|"Portrait of Paul" from Lewin's Life of Paul|
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 7:5-8:15
TO CHEW ON: "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. … What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter." 2 Corinthians 7:9,11
Paul is referring, in this chapter, to a specific situation that he dealt with in Corinth. According to the IVP New Testament Commentary someone in the Corinth church had challenged his apostolic authority. Apparently the church leadership didn't defend or support him and so he confronted them in a severe letter (which has been lost). At first that letter caused pain but now Titus reports that the church has repented—and with energy and conviction.
As we think about repentance, we realize it has several aspects.
- There is an initial repentance, when we turn from our sin to accept Christ and His way of salvation. This is "Turning from sin, a sincere decision to forsake a specific sin (or sins) and begin to obey God" (Reformation Study Bible). Examples of this type of repentance are found in Isaiah 55:7; Luke 15:7; Acts 3:19.
- There is also a repentance which is an individual turning from sin and returning to the Lord in the life of a Christian - Hosea 14:2.
- The repentance here is a corporate or group repentance—a change of position by the church. We are reminded of the mass repentance during the revival of Ezra and Nehemiah's time - Ezra 10:1.
A contemporary example may be some of the modern confessions and apologies made by groups of churches to, for example, the indigenous people of Canada for the abuses of the residential church schools in the early 1900s.
A sidebar article in my Bible says about this kind of repentance:
"… it requires ownership of our responsibility for whatever part we may have played in erecting or reinforcing barriers. Repentance not only accepts responsibility for the part that we have played… but also for the turning away from the behavior that built the walls in the first place. … Perhaps we have not done anything personally to hurt others, but still we may have sinned by our inaction (James 4:17). For the body of Christ to come to health, repentance, regret, confession, and action is needed" - Bill McCartney and Raleigh Washington "Repentance / Reconciliation," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1618
As members of the church, Christ's body, let's pray that God would give us and our leaders sensitivity to barriers we have put up—ethnic, economic, religious—and the humility and grace to repent and be reconciled. May Jesus' prayer for unity in His body (John 17:21) be answered through necessary repentance on our part.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Corinthians example of wholehearted repentance. May we be as energetic and thorough in turning from our sins, both personally and as churches. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.