Read - 2 Corinthians 7v5-16
Message - Scott Woodburn
When you say sorry do you always mean it? Probably sometimes but all the time? We are always telling our daughters to say sorry properly. Don't just say it to get it over and done with but say it and mean it. Paul didn't regret sending the Corinthians a difficult letter (v8). There were important issues to be addressed and so Paul put pen to paper as a result. But he is sorry that the difficult letter caused the Corinthians grief (v8).
Paul's heart was wide open to the Corinthians and therefore even though the difficult letter was necessary, Paul ultimately didn't like causing hurt to those whom he loved. Yet the grief that had been caused lasted only for a little while (v8) and it was a godly grief that had led the Corinthians to repentance (v9).
Paul clarifies what he means. There is a worldly grief that produces death (v10b). Or in other words a man can feel sorry for his circumstances or behaviour but still never turn to the Lord. He might say sorry to a wounded party and then continue to deny the grace of God or indeed he might still curse the Lord's name. Such worldly grief does not result in eternal life because it fails to comprehend that God is the one whom we have offended. We have sinned against Him on a daily basis and yet in our worldly grief we never turn our face in repentance to the Lord.
Godly grief is quite the opposite. Godly grief for sin leads to repentance that leads to salvation without regret (v10a). The shorter catechism speaks of repentance unto life and describes it this way "Repentance unto life is a saving grace,1 whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience." In the language that we use with our children, it is a proper sorry.
Look at the fruit of this repentance. The Corinthians were eager to resolve the situation within their church (v11b), they were eager to restore the relationship with Paul. Repentance unto life had brought indignation to the Corinthians (v11c). This immediately sounds negative but not in this case. This is a righteous anger directed at their foolishness and sin. It had also produced fear (v11d) which here means either fear of the Lord or fear of the Apostle. Either way the Corinthians had recognised their sin and it had worked in them the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.
It had worked a longing in them for the Apostle and his well being (v11e) coupled with a zealousness (v11f) to correct the issues in their fellowship paying attention to the punishment of the guilty party (v11g). As verse 11 ends Paul tells the Corinthians that at every step they have proved their innocence. At every step their Godly grief had led to repentance unto life.
This remains exceptionally good news. Our Confession states "As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent." The blood of Christ washes clean the sinner who truly repents. It was true in Corinth and it is true today. Thanks be to God!
Q2 What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.