2 Corinthians 7: Two Types of Sorrow
“Can two walk together, except they agree?” (Amos 3:3) This Old Testament verse reminds us why we are not to be unequally yoked. But when the world pulls a believer back into sin, how does one get back into sync with God. Repentance. This is what this lesson is about. How to get up when you have fallen and how to get back into step with the Spirit and walk by faith.
Of all the physical trials and dangers Paul endured, (the 195 lashes from the Jews, the beating with rods three times from the Romans, the stoning and all the other physical punishment), I believe the emotional pain and stress of unresolved differences with the church at Corinth were the most painful. Indeed, Paul’s greatest sorrow came from his lost brethren of Israel and his broken heart over broken relationships with fellow believers. Paul wanted reconciliation. He wanted what God wants, for all to come to knowledge of the truth.
Paul returns to his earlier statement in his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth and pleads once again, “Make room for us in your hearts.” Paul wanted for the church in Corinth what he wanted for all believers. He wanted them to pursue holiness, to grow in their faith, and make progress in their sanctification process. We must remember victory over sin is God’s will for the life of the believer.
Now before we go any further in today’s passage in 2 Corinthians 7, let us understand God’s purpose for guilt. Guilt is an emotion. It occurs when we do something which violates our conscience. It causes us to regret what we have done and feel shame that we have done it. The Lord designed this emotion for us to experience responsibility for our actions, to move us to repent. Good guilt is an effective tool for prompting us to repent. It helps us correct our direction and get us back on the right path. This is why the Psalmist writes: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)
Remember God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, they might be saved. (John 3) Going back to the verse in Amos: “Can two walk together, except they agree; means God wants us to agree with Him we have sinned. This is why we confess our sins to restore our relationship. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1) Victory over guilt begins with the clear understanding that Jesus Christ took all our sins, and shame (remember He despised the shame) to the cross and paid our penalty in full. When we sin in the present, our relationship with God does not change, but our fellowship is interrupted. When we confess our sins, we agree with Him. Then we can walk together in agreement. And now we are walking again in the right direction, because we have repented. Repentance always turns one from doing what is wrong to doing what is right. God is faithful. God is a promise keeper. God is good. And God does not change. You will be freed of guilt. However, remember your sin can have consequences which can carry over even after restoration.
Since the Bible tells us ‘all have sinned.’ Then it is clear everyone needs to repent. I do not know if you made any New Year’s Resolutions and if you did, how are you doing in keeping them? One thing is for sure, when we look back over our lives, we all have regrets. Some of those regrets we have never resolved. They linger, and frequently plague us with doubts. If only I had… is the way they enter into our thoughts. Not being able to deal with unresolved guilt and regret can create sorrow. But in today’s lesson we learn there are two types of regret which come from two types of guilt and sorrow. What we want to explore and understand more fully is the good end of godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow and how to recognize the difference.
Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth were about the sin in the church as Corinth. Their sins were no different from the sins we face in our church today in the 21st century. They were like a country and western ballad filled with ‘somebody done somebody wrong’ actions and of course there were people taking sides with and against others. Paul addresses these issues and sins in a direct manner. Now the church had taken offense with Paul and Paul was concerned he had been too harsh, although he spoke the truth. The church was experiencing the “blame and shame” game which is as old as the Garden of Eden. Guess who was behind all of that? The enemy of our soul who loves to cause division, quarrels and fights among believers.
Even Paul had second thoughts about the letter and says he did not regret it, even though for a little while he regretted it. Ever have that happen to you? You said something to someone or wrote something you thought needed to be said and then you wondered if you should have said it or written it. Paul is depressed and distressed over this broken relationship over how bad the meeting went when he visited them. It was so contentious Paul decided not to make his planned return visit. Now Paul is waiting to hear from Titus whom he sent to inquire how the church was doing. In 2 Cor.2 Paul explains in his letter: “So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. “Paul said when he had not heard from Titus, in Troas, he had no peace of mind. When there has been an argument, a wrong action committed which caused a breach in a loving relationship, we are distraught until we can reconcile. No wonder there are so many songs about love, and somebody done somebody wrong songs, they all have the same common theme, love hurts when it is not returned. Only love can break a heart and only love can mend it again is as true a lyric ever written.
Paul has returned to the theme of make room for us in your hearts. But notice in verse 2-4, Paul’s approach to make things better rather than worse and thus begin the healing process. Paul says he has a clear conscience he has wronged no one; corrupted no one; exploited no one. Paul has a clear conscience. But let interject, if you had also been wrong in this broken relationship, you need to start out admitting you were wrong. This is taking the log out of your own eye before dealing with the speck in your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7) So if your conscience is not clear, this is the first action in reconciliation.
Now Paul says, “I do not condemn you.” Paul affirms these believers. This is very important step. You do not want to start out with harsh, angry condemnation of the other person. Jesus said, ‘let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.’
Paul then moves to tell them, “I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged in all our problems.” Paul did not say to these people he was ashamed of them and their actions. Paul aka Saul of Tarsus could look back at what he had done to harm Christians and realized if he could be forgiven and used by the Lord Jesus, so could anyone.
Sometimes things get worse before they get better. Paul had come to Macedonia and said: “this body of ours had not rest, but we were harassed at every turn, conflicts on the outside, fear within.” Does this describe how you feel some days? You have conflicts on the outside and fears on the inside. Evidently Paul was running into trouble in Macedonia while at the same time he was fighting fears in his mind as he was distressed over the unresolved problems and broken relationships with the church in Corinth. The great Apostle Paul was downcast. He was distressed, concerned about problems without and problems within- doubts about his actions.
Then comes good news! “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort You had given him. He told us about your (the church at Corinth) longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever!!” God knows what you are going through- the burdens you are carrying, the sorrow you are experiencing. Remember it is God who has allowed this to happen. They are not accidents. God put us in this fire. God put us on His potter’s wheel. He has set the thermostat on the oven, and He will not allow you to be tempted or tested above that which you are able to bear. (I Cor 10: 13) You may think you cannot bear it, but God knows what you are able to bear. He is the God of all comfort. He is the God of Good News!
Now Paul can look back at what has happened and in his review he admits he knows his letter caused sorrow. He says I do not regret it. Though I did regret it… Paul regretted he had hurt them with his honesty. But Paul said he regretted only for a little while because it had the desired effect – ‘”not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. GODLY SORROW BRINGS REPENTANCE THAT LEADS TO SALVATION AND LEAVES NO REGRET, BUT WORLDLY SORROW BRINGS DEATH.”
Paul introduces two types of sorrow or regret. Godly Sorrow and Worldly Sorrow.
The good end to Godly Sorrow is salvation. So here are Paul’s three points.
- Godly sorrow is good. It is a good hurt, it is good grief.
- Godly sorrow leads to repentance.
- Godly sorrow leads to salvation
What godly sorrow was the church at Corinth experiencing? They were grieved over the way they had mistreated Paul and believed things of him that were not true. They had hurt Paul with their words and actions. They had sorrow and regret over their past sins and sin in their church. Godly sorrow is sorrow according to God. What grieves God, should grieve us. This is godly sorrow. It is a feeling of remorse over one’s actions which grieved God. The opposite of godly sorrow is worldly sorrow, which is sorrow according to the world.
Worldly sorrow and regret is when you feel sorry for something you did because it starts to backfire on you and cause you pain, loss and perhaps humiliation. It is a reflex of a prideful ego. Pride regrets making a fool of itself. Fear regrets acts which jeopardize our comfort and safety. In other words feeling SORRY FOR YOURSELF. Worldly sorry ‘s focus is on one’s self. O woe is me. Godly sorry is sorrow because we have grieved and wounded God, not ourselves.
Godly sorrow comes to us and creates regret because the God’s Word puts its finger on sin in our lives. Worldly sorrow or regret comes not from God’s Word, but from man’s attitude and society’s attitude and praise of what the world considers important. Worldly sorrow or regret comes from not having the world think highly of us. In other words, the word of man not the Word of God becomes the criteria by which we feel sorrow or guilt or regret. This is worldly sorrow.
Godly sorrow leads to repentance and repentance leads to salvation. This is what leads to salvation and it continues to save us from being entrapped by our false feelings of guilt. Godly sorry causes a change in behavior which leads to a sense of freedom.
Listen to what Paul says this godly sorrow produces: earnestness, eagerness to clear yourself, indignation, alarm, and a longing, a concern and readiness to see justice done.
In addition, when any of us are headed in the wrong direction then experience godly sorrow which leads to a change in behavior, attitude and direction it encourages others.
Paul says to the believers I have complete confidence in you. And it makes him glad.
To repent is to change one’s mind. How is repentance connected to salvation? Remember John the Baptist came on the scene with the message: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus after His baptism and testing or 40 days in the wilderness began His ministry and we read in Matthew 4: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
When the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching filled with the Spirit. We read: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all of you who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
To repent in relationship to salvation is to change one’s mind about who Jesus Christ is. To come to believe the one whom you have rejected is indeed both Lord and Christ.
In other words change your mind about what you think of Jesus Christ. For as Tozer said, ‘what comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.’
We are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, not works lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2: 8, 9)
No one can be saved by works. But we are His workmanship saved unto good works which God has ordained we walk in. (Ephesians 2: 10)
Repentance unto salvation results in good works.
So in closing let me set the stage for the next portion of Paul’s letter which deals with money and giving.
John the Baptist was calling people to repentance. He then told them to “produce fruit in keeping with your repentance.” They asked John the Baptist, “What should we do then?”
John answered: “The man with two cloaks should share with him who has none; the one who has food should do the same. Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher, “they said, “what should we do? Do not collect any more than you are required to, he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely- be content with your pay.”
Do you see what works godly repentance leads to?
- Everyone should share food and clothes.
- Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money they overcharged people for.
- Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money from citizens.
Each answers involved or related to money and possessions. This was John the Baptist’s answer to what should they do to demonstrate true repentance.
Next week we will unpack the teaching about giving and generosity.