WHAT IS REPENTANCE ?
Many honest people have distorted views concerning this question. They mean well, but simply have the wrong answer.
Repentance is the work of God which results in a change of mind in respect to man’s relationship to God. An unrepentant sinner is going away from God. Repentance is doing an “about face,” a turn–around. Repentance involves self–judgment which produces a change in the mind toward self, sin and the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Until a person repents, he will be satisfied living in sin and will die and go to hell.
Jesus said, “…except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
SOME THINGS REPENTANCE IS NOT
Repentance is not Reformation
Reformation is described as giving up something or abstaining from something in an effort to do better. Turning over a new leaf is the common expression.
At the beginning of each year many people look back over the past and make New Year’s resolutions in hope of doing better in the coming year. This is an effort to reform and do better by one’s own strength. The courts send people to prison hoping it will reform them and they will return to society a changed person. But all the reformation in the world cannot change a person’s life from within, for it is not repentance.
Repentance is not Contrition
Contrition is agony of the soul for sin. A criminal can be sorry for his crime because he got caught. I worked as a prison chaplain for several years and have dealt with men who told me being in prison caused them to see the error of their ways and they repented.
I have dealt with others who are bitter and only look for better ways to return to crime and hopefully get away with it. So you see ‘contrition’ may or may not lead to repentance. ‘Contrition,’ being sorry things turned out as they did, is not repentance. (Read II Corinthians 7:10.)
Repentance is not Penance
Penance is an expression of sorrow by an effort to pay for sin. This is a type of self punishment. Penance is done by a person who is sorry for his sins and is attempting to put himself through enough agony, physical abuse and torment to get God to recognize his sincerity and punishment as payment for sin and accept him on this basis. This is the work of one’s own hands and God will never accept that anymore than He accepted the offering of Cain, which was the work of his own hands and not what God had commanded. (Read Genesis 4:1–8; Ephesians 2:8–9).
The Old Testament Word – ‘Repent’
In the Old Testament there are two words translated repent. One means, ‘to sigh or groan; to lament or grieve.’ The other word means, ‘to turn or return.’ It is translated ‘to groan or sigh’ only three times. (I Kings 8:47; Ezekiel 14:6, 18:30) It is translated ‘turn,’ ‘turn away,’ or ‘return’ nearly 600 times. Two of those references are found in (I Kings 8:48 and Ezekiel 18:32).
The New Testament Word – ‘Repent’
Two other words in the New Testament are also translated repent. One occurs six times which means to ‘care afterwards, or a sorrow or remorseful regret.’ It may lead to turning (Matthew 21:28–29; Hebrews 7:21) or it may not (Matthew 21:32). The repentance of Judas Iscariot was merely regretting (Matthew 27:3).
The other word is far more common and is used much stronger. It occurs in both the noun and verb form, 57 times, and is used in all the commands and teachings concerning repentance.
CONDITIONS OF REPENTANCE
Repentance Comes Through the Goodness of God
Every person since Adam deserves Hell. Not a single one of us is worthy of salvation, but through God’s patience and goodness, He leads us to repentance. God does not have to do this, but through His tender mercy and great love for us He does so. Friend, that is Grace. Even though we have rejected His call, blasphemed and profaned His Holy name, He continues to extend His goodness to us, and patiently He leads us to repentance.
However, the sad note is this. Though he patiently and lovingly calls people to repentance, so many refuse His call. They sin away their day of grace and die without God. Will you be one of them? To read of the goodness of God, open your Bible and read (Romans 2:1–4 and II Peter 3:9).
Repentance Comes Through the Gospel of Christ (Acts 2:37, 38, 41)
What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ died on the Cross to pay our sin debt. We are fallen in Adam and born in sin. The debt is too great for us to pay, so God sent His only begotten Son to be our sacrifice and to redeem us from our fallen sinful state. He was resurrected from the grave to justify us freely. When we receive Him as Saviour, we are justified. This makes us as though we had never sinned and puts us in the right relationship with God.
Salvation is by grace through faith, plus nothing, minus nothing. We show that our relationship with God has been made right through water baptism. Many are confused by Acts 2:38, but there is no need for confusion. Remission of sin does not come by water baptism. We are born into the family of God by repentance and faith in the crucified, buried and resurrected Saviour.
We are born into the family of God and baptized into the local New Testament Church. Repentance and salvation must precede water baptism. In (Acts 2:38), the emphasis is not on the word “baptize,” it is on the word “repent” and the command is to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter is simply telling the Jews (who believe in God, but not Jesus) if they want to be saved they must identify themselves with Jesus.
Baptism shows you have repented of sin and have by faith received Christ as your personal Saviour. The water into which one steps to be baptized is a picture of the death of the old man (the lost sinner we once were) that is crucified with Christ. The placing under the water symbolizes the burial of the old man that has died. The coming forth out of the watery grave, in which He was buried, is like a voice crying to the whole earth that a new man has risen from the place where the old man was buried, to live in the newness of life, in fellowship with the resurrected Christ. Glory to God!
Repentance Comes Through Scriptural Teaching (II Timothy 2:24-25)
It is the responsibility of every born again child of God to herald forth the Gospel of Christ, that every person may hear, believe and be saved.
There are many who have made up their minds that they are saved, but we see that their hope is based on works or some other unscriptural doctrine. We will never bring them to repentance if we “strive” (quarrel) with them. These verses tell us that people are brought to repentance through meek instructions – patient, prayerful teaching. They must trust God to bring them to repentance and to acknowledge the truth, so that they may recover themselves from the snare of the devil.
Repentance Comes Through Chastisement (Revelation 2:5, 16, 3:19)
Sometimes God’s people fall into sin and must repent. They have not lost their salvation, they are still God’s children and because of His great love, He will not allow us to continue in sin without correcting us.
In (Revelation 2:5), God tells the Church of Ephesus to remember from where they had fallen and ‘repent’ and do their first works or He will chastise them by removing their candlestick. They would no longer be a church, except they repent.
In Revelation 2:16, God also warns the Church of Pergamos to repent of their sins or He will have no other choice but to chastise them. Also, in (Revelation 3:19), to the Church of the Laodiceans, He said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
God does not chastise His people because He is a tyrant dictator. He does it to correct us, because He loves us so much. In (Hebrews 12:5–11) we read of the way God goes about chastising His children. Many are under the false impression that if a Christian sins, he loses his salvation and therefore must be saved again.
Dear friend, this is not the teaching of the Bible. The doctrine of falling from grace has been read into the scripture by those who have completely misunderstood what God said concerning the security of the believer.
If the believer was without sin, I John 1:9 would not need to be in the Bible. Our body is not redeemed yet, the body of the believer will be redeemed at the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Spirit of every born again child of God was redeemed the moment he trusted Christ for forgiveness of sin and received Him as personal Saviour. That very moment all our sins were purged by the precious blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18–19). We became a child of God by spiritual birth. The blessed Holy Spirit took up His residence in our body, sealing our spirit until the day of the redemption of the body. The apostle John tells us, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit (practice) sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I John 3:9).
As long as we live in this body of flesh we are subjected to sin, but be it known that if a Christian falls into sin, his loving Heavenly Father does not condemn him to Hell. As a loving father deals with a rebellious son, so does God deal with His children.
In Hebrews chapter 12, God lovingly corrects His sinning child three ways. First, in verse 5, we are told that God speaks to His children, “rebuking them.”
The word rebuke means to verbally reprimand. God begins to deal with us through His Word. If we refuse to listen as He speaks, He will take further steps to correct us; verse 6 tells us, “For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth…”
So, if we will not forsake our sin and return to God, upon His rebuking us, His second step is chastisement. This means to “inflict punishment on” (as by a whipping).
I will not attempt to explain how God will whip one of His children. He deals with us as individuals according to our offense. Without any doubt, you will know you have been down behind God’s wood shed for a whipping.
God expresses His disapproval by a rebuke (a verbal reprimand). Then if necessary by chastisement (a whipping). If this fails to turn us around, then God is left with no other choice except to scourge us (verse 6). This is not a pretty picture.
To scourge is: 1) to whip severely (to flog); 2) to punish severely, to subject to affliction (devastate), to force as if by blows of a whip.
Oh! How it must grieve God when He must go to this extreme to bring His wayward child to repentance. No one can imagine the pain it cost God to watch His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, suffer our penalty on the Cross. Friend, He will not allow His children to bring open shame on Christ and get away with it.
Be not deceived, the child of God will never pay for His sins in Hell, but he will surely pay for them in this life. Some refuse to believe God will deal with us as described above. I could give you case after case where He has, but instead, just turn your Bible to II Samuel and read chapter 12. By the end of this chapter I believe you can hear David crying, “Oh yes! God does deal with us severely!” Read David’s prayer of repentance in (Psalm 51).
REPENTANCE IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
The person who feels that repentance is not essential to salvation is uncaring, has very little knowledge of the scripture and may not be saved themselves as well. The Bible is very clear on its teaching of repentance. It is preached and commanded throughout the Bible.
Repentance is commanded by God Himself. (Read Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30–32 and Acts 17:30), no one can rightly say this is a doctrine of man. Repentance is a command of God and absolutely necessary.
The prophets of old preached repentance: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Zechariah and Jonah all preached repentance. (Read Jeremiah 3:12; 4:1; Ezekiel 14:6; Hosea 12:6; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 9:12; and Jonah 3:4,5), these were men of God with a desire to see Israel return to God.
In (Matthew 3:2, 8, 11) we read that John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was the greatest prophet of all, proclaimed, “Repent!” He knew without repentance there would be no deliverance from sin. As unpopular as it may be today, the person who has a burning desire to see men, women, boys and girls come to know Christ personally, will follow pursuit and with John the Baptist proclaim, “Repent! or Perish!”
Jesus Christ was also a preacher of repentance. Many times throughout the Gospels we can hear Jesus preach and command repentance. In (Luke 13:3,5) Jesus profoundly stated, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
In these two verses (3 and 5), Jesus said exactly the same words. This is commonly known as “the law of re-occurrence,” and means that which was said, is of most importance. Jesus put it so in His Word, that we might be aware of the importance of repentance. Don’t be deceived by thinking baptism, church membership or doing good works without repentance, will be sufficient. Every person who enters Heaven will enter through repentance and faith.
In (Mark 6:12), it is said of the apostles that “…they went out, and preached that men should repent.” It was the apostle Peter who preached repentance in (Acts 2:38; 3:19 and 8:22). Over and over again we can hear Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, preach repentance. In (Romans 2:4) he said, “…not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
From the beginning of Paul’s ministry to the closing, he never stopped preaching repentance. Just before the close of his ministry, sitting in a Roman prison, battered and bruised for the cause of Christ, he wrote to young Timothy, reminding him of the importance of repentance. (II Timothy 2:24–26)
Forty days after the resurrection of Jesus, as He was preparing to ascend back to His Father, He gave the great commission to His followers, and in His farewell message and instruction, He left these words: “…Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46–47).
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF REPENTANCE?
What does it do?
Repentance Brings Faith (Acts 20:21, Mark 1:15, Matthew 21:32)
These verses make it clear beyond doubt that repentance precedes faith. Until one turns from sin he never has saving faith. A person must come to the knowledge that he is a sinner, hopelessly lost without Christ, that he is doomed to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, not because of who he is or what he has done, but because he has rejected Christ. As he comes to this knowledge, he receives faith in God that causes him to cry out to God for help, mercy and grace. There is something that precedes repentance. One cannot repent until he hears the Gospel. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Not only does repentance precede faith and bring faith, but repentance with faith brings remission of sins.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
“…Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47).
In these last days when liberalism and modernism are sweeping the world, the preaching of repentance is looked upon as old fashioned and no longer necessary. Friend, may I lift my voice like a trumpet in spite of what one may say, and report to you that repentance is absolutely necessary. For without repentance and faith, there is no remission of sins.“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Repentance with faith brings forgiveness. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30, 31).
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3–4).
Jesus does not say that Christians are to become weak, nor that we should overlook the sins of another by excusing it, blaming it on someone or something else. He emphatically states, that if our “spiritual” brother trespasses (sins) against us, we are to first rebuke him, and if he repents (turns from that sin, and apologizes), we are to forgive him.
How long should I go on forgiving him? The Scripture says, seven times a day. In the Bible, the number seven is the number of completion, and eight is the number of new beginning. So you see, after seven times the cycle starts all over again and we are never to stop forgiving the erring brother, but forgive him when he repents. So it is when people sin and turn in repentance toward God, and faith toward Jesus Christ, God the Father forgives him. The scars of sin may be deep, but God forgives all sin when one turns to Him in repentance and faith.
Repentance with Faith Brings Life (Acts 11:18)
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).
Many people looking through jail and prison bars are sorry that they got caught. Others are staring at the ceiling of a hospital room and are sorry for what they did to get there. Still others look back over their life, realize that liquor, dope, etc. has cost them everything and they feel so sorry. They make no attempt to repent, instead they try to reform. They turn to Alcoholics Anonymous, drug therapy groups and the like. This is the “sorrow of the world that worketh death.” They are sorry, but they leave Christ out of their lives.
When a person is Godly sorry and turns to Christ through repentance and cries out for mercy and grace, then and only then will he find release, pardon and forgiveness that delivers the soul from sin and makes him a new creation. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
Until we repent and by faith in the finished work of Calvary receive Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, we are spiritually dead, but repentance and faith quickens us (brings us to life spiritually) (Ephesians 2:1).
Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
Our physical birth is a fleshly birth which brought us into the world, a fallen being, dead in trespasses and sins; physically alive but spiritually dead.
Through repentance and faith God quickens us (brings us to life spiritually as well as physically). This is the new birth, a spiritual birth which brings us into the family of God as new–born babies, and now as living children of God, we are commanded to grow in knowledge and grace through the study of God’s Word. (I Peter 2:2)
Repentance with Faith, Saves from Judgment (Acts 17:30-31)
No longer will God overlook ignorance. “I did not know,” will not be a legitimate excuse. God gave us His Word, the Bible. He has given us His Blessed Holy Spirit to reprove us and call us to salvation. Therefore all people are commanded to repent or die and go to Hell. The responsibility of where we spend eternity when this life on earth is over is an individual matter. No one can settle this matter for another person. It is a personal responsibility. The question you must face is, “Where will I spend eternity?” It is repent or perish.
Repentance with Faith, Justifies and Gives Peace
Repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ justifies us in the sight of God and we become as though we have never sinned. It makes us at peace with God. (Read Romans 5:1 & 8:1)
Repentance with Faith Brings joy in Heaven (Luke 15:7-10)
When a sinner comes to Jesus Christ by repentance and faith, trusting Him for salvation, his name at that moment is recorded in Heaven in the Lamb’s Book of Life. At the recording of that name, the saints of God who have gone on to their reward before us, and are now awaiting the coming of Christ and the coronation day, begin to rejoice, because another sinner is forgiven and will one day be joining them in that land where they will never grow old, where sin and death are unheard of and the flowers never fade.
Have you repented and received Christ as your personal Saviour. If not, will you right now look back over your life and see where sin has brought you. If you will be honest with yourself and God, you will see that you are a lost sinner, who needs to be forgiven. If you don’t know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, will you now bow your head as the man in (Luke 18:13) did and pray “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
If you mean this prayer, from your heart, and believe that God has forgiven your sins; you are now His child. Praise Him and pray and study His Word daily.