"Godly sorrow" vs. "worldly sorrow"

Vaclav's picture

Q. After we have been saved and as we study the Word of God, should others be seeing a change in us? When we meditate on our sin we will see our need for the gospel. But isn’t it easy to slip into a worldly sorrow and shame, being overwhelmed by the consequences of our sin? Should we not be moved rather to pure repentance and communion with Christ?

The apostle Paul said, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

In Luke 18:18-30 we read of the rich ruler who trusted in his own goodness, just as Saul (Acts 9:1-19), who later became the apostle Paul, trusted in his own goodness.

Both met Jesus. The rich ruler came to Jesus. Jesus came to Saul. But when confronted with their sin, the rich ruler felt only “worldly sorrow” and walked away very sad. But when Saul was confronted with his sin against Jesus he felt “godly sorrow” which led him to true repentance, a change of mind about God and about himself.

Why did one find joy in God and the other only sadness? Both have seen their sin, but Paul has seen it in the light of who Jesus is, and saw God’s kindness to him and has repented; and the rich ruler has seen only his sin and loved it too much to be able to look at God’s kindness, forbearance and patience toward him, so he felt only regret.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” So it is always the same way how we come to God or turn back to him, by looking at, contemplating and believing the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.

When we see God’s kindness to us sinners, it will lead us to repentance, a change of mind, which will turn to a “pure devotion to Christ”. (2 Corinthians 11:3) And that is only because of the grace of God.