Online Bible Commentary
Reacting to Godly Correction
2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you. 13 Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. (NKJV)
To fully understand Paul’s message here we need to understand the church in Corinth. The church in Corinth was much like some churches in our country today.
Corinth was a bustling city in the south of Greece on a major trade route. It was economically prosperous, but also it was ripe with sin. The main religion of the area was evil and depraved which resulted in gross immorality in the city.
The church in Corinth was infiltrated by some of this thinking and was serving the “world” and not God. Paul wrote a letter to the church rebuking this false teaching and calling for repentance.
Paul begins this passage by saying that he was not sorry for correcting the church (v. 8a). Then he writes that he was sorry (v. 8b). This is the dichotomy that we who point out sin always experience.
We know that in order to be obedient to God we must speak out and renounce sin, rather than supporting it. As Paul writes, we regret that we must do this and hurt the feelings of those we love (v. 8c). But he says the hurt only lasts a little while, as does the regret, and then the hurt is shown to be worth it when repentance comes as a result (v. 9).
We might call this correction “spiritual surgery”. When the surgeon cuts into a body to correct a problem he causes hurt. But the hurt is temporary and the result is healing. “Spiritual surgery” should work the same way.
Unfortunately, “spiritual surgery” does not always bring repentance. Sometimes it brings worldly sorrow (v. 10a). This is the person who is hurt by the correction, but does not repent of his sin. This is the person who wants to stay in sin, in the world. So he lashes out at the messenger and hardens his heart to the sin. Paul writes that this kind of sorrow brings death, eternal death (v. 10b).
In verse eleven Paul points out how a Christian should react to Godly correction. He writes that he should accept the correction in a positive way and want to clear his name, he is indignant of his sin, he welcomes the warning, he is eager to right the wrong, and he agrees with God and judges himself. In doing this he proves himself “clear in this matter”, meaning the act of repentance will make him innocent of this sin going forward.
Paul concludes this passage with a word of encouragement. He writes that the letter was meant to change the church as a whole, and through that change the church can see how devoted to God they are now (vv. 12-13). He is happy that his correction had the desired effect and led to repentance.
This was a success story. The church took the correction the right way, with Godly sorrow for their sin and not worldly sorrow of shooting the messenger and continuing in their sin. This is how we Christians should react to Godly correction today. Godly correction must be supported by scripture and should be delivered in a loving manner. We love others, not by supporting them in their sin, but by pointing out their sin and calling for repentance.