Tuesday Morning Early Start – Important Doctrines
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: 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 7:10-11)
Godly Sorrow, Repentance And Unlawful Marriage
John the Baptist was a preacher of repentance. His message to the unyielding Jewish leadership was to repent and bear fruits worthy of repentance. They could not claim their heritage with Abraham as a conceited token of salvation because God could raise up a new nation from Palestinian rocks if He desired. John’s message was one of clarity and power. He challenged Herod the tetrarch for his unlawful marriage to Herodias and was killed because of it. Repentance was at the core of the message of God to the people for without a change of heart and recognition of sin there could be no salvation. What John pled with Herod was to recognize the sinful relationship he had with his brother’s wife and repent. A change of heart was needed to see his marriage was sinful. There was a need for godly sorrow on the part of Herod. This would have lead him to divorce Herodias for righteousness and seek the counsel of the Lord.
Jesus declared the cause for divorce was singular and in accordance with the original plan of His Father in the garden marriage was for life. The disciples were so overwhelmed by Jesus teaching about divorce they concluded it would be better to remain unmarried. The Lord agreed to the point of some men may have to be celibate to be saved. What is lost in our modern struggle with this issue is the reality of godly sorrow that will lead to repentance.
Marriage is a highly emotional relationship. When a couple is faced with the reality of their marriage being unlawful (according to God’s word) godly sorrow is seldom recognized as a factor in the decisions required to be made. The focus is generally on the family, love, relationships and how to get by without one another. Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is when a couple is struck in their hearts for the sinful relationship they have found themselves in. There is no need to justify their marriage but a need to justify themselves before God. Sorrow for sin is what is at stake. Adultery is not a minor sin that can be justified because of love or family. The unlawful marriage is a marriage tainted with adultery. Godly sorrow is the remorse of what has been done and an urgent desire to change the heart.
Repentance motivated by godly sorrow will answer the questions of what to do. In Matthew’s discourse of Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce he includes the story of the rich man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. When he learned the cost of serving the Lord he went away sorrowful. This was the wrong kind of sorrow. His sorrow was selfish. The sorrow he needed was the recognition of the greed that captured his heart and his lost condition. Even the disciples did not understand. Jesus reminds them that with God everything is possible. Such is the case of an unlawful marriage. The wrong kind of sorrow is given when couples find themselves in marriages that are not lawful before God. They sorrow but not a sorrow that leads to repentance. Without repentance there can be no salvation. Repentance comes from godly sorrow
Repentance is not self-regarding, but God-regarding. It is not self-loathing, but God-loving. (Fulton J. Sheen, Peace of Soul, 1949)