Repentance is a condition of remorse, of contrition, of spiritual regret experienced by a sinner who is convicted by the Holy Spirit into realising that he/she has broken one or more of the commandments of God. Repentance is not the sorrow of, say, a thief who has been caught red-handed with stolen property and is terrified of the consequences. Nor should repentance be confused with the reluctant apology of a person who has been academically proved wrong and cannot somehow gainsay his opponent’s arguments. It is also not the regret, or sorrow, experienced by a person who has made a mistake, the results of which have forced him to admit that he was wrong. No, the repentance we are considering in this lesson has nothing to do with misdeeds where no sense of guilt or regret is felt.
In other words, true repentance is not just sorrow prompted by the fear of punishment or a cold clinical acknowledgement of an obvious error. Instead repentance is a spiritually produced remorse and sorrow-of-heart at having sinned in the first place; the regret of a sinner who becomes aware that he/she has broken a commandment of YAHWEH the Almighty God of Israel. We may add here, in view of the previous lesson, that without the awareness of God’s law true repentance is not possible, for one can hardly feel sorry for breaking a commandment one knows nothing of. It follows, therefore, that the Bible call to repentance is itself proof that Yahweh’s law exists and that the sinner is required to forsake sin (lawlessness) and to turn back to God. Consequently at this early stage we will advise the student to give serious consideration to the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20) and the magnification of the law in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 to 7). It may be that the Holy Spirit will then use Yahweh’s law like a mirror and reveal to you the true condition of your heart and the wretchedness of your soul. Do not be surprised if a painful awareness of your own spiritual poverty overtakes you. That self-same awareness and realisation of unworthiness before God is the strongest evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in your mind, convicting you of sin. Whatever else you may do, do not repulse, stifle or ignore conviction, but act upon it; for conviction is the forerunner of true repentance. And repentance, when acted upon, will lead to faith, confession, forgiveness, spiritual regeneration and finally to life everlasting.
- Every true spokesman of the Most High preached repentance. Indeed it is the hallmark of a true preacher to warn the sinner of his sins and to point to Christ, who alone is able to save mankind from the consequences of disobedience. Beware of false teachers who excuse sin and make light of the law of God.
(Matthew 12:41, Ezekiel 14:6, Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12, Luke 13:3-5, Acts 3:19. Acts 8:22)
- Yahweh wants everyone to repent. The Most High loves each one of us with a love that is far beyond our ability to understand. No matter how evil you may be, no matter how unworthy you consider yourself, you can be sure that the Almighty does not want you to die. He wants you to repent of your evil ways, to accept His mercy and live. His greatest desire is that all sinners might come to repentance. That is the prime reason He sent His Son to earth.
(Acts 17:30, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 2:4, Luke 5:32)
- Repentance is not a human product, but a gift of the Almighty God. True repentance is prompted by the Holy Spirit. It is a heavenly product of great value. And though it usually comes awash with tears, its end results bring great joy.
(Acts 5:31, 2 Timothy 2:25-26)
- Repentance is a foundation doctrine of the church; a condition which ought to be present in every new believer’s experience and one that is closely followed by faith in Jesus (Yeshua) and his Gospel.
(Hebrews 6:1, Mark 1:15)
- Repentance, if correctly acted upon, will lead to salvation and everlasting life. But if repentance is ignored, then punishment will surely follow.
(2 Corinthians 7:9-11, Revelation 2:5&22, Revelation 3:3)
- Repentance has a time limit and one day will become unavailable.
(Hebrews 12:16-17, Revelation 2:21)
- Water Baptism should follow repentance. In fact baptism by immersion is called the Baptism of Repentance. Many believers incorrectly suppose that they must be perfect Christians before they can be baptised. And so they keep putting off this important ceremony – till it is too late. This is a serious error. The truth is that water baptism should follow close on the heels of genuine repentance.
(Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38, Acts 13:24, Acts 19:4, Luke 3:3)
- Examples of repentance. There are numerous Bible stories which tell of God’s mercy to the sinner who truly repents. Here are two examples which testify to Yahweh’s great mercy.
- King Manasseh
This young man was the son of good king Hezekiah. He ascended the throne when he was 12 years of age and within a few years he undid the wonderful work of reformation carried out by his father. Manasseh rejected the commandments of the Most High and turned to the basest forms of idolatry. Warning after warning fell on deaf ears as he went from bad to worse. He then turned his hatred on the people of God and “filled Jerusalem with blood, from one end to another.”
Then God punished Manasseh and he repented.
The story of his repentance and forgiveness is found in 2 Kings 21. Read that chapter, it will open your eyes to this great truth: that Yahweh is a Being of infinite love and compassion and when true repentance is displayed and forgiveness sought – He is ready to forgive. (2 Chronicles 33:10-19)
- The Prodigal Son
Even though this story is so well known it bears repeating. It tells of a wayward son who left home and squandered his inheritance on harlots and drink. And when everything was spent and all his so-called friends had forsaken him, he came to his senses in a pigsty. He decided to go home and was prepared to become a servant. And back he went to his father. And what did his father do? He fell on his neck and kissed him and said to a servant:
“Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry … for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” See The Prodigal Son.
- King Manasseh
Dear student when you read Luke chapter 15 you will in fact have an insight into the heart of God your heavenly Father. Nothing Stewarton Bible School can ever publish will do full justice to the love and mercy of Yahweh the Almighty God of Israel. He is a Being of matchless worth and boundless love. And He wants you, yes you, to repent before it is too late!
- Believers should beware of giving up their faith in Christ. For if they do, their chances of obtaining repentance a second time are very, very small.
(Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 12:17, Revelation 16:8-11)
These, then, are the basic facts concerning repentance. If you pause to consider them you will see that on the one hand they open up glorious avenues of hope and life to all who will humbly accept Yahweh’s offer of mercy and forgiveness through Christ.
But to those who refuse to repent and who reject the Almighty’s offer of mercy and salvation, there is a fearsome future ahead.
Author: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland