Summary: Paul helps us understand false repentance.
Last time, we defined repentance as a change of mind that results in a change of heart that results in a change of action. That is why real repentance is all about turning my life around. We focused on verse 10, where Paul says repentance leads to salvation.
For the unbeliever, repentance leads immediately to salvation from sin’s penalty and eventually from sin’s presence, since turning from sin to the Savior means I will miss hell and make heaven. For the believer, my daily practice of repentance, turning from sin and trusting in Christ, leads to my experiencing salvation from sin’s power. But though I will experience victories over specific sins in my life as a result of walking with Christ, I will also come to discover even more just how deep my sinfulness goes. We cannot draw near to a holy God without realizing the depth of our sin.
“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” - 1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)
The Greek word for “confess” is “homologeo,” which means “to say the same.” The problem is that we don’t say the same thing about our sin that God does, and so we often make a pretense at repentance.
“We have preached the dignity of humanity rather than our depravity. We have declared our goodness rather than our wickedness. We have vindicated ourselves rather than confessed our guilt. We have made of ourselves, despite all of our inherent sin and evil, little cherubs of perfection with halos on our heads, harps in our hands and wings on our shoulders. Gone is the mourner’s bench, gone are the tear-stained cheeks of godly sorrow for sin and gone is the joy in heaven over wanderers returning to the Father’s house. None of us wants to accept blame for our sins. But either the Bible is wrong or we are wrong. When we look at the fruits of this unrepentant generation, I am convinced that we need to blow a loud blast on the trumpet of biblical repentance.” - Billy Graham
That’s what we are trying to do with this series on Real Repentance. Now today, let’s look to our text once again and give thought to what it teaches us about false repentance.
Paul had made several visits to Corinth and had also written several letters, only two of which are preserved for us in the New Testament. Having read all the letters Paul had written to them, the Corinthians immediately understood what he was talking about when he refers to the “sorrowful letter” in verse 8. That letter was sorrowful because it caused both Paul and the Corinthians to sorrow. Paul had his regrets in sending this letter, because he knew at the time the pain it would cause them. He no more enjoyed causing them pain by this letter than a
parent enjoys watching a child suffer when he or she must be spanked. But he also knew that there was no other way to deal with their sin other than to expose and confront it with a letter of rebuke.
The result was that they became sorrowful over their sin and responded with real repentance, which Paul commends them for. But in so doing, Paul also speaks of a repentance that is false. False repentance is a
product of worldly sorrow over sin. What is worldly sorrow?
1. It is sorrow that is focused on self, not God.
King Saul conquered the Amalekites, but disobeyed God by sparing the king and the best of the flocks and herds. When Samuel confronted him, Saul admitted that he’d sinned (1 Samuel 15:24), but also made excuses. He said, “I have sinned, but . . .” (1 Samuel 15:30). His main focus saving face. He asked to be honored in the sight of the elders and that Samuel stay and worship the Lord with him before the people. He confessed his sin, but remained selfish to the end.
By contrast, when David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about committing adultery and arranging the death of her husband as a cover up, he confessed his sin saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).
“Worldly sorrow is more about feeling sorry for oneself than feeling sorrow for one’s sin.” - Anonymous
2. It is sorrow over consequences, not over the failure of sin.
In other words, it is sorrow for getting caught, not for falling short. A person exhibiting worldly sorrow would have continued down the path they were on if no one had noticed and confronted them about their sin.