2 Corinthians 7:10
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
Unfortunately, sadness is a common feeling. We have experienced it in all its varying levels and intervals. We have had little things happen that caused us to frown and go quiet, and we have had deeper experiences that gripped us with sorrow and caused us to weep or even wail. Paul is speaking here, not of the sorrow that comes from your favorite team losing a game, or even losing someone you love, he is speaking of the sorrow that comes upon a person when they realize they have sinned against God. The Psalmist wrote of a time when he was overcome with that kind of sadness;
Psalms 6:6 “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.”
Often, when a person’s sin is exposed publicly or privately, they will show signs of great sorrow. It is not uncommon for people to come to the altar with tears streaming down their faces and confess they have fallen once again into an easily besetting sin. Like the Psalmist, they are certainly remorseful for what they have done, and are looking for a way of escape. Paul warns that although sin will often produce sorrow, not all sorrow will produce a change in behavior.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation…”
The true evidence that a person is remorseful for the sin they have committed, is not the tears that are produced, but the change of behavior that follows. Paul uses the word “repentance;” a word that carries the idea of turning, and involves a turning from sin to God. Too often, we are satisfied with tears, thinking that is enough to show that we are truly sorry for the wrong we have committed.
“What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” 2 Corinthians 7:11
Paul is describing what godly sorrow will produce. “Clearing of yourself” refers to the removal of the guilt and shame, that comes with sin and failure. It is not the byproduct of a good cry, but of a change of actions, that will clean our conscience. He speaks of the need to apply diligence to your walk with the Lord. This is often seen in building walls that will keep you from going back into sin again. “Indignation” is a word that speaks of intense anger. The person who is sorrowful over sin, is a person who is angry at sin. It has been my experience, we avoid people at whom we are angry; the same will be true of sin. “Fear” is often looked at as a negative feeling, and certainly there are things we are afraid of that are irrational and silly; however, sin is not one of them. The person who wants to succeed in walking with Jesus, must have a healthy fear of sin and it’s effects upon our lives. As long as you think you are immune to sin’s tempting hooks, you will not avoid it, and you’ll find you continue to fall.
Finally, Paul speaks of “zeal” and “vindication”. True turning from sin will create in us a new intensity to follow Jesus. Sadly, I often see people come forward weeping over their sins, only to see them for the last time. Instead of determining they will press on in their walk with God, they go out the doors of the church, right back into the lifestyle that led to failure. If we want the vindication, the victory, the freedom to overcome our constant failures, we must determine to increase the intensity we pour into our relationship with Jesus.
Questions for 2 Corinthians 7
- In verse 1 Paul appeals to the Christians to live clean, holy lives, because of the promises of God in the last three verses of chapter 6. Go back and list those out.
- Look at verse 2-3. Does Paul himself live the way that he is telling the Corinthians to live? An example is a powerful tool to help others live for Jesus.
- Notice that Titus was a comfort to the Paul. Notice also that the message of the Corinthians doing well in the Lord was a comfort to Paul. Even those who know Jesus well are encouraged as He works in and through others. Do you regularly consider the impact you have on others? Are you aware how meaningful your life can be in God’s hands?
- In verses 8-12 Paul references the corrective letter that he had written to them earlier (we know it as 1 Corinthians). Notice:
- Paul at first regretted sending the letter, because its harsh tone might hurt them. But once he saw them respond positively to the correction, he was glad that he sent it. Have you ever had to correct someone and been sorry about it? Have you ever known the joy of someone welcoming the correction?
- Paul was happy not just that they were sad, but that they were sad enough about their own sin to turn from it. Compare and contrast godly sorrow with a worldly sorrow. What does godly sorrow produce?
- Ultimately, Paul wrote not just to fix a wrong, but because he truly cared for the Corinthian believers. Do your efforts to correct others come from a desire to make things right, or from a desire to demonstrate God’s love and care?