Paul makes an important statement in 2 Cor. 7:10 which says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
What struck me today was the comparison of Godly grief and worldly grief. Godly grief produces repentance without regret because it leads to salvation, whereas worldly grief simply leads nowhere of benefit, it leads to death. What does Paul mean by this statement?
I think the expanded translation of the NLT helps clarify what Paul is saying. This version translates it this way,
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
In the previous verses, Paul was discussing how pleased he was at the response of the church to his previous letter. They had repented from their poor behavior. When confronted with their sin, they grieved and changed. Grief that comes from God leads to repentance. Repentance is describing a change of mind and action knowing that sinful behavior loses God’s approval. Worldly grief is missing the step of repentance. Worldly grief may produce remorse and despair at being caught or at the circumstances which a person finds himself or herself in, but it doesn’t lead to repentance toward God. Worldly grief leads to a self-focused life that has no way out and ends in death.
Lenski powerfully describes this difficult situation when he says, “There is nothing ‘according to God’ in this grief, nothing according to his good and gracious will, no outcome that in any way tends toward salvation; everything about this grief points directly to death. The world’s grief is already death’s shadow closing down.”
Father, I pray that my heart is always soft enough to respond properly to an awareness of sin. Help me to want to confess it to you and not avoid the truth that sin is ultimately against you. Help me to want to repent of my sin by changing my mind and action to be in harmony with your will. Thank you that you are willing to restore me to fellowship with you through confession because of what Jesus did for me as my Savior and God!
Following Jesus with you,