Precursor to Joy
Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 7:4-9,11-14
July 5 was a holiday for our nation and a "holy day" for Marshall, our 9-year-old son. I was blowing leaves out of the carport when he motioned for me to turn off the blower. He wrapped his arms around my waist, leaned into me, looked up into my eyes and asked humbly, "Can you tell me how to become a Christian?"
I got my Bible. Marshall already had his. Unbeknown to me, a few moments before he had been in the house privately rereading John 3:16 to himself.
I tenderly explained the plan of salvation. Through eyes welling up with tears, knees bent beside the sofa, head on folded arms, and, most importantly, godly sorrow in his heart, Marshall humbly asked Jesus for forgiveness of his sins and trusted him as his Savior and Lord!
There is a godly sorrow that leads to salvation (7:9-10), a "repentance without regret" (7:10) and a worldly sorrow that leads to death (7:10). Godly sorrow is necessary for reconciliation with God in salvation and restoration of broken relationships relationally. The Corinthians possessed godly sorrow that made Paul proud.
• Commendation (2 Corinthians 7:2-4)
After writing 1 Corinthians, Paul had visited the Corinthian church and had an unpleasant encounter with a disobedient church member. This member probably had accused Paul of teaching false doctrine and taking advantage of the church financially (v. 2). Paul had urged the Corinthians to discipline the church member for his attitudes and actions. Titus had brought to Paul a favorable report of their disciplinary action (v. 6). Paul commends the Corinthians for taking the initiative to be obedient in church discipline (v. 4).
• Comforting news (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)
Sometimes God uses other Christians to comfort us in our times of need. For Paul, this person was Titus. Ultimately, this comfort can be traced to God "who comforts the depressed" (v. 6). John Calvin states, "The more we are afflicted, so much the greater is the consolation prepared for us by God." It is darkest before the dawn. The "fears within" (v.5) subsided when Paul learned the Corinthian church had taken the road of obedience.
• Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-12)
Paul's painful letter (v. 8) had caused sorrow in the Corinthians' hearts, but it drove them "to the point of repentance" (v. 9). They took obedient action, ceased to be apathetic and addressed the scandal in their church (v. 11). Corporate godly sorrow leads to obedient congregations. Individual godly sorrow leads to salvation, renewal and restored relationships. Worldly sorrow, insufficient for true repentance, "produces death" (v. 10).
• Joy after sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:13-14)
Paul was "comforted" (v. 13) with the arrival of Titus from Corinth. Titus brought news to Paul the Corinthians had received him (Titus) with "fear and trembling" (v. 15), and the readiness to obey God and Paul's counsel. This "refreshed" (v.13) Titus and relieved Paul. No doubt, those in the Corinthian church who had allowed godly sorrow to have its way with them in their souls and in their church were relieved, as well.
Marshall was relieved and has been refreshed with his new-found salvation, even as a 9-year-old boy. Salvation and joy followed godly sorrow. He was baptized July 18.
Mark Bumpus is pastor of First Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.