Repentance without regret
2 Corinthians 7:8-16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For 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. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.
And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.
Paul had previously challenged the Corithians regarding immorality in the church. In today’s text he says: I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For 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. Paul’s challenge brought forth conviction. It was not based in condemnation, but in love. Romans 8:1-2 says: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Condemnation and guilt do not come from Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Condemnation and guilt come from the world and from the deceiver. If there is a source of condemnation and guilt in our lives we need to turn from it to Christ. Guilt and condemnation tend to cause us to try to run from God, to hide from Him, as Adam and Eve did when they sinned. We should instead run from the source of condemnation and guilt to God. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is not God’s will that we feel guilt or that we be condemned. 2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
The real difference between condemnation and conviction is the Spirit behind them. Condemnation is based in judgment, guilt and fear; conviction is based in love. Just as Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians was based in love and not condemnation, so too if we as believers, want to challenge others regarding immorality and sin, we must do it based on and in love. Romans 2:1-4 says: Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? It is God’s kindness which leads to repentance. It is love which brings about conviction rather than condemnation. There are some today who believe that there needs to be more preaching about Hell. Hell is real, Jesus Himself spoke of it: “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:41-43) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23) Hell is real, but Hell speaks of judgment and judgment is not for us to give. Judgment is for God and Jesus. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” In John 5:22-23 He says: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Our preaching should not be focused on Hell, in a spirit of judgment and condemnation, but rather on and in love. It is not a love as the world sees or defines it though that we preach. The love we preach is as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:23: We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness. And 1 Corinthians 2:2: I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. The love of God is not about acceptance or tolerating sin, as the world would want it to be. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God is demonstrated in the cross. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” On the cross, while He suffered the agony of crucifixion for our sins, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) That’s love, that’s the love that brings about conviction rather than condemnation. Jesus says: “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32)
Our preaching, our challenging the sin and immorality in the world should not be based in condemnation, fear and guilt, but rather it should be based in love. Our preaching, our challenging of the sin and immorality in the world should reflect the patience of God, which desires that none would perish. It should reflect the kindness of God, which leads to repentance and most of all it should reflect and point to the love of God, demonstrated in the cross of Christ, where there is forgiveness and no condemnation, for those who believe, for those who are in Christ.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit Thank You for Your patience, Your kindness, Your love. Thank You for the cross where there is forgiveness and no condemnation. As I have received that love, may I also demonstrate that love to others. Amen.