2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) For godly sorrow.—Again we note the needless variation which is the easily besetting sin of the English version. Better, as before, the sorrow which is after the will of God.

Repentance to salvation not to be repented of.—Here the English effaces a distinction in the original. (See Note on Matthew 27:3,) Better, repentance unto salvation, giving no matter for regret. The adjective, or adjectival phrase, may qualify either “repentance” or “salvation.” The latter seems preferable.

But the sorrow of the world worketh death.—As contrasted with “salvation,” death must be taken in its widest sense. The mere sorrow of the world leads only to remorse and despair, to the death of a broken heart, possibly to suicide; in any case, to the loss of the true eternal life.

2 Corinthians

SORROW ACCORDING TO GOD

2 Corinthians 7:10.

Very near the close of his missionary career the Apostle Paul summed up his preaching as being all directed to enforcing two points, ‘Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ These two, repentance and faith, ought never to be separated in thought, as they are inseparable in fact. True repentance is impossible without faith, true faith cannot exist without repentance.

Yet the two are separated very often, even by earnest Christian teachers. The tendency of this day is to say a great deal about faith, and not nearly enough in proportion about repentance; and the effect is to obscure the very idea of faith, and not seldom to preach ‘Peace! peace! when there is no peace.’ A gospel which is always talking about faith, and scarcely ever talking about sin and repentance, is denuded, indeed, of some of its most unwelcome characteristics, but is also deprived of most of its power, and it may very easily become an ally of unrighteousness, and an indulgence to sin. The reproach that the Christian doctrine of salvation through faith is immoral in its substance derives most of its force from forgetting that ‘repentance towards God’ is as real a condition of salvation as is ‘faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ We have here the Apostle’s deliverance about one of these twin thoughts. We have three stages--the root, the stem, the fruit; sorrow, repentance, salvation. But there is a right and a wrong kind of sorrow for sin. The right kind breeds repentance, and thence reaches salvation; the wrong kind breeds nothing, and so ends in death.

Let us then trace these stages, not forgetting that this is not a complete statement of the case, and needs to be supplemented in the spirit of the words which I have already quoted, by the other part of the inseparable whole, ‘faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.’

I. First, then, consider the true and the false sorrow for sin.

The Apostle takes it for granted that a recognition of our own evil, and a consequent penitent regretfulness, lie at the foundation of all true Christianity. Now I do not insist upon any uniformity of experience in people, any more than I should insist that all their bodies should be of one shape or of one proportion. Human lives are infinitely different, human dispositions are subtly varied, and because neither the one nor the other are ever reproduced exactly in any two people, therefore the religious experience of no two souls can ever be precisely alike.

We have no right to ask--and much harm has been done by asking--for an impossible uniformity of religious experience, any more than we have a right to expect that all voices shall be pitched in one key, or all plants flower in the same month, or after the same fashion. You can print off as many copies as you like, for instance, of a drawing of a flower on a printing-press, and they shall all be alike, petal for petal, leaf for leaf, shade for shade; but no two hand-drawn copies will be so precisely alike, still less will any two of the real buds that blow on the bush. Life produces resemblance with differences; it is machinery that makes facsimiles.

So we insist on no pedantic or unreal uniformity; and yet, whilst leaving the widest scope for divergencies of individual character and experience, and not asking that a man all diseased and blotched with the leprosy of sin for half a lifetime, and a little child that has grown up at its mother’s knee, ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,’ and so has been kept ‘innocent of much transgression,’ shall have the same experience; yet Scripture, as it seems to me, and the nature of the case do unite in asserting that there are certain elements which, in varying proportions indeed, will be found in all true Christian experience, and of these an indispensable one--and in a very large number, if not in the majority of cases, a fundamental one--is this which my text calls ‘godly sorrow.’

Dear brethren, surely a reasonable consideration of the facts of our conduct and character point to that as the attitude that becomes us. Does it not? I do not charge you with crimes in the eye of the law. I do not suppose that many of you are living in flagrant disregard of the elementary principles of common every-day morality. Some are, no doubt. There are, no doubt, unclean men here; there are some who eat and drink more than is good for them, habitually; there are, no doubt, men and women who are living in avarice and worldliness, and doing things which the ordinary conscience of the populace points to as faults and blemishes. But I come to you respectable people that can say: ‘I am not as other men are, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican’; and pray you, dear friends, to look at your character all round, in the light of the righteousness and love of God, and to plead to the indictment which charges you with neglect of many a duty and with sin against Him. How do you plead, ‘guilty or not guilty, sinful or not sinful?’ Be honest with yourselves, and the answer will not be far to seek.

Notice how my text draws a broad distinction between the right and the wrong kind of sorrow for sin. ‘Godly sorrow’ is, literally rendered,’sorrow according to God,’ which may either mean sorrow which has reference to God, or sorrow which is in accordance with His will; that is to say, which is pleasing to Him. If it is the former, it will be the latter. I prefer to suppose that it is the former--that is, sorrow which has reference to God. And then, there is another kind of sorrow, which the Apostle calls the ‘sorrow of the world,’ which is devoid of that reference to God. Here we have the characteristic difference between the Christian way of looking at our own faults and shortcomings, and the sorrow of the world, which has got no blessing in it, and will never lead to anything like righteousness and peace. It is just this--one has reference to God, puts its sin by His side, sees its blackness relieved against the ‘fierce light’ of the Great White Throne, and the other has not that reference.

To expand that for a moment,--there are plenty of us who, when our sin is behind us, and its bitter fruits are in our hands, are sorry enough for our faults. A man that is lying in the hospital a wreck, with the sins of his youth gnawing the flesh off his bones, is often enough sorry that he did not live more soberly and chastely and temperately in the past days. That fraudulent bankrupt who has not got his discharge and has lost his reputation, and can get nobody to lend him money enough to start him in business again, as he hangs about the streets, slouching in his rags, is sorry enough that he did not keep the straight road. The ‘sorrow of the world’ has no thought about God in it at all. The consequences of sin set many a man’s teeth on edge who does not feel any compunction for the wrong that he did. My brethren, is that the position of any that are listening to me now?

Again, men are often sorry for their conduct without thinking of it as sin against God. Crime means the transgression of man’s law, wrong means the transgression of conscience’s law, sin is the transgression of God’s law. Some of us would perhaps have to say--’I have done crime.’ We are all of us quite ready to say: ‘I have done wrong many a time’; but there are some of us who hesitate to take the other step, and say: ‘I have done sin.’ Sin has, for its correlative, God. If there is no God there is no sin. There may be faults, there may be failures, there may be transgressions, breaches of the moral law, things done inconsistent with man’s nature and constitution, and so on; but if there be a God, then we have personal relations to that Person and His law; and when we break His law it is more than crime; it is more than fault; it is more than transgression; it is more than wrong; it is sin. It is when you lift the shutter off conscience, and let the light of God rush in upon your hearts and consciences, that you have the wholesome sorrow that worketh repentance and salvation and life.

Oh, dear friends, I do beseech you to lay these simple thoughts to heart. Remember, I urge no rigid uniformity of experience or character, but I do say that unless a man has learned to see his sin in the light of God, and in the light of God to weep over it, he has yet to know ‘the strait gate that leadeth unto life.’

I believe that a very large amount of the superficiality and easy-goingness of the Christianity of to-day comes just from this, that so many who call themselves Christians have never once got a glimpse of themselves as they really are. I remember once peering over the edge of the crater of Vesuvius, and looking down into the pit, all swirling with sulphurous fumes. Have you ever looked into your hearts, in that fashion, and seen the wreathing smoke and the flashing fire there? If you have, you will cleave to that Christ, who is your sole deliverance from sin.

But, remember, there is no prescription about depth or amount or length of time during which this sorrow shall be felt. If, on the one hand, it is essential, on the other hand there are a great many people who ought to be walking in the light and the liberty of God’s Gospel who bring darkness and clouds over themselves by the anxious scrutinising question: ‘Is my sorrow deep enough?’ Deep enough! What for? What is the use of sorrow for sin? To lead a man to repentance and to faith. If you have as much sorrow as leads you to penitence and trust you have enough. It is not your sorrow that is going to wash away your sin, it is Christ’s blood. So let no man trouble himself about the question, Have I sorrow enough? The one question is: ‘Has my sorrow led me to cast myself on Christ?’

II. Still further, look now for a moment at the next stage here. ‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance.’

What is repentance? No doubt many of you would answer that it is ‘sorrow for sin,’ but clearly this text of ours draws a distinction between the two. There are very few of the great key-words of Christianity that have suffered more violent and unkind treatment, and have been more obscured by misunderstandings, than this great word. It has been weakened down into penitence, which in the ordinary acceptation, means simply the emotion that I have already been speaking about, viz., a regretful sense of my own evil. And it has been still further docked and degraded, both in its syllables and in its substance, into _penance_. But the ‘repentance’ of the New Testament and of the Old Testament--one of the twin conditions of salvation--is neither sorrow for sin nor works of restitution and satisfaction, but it is, as the word distinctly expresses, a change of purpose in regard to the sin for which a man mourns. I cannot now expand and elaborate this idea as I should like, but let me remind you of one or two passages in Scripture which may show that the right notion of the word is not sorrow but changed attitude and purpose in regard to my sin.

We find passages, some of which ascribe and some deny repentance to the Divine nature. But if there be a repentance which is possible for the Divine nature, it obviously cannot mean sorrow for sin, but must signify a change of purpose. In the Epistle to the Romans we read, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance,’ which clearly means without change of purpose on His part. And I read in the story of the mission of the Prophet Jonah, that ‘the Lord repented of the evil which He had said He would do unto them, and He did it not.’ Here, again, the idea of repentance is clearly and distinctly that of a change of purpose. So fix this on your minds, and lay it on your hearts, dear friends, that the repentance of the New Testament is not idle tears nor the twitchings of a vain regret, but the resolute turning away of the sinful heart from its sins. It is ‘repentance toward God,’ the turning from the sin to the Father, and that is what leads to salvation. The sorrow is separated from the repentance in idea, however closely they may be intertwined in fact. The sorrow is one thing, and the repentance which it works is another.

Then notice that this change of purpose and breaking off from sin is produced by the sorrow for sin, of which I have been speaking; and that the production of this repentance is the main characteristic difference between the godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. A man may have his paroxysms of regret, but the question is: Does it make any difference in his attitude? Is he standing, after the tempest of sorrow has swept over him, with his face in the same direction as before; or has it whirled him clean round, and set him in the other direction? The one kind of sorrow, which measures my sin by the side of the brightness and purity of God, vindicates itself as true, because it makes me hate my evil and turn away from it. The other, which is of the world, passes over me like the empty wind through an archway, it whistles for a moment and is gone, and there is nothing left to show that it was ever there. The one comes like one of those brooks in tropical countries, dry and white for half the year, and then there is a rush of muddy waters, fierce but transient, and leaving no results behind. My brother! when your conscience pricks, which of these two things does it do? After the prick, is the word of command that your Will issues ‘Right about face!’ or is it ‘As you were’? Godly sorrow worketh a change of attitude, purpose, mind; the sorrow of the world leaves a man standing where he was. Ask yourselves the question: Which of the two are you familiar with?

Again, the true means of evoking true repentance is the contemplation of the Cross. Law and the fear of hell may startle into sorrow, and even lead to some kind of repentance. But it is the great power of Christ’s love and sacrifice which will really melt the heart into true repentance. You may hammer ice to pieces, but it is ice still. You may bray a fool in a mortar, and his folly will not depart from him. Dread of punishment may pulverise the heart, but not change it; and each fragment, like the smallest bits of a magnet, will have the same characteristics as the whole mass. But ‘the goodness of God leads to repentance’ as the prodigal is conquered and sees the true hideousness of the swine’s trough, when he bethinks himself of the father’s love. I beseech you to put yourselves under the influence of that great love, and look on that Cross till your hearts melt.

III. We come to the last stage here. Salvation is the issue of repentance. ‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of.’

What is the connection between repentance and salvation? Two sentences will answer the question. You cannot get salvation without repentance. You do not get salvation by repentance.

You cannot get the salvation of God unless you shake off your sin. It is no use preaching to a man, ‘Faith, Faith, Faith!’ unless you preach along with it,’Break off your iniquities.’ ‘Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn unto the Lord.’ The nature of the case forbids it. It is a clear contradiction in terms, and an absolute impossibility in fact, that God should save a man with the salvation which consists in the deliverance from sin, whilst that man is holding to his sin. Unless, therefore, you have not merely sorrow, but repentance, which is turning away from sin with resolute purpose, as a man would turn from a serpent, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

But you do not get salvation for your repentance. It is no case of barter, it is no case of salvation by works, that work being repentance:

‘Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears for ever flow,

All for sin could not atone,

Thou must save, and Thou alone.’

Not my penitence, but Christ’s death, is the ground of the salvation of every one that is saved at all. Yet repentance is an indispensable condition of salvation.

What is the connection between repentance and faith? There can be no true repentance without trust in Christ. There can be no true trust in Christ without the forsaking of my sin. Repentance without faith, in so far as it is possible, is one long misery; like the pains of those poor Hindoo devotees that will go all the way from Cape Comorin to the shrine of Juggernaut, and measure every foot of the road with the length of their own bodies in the dust. Men will do anything, and willingly make any sacrifice, rather than open their eyes to see this,--that repentance, clasped hand in hand with Faith, leads the guiltiest soul into the forgiving presence of the crucified Christ, from whom peace flows into the darkest heart.

On the other hand, faith without repentance is not possible, in any deep sense. But in so far as it is possible, it produces a superficial Christianity which vaguely trusts to Christ without knowing exactly what it is trusting Him for, or why it needs Him; and which has a great deal to say about what I may call the less important parts of the Christian system, and nothing to say about its vital centre; which preaches a morality which is not a living power to create; which practises a religion which is neither a joy nor a security. The old word of the Master has a deep truth in it: ‘These are they which heard the word, and anon with joy received it.’ Having no sorrow, no penitence, no deep consciousness of sin, ‘they have no root in themselves, and in time of temptation they fall away.’ If there is to be a profound, an all-pervading, life-transforming-sin, and devil-conquering faith, it must be a faith rooted deep in penitence and sorrow for sin.

Dear brethren, if, by God’s grace, my poor words have touched your consciences at all, I beseech you, do not trifle with the budding conviction! Do not seek to have the wound skinned over. Take care that you do not let it all pass in idle sorrow or impotent regret. If you do, you will be hardened, and the worse for it, and come nearer to that condition which the sorrow of the world worketh, the awful death of the soul. Do not wince from the knife before the roots of the cancer are cut out. The pain is merciful. Better the wound than the malignant growth. Yield yourselves to the Spirit that would convince you of sin, and listen to the voice that calls to you to forsake your unrighteous ways and thoughts. But do not trust to any tears, do not trust to any resolves, do not trust to any reformation. Trust only to the Lord who died on the Cross for you, whose death for you, whose life in you, will be deliverance from your sin. Then you will have a salvation which, in the striking language of my text, ‘is not to be repented of,’ which will leave no regrets in your hearts in the day when all else shall have faded, and the sinful sweets of this world shall have turned to ashes and bitterness on the lips of the men that feed on them.

‘The sorrow of the world works death.’ There are men and women listening to me now who are half conscious of their sin, and are resisting the pleading voice that comes to them, who at the last will open their eyes upon the realities of their lives, and in a wild passion of remorse, exclaim: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.’ Better to make thorough work of the sorrow, and by it to be led to repentance toward God and faith in Christ, and so secure for our own that salvation for which no man will ever regret having given even the whole world, since he gains his own soul.7:5-11 There were fightings without, or continual contentions with, and opposition from Jews and Gentiles; and there were fears within, and great concern for such as had embraced the Christian faith. But God comforts those who are cast down. We should look above and beyond all means and instruments, to God, as the author of all the consolation and good we enjoy. Sorrow according to the will of God, tending to the glory of God, and wrought by the Spirit of God, renders the heart humble, contrite, submissive, disposed to mortify every sin, and to walk in newness of life. And this repentance is connected with saving faith in Christ, and an interest in his atonement. There is a great difference between this sorrow of a godly sort, and the sorrow of the world. The happy fruits of true repentance are mentioned. Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed. It wrought indignation at sin, at themselves, at the tempter and his instruments. It wrought a fear of watchfulness, and a cautious fear of sin. It wrought desire to be reconciled with God. It wrought zeal for duty, and against sin. It wrought revenge against sin and their own folly, by endeavours to make satisfaction for injuries done thereby. Deep humility before God, hatred of all sin, with faith in Christ, a new heart and a new life, make repentance unto salvation. May the Lord bestow it on every one of us.For godly sorrow - "Sorrow according to God" (Ἡ γὰρ κατὰ Θεὸν λύπη Hē gar kata Theon lupē). That is, such sorrow as has respect to God, or is according to his will, or as leads the soul to him. This is a very important expression in regard to true repentance, and shows the exact nature of that sorrow which is connected with a return to God. The phrase may be regarded as implying the following things:

(1) Such sorrow as God approves, or such as is suitable to. or conformable to his will and desires. It cannot mean that it is such sorrow or grief as God has, for he has none; but such as shall be in accordance with what God demands in a return to him. It is a sorrow which his truth is suited to produce on the heart; such a sorrow as shall appropriately arise from viewing sin as God views it; such sorrow as exists in the mind when our views accord with his in regard to the existence, the extent, the nature, and the ill-desert of sin. Such views will lead to sorrow that it has ever been committed; and such views will be "according to God."

(2) such sorrow as shall be exercised toward God in view of sin; which shall arise from a view of the evil of sin as committed against a holy God. It is not mainly that it will lead to pain; that it will overwhelm the soul in disgrace; that it will forfeit the favor or lead to the contempt of man; or that it will lead to an eternal hell; but it is such as arises from a view of the evil of sin as committed against a holy and just God, deriving its main evil from the fact that it is an offence against his infinite Majesty. Such sorrow David had Psalm 2:4, when he said, "against thee, thee only have I sinned;" when the offence regarded as committed against, man, enormous as it was, was lost and absorbed in its greater evil when regarded as committed against God. So all true and genuine repentance is that which regards sin as deriving its main evil from the fact that it is committed against God.

(3) that which leads to God. It leads to God to obtain forgiveness; to seek for consolation. A heart truly contrite and penitent seeks God, and implores pardon from him. Other sorrow in view of sin than that which is genuine repentance, leads the person away from God. He seeks consolation in the world; he endeavors to drive away his serious impressions or to drown them in the pleasures and the cares of life. But genuine sorrow for sin leads the soul to God, and conducts the sinner, through the Redeemer, to him to obtain the pardon and peace which he only can give to a wounded spirit. In God alone can pardon and true peace be found; and godly sorrow for sin will seek them there.

Worketh repentance - Produces a change that shall be permanent; a reformation. It is not mere regret; it does not soon pass away in its effects, but it produces permanent and abiding changes. A man who mourns over sin as committed against God, and who seek to God for pardon, will reform his life and truly repent. He who has grief for sin only because it will lead to disgrace or shame, or because it will lead to poverty or pain, will not necessarily break off from it and reform. It is only when it is seen that sin is committed against God and is evil in his sight, that it leads to a change of life.

Not to be repented of - (ἀμεταμέλητον ametamelēton); see the note on 2 Corinthians 7:8. Not to be regretted. It is permanent and abiding. There is no occasion to mourn over such repentance and change of life. It is that which the mind approves, and which it will always approve. There will be no reason for regretting it, and it will never be regretted. And it is so. Who ever yet repented of having truly repented of sin? Who is there, who has there ever been, who became a true penitent, and a true Christian, who ever regretted it? Not an individual has ever been known who regretted his having become a Christian. Not one who regretted that he had become one too soon in life, or that he had served the Lord Jesus too faithfully or too long.

But the sorrow of the world - All sorrow which is not toward God, and which does not arise from just views of sin as committed against God, or lead to God. Probably Paul refers here to the sorrow which arises from worldly causes and which does not lead to God for consolation. Such may be the sorrow which arises from the loss of friends or property; from disappointment, or from shame and disgrace, Perhaps it may include the following things:

(1) Sorrow arising from losses of property and friends, and from disappointment.

(2) sorrow for sin or vice when it overwhelms the mind with the consciousness of guilt, and when it does not lead to God, and when there is no contrition of soul from viewing it as an offence against God. Thus, a female who has wandered from the paths of virtue, and involved her family and herself in disgrace; or a man who has been guilty of forgery, or perjury, or any other disgraceful crime, and who is detected; a man who has violated the laws of the land, and who has involved himself and family in disgrace, will often feel regret, and sorrow, and also remorse, but it arises wholly from worldly considerations, and does not lead to God.

(3) when the sorrow arises from a view of worldly consequences merely, and when there is no looking to God for pardon and consolation. Thus, people, when they lose their property or friends, often pine in grief without looking to God. Thus, when they have wandered from the path of virtue and have fallen into sin, they often look merely to the disgrace among people, and see their names blasted, and their comforts gone, and pine away in grief. There is no looking to God for pardon or for consolation. The sorrow arises from this world, and it terminates there. It is the loss of what they valued pertaining to this world, and it is all which they had, and it produces death. It is sorrow such as the people of this world have, begins with this world, and terminates with this world.

Worketh death - Tends to death, spiritual, temporal, and eternal. It does not tend to life.

(1) it produces distress only. It is attended with no consolation.

(2) it tends to break the spirit, to destroy the peace, and to mar the happiness.

(3) it often leads to death itself. The spirit is broken, and the heart pines away under the influence of the unalleviated sorrow; or under its influence people often lay violent hands on themselves and take their lives. Life is often closed under the influence of such sorrow.

continued...

10. worketh … worketh—In the best Greek reading the translation is, "worketh (simply) … worketh out." "Sorrow" is not repentance, but, where it is "godly," "worketh" it; that is, contributes or tends to it (the same Greek word is in Ro 13:10). The "sorrow of the world" (that is, such as is felt by the worldly) "worketh out," as its result at last, (eternal) death (the same Greek verb is in 2Co 4:17; also see on [2315]2Co 4:17).

repentance … not to be repented of—There is not in the Greek this play on words, so that the word qualified is not "repentance" merely, but "repentance unto salvation"; this, he says, none will ever regret, however attended with "sorrow" at the time. "Repentance" implies a coming to a right mind; "regret" implies merely uneasiness of feeling at the past or present, and is applied even to the remorse of Judas (Mt 27:3; Greek, "stricken with remorse," not as English Version, "repented himself"); so that, though always accompanying repentance, it is not always accompanied by repentance. "Repentance" removes the impediments in the way of "salvation" (to which "death," namely, of the soul, is opposed). "The sorrow of the world" is not at the sin itself, but at its penal consequences: so that the tears of pain are no sooner dried up, than the pleasures of ungodliness are renewed. So Pharaoh, Ex 9:27, 28-30; and Saul, 1Sa 15:23-30. Compare Isa 9:13; Re 16:10, 11. Contrast David's "godly sorrow," 2Sa 12:13, and Peter's, Mt 26:75.

Godly sorrow; that sorrow which is according to God, either commanded by him, (as sorrow for our own or others’ sins, or for the judgments of God, as they are the indications of God’s wrath and displeasure for sin), or which he, as the God of grace, worketh in the soul, touching the heart by the finger of his Spirit, Zechariah 12:10. Or that sorrow whose end is the glory of God, in the reformation of the person sorrowing, by a hatred and detestation of sin, and a hearty turning from it.

Worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; it is not repentance, but it produceth that change of heart and life which is repentance; and shall not be imperfect, but perfect, which shall issue in the salvation of the soul, and will never be repented of. Never did any when he came to die repent of true repentance; nor is it possible that reasonable souls should repent of what issueth in their eternal salvation.

But the sorrow of the world worketh death; but all sorrow except this is but the sorrow of the world, the effect of which is ofttimes natural death; while men bow down under their burdens, and through impatience destroy themselves, or at least so fix their thoughts upon sad objects, and so afflict themselves with them, that they bring themselves into diseases tending to death. It also worketh spiritual death; as it indisposeth men for their duty, (as it was in the case of Elijah), and is a temptation to them to be angry against God, (as in the case of Jonah), to fret, murmur, and repine against God’s providence: and by this means it also worketh towards eternal death, which is the wages belonging to sin. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation,.... These words contain a reason, proving that they had received no damage, but profit by the sorrow that had possessed them, from the nature of it, a "godly" sorrow; a sorrow which had God for its author; it did not arise from the power of free will, nor from the dictates of a natural conscience, nor from a work of the law on their hearts, or from a fear of hell and damnation, but it sprung from the free grace of God; it was a gift of his grace, the work of his Spirit, and the produce of his almighty power; being such, which no means, as judgments, mercies, or the most powerful ministry of themselves could effect; it was owing to divine instructions; it was heightened and increased with a discovery of the love of God, and views of pardoning grace and mercy being attended with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: it had God also for its object, as well as its author; it was a sorrow, , "which is for God", as the Syriac version reads the words, and also the Ethiopic; on the account of God, his honour, interest, and glory; it was a sorrow for sin, because it was committed against a God of infinite holiness, justice, and truth, goodness, grace, and mercy; and it was a sorrow, , "according to God", according to the mind and will of God; it was, as it is rendered by the Arabic version, "grateful to God"; what he took notice of, observed, and approved of; and was also such a sorrow as bore some resemblance to what in God goes by the name of grieving and repenting, as that he had made man, because of sin; there being in it a displicency with sin, an hatred of it, and a repentance that ever it was committed: moreover, this sorrow is further described, from its salutary operation, it "worketh repentance"; it is the beginning of it, a part of it, an essential part of it, without which there is no true repentance; this produces it, issues in it, even in an ingenuous confession of sin, a forsaking of it, and in bringing forth fruits meet for repentance, in the life and conversation: and this repentance is unto salvation; not the cause or author of it, for that is Christ alone; nor the condition of it, but is itself a blessing of salvation, a part of it, the initial part of it, by which, and faith we enter upon the possession of salvation; it is an evidence of interest in it, and issues in the full enjoyment of it: and this, or repentance, is such as is

not to be repented of; or that is stable and immovable, as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; which "never returns", or goes back, as the Syriac version, but remains the same not repented of; for to either of them may it be applied: salvation is not to be repented of; it is not repented of by God, who repents not, neither of the thing itself, nor of the way and manner in which it is effected, nor of the persons saved by it, and his choice of them to it; nor is it repented of by them, who believe in Christ to the saving of their souls: nor is true repentance, which is connected with it, to be repented of; God does not repent of giving it, for "his gifts and calling are without repentance"; nor does the repenting sinner repent of it; nor has he any occasion, since it is unto life, even "unto eternal life", as the Ethiopic version here renders it; and as it is called "repentance unto life", in Acts 11:18. This sorrow is likewise illustrated by its contrary,

but the sorrow of the world worketh death; a worldly sorrow is such, as is common to men of the world, as Cain, Pharaoh, Judas, and others; it springs from worldly selfish principles, and proceeds on worldly views; it is often nothing more than a concern for the loss of worldly things, as riches, honours, &c. or for a disappointment in the gratification of worldly lusts and pleasures: and this worketh death; temporal and eternal death; it sometimes brings diseases and disorders on the body, which issue in death; and sometimes puts men upon destroying themselves, as it did Ahithophel and Judas; it works in the minds of men a fearful apprehension of eternal death, and, if grace prevent not, issues in it.

For {g} godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

(g) God's sorrow occurs when we are not terrified with the fear of punishment, but because we feel we have offended God our most merciful Father. Contrary to this there is another sorrow, that only fears punishment, or when a man is vexed for the loss of some worldly goods. The fruit of the first is repentance, and the fruit of the second is desperation, unless the Lord quickly helps.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 7:10. Ground assigned for ἵνα ἐν μηδ. ζημιωθ. ἐξ ἡμῶν: for godly sadness works repentance unto salvation unregretted, i.e. unto the Messianic salvation, the attainment of which is not regretted. The connection of ἀμεταμέλ. with σωτηρίαν is held by Augustine and other Latin Fathers, following the Vulgate, which has stabilem,[260] and among modern expositors by Fritzsche, Billroth (yet doubtfully), Schrader, de Wette, Ewald; decidedly by Castalio also, but undecidedly by Erasmus, Annot. The more common connection is with μετάνοιαν, so as to give the antanaclasis poenitentiam non poenitendam (for similar collocations see Wetstein, comp. Pliny, Ep. vii. 10); οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἑαυτοῦ καταγνώσεται, ἐὰν λυπηθῇ ἐφʼ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἐὰν πενθήσῃ καὶ ἑαυτὸν συντρίψῃ, Chrysostom. But for such an antanaclasis Paul would not have chosen an adjective from quite a different root, but ἀμετανόητον (Lucian, Obadiah 1:11, comp. also Romans 2:5), which is also the reading[261] of some minor authorities. And if ἈΜΕΤΑΜΈΛ. were to belong to ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑΝ, it would stand immediately by its side, so as to make ΕἸς ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑΝ appear as the result throwing light upon ἈΜΕΤΑΜΈΛ. When placed after ΕἸς ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑΝ, ἈΜΕΤΑΜΈΛ. is an epithet of ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑΝ no longer suitable, insipid, and halting. Olshausen and Hofmann wrongly object that the epithet is not suitable to the idea of salvation, the absolute good. It expresses by way of litotes the eternal satisfaction of the ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ, and is selected with a glance back to what was said in 2 Corinthians 7:8. If the apostle, namely, has caused a sadness which works a contrition unto a salvation exposed to no regret, it is obvious how this step of his can no longer give rise to any regret in his case, but can only make him joyful. Comp. on the expression itself, Romans 11:29, and especially Plato, Tim. p. 59 D: ἀμεταμέλητον ἡδονὴν κτᾶται, Legg. ix. p. 866 E; Polyb. xxi. 9. 11; Plutarch, Mor. p. 137 B; Socrates in Stob. 101, p. 552; Clem. Cor. I. 2.

ἡ δὲ τοῦ κόσμον λύπη] i.e. the sadness, however, which is felt by the world, by the ungodly-minded unbelievers. This is certainly λύπν διὰ χρήματα, διὰ δόξαν, διὰ τὸν ἀπελθόντα κ.τ.λ. (Chrysostom), in so far, namely, as the loss of outward advantage in and for itself determines the sadness,[262] but the genitive τοῦ κόσμου is the genitivus subjecti, and we must retain as the characteristic of this λύπη that it is not κατὰ θεόν (because it cannot be determined by the knowledge of God and of His will); hence, instead of working repentance unto salvation, it works despondency, despair, exasperation, obduracy, etc., unto death. Even ΔΙᾺ ΧΡΉΜΑΤΑ Κ.Τ.Λ. there may be a sadness ΚΑΤᾺ ΘΕΌΝ.

ΘΆΝΑΤΟΝ
] i.e. not generally: “all that is embraced in a state of things not founded on God” (Hofmann), but, as the opposite of that unregretted σωτηρία, eternal death, the Messianic ἀπώλεια; comp. 2 Corinthians 2:16. Calovius says aptly: “quia mundus dolet, cum affligitur, solatii ex verbo Dei expers ac fide destitutus.” The exposition of vexing oneself to death (Theodoret), or the reference made by Grotius, Rosenmüller, and others to fatal diseases and suicide, is quite at variance with the context; and Sir 38:18 has no bearing here. Even the ethical view (moral ruin through despair or new sins, de Wette, comp. Neander) is not in keeping with the contrast to σωτηρία; besides, Paul never uses ΘΆΝΑΤΟς of ethical death. See on Romans 5:12.

Regarding the difference between ἐργάζεται and ΚΑΤΕΡΓΆΖ. (bring to pass), see on Romans 1:27; van Hengel, ad Romans 2:10.

[260] According to the reading ἀμετάβλητον, which Origen has (once), but before εἰς σωτηρ.

[261] And which (in opposition to Osiander) would have expressed the idea of something painful quite as well as ἀμεταμέλ.

[262] As this would have been the case also with the Corinthians, if they had grieved over the reproof only, and not over the sin. Comp. Elwert in the Wûrtemberg. Stud. IX. 1 p. 135 ff.2 Corinthians 7:10. ἡ γὰρ κατὰ Θεὸν λύπη κ.τ.λ.: for such godly sorrow, i.e., sorrow for sin as an offence against God (Psalm 50:6) and not only for the temporal consequences of sin (cf. Bengel, “animi Deum spectantis et sequentis”), worketh repentance which leads to salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret. ἀμεταμέλητον may be taken with σωτηρία (see R.V. margin), but there would be no point in applying such an adj. to σωτηρία, whereas it is quite apposite as applied to μετάνοια (as by Chrys., R.V., etc.).—ἡ δὲ τοῦ κόσμου κ.τ.λ.: but the sorrow of the world, sc., such sorrow as the world feels—for failure, not for sin—worketh out death, sc., as opposed to σωτηρία (cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 2:16).10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance] Rather, For the sorrow which is according to God (that is aftir God, Wiclif) worketh change of mind. The difference between the true repentance and the false remorse may be illustrated by the cases of David and Saul, St Peter and Judas.

to salvation not to be repented of] Or not to be regretted, the word here used involving the idea of sorrow or anxiety. It is by most commentators connected with salvation, as though that were the result not to be regretted. But it may as naturally be referred to the change of mind. “The beautiful law is,” says Robertson, “that in proportion as the repentance increases, the grief diminishes. ‘I rejoice,’ says St Paul, ‘that I made you sorry, though it were but for a time.’ Grief for a time, but repentance for ever.”

but the sorrow of the world] i.e. of the world untouched and un-regenerated by the Spirit of God—the sorrow of the natural man, “the opposite of the sorrow according to God.” Stanley. See 1 Corinthians 2:14.

worketh death] Death of the body, sometimes, as when despair tempts to suicide, or brings on deadly sickness. Death of the soul, when sorrow fails to melt the heart, but leads it to that state of rebellious stubbornness, of entire alienation from God, which is expressed in the words “hardness of heart and contempt of His word and commandment.” Cf. Proverbs 17:22.2 Corinthians 7:10. Μετάνοιανἀμεταμέλητον, repentance—not to be repented of) From the meaning of the primitive word, μετάνοια belongs properly to the understanding; μεταμέλεια to the will; because the former expresses the change of sentiment, the latter, the change of care [solicitude], or rather of purpose. Whence Thomas Gataker, Advers. misc. posth., c. 29, where he treats very accurately of these words signifying repentance, closes a long dissertation with this recapitulation: We have thus a series not completely, but exactly delineated, by which that feeling from its first origin, as it were by certain degrees and advances, is at length brought on, as Septimius would say, to its proper maturity. In the first place, censure or punishment is inflicted [animadversio], a proceeding which is termed by the Hebrews שוב לב for שות לב: from this arises acknowledgment of error, and μετάνοια, reformation [resipiscentia, coming to a right state of mind]. Δυσαρέστησις or λύπη, dissatisfaction with one’s self and sorrow, follow this μετάνοια, that which is explained by the Hebrew, נחם, penitence. The consequence of this, where it has become efficacious, καὶ γνησία, genuine, is שוב, conversion, ἐπιστροφὴ, μεταμέλεια, which finishes and crowns the work, since it brings in quite a new mode of living, instead of the old.” Such are his views. Furthermore, on account of the very close relationship between the understanding and the will, μεταμέλεια and μετάνοια occur together, and both the nouns and verbs are promiscuously used even by philosophers, and they correspond in the LXX. with the single Hebrew word נחם; in both μετὰ signifies after. Whence Plato in the Gorgias, ταῦτα προνοήσασι μὲν, δυνατά· μετανοήσασι δὲ, ἀδύνατα. These things are possible to them that think beforehand, but impossible to those that think afterwards. Synesius, Ep. iv., τῷ ἐπιμήθει, φασὶν, τὸ μὲν μέλειν οὐκ ἦν, τὸ δὲ μεταμέλειν, ἐνῆν. It is said, that Epimetheus had no care at the time, but that he afterwards had care.[39] Both these words are therefore applied to him, who repents of what he has done, and of the counsel which he has followed, whether his penitence be good or bad, whether it be on account of something evil or good, whether accompanied with a change of future conduct or not. If we consider their use however, μεταμέλεια is generally a term midway between good and bad [μέσον, indifferent[40]], and is chiefly referred to single actions; but μετάνοια, especially in the New Testament, is taken in a good sense, by which is denoted the repentance [regret on account] of the whole life, and, in some respects, [loathing] of ourselves,[41] or that whole blessed remembrance of the mind [the mind’s review of the past, and of its own state heretofore] after error and sin, with all the affections entering into it, which suitable fruits follow. Hence it happens, that μετανοεῖν is often put in the imperative, μεταμελεῖσθαι never; but in other places, wherever μετάνοια is read, μεταμέλεια may be substituted: but not vice versa. Therefore, Paul distinctly uses both words in this passage, and applies to μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν the term ἀμεταμέλητον, because neither he can regret, that he had occasioned this μετάνοιαν, repentance, to the Corinthians, nor they, that they had felt it.—εἰς σωτηρίαν, to salvation) all the impediments to which are thus removed.—κατεργάζεται, worketh) Therefore sorrow is not repentance itself, but it produces repentance; that is, carefulness (σπουδήν), 2 Corinthians 7:11.—ἡ δὲ) but the mere sorrow of the world, etc., of which I was not a promoter among you.—τοῦ κόσμου) of the world, not merely, according to the world (answering to the epithet of λύπη, viz., ἡ κατὰ θεὸν). [Such was the sorrow of Ahab in the case of Naboth. Now and then the malignant powers of darkness also mingle themselves with it, as in the case of Saul. In such cases, even the innocent cheerfulness of children, or the singing of birds, or the frisking of calves sometimes move their indignation. The sorrow of the world, such as this, is not less to be avoided than the joy of the world. The world experiences joy at their social feasts, for the rest of the time they are generally under the dominion of sorrow.—V. g.]—θάνατον, death) chiefly of the soul, which is evident from the antithesis [‘salvation’].

[39] Epimetheus was fabled, in contrast to Prometheus, to have had no thought, but to have had after thought when too late.—ED.

[40] Μεταμέλεια is often used of the remorse and regret of such a one as Judas. Μετάνοια of the true penitent.—ED.

[41] Repentance of ourselves is not English, and does not suggest any very clear idea. I think the author meant to apply it to our original depravity, which to believers is the subject of confession and lamentation before God. This may be considered as a species of repentance, and seems to agree with the qualifying phrase in some respects.—TR.Verse 10. - For godly sorrow, etc. "For the sorrow Which is according to God worketh out a repentance unto salvation which bringeth no regret." Sin causes regret, remorse, that sort of repentance (metomeleia) which is merely an unavailing rebellion against the inevitable consequences of misdoing; but the sorrow of self-reproach which follows true repentance (metanoia, change of mind) is never followed by regret. Some take "not to be regretted" with "salvation," but it is a very unsuitable adjective to that substantive. The sorrow of the world. Here sorrow for the loss, or disappointment, or shame, or ruin, or sickness caused by sin; such as the false repentance of Cain, Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, etc. Death. Moral and spiritual death always, and sometimes physical death, and always - unless it is followed by true repentance - eternal death, which is the opposite of salvation (Romans 5:21). Sorrow - repentance (λύπη - μετάνοιαν)

Paul's words strike effectively at the popular identification of sorrow with repentance.

Not to be repented of (ἀμεταμέλητον)

Construe with repentance. The Rev., in order to bring out this connection, amplifies the translation: a repentance which bringeth no regret. The oxymoron (see on Romans 1:20; Romans 4:18) is in the A.V. rather than in the Greek. It should be carefully observed that the two words, repentance, not to be repented of, represent different roots and different ideas: repentance (μετάνοιαν) denoting the moral change, and to be repented of denoting the sentiment of misgiving or regret (see on Matthew 21:29), and so answering to λύπη sorrow. The Rev. brings out the distinction by substituting regret for repentance.

Sorrow of the world

Antithesis with the sorrow which is according to God (A.V., godly sorrow). Sorrow which is characteristic of the world; grief for the consequences rather than for the sin as sin.

Worketh (κατεργάζεται)

Brings to pass. Notice that the simple verb ἐργάζετι is used in the previous clause, the distinction from this verb being obliterated by rendering both worketh. The difference is between contributing to a result and achieving it.

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