2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 28
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’re talking about the importance of right relationships and this is part 2. Today it’s going to be about the repentance in right relationships. Now we’ve seen so far the recipe of right relationships. You know a recipe is when you have ingredients, when put together the right way, turns out the right way. We talked about the requirements of right relationships, but today is going to be a tough message: the repentance that is necessary for right relationships.|
The Repentance in Right Relationships
Well, turn with me to 2 Corinthians 7:6-11. Taking a few more verses than I normally take. We’re talking about the importance of right relationships, and today it’s going to be about the repentance in right relationships. Now we’ve seen so far the recipe of right relationships. You know a recipe is when you have ingredients, when put together the right way, turns out the right way. We talked about the requirements of right relationships, but today is going to be a tough message: the repentance that is necessary for right relationships.
Before a relationship can be made right, the one who has sinned, maybe it’s both parties, but the one who has sinned, whatever the cause is, they’re going to have to learn to repent. There cannot be the kind of relationships that God promises us that is ours in Him until that repentance takes place. Paul’s relationships with the believers in Corinth had been a very shaky one at best. But it was not of his doing; this was not a matter where he had to repent and they had to repent. This was not of his doing that caused the relationship to be difficult. What caused it to be difficult was that the Corinthian believers had bought into wrong thinking, wrong doctrine. Whether it came from a false teacher or whether it came from the worldly humanistic doctrine of that time, but it translated into a wrong living and that severed the relationship with Paul.
They couldn’t walk in agreement. Here’s Paul walking by faith; anything not of faith is sin and without faith it’s impossible to please God. And so he had chosen to live this way and they had chosen to live after their flesh and as a result the two could not walk together. When this happens in the body of Christ, and it will happen and is happening in the body of Christ, somebody has to drop anchor first in order for that relationship to come back. And it’s usually the one who is most spiritual. It’s a most interesting thing: the one who is most spiritual has to drop the anchor. He’s the one who has to initiate the process because the one walking after the flesh really doesn’t care, he’s already been deceived. And so the one who’s walking with God drops the anchor.
I don’t mean drop the anchor on somebody’s head. Paul knew that in order for a relationship with the Corinthians and himself to be made right, they had to be open and honest with one another. He makes the first move. The first move is not in chapter 6. The first move is the letter he wrote to them. You see, 2 Corinthians is a response to that third letter and how they responded. He makes that first move.
Now we do see in 6:3-10 how he opens himself up and he says, “Hey, guys, there’s nothing on my end of this thing. I’m walking with God, I love you, I’m as honest as I know how to be.” He opens himself up, but he knows that their relationship with him will never be made right until the Corinthians were willing to rid themselves of the poisonous information they were getting from the wrong people which was severing their relationship with Paul.
He says in 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises,” and he refers to how God would welcome them into His fullness if they would just do what He told them to do, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” You see, when we cleanse ourselves of anything that is defiling of our flesh or our spirit, those ungodly influences in our life, then what happens is that we are maturing, we’re growing, and we’re making room for the Lord Jesus to do what He wants to do through our lives. That’s when right relationships can happen; only then. Unless a person is walking with God, emptying himself of those ungodly influences in his life, he cannot have a right relationship with a brother who is.
Well, this is very important, I must say right here, when we talk about cleansing ourselves of things that are ungodly and ungodly influences in our life. I’ve come to understand that some of you have gotten a little confused about this. I want to make sure that we clear it up.
You’re married to an unbeliever. You have realized that Paul has said, “Do not be unequally yoked; do not form a partnership with others that are ungodly. And you realize you’ve made a mistake, but now you don’t know what to do about it. You hear Paul say, “cleanse yourself of these influences.” You hear him say “don’t make a partnership,” and you’ve gotten confused. Well, I tried to say this: there are some relationships you can break, but marriage is not one of them.
Now, let’s make sure we understand that. You can’t unscramble eggs. Paul is not saying break the relationship in marriage. “Well, what can I take out of this? How does it help me?” Listen, you can cleanse yourself of anything that would corrupt your thinking towards the one to whom you’re married and allow Christ to love that one through you. But I want to make sure we clear that up because you have to understand that his context is not talking about marriage. If he would have been talking about marriage he would have been much more specific. He left it open-ended; we threw marriage out as an example. Perhaps that was the wrong thing to do. Perhaps somebody grabbed hold of that.
But he’s not talking about that. He’s talking about the Corinthians and how they had embraced the teaching and the thinking of the world and as a result of that it has so changed the way they live, which is to please their flesh, that they can’t walk in oneness with Paul. That’s what he’s talking about. He’s told us that to have right relationships we’re going to have to take it to the step of having a respect of who God is, to live in fear of Him. And that’s a good word; it means “awe and reverence of who He is.” And when it comes to hurtful things that believers do to us and when we’ve gone the length of knowing whatever we can do to be open and honest and we tried to get their attention as to what was going on, we come to a point where we have to trust Christ in their heart. If they’re believers we can’t go any further.
We choose not to be disassociated from a believer in the sense that we still love him and care about him. We don’t make intimate partnerships with them because they’re leaning the wrong way, but what we’re trying to do here is to come back in oneness together. We have to learn to give them the benefit of the doubt and we have to learn to trust Christ in their lives, that He’ll bring them around.
Well, we’re going to see that happening today. We’re going to see the fact that Paul has trusted Christ in the Corinthian people. He has given them the benefit of the doubt. He believes that if they truly are believers, they’re going to come around that corner and they’re going to come back into a relationship with him. We’re going to see how that repentance, which is so essential, is a change of heart; it’s a change of mind. But it has to be a change of actions or it’s not repentance. We’re going to see that. And this happened to the church of Corinth. It’s a most beautiful story and yet there’s a lot of pain in what we’re going to share today. God broke through; God broke through.
And I tell you, what is God saying to us as a church in these days? It pays to trust Christ in an individual rather than base yourself on wrong information and fight them, it’s much better to lay it down and say, “Oh God, I can’t, but You can. You never said I could, but You always said You would. God, would You love this person through me? And God will You bring and restore that individual back where he needs to be where he’s walking by faith?”
It is necessary to see a picture of true repentance to have a right relationship with each other
Well, Paul did that for us and as an example to us and we’re going to see what happened today. Three things about repentance that are absolutely necessary if we’re going to have right relationships with each other. First of all we see a picture of true repentance. You say, “What does it look like? What does it look like when somebody who is way over here all of a sudden turns around and comes full circle?” Well, God’s going to give that to us.
You remember that Paul had sent Titus with that third letter. We don’t have it; it’s mentioned and referred to many times in 2 Corinthians. And he sent the letter with him and he wanted to hear back from Titus how they responded to this letter. And so he goes to Troas to meet Titus, but when he gets there Titus is not there. But the information that he does bring to him in Macedonia when he finally sees him, is overwhelming.
Paul had given the believers in Corinth the benefit of the doubt and Christ rewarded him for doing that. Christ rewarded him by showing him how that only Christ can change the hearts of people that are disenfranchised in their relationships. Verse 6, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.”
Now way back in 2:13 we find a little of this story; we’ve already covered it. When Paul got to Troas and Titus was not there, it troubled him. God opened the great door of ministry to him in Troas, but Paul walked away from it. He knew that if God opened the door, it would still be opened when he came back. What God opens, no man can close. So in verse 13 he says, “I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.” And when Paul got to Macedonia he was struggling on the inside.
You know, we keep thinking of Paul and others, that they have arrived. No, they’re human beings like you and me, and he was struggling internally. He was so concerned about the Corinthian believers, he so loved them he wanted to see them come back to walking by faith, to come back to trusting and believing God so that they could walk together. The much more important thing was so that they would trust God. His condition that he was in before he saw Titus is mentioned in verse 6. It says that God comforts the depressed, “But God, who comforts the depressed.” I love this; this is so honest.
The word “depressed” is the word tapeinos. Normally that’s translated “humble,” but the word in its literal form doesn’t mean humble, it means flat. You see, when a person is humble he’s so far down nobody can see him because there is nothing worthy about him to be seen. But the word here is used in much more of a technical sense. A flat idea here. You see, Paul was emotionally and mentally flat. That’s what he calls depressed here; it’s translated depressed. Concerning the Corinthians Paul was mentally and emotionally flat. It would be more in the idea of discouraged or more in the idea of overwhelmed, but not the kind of depression that we think of. It’s translated that way, but it just seems to mean he’s emotionally and he’s mentally flat.
Let me ask you a question? Have you ever been there before? Well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? And you know what? It came from a deep burden for other people. That’s the beauty of this thing; it didn’t come from a person walking after his flesh. It came from a person so in love with God that he loved God’s people, but he wanted to see God’s people do the right thing. And he didn’t know, he just didn’t know, and that anxiety or something built up inside of him to where it would even be translated “flat.” He was emotionally flat, and spiritually. And what Paul wants us to know is that God comforts those who get into this position.
God comforts the depressed, the word is parakaleo, God comes alongside a person when he’s overwhelmed and distraught. At the condition of the church of Jesus Christ when he’s overwhelmed and distraught at the people around him that aren’t walking and he wants so badly to see them walk by faith. God comforts those people. Now He does it in many different ways but God, “who comforts the depressed,” he says, “comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall when Titus showed up in Macedonia? And they embraced when Paul saw Titus. Titus told him the response of the Corinthians. He told him what he had seen them do when they read the letter from Paul that was a hard, difficult letter. It says in verse 7, “and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.” I love this.
God always shows up at the right time and He won’t do it the same way every time; but when a person is overwhelmed and flat emotionally and mentally, seeking the Lord and he can’t understand why other people can’t see it, and he can’t understand why other people can’t go on and walk by faith, when he’s deeply overwhelmed, God will comfort and God will be right on time when He does this. Titus was a precious sight in Paul’s eyes.
I’ve debated about sharing this. I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. I just want you to know who I am. This budget deficit that we’ve been going through and experiencing has been troubling to me. Not because of the money, that has never bothered me. I’m not about money, never have been about it. I believe God can sell a cow when it’s on the side of a hill and take care of it so fast as to make your head swim. That’s not my problem. I’ve been in the ministry 43 years. This is nothing new in a church, folks. It’s a beautiful opportunity to learn to trust God.
But what burdens me and what’s overwhelming me and actually this past week, even when we prayed, inside of me I was flat. Understand what he’s saying here, because in my heart what’s troubling me is the way people view this type of thing. The way they look at it with such narrow minded tunnel vision and they can’t see the big picture. How they react rather than respond and I think that this is a test. I think this budget deficit we’re going through right now is a test to see where this church is going to go in days ahead. Are we going to trust God or are we going to become suspicious and critical of one another because we’re just simply in a budget deficit?
I’ve been in the ministry now for so long. I want to finish well, I want to be in a church sometime before I die that’s willing to trust God when these things come and not throw stones at everybody else and try to figure it out the way the world would figure it out. And this past week I was flat.
I went hunting this past week. Relax, the deer are fine. They give you their greetings. They thank you for sending us in the woods where they could be safe. We had the best time. Oh my goodness, a great time. But what comforted me was not that.
Wednesday morning we were about ready to leave and I was sitting by the campfire. We were thirty miles from anybody. And we’d eaten breakfast and we were getting ready to tear the camp down and come on back for Wednesday night and I was sitting there talking to one of the men, and he was looking at me and all of a sudden something changed on his face. He said, “Look at that, look at that.” I turned to look and a dove, now you don’t call them doves, you call them mountain pigeons, but they look exactly like a dove. It looked like somebody has taken a pump and pumped them up because they’re about four times the size of any dove you’ve ever seen. And you only find them at high altitudes and you only find them in the mountains like that.
And that dove flew down and it landed about a foot from me and just looked at me. It flew off up into a tree, and we were sitting there talking about how unusual that was. What is the dove the symbol of in Scripture? God’s peace. We were sitting there talking about that and all of a sudden that dove came down again. This time he landed on my chair, about an inch from the end of my finger. He just stood there and looked at me. Then he jumped over on my leg to where he could look at me straight. He jumped over and just looked at me for the longest time.
Now you think I’m mystical? I was almost hesitant to share this with you because to some people it’s going to sound silly. But let me tell you what God said to me. You know what I believe God said to me, and I’m going to say this to you as our church today. I believe God said, “Wayne, calm down, son, calm down. I’m in charge; it’s going to be alright. You just trust Me. I’m going to take you through this difficult time. I’m going to show you that we don’t trust in the wisdom of men; we trust in the wisdom of God and we’re going to walk together by faith.” That’s what He said to me.
I don’t see this deficit to be a problem. I see it to be an opportunity. And I think what God’s wanting to do is to involve as many people as He possibly can in the blessing that He wants to give us. They don’t even understand giving, they don’t understand money. But hang on, we’ll get to chapter 8 pretty soon and they’ll be an understanding. But I just wanted to share that with you. God comforts the depressed. God comforts those who are mentally flat and emotionally flat. And He may do it with a Titus coming down the road; He may do it with a mountain pigeon in the middle of the woods somewhere. He will do, He will come at the right time and let you know that trusting Him is the only way to go.
Paul knew the God of all comfort. We spent the whole chapter 1 talking about that. He has told us in chapter 1 all about it. Paul’s comfort wasn’t just in seeing Titus, oh no, that was part of it. He was so worried about him. But not only that, it was in hearing what Titus had to say. Titus had been so comforted when he saw the response of the Corinthian believers that it was overwhelming to him and that spilled all over Paul when he saw him. “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you.”
It was something that happened to the Corinthians that was so miraculous, so of God, that it had a deep affect upon Titus and now it has a deep affect upon Paul. And Paul tells us what it was. He says, “as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.” God had turned their hearts back to Paul. You know, that would thrill anybody who had a broken relationship with another believer because they had bought into the world’s way of thinking and they couldn’t walk in agreement. And then they were questioning you and suspicious of you and all of a sudden God changes their hearts and brings them back and turns them toward you. That’s a God thing.
Look at the words he used here: “as he reported to us your longing.” The word “longing” is the word epipothesis from epipotheo. It means to desire something, to long for someone, to regard with longing to see someone. And the little epi that is in front of it and I’ve used this many times with you to show you that little epi intensifies it, it’s an intensifier. They were looooonging to see Paul. Of course, the little word epi intensifies. Wow, what a change.
The word “mourning” is a beautiful word that expresses one’s heartfelt love and concern for somebody. It’s the word odurmos. It means to wail, to lament over somebody. It’s only used two times in the New Testament and it’s so beautiful that the Holy Spirit chose to use it here and in another to give us an example of what He’s talking about. It was used in Matthew as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah. It was just after Herod slew all the children under two years old. They were seeking to find the baby Jesus and kill Him and in Matthew 2:18 it says, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,” there’s your word right there, “Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” So it’s a voice of lament.
It’s a voice of lament over somebody who has been hurt or over somebody that you have hurt. Paul adds “your zeal for me.” The word “zeal” is the word zelos, and when used in a good sense it means “your zeal to be like somebody, to emulate them.” Look what’s happened, the Corinthians had come full circle. All of a sudden they didn’t only long to see Paul, they mourned because they had hurt him. They were deeply sorrowful and now they wished to emulate Paul in their life.
Now this is a picture of what repentance does in a person’s life. This is a picture of that inward heart change, not only a mind change but a heart change, and also a life change that only God can bring in an individual’s life. And that’s what brought these people back together, that time of brokenness. God had done a real work at the church of Corinth. So we see a picture then of what we’re talking about when you say, “Repentance, what do you mean?” I’m taking about a radical, complete, transforming change to where a person now is totally different because God has done something in their life.
It is necessary to see the pain of true repentance to have a right relationship with each other
But the second thing I want you to see is the pain that’s involved in repentance. For a person to come to repentance he must be confronted, and it’s painful, with the problem, with the sin, with whatever it is that has caused the brokenness in the relationship. Somebody has to pay a great price in order for the truth to come out. He says in verse 8, “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—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance.”
Paul had written them a very stern letter knowing that it would bring much pain to them. You see, they stood guilty of some pretty tough things that they had done and they needed to hear it and so the more spiritual one dropped the anchor and went to them. We know that there was someone who was the source of all this bad information and this suspicion and criticism towards the apostle Paul. And isn’t it amazing how it only takes one person, one rotten apple in the barrel to try to spoil the whole barrel. That’s all it was. Such harsh criticism that they even challenged his being an apostle.
That’s what much of this letter is about is defending his apostleship. Paul defends himself of this criticism back in chapter 2, and we’re going to see in the last four chapters of the letter that he’ll do the same thing. And Paul points to this ring leader back in chapter 2:6. He says, “Sufficient for such a one” it’s very individual, “is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” Remember, this letter is in response. He’s telling you the story now in chapter 7. Some also say that Paul had in mind that chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians that man who was sleeping with his father’s wife and the church wouldn’t discipline him for it. He was committing adultery and incest in the same act and nobody would do anything. And that could be.
There might have been even more, but we know that most of this was dealing with the criticism of his being an apostle and the false teachers that had gotten there, but the church wouldn’t do anything about it. The whole church just stood there; it’s amazing to me how many good people don’t say anything when the time is right to say it. And so they had the vocal minority that took over. So when Paul wrote them this stern letter that Titus took to them, he knew it was going to hurt them when they heard what he had to say. Remember he said, “If I come to you, it’s going to hurt you really bad. I’m going to write you to spare you that pain.” He evidently was a fireball.
He regretted hurting them but he didn’t regret saying what he had to say. “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.” See, Paul doesn’t rejoice in the fact that they had to go through the pain. Paul doesn’t rejoice in that at all. He rejoices in the true repentance that is in their hearts, where the pain took them, and how they responded properly to that pain. Paul is saying, “I’m so sorry that I had to hurt you, I regret that part of it. I regret you being hurt, but I don’t regret the fact because I see where it took you. I see healing that came in your life.’
Now the word “repentance” in verse 9 is a special word that we need to understand because there are a lot of interesting thoughts about this. The word is metanoia and it comes from the word metanoeo. It’s made up of two words, obviously, meta and noeo. Meta denotes a change in condition. When you have a “meta” in front of a word it means a change in condition. And the word noeo refers to the exercise of the mind in comprehending something. It’s a change in a condition of how you look at something. Metanoia is a change of one’s seeing something differently. He used to see it this way but now he sees it this way, in its real form and it has an effect upon his life.
Now listen, if there’s no change in a person’s living, then there has been no change in the way he thinks. You have to understand this. Many people can say, “Oh, I’m guilty,” but they never really see it the way God wants them to see it. Repentance is not valid unless there’s evidence in how one lives. In Matthew 3:8, “Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with your repentance.” Repentance is going to change you, not only the way you think, not only the way you feel, but the way that you live.
God used this tough letter that Paul had written to the Corinthians; it got their attention. Tough things he had to say, but God caused a compete change in their attitude and their way of thinking towards Paul. You see, repentance is not solely the work of man. We’ve always made it the work of man. “You better change, boy, you better get your life right, boy.” No, in involves the work of God. God is in the midst of what repentance is all about. In Act 5:31, speaking of Christ, “He is the One whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” And then it says in Acts 11:18, “And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”
You see, the Holy Spirit reveals a person of what he’s done wrong. Listen, you can see something that you’ve messed up on, but until you see it as sin and as a transgression against God, then you don’t understand repentance. This is why the Holy Spirit came to live: to convict us of sin and of judgment. He opens our hearts to say, “Oh my, look what we have done to Paul, look what we have done to God.” This is a transgression against God. Then when a person sees that the Holy Spirit gives them the will and the desire to change and then He enables him to do that. That’s what grace is all about.
So repentance is not something that you say, “You better change your life.” Nobody has ever changed anything. We think so often that confession and repentance is promising God to do better. I’ve never done better yet and neither have you. But when we’ve repented, when God has opened our heart and we have seen the pain that we have caused Him and when we see that our sin has not just been against our brother, that idle word that we said in a backroom, that critical word that we said in a mixed group, and we see that it’s not just against that person we said it; we’ve said it in the presence of God and God convicts us of that and when He convicts us of it, the pain is excruciating and we weep and when Peter denied Jesus and he realized what he had done, he wept bitterly. There’s a bitterness here of a heart-felt sorrow that repentance brings.
Don’t ever think it’s just because somebody says “I’m sorry” everything is going to be alright. That’s not repentance. Repentance is a God-work that only God can do in a person’s heart. The pain is not only felt by the one who realizes what he’s done; the pain is also felt by that spiritual one who’s had to go to him and tell him the hard things. It’s a pain on both sides.
Verse 9, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance.” The word “sorrow” is the word lupeo, and it means to be deeply grieved, overwhelmed by sadness. Paul doesn’t rejoice in the fact that they had to go through the pain, but the kind of pain they went through he does rejoice with because it was a God kind of pain and it led them to repentance. The way to repentance is the way of grief and sorrow, but the end is worth it all. There’s no way you can have a painless, griefless repentance. A broken and a contrite heart is not a pleasant sensation.
It is necessary to see the pattern of true repentance to have a right relationship with each other
So we see a picture of what the result is and then we see the pain that they had to go through for that to happen. We see how God had to get involved in this and we see how God works in His people, how He works in the hearts of those that He loves. And then thirdly we see the pattern of true repentance. What steps did they go through? And you begin to see what repentance does when God does it. He says in verse 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. 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.”
Paul contrasts two kinds of sorrow here in verses 10-11. He contrasts a sorrow of the world and he contrasts the sorrow that is according to the will of God. Now verse 10 again, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation;” but then he contrasts, “but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Boy, that’s quite a difference between these two sorrows. The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance, notice carefully, this is important, that leads to salvation. It doesn’t produce salvation. This is where people mess up. Only God can bring about that deliverance, only God can bring about that salvation.
What do you mean by salvation? Do you mean when I first got saved? Listen, salvation is restoration to the fullness of life whether it be our deliverance from a damning sin or whether, as in our context, is to believer’s deliverance from personal sin back into the fullness of life not only with God but with Paul. That’s what salvation is. And only God can bring that about. Whether it be before a person gets saved or after he’s saved being delivered. God has to bring that about. This kind of sorrow, godly sorrow, produces repentance but yet it leads to salvation.
Godly sorrow produces a radical change of both heart and life as one is delivered from wrong living back into the fullness of life. Point is, one more time; only God can bring this about. The sorrow inflicted by God Himself produces repentance which leads to salvation. The Corinthians’ genuine sorrow resulted in an earnestness to make things right with Paul, and eagerness to vindicate themselves of the wrong choices: A willingness to take effective action against Paul’s opponent; an emotional longing and concern for Paul.
But in contrast to that, and he doesn’t spend any time on it, is the sorrow of the world. Now understand this: the sorrow of the world is a definite grief. It is a grief over one’s actions and over the consequences of their actions. But it is an unproductive grief. Let me explain that: because it leads to no change of heart and no change of life. We see this everywhere we look. We see people that are lost and don’t even understand what’s going on. They’re sorry for what they’ve done, they feel the guilt of their circumstances and they’re looking in all the wrong places and they’re getting worse instead of getting better.
But a believer with godly sorrow leads to repentance, a change of mind, heart, and action, caused really by God Himself and then a salvation, a deliverance from that which has held him in bondage and ruined the relationships around him. Instead, you see Paul is focused on Godly sorrow. He doesn’t say anything more about worldly sorrow so I’m not going to say anything more. That’s not his point. His point is to look what changed the hearts and the lives of the Corinthians.
Verse 11, “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you,” and then he shows you the progression, “what vindication of yourselves.” Isn’t it awesome to be vindicated? All the suspensions, all the wrong things that they were saying to him based on the wrong information they were getting; now they have changed and turned and not it’s vindicated them. The fact that they have changed and been willing to admit where they were wrong vindicates them as believers.
And in verse 11 here comes the pattern of that vindication. First of all they were indignant towards their sin which means they saw their sin as what it was, and they moved quickly to deal with it. Let me ask you a question this morning. When you have sinned, and the Holy Spirit convicts you of that which is a step in repentance, He’s got to convict you, and you realize what’s wrong, what’s that like in your life? I would love for us to have small group discussion sometime on this. You know what it’s like in my life? A horse has kicked me in the chest and I have absolutely no relief until I do what God’s told me to do.
I’m very cautious about people who can live in sin and never be convicted and never change. Something’s wrong in the church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century: we have people sitting on pews that don’t even know the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s got to be that indignant attitude toward sin. God brings that about. You hate it; it’s filthy. I want to get away from it. And they did this with fear. Out of the absolute alarm for the seriousness of what they had done, they had a longing to make things right with Paul. They were filled with zeal, a burning desire to get this behind them, under the blood, out of the way so that they could move on with their life and they sought to avenge the evil that the had done by doing what was right.
The word “avenge” there ekdikesis. It’s used in Romans 12, it’s the word that means to execute justice and the only justice towards sin is to confess it, have that repentant attitude towards it where you change, get it under the blood, get it out of the way, and move on in your walk with God. And you know what? All of that proved them to be innocent. What do you mean innocent? They were as guilty as sin. What he means by that is they were not guilty of what they did as much as what they didn’t do. The church here is what’s in question and they listened and by their silence, by their allowing the poison to continue in the body, they advocated it and they were as guilty as the people saying it.
And Paul said, “Now you’re innocent of it.” You’ve been cleansed, vindicated, and they’re back into that beautiful relationship together. So the picture of true repentance is gorgeous, it’s awesome. But the pain is sometimes forgotten of what you go through and the Holy Spirit will see to it that you are grieved because it grieves the very Spirit of God, but not only that, the beautiful pattern of how it goes on. You will hate that sin. You will hate that sin. It’s not you hating it; it’s God in you hating it. And you begin to get in touch with who He is. And I’ll tell you what, when that repentance takes place in God’s people, you’re going to see them walk together like never before. Right relationships require repentance to take place in God’s people.