Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – 2 Corinthians
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly guilt brings death.”2 Corinthians 7:10
The beautiful thing about 2 Corinthians is that for the most part Paul wrote this Second Letter commending many in the Church at Corinth for repenting of the things he harshly wrote to them about in his First Letter.
Although the Second Letter certainly acknowledges that they are finally ‘getting things right’ with themselves, their walk with the Lord, and with the Lord Himself, there are still other issues that Paul has to address. He spends time encouraging them to endure during suffering. Paul writes the greatest two chapters in the entire Bible about the proper giving of finances through grace and not false guilt and manipulation. He also writes about the importance of complete reconciliation between fallen man and the Lord, but also reconciliation between Paul and some of the Corinthians who have not quite repented or who have doubted his apostleship.
This tenth verse is particularly special to me because it has personally helped me counsel with people who were/are dealing with the issue of guilt and godly sorrow. This verse shouldn’t be taken out of its context. The thought begins at verse five of this seventh chapter, but really starts at verse eight.
To put it in context for you, Paul sort of apologizes that his first Letter was so harsh and that it hurt and grieved them, but then he says that even though he knows that it was painful to read, he really isn’t sorry he wrote it! What? Is Paul a sadist? Does he actually enjoy inflicting spiritual and emotional pain on brothers and sisters in Christ, even brothers and sisters in Christ who may have been disobedient? No, of course not! What Paul goes on to say is that he’s actually glad they felt uncomfortable for a while because that uncomfortable feeling/sensation was actually godly sorrow (I’ll explain that in a moment) and this godly sorrow, although ‘painful’ was good because it brought them to the point of repentance for their sins.
Now, it’s a sad fact, and I hope my explanation will eliminate this global misunderstanding, that the non-Christian world will constantly say (falsely) that Christianity is all about inflicting guilt on people. Preach against sin and spew fire and brimstone at sinners and they will feel so bad about themselves that their guilty feelings will cause them to repent and become Christians and start to behave themselves. And then keep preaching guilt (trueChristians will be in church on Sunday and not at the beach!!) to sadly keep control over the people.
Unfortunately, there ARE some Christians/preachers/churches that DO preach this way, but they are missing the entire point of the proper application of the evangelical preaching of the Gospel. Of course, sinners need to know that the Lord is displeased with the lives of those who are in rebellion against Him, and that there really is – yes, there really is – a Hell that awaits all those who reject the Lord and deliberately remain in their sin and rebellion. But have we forgotten what Romans 2:4 says?
Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s
kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
It is God’s grace/kindness/favor that saves us – that brings life into the rebellious sinner’s dead spirit, and certainly, the ‘full’ Gospel includes understanding our separation from the Lord, or sin, rebellion, the wrath of God, and the eventual eternal consequences of that rebellion, but it is still the promise of grace, forgiveness, life, reconciliation, and intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that brings people to their knees.
So, back to what Paul is saying to the Corinthian Christians. In verse ten Paul speaks about the two different reactions people will have when confronted with their sin:
- Godly sorrow (or some versions say ‘godly grief’) that leads to repentance;
- Worldly sorrow (or ‘worldly guilt’) that leads to death.
What is the difference between these two terms? There’s a big and powerful difference, and understanding this will be extremely liberating to many of you.
Paul is speaking to two different groups of people here, or if he’s just speaking to Christians he is telling them of the proper response to his harsh Letter, and also the unchristian response. Remember what I said about how the world thinks Christianity is all about inflicting guilt on the sinner, and then even after one ‘gets saved’ they will still live under the dark cloud of GUILT in order to keep them in order; cause them to behave properly; motivate them to work hard and serve the church; and definitely force them to give more money to the ‘cause of the Lord’?
After Paul wrote his First Letter some of the Christians in the church felt ‘bad’ about their behavior and repented. The ‘bad’ feeling, or a better word – unpleasant, uncomfortable or conviction or an awareness that their behavior or lifestyle was not consistent with the spiritual transformation that occurred once Christ forgave them and began to live His Life within them through the Holy Spirit – caused them to change their behavior and/or attitude. They repented – turned from their sin. This is good.
There may have certainly been – for lack of an easier word to get the point across – ‘bad’ feelings for their behavior once they heard that it was offensive to the Lord, but this ‘bad’ feeling – again, I think unpleasantly uncomfortable is a better way to define it – didn’t bring condemnation (or death, as I’ll say more about in a minute) to them as some Christian teachers would preach it.
How do I know this? Because – since they are Christians, we are told in Romans 8:1 ‘Therefore there is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus’, so they would never be condemned for doing wrong. They will be disciplined, because the Lord disciplines those that He loves (Hebrews 12:6). And who does He love with a Fatherly love? The Lord only has a Fatherly or agape love for His children; and who are His children? Those who have been born of the Spirit by God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice (Galatians 3:26).
Then what is this unpleasantly uncomfortable sensation? Christians who sin (don’t we all?) – because they love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – sense that they have hurt or displeased the loving, gracious and merciful Triune God, and that sensation breaks their own heart – not irreparably, but rather tells them that they need to make this thing – this offense – right with the Lord and themselves because the One they have offended is their loving Father, and not some mean ol’ dictator.
So, godly sorrow – the unpleasant comfortableness – that the Christian senses when they have or are sinning – is a loving warning from the Lord God to make things right, because if they don’t they will hurt more and more, and more importantly, it will hurt their fellowship with their Father (look at the Prodigal Son!), and make their faith and testimony ineffectual. The one thing Christians SHOULD NOT be experiencing or feeling (but this doesn’t stop some in the church from inflicting it upon the weak and/or uninformed) is the other sensation – worldly sorrow, which I believe is better stated as worldly guilt.
I say that worldly guilt is a better phrase because this is the only place where guilt belongs – to the unbeliever who doesn’t have the loving, gracious, and merciful Spirit of Christ within them. When the unrighteous – the unbeliever – sins:
- They don’t call it sin because as far as they are concerned, they don’t see their behavior as wrong, or they will justify it, or compare it to someone who is ‘sinning more heinously’, thus they are minimizing their ‘guilt’.
- That unpleasant feeling, which I will rightly call ‘bad’ this time, causes them to:
- Do good deeds to pay back or wash away that bad feeling;
- Deny it and pretend it really isn’t there;
- Numb the unpleasant or bad ‘guilt’ through drugs, hedonism, sex, riotous living, or anything to bury it deeper inside of them.
- They delve deeper into despair and ‘guilt’ because they see no redemption, no answer, no hope because they refuse to be open to the Gospel which brings forgiveness, peace, contentment, and hope. Judas is a perfectly sad example.
This ‘worldly guilt’ DOES lead to death – unproductive life, and eventually eternal death/eternal separation from the Triune God.
So, the purpose of this exposition on 2 Corinthians 7:10 is to first HELP the Christian who is constantly condemning themselves for their sinful behavior, which is only holding them down and making them more and more unhappy and unproductive for the Kingdom of God. If, as a Christian, you sin and you feel ‘worldly guilt which leads to death and condemnation, this IS NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT speaking to you! It’s the devil, the world, or your punitive self that is way too big. Oh man, punitive self and disciplinary self is an entirely additional great subject that needs to be discussed but I can’t do it here!
Suffice it to say that some of us have been brought up under the harsh hand and punishment (not loving discipline) of parents, teachers, coaches, ministers/priests, and made to feel so bad and ugly about ourselves that the part of our conscience that deals with right and wrong, and the corrective way to discern and mature through these issues, has overly mis-developed a ‘punitive self’, so that with every ‘mistake’, every slipup, every peccadillo that we commit we punish ourselves profusely and that only leads to more self-condemnation.
But some have learned from good and encouraging authority figures that when we are wrong, or make mistakes, or drop the ball, how to properly LEARN from those mishaps, thus the discipline corrects, teaches, and spurs us onward towards positive change. There, I just quickly explained punitive self versus disciplinary self!
So, Christian – when you sin, the Lord loves you so much that He is going to activate the Holy Spirit, WHO ALREADY LIVES WITHIN YOU, to speak lovingly to your heart so that you will change. He will bring about GODLY sorrow or godly GRIEF to your conscience so that you will wake up – be made aware – and then lovingly cause you to repent, learn, and grow.
The unbeliever is going to continue to make excuses, justify, deny, etc. their sin and the unpleasant feeling that IS bringing with it condemnation because that’s the ultimate result or consequence to a life lived apart from the Lord.
So, listen to His Voice – the Voice of the Spirit that is lovingly moving you in the right direction. That unpleasant comfortableness is your flesh trying to go the other direction, but then recognize that the Holy Spirit is right in His assessment of you and your behavior, and then you will repent, which leads to salvation – not just spiritual salvation – but to the blessed life. This is what many within the Corinthian Church did, and they were blessed for doing so. Judas, on the other hand, repented to the religious leaders, and not to the Lord, so he was experiencing world guilt that condemned him, and literally led to his death. Peter was lovingly disciplined by Jesus after Peter denied the Lord three times, and it was God’s grace that moved Peter in the RIGHT direction, and thus he repented and was restored. Follow the Spirit of Grace, and then find and experience Life.