Chapter 7:10-16 (ESV) - For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
Question to consider: What is the difference between true repentance and worldly grief?
In his first epistle, Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for dividing over worldly things, excusing sin in their midst, and profaning worship with their selfish behavior. As difficult as it was to cause them pain with such a rebuke, Paul rejoiced that it brought them to repentance. True love rejoices in the truth and is willing to risk wounding a relationship in order to restore someone to a right relationship with God. I should emphasize that the goal is restoration and not wounding. If a broken bone is not set properly, a doctor will break it again and set it right in order for it to be restored.
Because the Corinthians had been set right, Paul and Titus were overjoyed and refreshed in spirit. As Paul pointed out, the rebuke was not just about the one caught in sin or the one who suffered as a result of that sin. The rebuke was used as a refining fire to test the genuineness of the faith of the whole church. If the Corinthians were merely dabbling in the Christian faith for a spiritual experience or to see miraculous signs, they would have lost interest in the faith the moment they received the rebuke from Paul. “Worldly grief” is that of being caught in sin. Worldly grief is more concerned with the consequences of our sin than the fact that we have grieved God in our actions.
The Corinthians desire to repent and be restored to a right relationship with God was an act of the Holy Spirit and a sign that their faith was genuine. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8-11)
Today, people want to emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing a prophetic word or in causing people to speak in tongues. However, the primary role of the Spirit is our sanctification, and the true gift He gives us is a sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The mark of the Spirit is not speaking gibberish to impress other people but a desire to turn from the things that grieve God and to do the things that please Him.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when we struggle with the same sins over and over again, but I encourage you to continue to confess your sin to God and try again. The Spirit is changing you in ways that you may not even be able to perceive, but each day you are growing to be more like Christ.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for sending Your Spirit to convict us of our sin and assure us of Your forgiveness. Help us to have confidence that we belong to You and that You are refining us in our faith and in love toward You and one another. Cloth us in faith and arm us with Your truth so that we may stand firm in Christ. Amen.