in the natural world. If we are sorry over losing a bank account full of money, that doesn’t lead us to God. Instead, it just leads us to frustration and bitterness. If we are sorry over losing our girlfriend, that hasn’t helped us in our spiritual life at all. Instead, it is simply a sorrow which is natural and of this world.
Or let’s go back and revisit the drunk from the previous paragraph. If he is sorry for being a drunk because it led him to lose his job, he may give up drinking and get his job back. In this, he may become proud and say, “Look at what I have done.” This sorrow then only produced death in him. Ultimately, through such sorrow there can only be regret. In the end, it produces nothing concerning salvation, but it continues to produce death in the unbeliever.
Life application: Paul’s words concerning the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience are directed towards things which are contrary to His holy character and which separate us from Him. And so we can see that not all sorrow is bad. Those who refuse to show sorrow over their sin show that they have no care or regard for their Creator. Only when we have sorrow for our actions can we turn from them and be saved from them.
Heavenly Father, please break our hearts over the secret sins of our lives. Help us to be sorrowful for doing that which is displeasing to You and help us to turn from those things so that we will bring joy to Your heart. You have given us Your word which tells us what You desire, but our hearts are hard and calloused. And so soften us and turn us to the right, holy, and pure living which will bring Your favor and also great reward! Amen.