Vol.XI No.X Pg.3
December 1974

Sorrow That Saves

Dan S. Shipley

God tells men they must repent in order to be saved (LUK.13:3; ACT.17:30, e.g.). Some say this is the hardest command to obey. I dont know whether they refer to changing the mind (heart) or changing a practice, but suspect the latter. The man who would alter his life-style without altering his attitude faces an almost impossible task. On the other hand, changing the will not only helps, it almost assures the outward change.

But, as the starting point of repentance is not changing externals, neither is it in the changing of the mind, though both are vital to true repentance. Even behind these there must be godly sorrow, the seed of character alteration. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance..." (2 COR. 7:10). Such sorrow is as necessary as the repentance it produces. Only the contrite heart is changeable, and even then its sorrow must be of the "godly sort" (2 Cor. 7:11). Not all sorrow that pervades and influences the heart is godly. Paul writes of a sorrow that is "of the world" and which "worketh death" (2 COR. 7:10). Worldly sorrow does not accomplish godly ends. Sinners may be genuinely sorry for their wrong-doing and for the shame and disgrace it has brought to them and their family WITHOUT BEING PROPERLY CONCERNED ABOUT SINNING AGAINST GOD!! They may confess and lament their sins, even "come forward" in tears — but without Godly Grief! Their response is not Godward; it is not in reference to God; it is not out of regard for God; therefore, it is not approved of God. Only godly sorrow can change mans heart and life in the way that is "unto salvation." In commenting on godly sorrow, Albert Barnes says this term "shows the exact nature of that sorrow which is connected with a return to God." (Barnes on the NT, 2CO.-GAL.). He continues by showing it to be the kind of sorrow approved by God; the kind which is exercised toward God in view of sin; and the kind which leads to God in seeking forgiveness. Joseph saw a connection between sin and God that all men need to see. When tempted, he asks: "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (GEN. 39:9). David came to see sin as Joseph had seen it and his prayer in PSA.51: plainly indicates his godly sorrow. No man partakes of the divine nature while being indifferent to sin. "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil..." (PRO.8:13). The God we sin against is the One we are to love above all. He so loved us that He gave His Son to save us from sin (JOH.3:16). The cross shows the magnitude of sin — but it shows the magnitude of Gods love as well. Learning of both helps one to come to that godly sorrow that works repentance — a repentance, as Paul says, that "bringeth no regret".

How true! The godly sorrow and all that it leads to — the changed mind, the reformed life, the salvation — has never brought regret to a single soul! Reams have been written about the regrets of men, but the first sentence is yet to be written of any regret in turning to God. Where is the man who was ever sorry for having been reconciled to God or having served Him too faithfully or too long? Youll never find such a man — and youll never be one either!