XIa.1. Three Words Translated “Repentance” and Their Meanings.

Question:  When I talk with certain groups teaching Lordship Salvation, they give me this verse. What is the actual meaning of this verse? I quote:

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Answer: When studying the Bible, a person should consider a Bible passage in its entire context; which, in this case, is 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, plus supporting passages. In order to understand the passage, it is imperative to acknowledge a little background of events. This will help.

  1. Paul is writing to Christians. (1 Corinthians 1:1-6)
  2. The Christians were carnal, not spiritual. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
  3. Prior to 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul had written the church a letter, which is referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9,10; and which God did not include in the Bible.

"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: (9) Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world." (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)

  1. Earlier, Paul had received some bad news concerning this, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. (1) And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)

In Verse 2, their attitude was carnal, as they were "puffed up (Gr. phusioo, "pride filled"), and have not rather mourned" (no godly sorrow for condoning this man's sin)." In the rest of the chapter, from Verse 3 to 13, Paul rebukes them and instructs them on how to handle this situation in the church. This Epistle to the Corinthians was written in about 56 A.D.

Now, about 57 A.D., Paul writes the Epistle of 2 Corinthians. Prior to this, Titus had visited the Corinthian church to ascertain their feelings toward Paul, and to see if they had followed his instructions given in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5, concerning the fornicator in the church. Titus then reported back to Paul of the good news from Corinth, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 7:6,7.

"Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; (6) And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more."  (2 Corinthians 7:6-7)

Now with this background, we will be able to understand more clearly the meaning of Verses 8-11, where three Greek words are translated the English word "repent." Now, let us examine each verse, beginning with Verse 8, which deals with the carnal nature.

"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." (8)

In 2 Corinthians 7:4, Paul said "Great is my boldness of speech toward you." This is referring to his rebuke of them for their pride and lack of godly sorrow, or mourning, concerning the fornicator as recorded 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5. Then in 2 Corinthians 7:8, the word "repent," in both cases, is the Greek "metamelomai" and means "regret." Now, Paul is referring to his previous epistle, reference Chapter 5, which would read this way.

"I do not repent (Greek, "regret") writing to you, though I did repent (Greek, "regret") that it made you sorry and you got your feelings hurt because of your pride, though it were but for a season."

Verse 9 deals with the spiritual nature.

 "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance (metanoia): for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing." (2 Corinthians 7:9)

"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry;" which in street language means, "I am not happy that your pride got offended." Now, after their old nature got its feelings offended, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul's Epistle in 1 Corinthians 5, to illuminate their minds to obey God's will concerning the fornicator in their church. Therefore, they "sorrowed to repentance," which caused Paul to rejoice. Please notice that "repentance" in Verse 9 is a different Greek word than "repent" in Verse 8.

"...Ye sorrowed to repentance..." "Repentance" here is from the Greek word "metanoia." "Meta," which means "after, implying change; and "noeo," "to perceive."  Simply put, this means "to change your mind about what you previously thought. This they did, which inspired Paul to rejoice and write "that you might receive damage (Greek "zemioo" or, "loss") by us in nothing." Paul was rejoicing that they were made sorry after a godly sort, that they suffered no spiritual loss; nor any further reprimand.

Verse 10 deals with the difference between the old nature ("sorrow of the world") and the new nature ("godly sorrow").

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

This verse is still dealing with the change of attitude of the church concerning the fornicator within. The situation had to be corrected by one of two ways. Either repentance by the fornicator; or expulsion from the church. By the stand the church took, the fornicator was converted, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 2:1-10.

A key word in 2 Corinthians 7:10 is "salvation," which means "deliverance;" and should have, by the context, been translated as such. In other words, as a result of Paul's rebuke in 1 Corinthians 5, the church leaders changed their mind to deliverance. What were they delivered from?

  1. Condoning the sin of fornication within the church.
  2. Disobeying Paul's first letter (not in the Bible); and 1 Cor-inthians 5:9, warning not to have company with fornicators.
  3. The pride and arrogance that could have destroyed the church.
  4. Influencing other Christians to compromise and tolerate the sinful act within the congregation.
  5. The chastening of the Lord.

The word "salvation" denotes "deliverance, and preservation of material, and temporal deliverance;" as well as "salvation," depending on the context. The reason "salvation" is an incorrect rendering here, is that the Corinthians were already saved. Therefore, this is not speaking about their salvation; but, deliverance from their pride in condoning a fornicator, to that of godly sorrow as a result of Paul's letter rebuking them.

The word for "repented" in Verse 10 is the Greek "ametameletos," which means, "un-regretted, without change of purpose, or irrevocable." Please note the verse with the Greek meanings.

"For godly sorrow (conviction) worketh (or leads to) repentance (Greek, a change of mind, the spiritual mind) to salvation (deliverance) not to be repented (never to be revoked or regretted) of: BUT the sorrow of the world (carnal mind) worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Paul now sums up everything, in 2 Corinthians 7:11, the church was delivered from by changing a carnal decision, based on pride, to a spiritual decision, based on the Word of God.

"For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."

"...Clear in this matter."  Case closed in the matter of tolerating a fornicator in the church!

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