Friday, May 25, 2007

What IS Repentance?

UPDATE 2: I have recently recorded an exhaustive video on the subject of Repentance which examines all usages of any word translated as any form of repent in both the Old and New Testaments. See the article Repentance Unto Life here.

UPDATE: I have a VERY short definition which may be helpful to read before you see this more complete argument.

When we teach about the Gospel it's important that we admit, and agree with the Bible that Salvation is by Grace through Faith alone. Eph 2:8-9 That means that Salvation comes by putting your faith in Christ and that's it. So what about Repentance then? Well it's linked to deliverance and eternal salvation in the Bible. This leaves us with the fundamental question – What IS Repentance? We must be very careful because the answer can destroy the essential doctrine of “by Faith alone” and turn the Gospel into a false gospel of salvation by works.

Let's see if we can figure it out.

We're going to start all the way back at the beginning. Well ok a few days after the beginning anyway. In Genesis 2:17 God declares that sin will result in death. The struggle between truth and falsehood begins in Gen 3:4 where the Devil says that God was lying. This will become very important later as we get to the Gospel. We read that the “Wages of Sin” is death in Romans 6:23. But really God said this in Gen 2:17 so it's nothing new.

Sin requires death. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Heb 9:22

We get to Cain and Abel in Gen 4. Where we seen an example of how we can't approach God on our own terms – only on His. Abel took God at His Word and obeyed Him. Cain on the other hand, choose to give God something he thought was valuable. It was a sacrifice, but it was not what God required. God declares that sin requires death and so sinful man can not approach God without the shedding of blood. Abel brought a blood offering, Cain brought vegetables.

Cain was a sinner and so had the seed of disobedience in him – just as all we descendants of Adam do. I'm sure Cain intended to please God, but because he refused to do so in accordance with what God asked God was not pleased at all.

We run into the very same issue today when we are told to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. To so many preachers and ordinary people Repentance means to feel sorrow and pledge to change your ways. Now godly sorrow does work repentance, a la 2 Cor 7:10, but sorrow is not a requirement nor an ingredient of Repentance. Nor is changing your behavior or even declaring that you will or want to change your behavior a part of Repentance. Although these things DO often happen in one's life after they have repented a la Acts 26:20. How do I know these are not part of Repentance? The Bible never says they are part of it. Only that they can be results of, or even things that lead up to Repentance – but not always. Further we constantly see Paul preaching about holy living to Christians who are already saved – thus having already repented.

So now we know what Repentance isn't.. that's helpful.. what IS it?

Well the Greek word that is translated into the English word “Repent” is metanoeĊ and it carries the meaning “to change your mind.” This is a word that gets used to mean anything from changing your mind about a decision you had made to changing your opinion about something. Many people add to the word as it is used in Scripture. When you read it in Scripture try just replacing the word Repent with the phrase “change your mind” or “a change of mind” So when God says to repent of sins what does that mean. Well let's say “change your mind about sins” That still doesn't clear it up all the way. But it does get rid of the “stop sinning so you can be saved” sort of repentance that get preached so often.

Let's see how the mind of the unsaved person works for a moment. Prov 20:6 tells us that men proclaim their goodness. People esteem themselves as good but God says none are good except Him. Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19. Our very thinking nature is against God. Rom 8:7.

Part of the Gospel says that Jesus Christ died for our sins. I Cor 15:3. In order for a man to believe that someone died for his sins, he must realize that he has sins that are terrible enough to deserve death. This is repentance. This is the change of mind. I'll break it down.

No one asks for medical treatment for cancer unless they believe they have cancer.

Before the man thought he was good. Now he knows he is a sinner deserving of death.
Before his thinking was against God. He didn't even think sin was sinful. Now he agrees with God that sin deserves death.

Repentance alone is not enough to save a person. Repentance unto life includes not only the change of mind about self, and the right alignment of our thinking to agree with God but also the putting our faith in Christ Jesus. Who died for our sins, because death was deserved and required, and that it was enough as in accordance with what God said He needed in Scripture, that He was sinless and the Christ (which includes the meaning that He is God) and that He rose again in the flesh. I Cor 15:1-8.

So if you believe this, that it applies to you and your sins, and that it does save then you have repented unto life. You have changed your mind and put your faith in Christ Jesus. Rom 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

When we want to change our ways to be more acceptable to God it's an honest and good emotion. Just like Cain's wanting to please God by offering Him the fruit of his labor in the fields. But just as Cain learned so must we, no man can approach God except the way that God has said. Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. John 16:6 We can want to change our ways and that is a good thing. That is the fruit of Repentance. But if we think, or worse preach that a man must do this, even want to do this in order to be saved then we are declaring that works are required for Salvation and it's not “by Faith alone.” God says it's by grace we saved through faith and that not of ourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. Eph 2:8-9. If we do this we preach another gospel which isn't a gospel at all. Gal 1:6-7

We can not approach God on the basis that we want to make ourselves better, or that we will. We can only approach God by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That all of our sin was paid for. If we believe, or preach, that we need to make ourselves even the slightest bit better in order to be saved then we are making Grace of no effect. Gal 5:4

This is not to say that Christians should not strive to live holy lives, that is an entirely different subject. Today I am writing about about repentance that leads to salvation, not discipleship.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!