Grief, Godly Sorrow, Repentance
1 Samuel 1:8–10; 2 Corinthians
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #011
April 28, 2015
“Father, we are so very grateful that we have a country, a nation that has laws that are based upon Your Word, that recognize the traditional historical foundation of Judeo-Christian revelation. That gives us an absolute foundation for morality and for law. Father, we pray for the Supreme Court hearings going on right now with regard to same-sex marriage. We pray that You would give wisdom to those who are listening. Cause them to see the truth. Open their eyes that they may see things as they truly are and refrain from changing that which is established within Your very order of creation. Father, we pray that You might give them wisdom to make these decisions and not create an environment that will just increase hostility to Christianity and Biblical truth. Father, we pray for us, that we might not grow discouraged or weary because we are to always have hope; because our confidence is not in man. Our confidence is not in flesh. Our confidence is in You; and no matter what happens in the temporal realm, we know that You are in control, and that You are working out Your plan in terms of human history, and that we have a tremendous opportunity and role to be a witness in the midst of that plan, and that we can rejoice in that. And Father, as we study Your Word tonight, help us to understand the dynamics that occur within each of us as we face different situations that give rise to various emotions and how this in itself is a test for our dependence upon You, and how we respond to the emotional tests that we each face in our own lives. And we pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
We’re in 1 Samuel, and we’ve been looking at Hannah in terms of these emotions that have been generated in her life as she faces these circumstances in her life. That’s not any different from any of us – that we face certain circumstances. As I have shown before, when we face these circumstances, sometimes they are sudden; sometimes they produce emotions in us almost instantaneously that are fairly profound, and we don’t think about. Other times there’s a slow burn; and there are circumstances that gradually change or deteriorate or become less and less favorable; and we also have certain unpleasant emotions that are aroused as we go through those circumstances. That’s really an emotional test that we face in the Christian life. How do we respond to our own emotions?
One of the problems that I’ve pointed out is that we live in a quick-fix world. We live in a world where we think that if things aren’t pleasant in our own lives, we have a support system through doctors and psychotherapists who will gladly, willingly give us prescriptions so that life can be better through pharmaceuticals. But as Christians we realize that we ought to face these situations and handle them by the Word of God. Now I understand that there are some truly significant things that are affected by certain biochemical reactions in our body. But I think if you read certain kinds of literature related to the psychotherapy market, there are a lot of people who think those are rather small. Nobody is born with these problems. These problems that we have that we can generally refer to as emotional problems are the result not of birth, but of years of making bad decisions.
Sometimes we’re not volitionally conscious enough at three, four, five and six to realize that as we are indulging ourselves in terms of certain emotions, that these have long-term consequences. That’s just one way that we have to come to understand why down the road we have certain problems later on. We developed habit patterns in our thinking, wrong mental attitude responses to circumstances in life. When we are young, the only options we have are sinful responses. Then those sinful responses become embedded in our thought patterns and in our life as habits, but they are sinful habits. The Word of God says that we are to be transformed by the renovating of our mind. That means as we study the Word of God, we apply it when we face these emotional things that occur in our life and recognize these sinful mental habits that we’ve developed. We need to learn to address them head on with biblical truth so that God the Holy Spirit can transform us into the image of Christ so that we become more and more like Christ.
That’s one reason I’ve taken the time to go through this to help us understand a little bit more about how the Bible addresses some of these emotions. I’m not doing an in-depth study on emotions or emotional sins or things like that where we would get into a number of different areas, but primarily just focusing on areas related to sorrow and sadness and frustration and maybe perhaps depression. When we don’t get our way, when things don’t go the way we want them to go, then we can become sad as a result of that. If that goes on for a lengthy period of time, we may become very frustrated and become angry and irritated that things don’t change. We just keep trying to get our way, to achieve something that we want, or to achieve something in our life we think will fulfill our life, and if that goes on for a lengthy period of time. That sadness can end up being frustration. We can become irritated, and we can become angry. If that goes on for even a longer period of time we can become depressed.
When we have those kinds of emotions, we need to examine our own thinking to see what it is that we’re not achieving. In some way we’re just not getting our way, so what way is it that we are trying to get? Is that really a God-honoring goal? And how are we handling that sadness, the sorrow, the depression, the frustration in terms of turning to God rather than turning to the myriad of human viewpoint comfort solutions that are offered in our society? A lot of people end up turning to drugs. They turn to alcohol. They turn to lots of placebos in order to somehow assuage these emotional situations rather than facing them. When we face them biblically, sometimes those circumstances don’t change immediately. We saw with Hannah that this situation has gone on and on and on and on, and she’s got a situation with the second wife in the household who continues to provoke her (slide 2).
As we go through things today, we are going to look at these various topics on grief. Godly sorrow – we’ll get to that this week. Somebody asked me right after class last week, why don’t you address 2 Corinthians 7? I said just give me more time. I’ll get there. Patience is a virtue. Exercise it.
See in 1 Samuel 1:6, I’ve added something to this slide (slide 3) because it is important. Hannah is in this situation. It’s gone on for quite some time, years, where she is struggling with this. We live in a world that says after two or three weeks, get over it, get a pill, do something. You’re not having victory in your Christian life. You must be carnal. All of these things flow out of impatience with life, and God’s timetable is often much slower and longer than ours because spiritual growth doesn’t happen over night. You can’t speed it up. So we look at this situation with Hannah. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her. So she’s got a people test going on here that also produces an emotional test.
The word there for “provoke” is this first word I have there in the slide, ka’as. We’re going to come back to that word in a minute. It’s a word that has a wide range of meaning. It means to be vexed or indignant, to be angry. So her rival would anger her. Her rival would do this to irritate her. That’s the second word, the word at the bottom of the slide, which is the Hebrew word raam; and it means also to irritate or provoke. So they are very close in meaning. The New King James translates it “Her rival would provoke her bitterly to irritate her.” Others might translate this “Her rival would anger her to provoke her.” Those words are very similar and overlap in terms of their meaning. The idea is that this situation goes on for some time.
Now you can respond one way by human viewpoint solutions. This is the way it is in every area of life. You can take the human viewpoint path, which in Proverbs is called the path of the fool, or you can take the divine viewpoint way. Many of us have the experience of jumping back and forth from one path to the other. But the issue is learning how to pick that path of wisdom, which is divine viewpoint and sticking with it no matter how many times we have to confess, get back in fellowship, keep going forward, because we fail. The sin nature is constantly tempting us to solve the problem the simple, comfortable way, the way that makes it most easy for us.
Another verse that comes later in the passage that brings up these same kind of ideas and is mistranslated (or I think poorly translated in some contexts) is this passage in 1 Samuel 1:15 (slide 4). “But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord ….’” This is when Eli comes to her. She’s been praying. Her lips have been moving. He thinks she’s drunk. That happens at another time in the Bible. Where else does it happen where people are talking and they are accused of being drunk? On the Day of Pentecost when the apostles are talking in languages, and they are accused of being drunk. It is a similar type of situation. Hannah is praying. Eli accuses her of being drunk, and she says, “No, my lord,” which is just a way of saying “No sir.” She’s being polite, addressing him in a normal term of respect for the high priest.
“I’m a woman of sorrowful spirit.” This is a funny term; it’s an odd term. It’s a compound term qə·šaṯ (qasha), which literally means to be hard or severe, and then the word for spirit. So it is a sorrowful spirit or sorrowful attitude, and the Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, that’s abbreviated HALOT, says the meaning in this passage is uncertain. The literal sense of the term is that something is hard or difficult. So it indicates, probably it’s some idiomatic expression that she’s going through a difficult circumstance. It’s difficult on her soul. The word “spirit” here doesn’t necessarily mean the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. Often the word is just used in a general sense to refer to her life – that she’s having a hard life because she can’t have children. She can’t give birth right now. So she’s going through this difficult circumstance. She says, “I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.”
Then we get to the strange translation (slide 5). 1 Samuel 1:16 says, “Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint.” I’ve got three translations on the screen: the New King James Version (NKJV) at the top of the slide; the Holman Christian Study Bible (HCSB) in the second place; and then the New American Standard Bible (NASB) at the bottom. Somebody asked me this on Sunday, showed me the translation in the HCSB and said this really sounds like she’s out of fellowship. She’s resentful. That’s how it translates that. The second word is resentment. That sounds wrong, “complaint”; the Bible says we shouldn’t complain. The Israelites in the wilderness complained to God. That sounds also like she’s out of fellowship. We’ve got to look at these words to understand that that’s not what is being said here.
The NKJV says, “Out of the abundance of my complaint and grief….” This word that’s translated “grief” in 1 Samuel 1:16, the second word, and “resentment” by the HCSB, and then “provocation” in the NASB is that word kaas. That’s the same word we saw earlier when we looked at 1 Samuel 1:5. In this idea I think really the NASB has the best translation, “provocation.” She’s in a situation where she’s constantly being provoked by this other person. Somebody’s needling her. Somebody’s giving her a hard time. Somebody is ridiculing her, making fun of her, belittling her, showing her a lack of respect; and so she is being provoked. That’s the best way to translate that. That doesn’t mean that she should respond in anger, but she is being constantly being tested in that particular way.
Now the first word (slide 6) – the word that is translated “complaint” (NKJV) in 1 Samuel 1:16, is translated “the depth of my anguish” (HCSB); and in NASB “my great concern.” Complaint, as an English word, indicates that she’s complaining, but that’s not the only nuance to that word. The word in the Hebrew is this word at the bottom of the slide, siach, and it has the idea of presenting a problem in the sense of a complaint, not in the sense of complaining. For example, you may go to your homeowner’s association because there’s a problem, and you are presenting your complaint. It doesn’t mean you are whining and complaining. That’s a different sense of that word. You are presenting the problem so that it can be fixed. In the Bible this is a word that is often presented as a lament.
We use that term “lament” many times to describe a group of psalms, a large group of psalms, where David is presenting a problem. These are classified in terms of study as personal lament psalms, because David starts off crying out to God. He’s in desperate need because he’s oppressed by his enemies. He’s troubled by circumstances. He’s presenting his complaint, his problem to God. He’s not complaining. He’s presenting his complaint to God, and then he turns to God. As you read through the psalm, you see how he focuses on some aspect of God’s character or some promise or the covenant, or something like that. Then as his mental attitude shifts because he realizes God is the only solution to his problem, then usually those psalms end with a declaration of praise to God for having resolved his problem.
So that’s the idea here. She’s presenting a problem, a difficulty. She’s got a difficult set of circumstances in life, and she’s presenting that to God. So when we look at 1 Samuel 1:16 she is saying, “out of the abundance of” her difficult circumstances, of her lamentable circumstances. She is in grief, and in her sorrow, her struggle, she’s being provoked, the provocation from Peninnah. She has now presented that to the Lord. She is showing that this is how we are to handle the problems that we face in life when we are grieved, when we are filled with sorrow, when we are tempted to react in anger, when we have these emotional things that are stirred up because of people and because of situations and circumstances. We aren’t to turn to quick-fix solutions. We aren’t to turn to the human viewpoint solutions of the day. She doesn’t turn to the fertility religions of Baal and the Asherah. She turns to God. So this is a very positive presentation of how she is handling the problem. Did she handle it right every single day? No. Neither do you, neither do I. She was a sinner. She struggled with that, but she understood across the breadth of her life that God was the solution to her problem. So she takes this to Him at the tabernacle.
I went through a number of examples last week in the Old Testament (OT) looking at the issue of weeping and grieving as it is presented in the OT and into the Gospels. I stopped in John 11 with the situation with Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, pointing out that when Jesus wept there, Jesus wasn’t grieving over the death of Lazarus. Jesus was commiserating with the grief of the crowds who were going through their mourning and their grief because of the death of a loved one – making the point that death is not normal. Death is abnormal. Death is not God’s primary plan for man. It is the result of going to Plan B because Adam sinned in the Garden. Therefore, every time we grieve or sorrow, every time there is a death and we feel the pain, the grief, the sorrow of that death, the first thing we ought to train ourselves to think of is God didn’t intend for this to happen.
If you’ve ever had someone close to you, a spouse, a family member, even a pet die, you know immediately what’s going on in your soul is – this isn’t right. There’s something inside you that screams out this is wrong! And that is God’s little reminder that yes indeed it is wrong. This was not Plan A. This is this way because there is sin in the world and man is going through this because of sin. Jesus sees that grief in the crowd; and if you look at the context, this is why Jesus weeps. It shows His empathy with human beings because we have to struggle with the consequences of sin.
Following that, just prior to the Cross, we have another example and a positive example of weeping (slide 7). This is Peter. Peter has been warned by the Lord that he is going to deny the Lord three times. Of course, Peter in his arrogance says, “No, no, no, this isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to deny You. I’m Your most faithful apostle. I’m Your most faithful disciple. Everybody else may deny You, but not me!” And then as he is in the outer courtyard of the high priest’s house where Jesus is being held, he is asked three times if he’s a Galilean, if he’s a disciple of Jesus. And he denies it all three times; and here we see in Mark 14:72 that when that occurred and the cock crowed, he realized it, and he immediately, biblically taught, uses the term “repent.” Repent means to change your mind. And repent, as we’ll see, can include an emotional element. It certainly did with Peter. At that moment he realized how he had been arrogant, how he had failed the Lord; and his immediate reaction is he just breaks down weeping as a reaction.
Let’s go on to the next example, and this is one of the most important examples that we’ll see in the Scripture because this deals with the Lord Jesus Christ. Go to Luke 22:44 (slide 8). I’m going to look at three passages, all parallel of what’s going on in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke tells us that Jesus was in agony. It is a physical term. The term that we translate agony is from the Greek cognate AGONIA. It means the same thing. He’s going through physical pain. The pain that He feels physically is the result of His anticipation of what He will go through the next day on the Cross. He will go through the physical torture that preceded going to the Cross where He was beaten, where He was flayed with the Roman flagellum, which had several strips of leather, and woven into the leather were pieces of metal and glass and rock and whatever. They would literally strip the skin off the back of the one who was going to be crucified, exposing all of the muscles underneath, and even exposing the bowels. There would be a certain amount of bleeding that would be as a result of that. They just beat Him mercilessly until He was unrecognizable. All of that He was anticipating the night before He went to the Cross.
But if you remember, when He goes through all of that, He doesn’t utter a sound. “Like a sheep before a shearer is dumb, so He opens not His mouth.” He fulfills that prophecy. The only time He screams out on the Cross is when God the Father imputed to Him the sin of the world. The perfect Second Person of the Trinity is, at that instant, separated judicially from God the Father for three hours to bear our sin. That’s when He screams out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The indication is that’s the beginning of Psalm 22, and He probably quoted the whole Psalm as He is screaming it out in prayer to God to sustain Him during this time upon the Cross. So He is going through a period of physical pain and emotional distress and agony on the Cross; and He is turning to God to sustain Him. It doesn’t remove the agony, but God sustains Him.
The pattern there for us is we go through these difficult times, and they are hard. And we may feel emotionally on edge and unstable, but God is still sustaining us even though we continue to feel that way. We get the idea that when we go through these difficult times that that grief, the sorrow, whatever it may be is going to disappear. No, God’s not going to take it away. He sustains us so that we can go through it and we can handle it.
In the Mark 14:34–36 passage that I have on the slide, we read in Mark 14:34 as He is in Gethsemane, He is addressing Peter and James and John, who He’s taken with Him as He has separated Himself from the other disciples; and He says to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, stay here and watch.” I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through this. Many people have. At some point in your life something traumatic happens. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one; maybe it’s the loss of a job; maybe it’s something having to do with personal failure in your own life, or personal sin and reaping the consequences of it like David did after the sin with Bathsheba. But it is going through an emotional turmoil where you just wish you were dead. This is something close to that. The Greek word there is PERILUPOS. The root word there is LUPOS, the cognate of the verb LUPEO. We’re going to see this a lot tonight. This is the core word translated grief or distress or sorrow. Sometimes it’s even translated anger. But it is primarily in that realm of distress and sorrow and grief.
When you add a prefix to it, PERI, which is a Greek preposition, it intensifies the meaning. PERI means something that goes around something, like the word perimeter, that we go around the circle, that’s the perimeter of the circle. So He feels like He is surrounded by sorrow. It’s an intensification of that term. What does Jesus do? How does He handle it? He goes off to pray. He uses prayer in order to focus His trust in God to handle the pressure that is coming from this emotion that is in His soul. Having that emotion in His soul is not sinful. Jesus is in hypostatic union. He’s undiminished deity, and He’s true humanity united together in one Person, and He never sins. So having this kind of emotion is not a sin. It is what you do with it. It’s what we do with it. We handle it the wrong way. He handles it like Hannah handled it. He goes to the Lord in prayer – depending upon God the Father to sustain Him while He goes through this. He even prays that God would remove it from Him.
Some people would say that if you pray for God to take something away that God wants you to have, that that’s wrong. But Jesus prays, “Father, remove this cup if possible.” And the Father says, Nope, it’s not possible. You have to go through this. So it is not wrong to pray for something; and especially for us, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can ask, Lord, take this – change this – take this out of my life. And that’s not wrong to pray for that, because sometimes the Lord will say, okay, because you prayed for it, I’m going to respond, and I’m going to lessen the difficulty. I’m going to change things. We don’t know, but we do know that prayer changes things, and James says, “You have not because you ask not” – that if we don’t pray for it, then God is certainly not going to do anything about it. So praying for it may change it. It may not, but God has a couple of different ways of answering prayer. He says, yes, no and wait awhile; and mostly we get no’s and wait awhile’s, especially if God has designed this test for our spiritual growth.
The point is Jesus is going through this incredible pressure cooker, and as Luke points out, His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. This is called hematidrosis, and this is not real common, but it happens to people who are under great emotional distress. They feel the pressure physically so much that the blood in their capillaries close to the surface of their skin will actually excrete blood through the pores of their skin. This tells us that Jesus is going through really tense stress and adversity before He goes to the Cross. But He is not reacting to it in a sinful way.
Matthew tells us (slide 9) that “He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” The word “sorrowful” is the verb cognate of PERILUPOS that we had here. This is the verb for LUPEO and it means to grieve, to be in pain, to be in sorrow. Then the second word (slide 10) is “deeply distressed,” which is the Greek word ADEMONEO, which means to be under a weight, that something is very heavy, that you are feeling oppressed and pressured by the circumstance. We’ll see that word show up in a couple of other passages.
The point is that Jesus has these emotions. Therefore, having these emotions in and of itself is not sinful. It is how we handle it. We have to learn that when we have these emotions that things are going on in our life. We need to stop and think about what is going on in our life. What is going on in our brain, and how we are handling this from the Word of God? It should drive us to greater dependence upon God and a greater dependence upon His Word and using the faith-rest drill at these particular times.
Another example of the use of this word, of the noun form LUPE, is in Romans 9:2 (slide 11), where Paul is talking about his love for the Jewish people and his desire for their salvation. He says, “I have great sorrow…” as he thinks about the thousands of his Jewish kinsmen that are not trusting in Jesus as Messiah. He says he has “great sorrow” in his heart.
Now we can say, Paul, don’t you understand it’s their volition? Just straighten up and quit grieving over it. That would be wrong. He knows that, but he understands the realities of the situation; and when we’re honest with that, we understand that our loved ones as well, who may not trust in Christ, are going to be eternally condemned. If we are spiritually focused, that should bring a certain level of sorrow and grief into our thinking. But we’re not going to let that overwhelm us or distract us.
That’s what we have here. Paul has “great sorrow and continual grief.” (slide 12) It’s on-going. Is Paul out of fellowship? No. Why is he experiencing that sorrow and grief? For a righteous reason: the spiritual loss of these kinsmen because of their negative volition and their rejection of the gospel. Again we see a legitimate expression of grief and sorrow in life. Does that mean that they are not happy or joyful at the same time? No. They have great joy at the same time, but there is a measure of sorrow because we’re living in the devil’s world, and these people that we love are hostile to the gospel.
Let’s go to 2 Corinthians (slide 13). You might turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians because we’re going to spend the rest of the night looking at two passages that are somewhat related in 2 Corinthians, where Paul uses the terminology related to sorrow and grief quite a bit. In 2 Corinthians 2, the issue here is that in his previous epistle in 1 Corinthians, Paul pointed out that there was a man in the congregation who was committing an overt sin. He was married to his stepmother, and this was considered to be a great sexual sin. This was considered to be incest in the Greek world – that if you married your stepmother even, then this was considered incest. Even the carnal Corinthians (and remember they’re reprobates – they’re pretty perverse sexually – they would just about go along with anything that you could think of), but this shocked them.
In the local church they acted as if this was no big deal. They adopted a licentious attitude; and in 1 Corinthians Paul says that they needed to exercise church discipline on this individual and exclude him from fellowship because what he was doing was wrong, and by acting toward him with this permissive attitude, it brought shame upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now the Corinthians did that. They responded accurately to what Paul said. They pointed out this individual’s sinful ways – that this was wrong and he was living in immorality – and that he needed to correct his problem. And he did. But they didn’t welcome him back then into fellowship. See, they rebuked him for his sin, as they were supposed to; but then he recognized, admitted the error of his ways and straightened things out. But then they did not accept him back.
In issues like that, what we have is a lot of people who are self-righteous who tend to run off too quickly in areas of sin in somebody’s life and church discipline. That situation was one where he was committing a sin that was known to everybody in town; and everybody knew he was doing it. And even the unbelievers were appalled that he was doing it. They were also appalled that it didn’t seem to matter to these Christians. This was an extremely egregious situation. It wasn’t the situation we have in a lot of congregations where somebody’s got some sin that becomes known to one or two people, and they immediately want to kick the person out of church instead of talking to them and helping them work through the circumstances. Usually the more egregious mental attitude sins are somehow ignored, and we just want to zero in on one or two overt sins. But what happens then is that Paul has to write them a pretty harsh letter to get them to forgive this individual and to readmit him to fellowship within the local body.
There is another epistle to the Corinthians that hasn’t been preserved that took place between 1 Corinthians and what we know as 2 Corinthians. It wasn’t part of the inspired Word of God, or what would be preserved in the Scripture. So he’s coming back now, and he’s relating to this and the fact that they responded positively and readmitted him. That gives us a little bit of the context, but we don’t want to get distracted by too many details of the text. We just want to look at what he says about grief and sorrow. In 2 Corinthians 2:1 (slide 13) he says, “But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.” This indicates that he had come before in sorrow. That is that first word on the left of the slide, the noun LUPE. We’ve already seen it as PERILUPEO. We’ve seen it as LUPEO in the verb which is on the right side.
Then in 2 Corinthians 2:2 he says, “For if I make you sorrowful”- that’s the verb on the right side, LUPEO. “If I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” Both of those words “sorrowful” in 2 Corinthians 2:2 relate to the verb. He’s talking about the legitimacy of this emotion. He had come to them in sorrow. He wasn’t out of fellowship. Paul was not distracted by his emotion, but he faces the reality of their failure; and as a result of that, it made him sad. But he also said that when he taught the Word, it made them sorrowful and he doesn’t regret that. He says in 2 Corinthians 2:3 (slide 14), “I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy.”
Paul wanted to straighten out their problem so that when he came, he didn’t have to straighten the problem out. He didn’t have to come in and discipline or rebuke anybody, and that would make him sorrowful, that’s LUPE there. He says I wrote this to you so that you would straighten things out because I didn’t want to “have sorrow over those I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.” Notice the contrast between joy and sorrow. There is a joy in the Christian life that is unchangeable. As we mature, we realize that joy of Christ that the Lord has given us. But at another level we respond with sadness and with joy to circumstances. We have to keep those two different things in balance. We can be sad and joyful at the same time if we’re focused on the Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 2:4 he says, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you.” This says that even as he is writing to rebuke them, this is having an emotional impact upon him. First of all he says, “out of much affliction”; this is the Greek word THLIPSIS. That’s the same word that is translated in terms of the Great Tribulation, the end time event.
The reason I point this out is because one of the things that Pre-Trib Dispensationalists are all often accused of is that we just teach the Rapture because people want to escape suffering and adversity in life. That’s just so silly and superficial and sad; and it is such a misrepresentation of Dispensationalism. We believe Christians will go through adversity. They’ll go through serious adversity. Some will lose their life. Many are losing their lives today with the hostility toward Christianity in Islamic countries. There are many who have been executed by ISIS and others. And even in this country there are people who are going through adversity because they are taking a stand for their Christianity. Like this couple in Oregon that had a bakery, and they were fined $135,000 because they refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.
Now that is a penalty that far exceeds the crime. But we’re living in a world today where the crime is becoming Christianity. The crime is becoming holding to biblical absolutes and bringing that into the marketplace. That is why we have the 1st Amendment to protect people like that. But the government doesn’t see it that way, so the government is becoming the enemy of Christianity, and this is absurd. This is something we’re going to have to face in our lifetime, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse. It’s going to come to the point like in times in the Roman Empire; it’s going to be sporadic persecution and difficulty. That’s the same word that Paul uses here. It refers to personal difficulty, adversity, and it runs the gamut all the way to the Great Tribulation. He uses the word “affliction” there. And then (slide 15) he uses the word SUNOCHE, which means distress. So he’s distressed. Is he out of fellowship? No. He’s facing the reality of life.
Living in the devil’s world, we are often distressed. We’re anguished. We are concerned. It’s difficult, but that drives us to greater dependence upon the Lord and a greater recognition of the way He works in our lives. So “out of much affliction an anguish of heart I wrote to you”. Often when we face difficulties in life that is what moves us and motivates us to go to the next level of spiritual growth. He writes, “with many tears”. He is weeping. This isn’t just a figure of speech. He weeps over the things that are going on in the Corinthian church and the problems; and you get the impression here that Paul is not someone who enjoys straightening them out. He would rather have joy and rejoice with them than have to challenge them with failures in their spiritual life and pointing out how they need to straighten it out.
He said (slide 16), “I wrote to you with many tears, not that you should be grieved”. There’s our word LUPEO again, “but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.” In other words, the grief isn’t the end game. I didn’t rebuke you just to get the affect of sorrow and making you feel bad. Later, as we get into 2 Corinthians 7 we’ll see that he was glad that they felt bad because that drove them to truly change their mind and change their behavior, which was the end result. But we’ll get there in just a minute. So what we see here is that there is a proper place in the spiritual life for grief, for sorrow, and for these particular emotions. And having them is not necessarily or inherently sinful. It depends on what the circumstances are and what the cause is.
As we go on to 2 Corinthians 2:5 (slide 17) “But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me”. So if you’ve created problems it really hasn’t grieved me, but all of you to some extent, not to be too severe. He’s just again expressing the fact that grief is a reality within their lives. So we’ll go on from there to 2 Corinthians 7 (slide 18).
Now flip over, if you are there, from 2 Corinthians 2 – to 2 Corinthians 7. The background is still the same issue. He’s covered many things between 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, but he comes back to this. I think it is interesting and important to note that in 2 Corinthians 2:1 as he comes out of 2 Corinthians 6, he says, “Therefore, having these promises.” These promises that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 7:7 are among those that he references in 2 Corinthians 6:16–17.
There are promises that come out of the OT: promises that relate to passages such as – Exodus 29:45, “I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” – Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you and be your God and you shall be My people.” That’s the backdrop for 2 Corinthians 6:16 where he tells the Corinthians, “For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said: I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Now in the original context in the OT, that’s talking about Israel. Paul isn’t taking that verse and saying that he’s talking about the church. He is applying the underlying principle of that verse to the church. The underlying principle is, that just as God was faithful to Israel as His people, so God will be faithful to the church as His people.
If you remember, we’ve gone through the four different ways the Old Testament (OT) verses are used in the New Testament (NT):
- Literal: prophecy is literally fulfilled.
- The statement from the OT is used as typology and is fulfilled typologically in the NT.
- Taking an event that has only one point of comparison with the NT fulfillment, and in this case it would be that the Church Age are people of God. It only has one point of comparison.
- What the NT writer is basically saying is this situation is similar to that situation in the OT, and we can draw an analogy and application from that. So that’s the way he’s using these verses here.
In 2 Corinthians 6:16–17, he is referring to passages such as Numbers 33:51–56 and Isaiah 52:11. So he’s saying in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit”. He’s talking to the Corinthians who are clearly believers, but they have to be cleansed of sin. That’s just 1 John 1:9, confessing our sins, and “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then he begins to talk about what has taken place in the past; how he has corrected them and some of the things that have gone on.
I just want to skip down without going into a lot of detail. He recognizes what he’s had, for example in 2 Corinthians 7:5 he said, “we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side.” That word translated “troubled”, “we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.” The word “troubled” there is the verb form from THLIPSIS.
THLIPSIS was the word we just looked at related to adversity and tribulation. THLIBO is the verb form of that same word, being afflicted, going through adversity or trouble. So he says, we were troubled; we had adversity on every side; “outside were conflicts”. This is the idea of strife; it is the Greek word MACHE. “Inside were fears.” Here he is saying that as we went through life, we were faced with hostility and adversity and opposition; and inside there was fear. But the fear doesn’t drive them to run away, but to greater dependence upon God. Fear is like that. “Perfect love”, 1 John says, “casts out fear.” Fear, I would say, is the primal emotion related to the sin nature. When Adam and Eve sinned and God came walking in the Garden, they ran and hid and said, “We hid because we were afraid.” But fear also has positive dimensions in the Scripture. We are to “fear the Lord,” and here as we face adversity, it is a normal reaction to be afraid, to feel insecure. But it drives us to trust God.
It is sort of like physical pain sometimes. It stops you from doing something wrong. It alerts you to something that is going on that may be harmful to you. That fear is a recognition that this is a hostile situation. I can’t solve the problem on my own because I’m not suppose to be anxious for anything, so I am going to take the problem before the Lord. This is Paul’s focal point, outside are conflicts, and inside are fears.
2 Corinthians 7:6 (slide 19), “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” In other words he is encouraged because another person comes along. He’s not in isolation. We can’t always depend on other people, but that doesn’t mean that we just say well to heck with everybody. I’ve just got to go it alone. He is strongly encouraged because there’s another believer who God brings along who can go through the adversity and the difficulty with him. So he says, “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
Now the word here translated “comfort” is the verb PARAKALEO. The noun form is PARAKLETOS. That’s the term that is used to describe the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. He is our Comforter. He is our Advocate. He is the One, who encourages us and strengthens us. But God also uses other believers to do that in our lives, and this was the case with Titus. His coming along with Paul encouraged him and strengthened him; and in 2 Corinthians 7:7 Paul goes on to say, “and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation.” Now “the consolation” is the noun form of PARAKALEO (slide 20), PARAKLESIS; “by the consolation (or encouragement) with which he was comforted in you.” Now how do we comfort people? A lot of times we comfort people and it’s not wrong, but it’s a starting point. We give them a hug. We tell them we’ll help them. We’re there for them. That’s the beginning point. That’s not the endgame of comfort. Comfort isn’t related to a sentimental emotion. As we’ll see when we go to another passage, comfort is ultimately related to communicating and encouraging people with Scripture and the principles of Scripture. We’ll get to that before we close.
So Titus comes along and he is encouraging. 2 Corinthians 7:7 (slide 21) goes on to say, “also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning.” So as the Corinthians are straightening themselves out and realizing that they have really blown it spiritually, as we’ll see in the next verse, they have a sorrow, but they are also mourning. Paul isn’t saying that you are wrong for having these emotions. If that’s all it was – was to dwell in those emotions, then it would be wrong. But those emotions played a role in moving their spiritual life down the field toward the goal post. It wasn’t something that distracted them. The word here (slide 21) is ODURMOS, wailing, mourning, or lamentation. They are experiencing remorse and sorrow over the sin in their life.
Now does that mean that we have to experience remorse over sin in our life? No. You and I both know that we have sins in our life that we’re fairly comfortable with. And even though we know that they are wrong and we confess them on a daily basis, at least two or three dozen times every day, but because we have been dealing with those sins since we were conscious of them when we were eight or nine or ten or eleven or twelve, we just can’t get all worked up emotionally about those sins. You’re impatient. I know I’m impatient. I’ve been impatient for almost 63 years. It probably is not going to change next week. Does that mean I’m rationalizing or trying to justify it? No. It just means that I’m not going to get too worked up about it.
Now there are other sins that we commit that kind of shock us, and we can get worked up about those things. Or we may commit a sin that we realize is just a standard weakness we have, and it really hurts somebody. That’s when we really feel an emotional impact from it. So keeping that in mind, what Paul says about this situation in 2 Corinthians 7:8 (slide 22) is, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter.” He really reamed them out for not letting this guy back into the congregation after he confessed his sin and straightened things out. He said, “even if I made you sorry.” That’s the word there (slide 23). I’ve got a lot of color coding here. We have the verb LUPEO, which I’ve put into purple and the verb METAMELOMAI, which I’ve put into blue.
Now the word LUPEO we’ve study; that’s sorrow. But METAMELOMAI is a word for some sort of emotional remorse. He says, “For even if I made you sorry, even if I made you grieve because you really screwed up, I don’t regret it.” Paul says, I’m not upset about it. I’m not going to have remorse because I made you feel bad; though I did regret it. What does he mean by that? I don’t regret it, but I do regret it? What he means by that is like most of us, especially if you are a parent you can relate to this. You don’t regret disciplining your children, but you do regret disciplining your children. You don’t like it. You don’t enjoy it. It is not something that gives you pleasure, but you know that you have to do it; and so for that reason you don’t regret it. He goes on to say, “For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry.” That is LUPEO; it made you grieve, “though only for a while.” 2 Corinthians 7:9, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry.”
See, the endgame isn’t just to create an emotional response. The endgame is to lead to repentance. “I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. Now repentance (slide 24) is the word METANOIA, the noun, which means to change your mind. The interesting interplay here is between METAMELOMAI, which means to be sorrowful, just to have remorse, and METANOIA, which means to change your mind. A lot of people have remorse when they get caught. They are just sad they got caught. It never leads anywhere. They just feel bad about the fact that they got caught, or that God is disciplining them. But what Paul is saying here is there’s an endgame here. The remorse is good if it leads you to change your mind, but we’re not just after remorse for remorse sake. Many times you can change your mind and go through biblical repentance, or change without the remorse. But in this situation they were sorrowful, and it led to repentance.
Then he says (and this is where it gets into some interesting translation issues), “For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.” This is a really lousy translation. Later on, when we get into 2 Corinthians 7:10–11 we’re going to see that it is translated “godly sorrow.” For some people, that means that God has sorrow. No, that’s not what this is saying. It doesn’t even say godly sorrow in the original language, and this has caused people a lot of difficulty.
In fact last week when I was asked this question, well, are you ever going to address this “godly sorrow” issue in 2 Corinthians 7? – and because this individual has been learning LOGOS – I came up with seven questions to lead them through the answer themselves. And I sent it out to a group of pastors that I work with on Friday mornings; and several of them had some real illuminating experiences with the Greek text. Godly manner (slide 25) is a translation of this phrase in the Greek on the lower left of the slide, KATA THEON.
KATA is a preposition. In the Greek it means it has to be followed by a noun in the accusative. So we have a preposition plus the noun object of the preposition. That means that when it is translated into English, you have to have what? A preposition and a noun. Godly is what? Is that a preposition? No. It’s not an adverb either. Oh, I got you on this one.
See we all learned back in 7th or 8th grade that ‘ly’ is the morpheme in the English for an adverb. A morpheme is the smallest part of a word that communicates something; and that ‘ly’ is an adverb. But in some words in English the ‘ly’ comes out of an Anglo-Saxon and Old German background, and it is an abbreviation for “like,” and it is an adjective. Godly is really an English adjective “God-like.” So what this godly means is that God-like sorrow. Okay. It’s an adjective. Is there an adjective in the Greek text? No. There’s a preposition and a noun object of the preposition. There’s no adjective or adverb. Then you have the word “sorrow”, which is a noun.
So they’ve completely messed it up, and you can compare this across the board with every translation known to man, and hardly any of them, some of them, come a little close to translating it “according to God.” That’s how it should be translated, “according to God” – according is a preposition, “according to,” is the preposition, and God is the noun object. It is very simple. What does that mean “according to God”? God has a standard. What happens is we’re confronted with God’s righteous standard in our life, and we realize oh, man, have I screwed up! Then we have a sorrow according to God’s standard. KATA always indicates something that’s according to a standard, and so it is according to God’s standard. So you are made sorry according to God’s standard. You recognize that you failed and didn’t measure up to God’s standard. That was good, because now you are not going to suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 7:10 (slide 26) it goes on to say, “For godly sorrow” and this is KATA THEON, again for sorrow according to God produces a change of mind, repentance. See, it isn’t for the sake of sorrow, because you may or may not have remorse. You may or may not grieve over the sin, but the purpose for having the emotion is to drive you past the emotion to change your life, change your thinking, so that now you are walking in obedience. So this is what Paul is saying. “For sorrow according to God produces repentance leading to salvation.” What kind of salvation? Not justification. They are already justified. These are the Corinthians. Phase 2, spiritual growth, Phase 2 salvation, not to be regretted, METAMELOMAI. There’s the word METANOIA (slide 27) for repentance and here (slide 28) it says “not to be regretted”, which is the negative of METAMELOMAI, AMETAMELETOS, which means “without regret.” See this is a repentance without remorse. It’s a change of mind. You’re not just going to wallow in your sorrow and think that you’ve had a spiritual experience because you felt sorry for your sin.
“Not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” This is temporal death. If you just end up with having an emotional experience, then you are still going to remain out of fellowship, and you are not going to go anywhere in your spiritual life. Then he goes on in 2 Corinthians 2:11 (slide 29) to say, “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner.” Once again this is a bad translation. You sorrowed according to God, and that drove you to a change of mind.
Two more quick passages and we’re done. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (slide 30), Paul says to the Thessalonian believers who’ve lost loved ones, who have physically died, since he left them just a few months ago. They are wondering well what happened to them. We thought Jesus was coming back and the Rapture was going to occur, but these people died, where are they?
He said, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep” – that is believers who have died physically, - “lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” See, he recognizes you’re going to grieve when your loved one dies, but you’re not going to grieve interminably like an unbeliever because you have hope, the hope of resurrection. Then he goes on to remind them of the Rapture – that “those who are dead in Christ will rise first, and then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds, and thus will we ever be with the Lord.” And then (slide 31) he says, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” There’s that verb PARAKALEO. I told you we’d come back to that. What does it mean to comfort one another? In context he says “comfort them with these words.”
When someone dies, and you’re comforting someone who is grieving, we comfort them with the fact that we will be reunited together with our dead loved ones at the Rapture and when we go to be with the Lord. We comfort people with content. We don’t comfort people with a hug and with a squeeze and tell them everything is going to be okay. That may be a starting point, but we ultimately comfort people with the content of the Word of God. Peter says (slide 32), “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while… you have been grieved by various trials.” In other words, as we go through tests it’s legitimate to be sorrowful and to grieve because we’re going through intense adversity, but at the same time we have joy. So this is our run through of verses.
Just to close it out, Ecclesiastes 7:3, great verse (slide 33), “Sorrow is better than laughter.” What does he mean by that? What he ultimately means by that is that when the sorrow is the result of going through God’s spiritual training program, then it is better than just having a happy life – if the sorrow comes from God dealing with us to mature us. And then he says, “For when a face is sad, a heart may be happy.” That’s a good verse because it tells you at one level you can be sad and grieving, but at another level you have the infinite unchangeable joy of the Lord that can never be taken from you.
In Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 51 (slide 34), the Israelites are comforted. In Isaiah 35:10 we read, “And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” When the kingdom comes, sorrow is gone. In Isaiah 51:11 he says, “So the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing (once again) will flee away.” In Revelation we’re told that tears and sorrow and pain, the old things passed away, there will be a time of perfect joy. But in the meantime we have a struggle. But guess what? Keep working because we’ll eventually rest, and we can’t fail in the process.
Let’s close in prayer. “Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things this evening and to learn that as we face these sometimes disturbing emotions and sometimes emotions that go on for a long time, that we need to look at them biblically. We need to understand that they’re part of our makeup as human beings. Sometimes they are the result of sin. Sometimes they alert us to the potential of sin. And sometimes they alert us to the fact that we are truly struggling in the devil’s world, and it should drive us to greater dependence upon You – but that these emotions that we have are not necessarily a sign that we are out of fellowship or a sign that we are doing something wrong. Often they are legitimate and are there to drive us to greater trust and consistency and obedience. Help us to walk more consistently and faithfully. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”