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)
On his third missionary journey, after ministering in Ephesus for two years and three months, the Apostle Paul left for Macedonia in May, A.D. 56. Paul was in Macedonia from June to November of that year. It was there that he wrote the letter of 2nd Corinthians, likely in September and October of A.D. 56.
Paul is writing this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece. This is a message directed to those Christians and to all Christians today.
After arriving in Macedonia, Paul was greeted by Titus who had come from Corinth. Titus delivered news of the goings on in Corinth.
The Corinthian believers had been convinced by false teachers that Paul had been deceiving them, and Paul had been anxiously awaiting what he hoped was a good report from Titus. Titus has now delivered his report and it was a good report. The Corinthian believers had repented and returned to Paul’s teachings.
Paul begins this passage by referencing a previous letter (v. 8a). This letter was written after Paul had written the letter of 1 Corinthians. It is believed to have been lost.
Here, Paul is saying that he was not sorry for correcting the church in the lost letter (v. 8b). Then he writes that he was sorry (v. 8c). 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. 8d). 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).
Paul then 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 (v. 11a).
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 (v. 11b).
Paul concludes this passage with words of encouragement. He writes that the lost letter was not meant “for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong” (v. 12a). He was not condemning the false teachers or those who believed them, but rather he was showing his “care” for them (v. 12b).
He writes “we have been comforted in your comfort” (v. 13a). Paul and his helpers are comforted that the church has been comforted by their repentance.
Also, they “rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you” (v. 13b). Paul and his helpers were rejoicing that Titus, also, had been refreshed by the church’s 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.
Online Bible Commentary