Lesson 48: "Godly Sorrow Worketh Repentance to Salvation. . ." (II Corinthians 7:10)
II Corinthians 7:2-16
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #48. Let me welcome you again to Second Corinthians. In our last lesson we read down through 7:1; but we were so pressed for time that we said almost nothing about the last six verses in that section, (i.e., 6:14-7:1). To review briefly, I suggest you first mentally review the setting: Paul was somewhere in Macedonia writing this letter immediately after Titus had returned from Corinth. There was good news and bad news. The good news was very encouraging; many, by far the big majority of Christians at Corinth had laid aside their preacherities, their adultery, their worldly pride and repented of those things as they read (or heard read and explained) the writing of Christ's ambassador, the apostle Paul, what we call First Corinthians. The bad news was that some had resisted Paul's instruction, some rejected Paul as an apostle and tried to lead the rest of the Corinthian church astray; claiming they were legitimate teachers endorsed by other churches waving letters of commendation; mostly (I would infer) what we have termed Judiazing teachers whose doctrine is defined in Acts ch. 15, you will remember. Although this church was split, so-to-speak, Paul still considered them as his brethren and as a church, i.e., there was still hope for correcting those things. Paul admitted in this writing (we call Second Corinthians), Paul was attempting to fortify those repented brethren with a brief review of what he had earlier taught them back when he and his co-workers were at Corinth. Paul said, "that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart." Thafs 5:12. There is a lot said in that sentence, if you'll think about it. Paul had started off this writing by telling the Corinthians, his "hope of (them)...was steadfast" (1:7). Paul assured them one of the reasons he had not rushed to Corinth was that he wanted to give them some space. He wanted them to correct their own problem. They were mature enough in the faith to correct these things; if they would simply apply what they had learned and what they knew. Paul couldn't do it for them; by their own faith they stood or they didn't; that's the last verse in chapter one. Paul told them in chapter two how anxious he was to hear from them at Troas. Paul said, "we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God...," that's the last verse in chapter two. Then in ch. 3, he answered some of the Judiazer's accusations concerning letters of commendation. From there he built into a refresher course (I would call it) in the doctrine of Christ as Paul had taught them when he was with them (that's ch. 4-5-6). Then he followed that by a strong and stern warning; which is contained in the six verses we said we didn't have time to look at in detail hi our last lesson. It begins in v.14 of ch. 6. Guard your relationship with unbelievers. Don't be sucked back into worldly activity. "Ye are the temple of the living God..." (v.16). God dwells in Christians. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate..." (v.17). Then finally, hi 7:1, Paul pleaded: "dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (i.e., our thinking), perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord." Then, in ch. 7, where this lesson begins actually; Paul sort of lowered his voice and got down on a one-to-one with them and even more or less apologized that he had to write such a stern and strong letter when he wrote to them before; but says hi essence, he had no other alternative and he is glad he did, now that they had repented and obeyed. Very personal and very compassionate! The Corinthians needed to receive Paul back as they once had done and they needed to get on with the show, so-to-speak.
Lefs read ch. 7, beginning in v.2. Are you ready? A very intimate message. The apostle said: "Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted hi you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. 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. 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 hi 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 is 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. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, / did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we speak all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things."
You've heard the expression: stepping on somebody's toes! Paul was stepping on their hearts. Paul had endured afflictions, lack of necessities, distress; he had endured stripes (i.e., physical punishment by a whip). He had endured imprisonments, tumults, labors and hunger. That's in the list, back hi ch. 4:4-5. He was so pleased to hear that the Corinthians had obeyed the Lord; that those things didn't matter any more. Jesus' parable of the prodigal son is demonstrated in Paul's attitude. Forgive and forget; let's move on from here. Paul said, "ye are in our hearts to die and to live with you." Paul had laid it on the line. He said (v.4) "Great is my boldness of speech toward you...," i.e., Paul didn't let diplomacy and a fear of hurt feelings get in the way of his message. He told it like it was. The other side of the coin was that Paul had faith in the Corinthians. He had gloried in them, he said in v.4. He really expected great things and he was not disappointed. Oh, it took a while to filter through; but Paul had boasted of their faith. He had endured a lot of suffering and a lot of tribulation because of the Corinthians; but, their present repentance and obedience was a great comfort and a great joy to Paul. That road would eventually lead them to heaven and that was worth it all. Undoubtedly as Paul persuaded Titus to go to Corinth as Paul's messenger in carrying the letter we call First Corinthians; back when Paul was at Ephesus, Paul had most likely persuaded Titus that he would find the Corinthians reasonable people and that if the truth was presented hi love, they would respond accordingly. I'm not sure how much contact Titus had had with the Corinthian church before that. In the words: "great is my glorying of you" (v.4); I would infer Paul was telling the Corinthians he had boasted of them to Titus. The Corinthians in their obedience had proved Paul's words to be true and this in turn had much encouraged and strengthened Titus' confidence also; Paul could well see this was the case. Paul expands on this thought in v.6 and v.7 and the thought is more or less re-summarized down in v. 14. This was a compliment to the Corinthians and it also transferred to Paul much comfort, satisfaction and joy as Paul mentions in v.4 in his relationship with Titus. Then, in v.5, Paul seems to be saying he didn't find conditions in Macedonia as good as he did at Troas (you will remember he described Troas back in 2:12). He had found a great opportunity to work at Troas. But, I would infer from v.5 that Paul may have found persecution hi Macedonia or at the very least he found some real problems in the churches - either Philippi, Thessalonica or Berea, most likely. Then in v.8-9-10-11-12, Paul discussed and analyzed the effect of his previous letter (First Corinthians I would presume) upon the Corinthian church. Paul's analysis here is very revealing to us. Apparently, that letter had a very upsetting effect on the Corinthian church at first. It brought great grief and great sorrow to some members; "though it were but for a season," Paul says at the end of v.8. Many members had found themselves in conflict with the doctrine of Christ and the teachings of Paul. But, they were honest enough, when they began to get things sorted out; that they repented and tried to correct their lives accordingly, as we have said before. That Paul had to be so stern with them bothered Paul, he was sorry it had to be that way; although he had no other alternative, really. But the fact that they had turned their lives around was a great joy to Paul, it made his day so-to-speak Notice in v.9, Paul said: "Now I rejoice...that ye sorrowed to repentance." I don't know if you are aware of this or not; but, some have defined repentance as sorrow for sin. The language here makes it very clear that repentance is not sorrow for sin. For Paul shows that their repentance was a result of their sorrow for their sins. Thus, the idea of repentance carries with it more than merely being sorry for sins. Repentance simply means to change one's mind; but it goes further than that in that it includes a resolve to correct any errors in one's life and make it right with God, as well as with our fellow man. Paul explained in v.10, "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation." There is a great distinction in the attitude of Christians in this respect as compared to worldly thinking. Put a keen eye on the last part of v. 10, "the sorrow of the world worketh death." I would presume that the apostle means to say not only is this true in the eternal sense; but in the physical sense as well. You have undoubtedly observed that sorrow in the life of a real Christian seems in most cases to strengthen their faith, gives them courage and makes them humble in a time of crisis, recognizing the great power of God; whereas, sorrow in the life of worldly people tends to and leads to frustration, retaliation and it may even lead to suicide. Paul was thankful and rejoiced that the sorrow the Corinthians had experienced was what Paul termed "godly sorrow" that had worked repentance to salvation. "What carefulness it wrought in you..." (v.ll). "Yea, what clearing of yourselves..." Paul said. To clear one's self, carried the idea of being found honest and acting uprightly. Perhaps you have heard it said someone was cleared in a court of law. Here the idea is to act in such a way as to have their sins remitted or removed. They were now honest and upright in the sight of God. Paul said, "in all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (end of v.ll). Then in v.12, Paul conceded this was the real purpose of his writing in the first place. His letter had the effect on the Corinthians that Paul had desired. The incestuous and adulterous man at Corinth had sinned, yes! It was very important to his eternal salvation that this man repent and obey God. However, it was a much more weighty matter with Paul that the congregation at Corinth now understood the importance of correcting such things and no longer condoned or tolerated the same. Back in I Cor. 5:2, Paul said, with respect to the incestuous man; the Corinthians were "puffed up," i.e., the whole congregation did not have the right attitude toward such sinful conduct. Such puffed-up attitudes ignored and promoted sin among church members. There are several great lessons in this chapter for us. First of all (#1), our teaching must be bold and truthful. We must learn the Bible and teach the Bible as it is; speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. (#2) We must realize that truth sometimes hurts. When people learn the truth it is often a shocking experience. To learn what the Bible teaches after being reared in a lax and erroneous denominational environment, it sometimes very upsetting; just like the truth in Paul's epistle upset some at Corinth. (#3) It takes a strong person, one with pure motives to discipline themselves and channel their sorrow to repentance and obedience as the Corinthian brethren did. Very few people have the guts and the veracity necessary to face up and say: speak Lord, I will obey, i.e., come clear, as Paul phrased it (in v. 11). And finally (#4), it is very important that every Christian in a given congregation have pure motives, take a stand for the right and do their part, i.e., work together like the members of the human body work together under the headship of Jesus Christ.
Church troubles are not new. It comes as a surprise to many that the Christian life is not simply a release from all burdens; as some idealist visualize. There is no Utopia upon this old planet we call Earth; either in the realm of the Christian or the non-Christian. Troubles and burdens can come from any direction with almost no warning; health problems, financial problems, burdens of frustration and crushing demands. The apostle said in v.5, "when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." Some of these things come about by simple and honest difference of opinion. Some of these things come about by the rich and the powerful oppressing the poor and the weak Most of it is a matter of ignorance. Can you visualize the Judiazing teachers and those that opposed Paul at Corinth? Troublemakers are sometimes the best speakers, the best dressed and the best educated. Speech, dress and ability to function seems to have almost no relationship to a man's conscience and his attitude toward obeying God. Christianity is a function of the heart, the inner man. I suggest you take a moment and re-read chapter seven again. Imagine you can hear the low pleading voice of the apostle.
Obedience to God is so important. It was only when the Corinthians began to see their sinful condition and began to be sorry for their sins (recognizing how terrible sin is) that they sorrowed to repentance and began to turn their lives around in obedience. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are they that mourn..." Do you remember the beatitudes of Jesus? (Matt. 5:3-4) Paul said, "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation." There is a wide road and a narrow road. God's way is still the best. Thanks for coming and have a good day.