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 (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Repentance is necessary for the individual who comes to Christ in obedience to the Gospel, but its need does not end there. Paul was not addressing repentance on the part of the one coming in initial obedience to the Gospel, but rather was rejoicing over the repentance of the Corinthian brethren. When one goes back and reads Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he knows they had a lot of which they needed to repent.
One of the most important things we learn about repentance from the above verses is that sorrow is involved in repentance. However, it is not just any sorrow. One could be sorry that he sinned and when it became public knowledge, he was embarrassed that he got caught, but did nothing about it. One could be sorry that he learned what he was doing was sin, but decided he loved it too much to give it up. One could be sorry that God’s Word found him in sin, but he believed he was too overwhelmed by that sin, and not believing he could give it up, he did not even try. One could even be sorrowful like Judas was when he realized he had betrayed innocent blood. His guilt was more than he could bear, so he hung himself. These are some examples of what Paul termed the sorrow of the world. That sorrow does not lead to real and true repentance.
When one is sorrowful with godly sorrow, it works repentance. This person’s mind is changed, he is not going to do what he was guilty of anymore, and that leads to him changing his life to be in conformance with that which is right. It is sadly true that sometimes it is easier for the person to repent of his sins when he first obeys the Gospel than it is for the child of God who is caught up in sin to admit it, change his mind, and be filled with the godly sorrow that leads to repentance. For that reason, every child of God today needs to consider what happened in the case of the Corinthians. A concerned brother, in that instance an apostle of Christ, recognized the problems that existed in the lives of the Corinthians, told them about it, encouraged them to repent, and they did. So many times, it is with the initial step in the process that is the problem. Some are too proud to receive it when they are warned about their sin. Sometimes pride gets in the way, and instead of hearing the Scriptural proof that they are in sin, they will respond with, “that’s what you think, I don’t believe that way.” One might say, “you are no apostle, why should I believe you?” In such cases, it is pride that stands in the way of godly sorrow. Of course, pride will stand in the way of some who need to obey the Gospel, and will keep them from repentance, but that should not be the case with those who are Christians. We have a great advantage today over the brethren in the first century. We have that perfect of which Paul was speaking in 1 Corinthians 13. We have the full revelation of God to us, providing everything needed unto life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). We have no excuse not to know the difference between right and wrong. So, when we sin and refuse to repent, the question is, where is the godly sorrow? If it is smothered under a cloak of pride, we need to humble ourselves so God can lift us up (Jam. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6). We need to heed the warning that “Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro. 16:18).
If there is some sin in your life for which you need forgiveness, kick the pride out of the way, appreciate one who may have called your attention to it, and have the godly sorrow that leads to repentance. One does not have to repent of that!