Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Second Corinthians

Rebuke and Repentance

2 Corinthians 7:5-16

Paul now relates his experience with a stern letter to the Corinthians. He followed that letter by sending Titus to the Corinthians, and we see the story of that letter and its results in this passage:


{5} For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn‑‑conflicts on the outside, fears within. {6} But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, {7} and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. {8} Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it‑‑I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while‑‑ {9} yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. {10} Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. {11} See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. {12} So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. {13} By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. {14} I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. {15} And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. {16} I am glad I can have complete confidence in you. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 7:516 (NIV)


Paul is often pictured as a rather crusty, somewhat antagonistic fellow. Perhaps there is some justice to this, but this passage presents rather a different picture. It is a past tense history of Paul's rebuke to the Corinthians. It's interesting to think how such a rebuke might be greeted today, in the era of "do your own thing," but in Paul's time we see some of the principles which might serve as example to our generation.


The Art of Rebuke


Rebuke is often necessary. There is no sense in putting off or softening a rebuke. You will only get greater trouble later. My dentist knows this, and no matter how much I'd love to hear, "we can fix that tooth next time" he never says it. The same is true of rebuke of sin:

{17} "'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. ‑‑ Leviticus 19:17 (NIV)

You see the point. If you really love someone, you will rebuke their sin frankly out of love for them. More to the point, if you don't, you share the guilt. Silence is consent.



Rebuke is not a pleasure, but a duty. Nothing quite feels so good as the thought that I (myself, personally) am the embodiment of righteousness, delivering just rebuke to you. Nothing is quite so disastrous to Christian life. Paul gave instruction to Timothy on this point, concerning older men rebuked by the young Timothy:

{5:1} Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, ‑‑ 1 Timothy 5:1 (NIV)



Rebuke is to be taken as a good thing. If delivered out of love, rebuke is to be taken as a blessing:

{5} Let a righteous man strike me‑‑it is a kindness; let him rebuke me‑‑it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers; ‑‑ Psalms 141:5 (NIV)


It may be seen as something of fatherly instruction:

{11} My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, {12} because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. ‑‑ Proverbs 3:1112 (NIV)


Indeed, it is seen as a path to wisdom:

{31} He who listens to a lifegiving rebuke will be at home among the wise. ‑‑ Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)



Why should this be? Because the whole intent of rebuke is to produce repentance.




The Art of Repentance


There is a distinct difference between Godly and worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow now goes by the psychiatric name of "guilt" - meaning a feeling, not a fact, as it does in the Scripture. The great portion of the money spent on psychiatrists is spent dealing with the problem of worldly sorrow. That is not the sorrow of which Paul speaks here; rather, Godly sorrow is characterized by one thing: repentance.


Godly sorrow brings repentance. We saw this at Pentecost. Remember what the crowd cried out, after Peter's sermon?

{37} When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" ‑‑ Acts 2:37 (NIV)


What shall we do? Peter told them to repent and be baptized. Indeed, Godly sorrow leads to salvation, says Paul. This has always been so, even in the times of the Old Testament:

{14} if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

‑‑ 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)


Godly sorrow leaves no regrets, for confessed sin is forgiven sin. Some Christians have a hard time with this; hear the words of the apostle John:

{19} This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence {20} whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. ‑‑ 1 John 3:1920 (NIV)


Sorrow which does not lead to repentance is worldly sorrow; and it is indeed fruitless. There is a sad example from the Old Testament, King Saul:

{16} When David finished saying this, Saul asked, "Is that your voice, David my son?" And he wept aloud. {17} "You are more righteous than I," he said. "You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. {18} You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. {19} When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. {20} I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. {21} Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father's family." {22} So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. ‑‑ 1 Samuel 24:1622 (NIV)


Saul knew what was wrong; he was sorry for his sins - and did nothing about it. He died in his sins. Godly sorrow leads to repentance; repentance bears fruit.




The Fruit of Repentance


The first fruit of repentance is mentioned by Paul here as earnestness and eagerness to clear yourselves. This is known in the commentaries as zeal. It is that eagerness to do the right things in the right way. David gives us an example of this. Relying on his own wisdom, he decides to count the people, a way of gauging his military might. The thing does not please the Lord, who sends his Angel. The angel stops at a particular place (now the site of the Temple) - and David speaks to the Lord:

{17} When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family." {18} On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." {19} So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. {20} When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. {21} Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped." {22} Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. {23} O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." {24} But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. ‑‑ 2 Samuel 24:1724 (NIV)


Paul puts the command more simply to the Romans"

{11} Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. ‑‑ Romans 12:11 (NIV)


The next fruit of repentance given here is indignation. Life in the late twentieth century, with its constant exposure to violence and sin, has robbed us of the capability of being indignant without hypocrisy. The ancient Psalmist knew it well, however:

{51} The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. {52} I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. ‑‑ Psalms 119:5152 (NIV)


Third, there is the longing every Christian should have, or hope - here expressed and longing and concern. Jeremiah knew this well, in a passage which has been the basis for many songs:

{21} Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: {22} Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. {23} They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. {24} I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." {25} The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; {26} it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

‑‑ Lamentations 3:2126 (NIV)



Finally, there is what Paul here calls a readiness to see justice done. This burning desire to see justice is the foundation of "social Gospel" in its best sense:

{7} The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. ‑‑ Proverbs 29:7 (NIV)


Rebuke produces Repentance

Repentance produces Fruit

Previous     Home     Next