” For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. “
– 2 Corinthians 7:10 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
Godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation: Does this mean we are saved by our repentance? Not exactly. Repentance “is not the ground of our salvation; but it is a part of it and necessary condition of it. Those who repent are saved; the impenitent perish. Repentance is therefore unto salvation.” (Hodge)
Repentance must never be thought of as something we must do before we can come back to God. Repentance describes the very act of coming to God. You can’t turn towards God without turning from the things He is against. “People seem to jump into faith very quickly nowadays. I do not disapprove of that happy leap; but still, I hope my old friend repentance is not dead. I am desperately in love with repentance; it seems to me to be the twin-sister to faith.” (Spurgeon)
Sorrow in itself doesn’t produce anything except bad feelings, but godly sorrow produces repentance. Since repentance is a change (in both thinking and action), we can tell if sorrow is really godly by seeing if it produces repentance. So godly sorrow cannot be measured by feelings or tears, only by what it produces.
“How sorry do you think you have to be? What is the purpose of your sorrow for sin? It is to bring you to trust in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not your sorrow that cleanses you from sin, but His blood. It is the goodness of God that leads a man to repentance. Has your sorrow for sin led you at one time or another fling all the burden of it at the feet of a crucified, risen Saviour? If it hasn’t, anything short of that is what Paul here calls sorrow that leads to death.” (Redpath)
Real repentance acts. “If thou repent with a contradiction (saith Tertullian) God will pardon thee with a contradiction. Thou repentest, and yet continuest in thy sin. God will pardon thee, and yet send thee to hell. There is pardon with a contradiction.” (John Trapp wrote these hard and striking words)
Not to be regretted: This is because godly sorrow does such a great work. It doesn’t feel good, but it does a good work. The sorrow of the world is different, because it produces death.
When sorrow is received or borne in a worldly way, it has the deadly effect of producing resentment or bitterness. We can regret that kind of sorrow. Godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation that is not to be regretted. “A repentance as a man shall never have cause to repent of. Job cursed the day of his birth; but no man was ever heard to curse the day of his new birth.” (Trapp)
“In repentance there is a bitter sweetness, or a sweet bitterness – which shall I call it? – of which, the more you have, the better it is for you. I can truly say that I hardly know a diviner joy than to lay my head in my Heavenly Father’s bosom and to say, ‘Father, I have sinned, but thou hast forgiven me; and, oh, I do love thee!’ ” (Spurgeon)