Repentance

Dyke Wilson, St. Louis, U.S.A.

Luke; 24. 27. "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations."

2 Cor. 7. 10. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salva­tion not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."

 

A ' threshold ' word

God has placid repentance at the threshold of the door to salvation, and there it must remain if sinners are to be truly saved. God lias also placed repentance at the threshold of the door to fellowship with Himself, and there it must remain if saints would enter into the sanctuary. Repentance has to do with sin: in the first place with the sin of the creature against a holy Clod; in the second place with the sin of a child against a holy Father.

That repentance is a threshold word is evident from the following:—

(1)  The forerunner of our Lord appears on the scene and announces His coming with the following words; "Repent ye: for the kingdom at heaven is at hand." Matt. 3. 2.

(2)  The Lord then comes forth, and His first command is "Repent ye, and believe the gospel," Mark 1. 15.

(3)  The twelve were sent forth, and we read that they "went out and preached that men should repent." Mark 6. 12.

(4)  The command of our risen Lord is that "repentance and remission of sins should lit. preached in His Name." Luke 24, 47.

(5)  On the day of Pentecost we hear Peter saying to the convicted Jews that they should repent. Acts 2. 38.

(6)  At Athens Paul wounds forth the universal command, for "God … now commanded! all men everywhere to repent." Acts 17. 30.

(7)  Paul declared to the elders at Ephesus that his universal testimony, to Jews and Greeks, had been "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20. 21. Later in life he said to Agrippa that from tile beginning of his ministry ho had preached that men "should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Acts 26. 20.

(8)  As the last, plagues of God's judgments are being poured out upon the earth-dwellers, they refuse to do the one thing that would bring deliverance—"they repented not." Rev. 16. 9, 11.

Is it not evident from these Scriptures that repentance has to do with our attitude toward God? Is it not an attitude of a very practical nature and of the utmost importance? "Have I repented?" is a question of vital importance to every soul, for out ofit are the issues of life and of death. If sinners do not repent they will be lost eternally, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13. 3, 5). God desires that nil men come to repentance, and is said to be longsuffering for this reason (2 Peter 3. 9).

 

Meaning of the word

From the foregoing Scriptures we can see that all who are saved must have repented. Therefore, by examining the conversion recorded in the Word we should be able to discover the true meaning of repentance. The definition of the word is—" a change of mind," but as one can change his mind about many things, the definition does not tell us much. Many say that if is a change of mind about God's character, while others say that it is a change of mind about the way of salvation. Such differences simply emphasize the importance of searching the Scriptures for God's meaning.

In 1 Thess. 1. 9, 10 we read how the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven." The Colossians were told how that God had delivered them from the power of darkness and had translated them into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1. 13). Paul was told to turn the Gentiles from the power (authority) of Satan unto God (Acts 26. 18). "Serve," "kingdom," "power," nil speak of authority; so they were changed from one sphere of rule to another. The heads of these two kingdoms are Satan, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan rules through the flesh and minds of unbelievers; the Lord Jesus rules through the Holy Spirit and the Word in the hearts of believers, That which characterises many of the "children of wrath" is not moral or spiritual wickedness, but this— "they do the desires of the flesh and of the mind"; that includes the most refined of sinners. That which characterizes the children of God is this they "serve the living and true God"; they hear the voice of their Lord and follow Him. That which things one out of the kingdom of Satan and into the kingdom of the Son is - "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now we believe that it can be shown clearly that repentance is a change of mind as to who shall rule over us. It is a decision of the will that God shall reign over us, and self and Satan be deposed. Repentance toward God is the heart-acknowledgment of God as my God. Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ is the heart-confession of the risen and glorified Jesus as my Lord the One to whom God has given all authority and power.

The message to Israel was—"Repent." Israel's reply was— "We mill not have this Man to reign over us." On the day of Pentecost, Peter said— "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and ChristRepent." They had rejected God and His Anointed, They must, reverse their decision and accept the enthroned Jesus as their Lord. There cannot be a divided house in God's kingdom; some being subject to God, and some to self andSatan. There may be stumbling and wandering on the part of God's own, bat not the rejection of His authority.

God is not willing that tiny should perish, but: all who would be saved must come to repentance (2 Peter 3, 9). To reject Jesus as Lord now, is to meet Him later as the One who meets out ven­geance to those who know not God and obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1. 8). A common tragic error of many is to speak of God's Son as "Saviour and Lord"; thus giving Him the pre-eminence as "Saviour." The Holy Spirit always reverses this order by speaking of Him as "Lord and Saviour." "Hold last the form of sound words" is an exhortation that is greatly needed, because little heeded, in these days of much spiritual laxity. This reversal of the divine order is the natural result of forgetting that God requires repentance.

The apostle Paul says—"We preach … Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor. 4. 5). Acts abounds with proofs of this, and the epistles as well.

 

Scriptural illustrations

The two sons of Luke 15. Fur I her proof of the truth of our definition of repentance is given to US in the record of the two sons in Luke 15. The father was the divinely-ordained ruler of these two sons. Like many modern sons, the younger one decided that the father's rule was not good. He asked for his portion in order that he might get away from his father's control and fulfil the desires of his flesh and of his mind unhindered. He turned his back on God and his father, and went out to become his own "boss." Note that verses 7 and 10 speak of the repentant sinner. Verse 11 starts the record of the two sons. Is it not plainly evident from this that our Lord is giving us His own definition of repentance, and lack of repentance, in the record of these two sons? The elder son was far away (in heart) from his father, and remained unrepentant.

The younger son is in the far country. He had a glorious time (so he thought) as long as his money lasted, but' in the end he became a starving swineherd. Finally "he came to himself." He wakes tip to see his sin and fully. While still in the fax country he says—"f will arise and go to my father, and mill say unto him, father, I have, sinned against heaven (God) and in thy sight; and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants." He acknowledges his rebellion and confesses his willing­ness to take the place of subjection. He returns to his father with this attitude of heart; he confesses his sin; he is restored to his place as a son. The stubborn elder brother refused to repent, and shut himself out from the joy in the father's house; his body was nearby but his heart was in the far country, so he refused to go in. Is it not plain from this record that repentance is a turning of the will to God with a heart-desire to be subject to Him?

The people of Nineveh. We have another example in the book of Jonah. We read in Matt. 12. 41 that "The men of Nineveh shall rise hi judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, agreater than Jonas is here." Now what did they do? We read in the third chapter of Jonah that "the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them." Moreover, the king and the nobles said— "Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands." What was the result? "God saw their works, which they turned from their evil way." So here again we see that repentance is a change of mind as to who shall govern us.

The two sons of Matt. 21. Another example is given by our Lord in the record of the two sons in Matt. 21. 28, 29. Here it is— “But what think ye” A certain, man had two sons: and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered sad said, I will not; but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir, and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, the first." Finally, He says to the priests and elders that the publicans and harlots believed John, "and ye, when ye had seen, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him."

 

Repentance the forerunner of salvation

Salvation may not follow immediately after true repentance because of ignorance of the Lord Jesus Christ; yet every truly repentant soul will undoubtedly be saved in due time, for repent­ance is a work of God, and He never begins a good work but what He finishes it. Cornelius had repented long before Peter was sent to tell him words whereby he might he saved. The Holy Spirit tells us that he wits a devout man who feared God and gave much alms. He is not told to repent but is told of the One who had been crucified and whom God had raised from the dead—the Lord of all and the God -ordained Judge of quick and dead. It is to this Person that all the prophets give witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.

 

Distinction between repentance of saint and sinner

We read in 2 Cor, 7, 10 that godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. This is the sorrow of a child of God when the Holy Spirit causes him to realize his sin, when tie lias been walking contrary to the will of God. It leads him to turn from his sin and bow to the will of God. Such was the repentance of the Corinthians, and such will be the repentance of all saints who are caused to sorrow after a godly sort. Therein you have the restoration of "backsliders." Saints need to be saved from their sins. Thou shalt call His Name Jesus for He shall save His people front their sins.

If the sinner refuses to repent, then judgment and punishment await him after death (Acts 17, .10, SI), H the saint fails to repent, then judgment and punishment, as the Father's child, will be his portion in this life; and he must render an account at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 11. 31, 32 ; Rom. 14. 10; and 2 Cor. 5. 10). Just as the invalid must, submit to the authority of the doctor if he would be cured, even so must the sinner submit to Jesus as Lord if In; would be saved with God's salvation, Also the saint who would enjoy God's present salvation, must own the Lordship of Christ over his daily life; the "backslider" is one who lias failed in this.

Just as a drowning person can do nothing fur his rescuer until he submits to him and is saved: even so the sinner tan do nothing for God until lie repents, is delivered from the power of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of God's clear Son. The "backslider," also, can do nothing to please Ins Lord until he repents and is restored to fellowship.

Repentance of the sinner is connected with relationship—that of being brought into tin: family of God—so it never needs to be repeated. Its effect is eternal. Linked with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ it takes one out of Satan's kingdom and gives one an eternal inheritance in the kingdom of Cod. Repentance of the saint is connected with fellowship, so it needs to be repeated as often as the fellowship with his Lord is broken.

 

The Lordship of Christ

The title of "Saviour" is given to our Lord only Hi times in the N.T. He is called "our Lord" about 75 times, and is given the title of "Lord" about 700 times. Is not this because God insists that His Son be given His rightful place as "Lord of all"? In view of these facts, and the facts presented in this paper, can we afford to set aside repentance and make our Lord simply a pur­veyor of pardons to any one who will accept One; a Saviour .from hell for all who will accept Him as Saviour, though they will not have Him as Lord? A thousand times NO! God is receiving no rebels into His kingdom. Where there is no willing submission there is no remission. There must be repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus is "the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him," This word "obey" means to hearken submissively (Young). The revised version of John 3. 36, last part, is— "He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."

 

Conclusion

From the foregoing we can sec why Satan is so strongly opposed to the preaching of repentance, He has duped many with his lies about its meaning; duped even "Bible Teachers " into setting it aside or nullifying its meaning. If there is to be a "revival" there must be a return to the preaching of repentance, a return to the preaching of God’s Son as a, living, wounded, flesh-and-bones Man in glory, and a return to the preaching of Him as Lord. The book of Acts is not out of date, as some would have us believe, but the Holy Spirit's own revelation of His methods with and His messages to sinners. Paul's message to sinners was identical with Peter's, and the messages of both are identical with that of our Lord— ''Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," Let Acts 17. 30; 20. 21; and 26. 18-20 grip our minds and hearts.