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"Godly Sorrow"

2 Corinthians 7.2-11

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 10, 2008

The context of this passage is Paul's rebuke in 1 Corinthians 5 for the man that was engaged in gross sin. Paul had written to the Corinthians in that passage to put that sinning man out of the church. But apparently, the church resisted in dealing with this sin. Between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote a "sorrowful" epistle to them (which God has not preserved for us in the Scriptures). Apparently, Paul sent his assistant Titus to check on them. While in Macedonia (2:13, 7:5), Paul was anxious about how the Corinthians would respond to that harsh letter. He was so eager to hear the news that he sought Titus out. And when he found Titus, he rejoiced that the news was positive—the Corinthian believers took care of the matter of sin, and they still loved Paul. This passage describes his rejoicing over that news.

Often, you and I are called upon to tell another brother or sister something that they don't want to hear. We have to write that hard letter, or make that tough phone call, or send that difficult email—calling attention to an area of sin, and calling them to repent. Paul give us an example in this passage of how to conduct ourselves in those difficult times.


A. Paul began by calling the Corinthians to be open to him and his co-workers (see also 6:11-13). He asserts that his conduct toward them has been honest and characterized by integrity (v. 2). When we deal with someone else's sin, we'd better be sure that we are able to speak from a morally clear conscience (see Matthew 7:3-5).

B. Not only was Paul's conscience clear, but his heart was also filled with genuine love toward the Corinthians. There was no desire to "condemn". Rather, he had them in his heart, "to die together and to live together" (v. 3). Paul was so attached to the Corinthians that their sin hurt him—and their joy also enlivened him. When you have something hard to say to someone, make sure that you truly love them—and that they know you truly love them. If what you have to say to them is (1) scriptural, (2) spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and (3) offered in love, then you can't hurt them. You can only do them good.


A. Paul bursts forth in joy (v. 4). The news was good. He had been very anxious over the Corinthians because of his letter (v. 5). He had no rest for his body. Outside of him were troubles (conflicts), and inside were fears. It's an agonizing thing to send a hard note to someone—not knowing whether they will receive it in the love it was intended, or reject your effort. But Paul testified that God provided him with comfort through the coming of Titus; and the good news from the Corinthians that Titus brought (v. 6).

B. Not only was Paul joyful over the good news regarding the love the Corinthians still had for him, but also over the good news of how they comforted Titus (see 1 Corinthians 2:3-6). Titus was encouraged—and so was Paul (v. 7). These are the kinds of victories that we should celebrate! It comforts all involved.


A. Paul made sure that the Corinthians knew that the sorrowful letter wasn't easy to write (v. 8). He lets them know that he regretted it. Writing that hard note, or sending that hard email, or making that hard phone call, should never be something that we do easily or gleefully. It should always "hurt". If we truly have that other person in our hearts (as Paul expressed in verse 3), then it will hurt.

B. But just like a doctor who may regret having to give a painful treatment to a patient—a treatment that will ultimately do them good—Paul may have regretted having to send the note, but he didn't regret the results. It had led to their repentance (v. 9), so that, in the end, the Corinthians didn't suffer loss from Paul's long ministry with them as a result of the hard letter. We should always be able to say that a hard confrontation hurts us; but we should love that person and desire their repentance so much that we'd be willing to suffer the pain—looking ahead to the godly results.


A. This world seeks to avoid "sorrow". From it's standpoint, it doesn't do any good. And indeed, there is a kind of "sorrow of the world" that produces only "death". But the "sorrow" produced by Paul's letter was not the kind of sorrow that the world produces. The letter led to a "godly sorrow" that produces "repentance". That's something not to be regretted (v. 10).

B. Note the characteristics of sorrowing "in a godly manner" (v. 11). It produced a repentance that was measurable in such active responses as "diligence" to deal faithfully with every aspect of that sin, a "clearing" of themselves by making sure that they no longer tolerated sin, "indignation" over the sin itself and over the fact that they had allowed themselves to become so deceived as to tolerate it, "fear" over how close they had come to slipping away and over allowing the holiness of Christ's church to be defiled, "vehement desire" to make all things right, "zeal" for holiness, and "vindication" of their character before God. Paul celebrates these things and encourages his brothers and sisters; saying that in all things "you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter".

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Leviticus 19:17 commands the people of Israel, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." It's not "unloving" to rebuke sin. Rather, it's unloving not to do so. But it's not an easy thing to do. In seeking to do so, may God help us follow the good pattern that the apostle Paul sets for us in this passage.


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