Sorrow unto Repentance
Sorrow unto Repentance
I remember the first time I read 2 Cor. 7:8-10. I got confused with the idea of ‘repentance’ as translated by the KJ. It reads: "For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worth death” (2 Cor. 7:8-10 KJV).
This is a situation where choosing different English words to represent different Greek words does clarify the translation. Did Paul repent of making them sorry or not?
Newer translations, such as the ESV, clarify the Greek of this passage by using two words. One word means "to have regrets about something, in the sense that one wishes it could be undone, be very sorry, regret." This word is translated by the ESV as ‘regret’. The other word is the more usual word that is translated as ‘repent’ and means "to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness” (Louw Nida lexicon).
Hence, we read: "For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:8–10 ESV)
Regret about our sinful actions can lead us to repentance, but sometimes it just leads to sorrow, depression, and even suicide (cp. Judas!). There can even be ‘worldly grief’ that brings about regret but does NOT bring repentance unto salvation. Changing our character and lifestyles for worldly benefits is not the same as repenting toward God. The sorrow and grief must involve the recognition not only of God’s existence and character but that our actions grieved and angered Him. Through such godly sorrow we are brought to a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness”. Such change is never to be regretted. Even the uncomfortable situation of bringing another to such a state of godly sorrow is not to be regretted for it is the path for their salvation. Causing one to grieve over their sins is the road to them rejoicing over their salvation.