Why wasn’t Judas’ repentance a repentance that leads to eternal life?

repentance

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 reveal the seriousness of exemplifying a worldly remorse or sorrow over against a godly remorse or sorrow. A worldly sorrow brings regret that leads to death, whereas a godly sorrow does not bring regret and leads to salvation. Barnett in his Second Corinthians Commentary writes, “the structure of Paul’s verse is: For the grief that is according to God works repentance [that] leads to salvation, [which] is without regret. But the grief that is of the world works death.”[1] Thus, there is a truth inferred here that is important for the discussion at hand, which is the “grief that is of the world works [unrepentance, which leads to] death [and is with regret].”[2]

There are two words in this passage (one stated and the other inferred) that are crucial in understanding what brings death and in contrast, what brings life. The two words are “without regret” and “regret.” The first phrase “without regret” is the Greek word “ametamelteon” and the second inferred word is “metamelomai.”[3] What is the significance between the two? We see the difference in Matthew’s gospel where he writes, “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back to the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.” In the New American Standard translation it reads, “Then when Judas, who has betrayed Him, saw that He has been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.”

The actual Greek word for “changed his mind” and “he felt remorse” is “metamlomai,” which as discussed means “to express regret, sorrow, remorse.”[4] This type of sorrow as evidenced in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians is not a sorrow that leads to salvation, but rather brings with it death. Judas regretted his actions or showed remorse or sorrow for his actions because of their consequences “not necessarily because they were wrong as sins against a holy God.”[5] What did Judas lack? He lacked a godly sorrow that brings no regrets that leads to salvation. His remorse was not commensurate with a remorse that God says is a prerequisite to salvation. And what was the end result of his remorse? He ended his life. “He was sorry for his sin, but instead of taking his sorrow to God, he despaired. He turned inward, not Godward, and his remorse became self-condemnation.”[6]

[1] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle To The Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William P. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997), 376.

[2] Ibid., 376.

[3] Ibid., 377.

[4] Jay E. Adams, How To Help People Change: The Four-Step Biblical Process (Phillipsburg:

Zondervan, 1986), 142-143.

[5] Ibid., 143.

[6] Daniel M. Doriani, Matthew, Reformed Expository Commentary, vol. 1: Chapters 1-13 (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2008), 50.

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2 thoughts on “Why wasn’t Judas’ repentance a repentance that leads to eternal life?

  1. “Judas regretted his actions or showed remorse or sorrow for his actions because of their consequences not necessarily because they were wrong as sins against a holy God.'[5]

    Not sure I buy the above quote since Judas says: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” and your next reference indeed says “he was sorry for his sins” (ie: not just the consequences). I’d venture the answer to the “why?” in the title of your post is: Because God didn’t grant him μετανοία repentance (John 17:12, 2 Timothy 2:25- where Paul again uses μετανοία).

  2. Justin, sorry I never replied to this. Judas’ repentance wasn’t a repentance unto life (2 Cor 7:10); that much we’re certain. Yes, you’re right. Ultimately it is because God did not grant him repentance. It appears like I may have written something that was wrong…”he was sorry for his sins (i.e. not just the consequences)”…that contradicts what I said. His “repentance” did not lead him to God but away from God; it was internally-focused, rather than focused upon God.

    Does that help?

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