GODLY SORROW WORKETH REPENTANCE
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 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 in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Paul begins this chapter of his letter to the church at Corinth reminding them of the promises of God referred to in the last two verses of the previous chapter. If they would separate themselves from the ways of the world, God would be their Father and accept them as His children. In verses 2 through 7, Paul commends them for accepting his stern admonitions, and for the news bought to him by Titus that they had repented of their sinful ways, and had returned to righteous living within a united congregation of Christ.
The lesson text begins with Paul expressing his sorrow for having to send them such a stern and severe letter of reprimand, stating that he had made them sorry with a letter. He is referring to his first letter to this congregation in which he had rebuked them severely for their many erring ways that were, not only jeopardizing their individual Christian faith, but were also causing much disorder and divisions within the body of Christ at Corinth. No doubt Paul was very concerned about the effect his letter would have on them and whether it would bring about favorable changes of heart and mind, for which it was intended. Anxiety, such as this, always exists when reprimands are necessary to correct error within the body of Christ. Correction, although at times is necessary, is never easy to administer to fellow Christians.
No doubt Paul had a deep affection for all members of the churches of Christ that he served during his missionary journeys. He felt, not only a brotherly affection for them, but, in many instances, he considered himself a father figure to them, and they as his children. Many of them he had personally taught, probably baptized, and brought into the body of Christ, and many others he had influenced their restoration. The necessity of rebuking those, for whom he had such deep affection, was very troubling to Paul. He was never sorry for the good results of his reprimands; therefore he had no reason to repent of his actions. However, he said, I did repent, that is, he was sorry for having to reprimand them is such a stern and severe manner. Scolding a child is never easy for a loving parent, or a parent-figure, such as Paul was to the church at Corinth. However, when an erring child realizes that correction was necessary for their own good, sorrow soon gives way to sincere love and appreciation for parental discipline. This is true in the home, and it is most certainly true within the body of Christ.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. Here we have two types of sorrow that can result from reprimand. Godly sorrow results when one recognizes their erring ways, as being contrary to the will of God; when they realize that their soul is in jeopardy if their sinful ways are continued. Godly sorrow convicts one of their sins and causes them to seek forgiveness from those that may have been harmed in any way, and, also, to seek God's forgiveness from the depths of a truly penitent heart. Godly sorrow is not for the moment, but is permanent and lasting. Godly sorrow is not to be repented of; that is, returning to God's grace through repentance is a time of rejoicing, and never a time of mourning and regret.
The other type of sorrow is worldly sorrow. It is a sorrow that God does not commend; it does not lead one to eternal salvation. Worldly sorrow is merely regret and remorse - a feeling of shame and disgrace. Worldly sorrow may arise over the loss of a loved one, unfavorable business judgments, or catastrophes resulting in the loss of one's property. Worldly sorrow may arise when crimes that have been committed are uncovered and exposed, bringing disgrace to one's self, family, friends, and colleagues. Worldly sorrow results in a broken heart, despair, and often to death itself. The greater loss of eternal death results when pardon is never sought from God.
What a great truth is found in this lesson: ...godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, ...but the sorrow of the world worketh death. Godly sorrow leads to the hope of eternal salvation; with worldly sorrow, all hope is lost!