Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GOOD GRIEF (2 Corinthians Chapter 7)

2 Corinthians 7:9-10, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss for it.  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

The context of these two verses has to do with the response of the Corinthian church to a letter Paul had sent them.  There were false teachers in Corinth and some who were rebelling against Paul (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5, 11:2-4, 13).  Paul loved the church and wanted God’s best for them (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2, 28).  He wrote to them to address what was taking place.  He wrote “out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears” that they might know of the “abundant love” that he had for them (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4).  Paul did not excuse, evade or tolerate the evil that was occurring, but with “anguish of heart” he confronted it by speaking the truth in love (Cf. Ephesians 4:15).  He dealt with the matter as a loving parent would in disciplining his own children (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:11), as God himself responds to us all (Cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).

Paul was deeply concerned as to the response of the Corinthians to his letter.  He wondered as to what they might do and could not rest in anticipation (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:5).  He knew that his letter would cause them grief and for a time regretted having even sent it (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8).  But then Titus returned with his report on their positive response.  And Paul was comforted (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:4, 6, 7) and he rejoiced (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:7).

Paul used the opportunity to speak of the two alternative responses to the confrontation of a revealed sin problem.  Both relate to experiencing grief, but in one case that grief is characterized as “worldly” and in the other “godly.”

John MacArthur, in a sermon on this text, aptly distinguished between the two kinds of sorrow: “Theirs was the right kind of sorrow.  It was not the sorrow of selfish sympathy, poor me, self-pity.  It was not the sorrow of getting caught and being cut off from the pursuit of your iniquity and thus your lust is unfulfilled.  It was not the sorrow of interrupted iniquity.  It was not the sorrow of weak sensitivity.  It was not the sorrow of despair.  It was not the sorrow of bitterness.  It was not the sorrow of wounded pride.  It was not the sorrow that's often expressed of manipulative remorse.  It was the real thing and he says it here in verse 9, it was the sorrow of repentance, the sorrow of metanoia, the sorrow of turning around and going the other direction.  It's the sorrow of a real change, no defensiveness, no victimization mentality, no self-vindication, no self-justification, no self-defense and no resentment, just sorrow unto repentance, the real deal, the real transformation, the real change.”

There is a “good grief” and it is that God-ward response to conviction of sin.  David experienced it and cried out, “Against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).  Good grief is a blessed thing is as much as it “those who mourn” over sin who “shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).  Judas had a “worldly grief.”  He was sorrowful in that sense after he betrayed the Lord (Matthew 27:3-4), but it was not of the godly variety that accompanies salvation.  Peter denied Jesus, experienced a godly grief, and was restored (Cf. Luke 22:62, 32; John 21:15-17).

To experience a godly grief over sin is to view sin from God’s perspective.  To appreciate its vile and debilitating nature.  To see it as a contradiction to that from which Christ has worked to free us.  To understand it in terms of its dichotomy to God’s purpose for us.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians with tears, but rejoiced in their response because it demonstrated that they truly belonged to God (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:12).  Theirs was a “good” (i.e. godly) grief.

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