Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow? (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow?

Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow?

2 Corinthians 7:10

“The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

We know that repentance is a chief consideration in salvation. Jesus used the term repeatedly (e.g. Luke 13:3, 5; 24:47) and the book of Acts is replete with commands to repent and examples of repentance (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21; 26:20). It is not surprising that Paul uses the term in this verse as well.

Here the apostle says that God’s will is that sorrow will issue in repentance, a change of heart that leads to a change of behavior or action. When repentance has this desired effect, there will be no regret from the one repenting. On the other hand, when repentance is merely regret, it will not produce salvation, but rather spiritual death.

Charles Hodge thinks that the “sorrow of the world” refers to “the sorrow of unrenewed men” (An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 183). Murray J. Harris, on the other hand, says that Paul’s words refer to “sorrow borne in a worldly way” and this “does not lead to repentance but has the deadly effect of producing resentment or bitterness” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 363). We know this sort of response, don’t we? If a person’s heart is not right, if it is not yielded and submissive, we might very well find a resentment or bitterness in the person. It takes a humble and submissive heart to truly repent of one’s past and his present condition before God. Otherwise, there will be a negative reaction that cannot bring salvation.

Scripture has many examples of a person who refused to submit himself to God’s call to repentance. William R. Baker points out: “If criticism is taken badly in a totally self-interested way, one will never see the positive intention of the critic. The hurt will fester and grow to the point where it infects everything in a person. The result could be self-destruction as with Judas (Matt. 27:3-5) or the person striking out in murderous assault, either on the critic or whoever is within range at the moment of explosion” (The College Press NIV Commentary: 2 Corinthians, p. 279).

What will it be for us? Will we be willing to receive God’s correction and repent because of it? Then salvation is the blessed result. On the other hand, if we react to God’s demand and refuse to humble ourselves, it will be the “sorrow of the world” that will bring spiritual death (2 Corinthians 7:10). Our response will determine the outcome. A proper humble response of true repentance will bring God’s salvation. A rebellious and resentful response will refuse to repent, thus it will bring death.

How do we respond to the commands of Scripture? How do we react to someone who calls on us to repent of our attitudes and actions? Will we humbly change or will we have a hardened heart? The difference will be either salvation or death!

–Richard Hollerman

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