2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Repentance is a vital part of the Christian life that goes beyond our initial repentance from dead works and faith toward God at salvation. Repentance always has to do with sin and change as we acknowledge the truth about our sin (2 Timothy 2:25). Repentance is for the sinner (2 Peter 3:9) and the sinning saints (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). Jesus called five of the seven churches in Revelation to repentance because, believe it or not, Christians still sin.
There is a popular teaching that tries to suggest that repenting is simply changing our mind and does not include mourning or sorrow. The teaching goes on to say that the reason we interpret repentance to include sorrow and mourning is because of our religious upbringing and denominational backgrounds. Is that right? I don’t think so. We teach that it includes it because the Scriptures teach it in 2 Corinthians 7:8 10.
Second Corinthians 7:8, 10 shows us, not our upbringing or denominational background, that repentance involves sorrow (sorry enough to change and have no regrets). James 4:9 is referencing this type of sorrow when in connection to drawing nigh unto God (James 4:8) the Apostle James says, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” The NKJV says, “Lament (grieve), mourn, and weep.”
Godly sorrow is feeling godly grief and even a sense of sadness over a sin we’ve committed. Our inner man delights in the moral law of God (Romans 7:22) but when we sin it turns to sorrow. Our inner man is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24) and unrighteous unholy acts create an inward grief or godly sorrow. It results from a conviction in our heart and acknowledgement that we have offended God.
It is more than regretting the consequences of sin but it seeks to repair any harm done; it is changing one’s attitude toward the cause not merely the consequences. Some are only sorry they got caught but return to their folly (Proverb 26:10). It is a change that leads to life; you don’t have to regret or repent of again. It is not an act of sorrow to earn forgiveness but it is our heart’s normal response to breaking God’s moral law of right and wrong. The word for repentance is “metanoeo: to change the mind for the better morally; to change the attitude toward.
- “Meta”: after;
- “Noeo”: to think; to perceive
- Literally, “after the mind perceives, or to perceive afterwards.”
It’s the response after our mind/heart perceives the truth or what God is speaking. It’s what we do after our perception of truth. Something is done/changed because of what is perceived. A great example is in Luke 3:1-14 when John preached and the axe of God’s truth cut to the root cause of sin not just its consequences. Not a superficial dealing. After John preached the truth 3 different groups respond “the people v.10,” “the publicans v.12,” and “the soldiers v. 14,” with the same response after their hearts perceived the truth saying, “what shall we do v.10, 12, 14.” Repentance involves acknowledging the truth and then what we do after our mind perceives the truth.