The Expository Files

 Sorrow In A Godly Manner 

2 Corinthians 7:9-11

I remember clearly the pain and sorrow when my parents died. Until that time I had known grief and sorrow but never to degree as one experiences when a loving father and loving mother die. Especially acute was the pain as they died within a year of one another.

As I have worked in the kingdom of Christ to help console those who have lost loved ones, I observe the constant nature of sorrow -  it changes people. No matter what is going on in life, deep sorrow affects every part of it. Sorrow brings about suffering. It hurts, it is painful, it is remembered and it is something that is not looked forward too.

Paul spoke of a different kind of sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 - "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter."

The problem Paul had addressed was sexual immorality among the brethren at Corinth in that a man had his father's wife. (1 Corinthians 5) He rebuked the brethren at Corinth for being "puffed up" and directed the man who was in sin to be delivered "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (v5) The result of the action of the church as Paul instructed was the man repented and
joy filled the saints at Corinth. (2 Corinthians 2:3-11)

Paul shows the importance of the discipline of the body of Christ upon sin. The reason the brethren were "puffed up" was because sin was among them and they chose to do little about it. Sin was not viewed as serious nor important to purge out. As with the chastening portion of punitive  discipline, Paul had not rejoiced that he should cause them to suffer. The cause of Paul was to bring them to suffer so that repentance could have its full work. This type of sorrow will lead to a change in life - repentance.

The sorrow Paul describes is the sorrow that is of a godly manner. The pain of sin, the ugliness of sin, the cost of sin and the measure of sin is brought to bear upon the mind and a change is made. Godly sorrow is not the kind of sorrow where one is sorry they were caught. Godly sorrow is not the type of sorrow that produces a need to "do the honorable thing." Godly sorrow is the full recognition of the sin committed is an abomination to God.

Paul outlines godly sorrow in verse 11 when he describes the emotions of diligence, carefulness, clearing, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal and vindication. This is not a tame emotion but rather godly sorrow produces an explosion of deep feelings toward one's relationship with God.

David exemplified these feelings when he was confronted by Nathan about his own sin. David had committed adultery, he lied, he deceived, he caused one to become drunk (see Habakkuk 2:15) and finally committed murder. When confronted with the sin - having lived with the sin for many months - David did not seek to make excuses or blame others. "David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.'" (2 Samuel 12:13)

In the psalms he wrote, David expressed his feelings with the depth of sorrow only found in the godly manner. "I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief ... When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my
sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin ... There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go
mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. (Psalm 6:6,7; 32:3-5; 38:3-8)

David knew the heavy burden that sin had upon his life and how he would harvest the seed sown in sin. He summed up his relationship with God as he wrote in Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart -- these, O God, You will not despise." In all four of these psalms, David shows the sorrow that tormented him because of his sin and yet the rejoicing of repentance that brought him back again in favor with God.

Sorrow in a godly manner is sorrow that is characterized by a profound understanding of the consequences of sin. There is shame in sin and the shame must be felt to understand the penalty of sin. The man of 1 Corinthians 5 had not felt the pain of sorrow for his sin. Paul admonished them by the name of "our Lord Jesus Christ" to cause the man to become fully aware of his sin.

A change took place in the life of David and no doubt in the life of the man at Corinth. Paul's second letter are words of joy at the change of life this man had experienced. He rejoiced the church at Corinth had the courage to realize the grave danger of sin and sought to bring out sorrow after a godly manner.

In our politically correct world in which we live, feelings of individuals are more important than the cause of Christ. It is not the intent of Paul to create an environment of militaristic dogmatism in the church of Christ by demanding brethren to be abusive to one another. What he does point out by direction of the Holy Spirit is that sin is not to be viewed as a "mistake" or an "oops" but rather as the true nature of sin. Individuals may be unwilling to acknowledge sin because of the embarrassment that will be felt. Sin is not an embarrassment - it is a shame - a deep shame - one that sorrow after a godly manner will bring a person to their knees and they will beg God for pardon.

Godly sorrow produces actions and does not hide them. With sorrow there is pain and suffering and that is what produces the clearing of the mind. In the exposure of sin there is indignation at the cost of sin. The recognition of sin brings about fear before God and the penalty of sin moves one with zeal to seek grace from the Father. A vehement desire is instilled in ones heart to fall prostrate before the God of host and beg for mercy. Godly sorrow is not passive - it is powerful!

When we lose the ability to acknowledge our sin and to bring the shame of sin to bear upon the minds of others who stand in the same avenues of temptation, we have lost the knowledge of godly sorrow. Sin must be acknowledged as David shows us in his life and in his writings. "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalm 51:3)

Sin must retake its place as the cost of the Son of God dying upon the cross. For too long we have chosen to present sin in a soft tone and dealt casually with its nature. The purpose of Paul writing to the church at Corinth was to remind them of the price for sin. When sin is allowed to remain in the camp unchecked, the glory of God will soon fade away and the candlestick will be removed.

Sorrow is painful and filled with grief. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11) David mourned and bowed deep in sorrow over his sin but he realized the wonderful day of salvation when - acknowledging his sin - returning to the Lord in a godly manner - he stood forgiven and cleansed.

Sorrow in a godly manner is how we come to God. A change takes place and while we are ashamed, we look to that time when we can once again enjoy the favor of our God and the fellowship of His people. From that time on we find wisdom to guide our steps more directly and help others to bear their burdens also. Thank you Father for your love and your forgiveness.

By Kent E. Heaton Sr.
 From Expository Files 9.3; March 2002