Monday, October 15, 2012

Of Repentance Granted, and Disallowed

My blessing for a hot meal?
Heb 12:14-17
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
In 2006 a local preacher explained this passage to his congregation in the context that God will not always accept someone back to Him, that He has a time limit on His offer. There's more than a little truth to the concept the preacher was trying to get across, but he ended up missing the mark. The preacher went on to explain that Esau wasn't able to repent, though he wanted to so badly he was moved to tears.

The preacher's view of repentance being turning from your sins, or stopping your sins, informed his view of the passage. He explained that since Esau couldn't change the fact that he had exchanged his blessing for a hot meal that he could not repent of it. He couldn't stop it, no matter how much he wanted to once the end result was realized.

But, what "repentance" did Esau seek after with tears? Read Gen 27:30-40. Esau wept for want of his father's repentance about which son he blessed. There was no place for repentance however, because Isaac his father had already blessed Jacob. Isaac, Esau and Jacob's father, explained that his brother Jacob would be blessed, and Esau would serve him. This has absolutely nothing to do with Esau being unable to repent, or needing God to gift him repentance.

It is an example of repentance unto blessing being disallowed, because the blessing was no longer available. What had been done had been done. It didn't matter that Isaac regretted what happened, his blessing had been given. God would honor the blessing and would not allow Isaac repentance to change what would happen. It didn't matter that Esau had repented about selling the blessing, the blessing was no longer available. It's interesting that in Rom 9:10-12 we find out that this was by design. God had chosen Jacob for the position of Firstborn. God actually disallowed repentance. He would not allow it to change His plan.

It is clear that God will accomplish all He sets out to do, that there are specific things He has intended to complete and that these same will be accomplished. Isa 46:8-11 tells us as much. Yet is is also clear that God does change His mind, He repents and or relents, in response to repentance and or faith of mankind.

We read in 1Cor 5:1-13 of a young man engaged in sexual immorality that the local assembly had not put out of fellowship. Paul instructs them to put him out where he'll suffer at the hands of Satan, "that he might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Which speaks of Judgment of works, not Eternal Salvation  We read about the shame of failure some will at His appearing in 1Jn 2:28 Here is more on the Judgment Seat of Christ before which all Believers will stand. Later Paul writes in 2Cor 2:3-11 instructing the assembly to welcome him back into fellowship. Here, repentance was granted by God, demanded by Paul, and actioned by the assembly. Not the young man's repentance, but the repentance of the assembly to welcome him back in. Paul explained that it is our duty to God to keep our assemblies pure. It is God who allows this young man to return, who grants the repentance of the assembly. Not who "gifts repentance to him or them" but Who grants or allows it. It was right to relent on the young man's punishment because God has allowed them to bring him back in. For this man repentance unto fellowship, and all that entails, was finally granted.

We run into a similar pattern over a very different issue in 2Tim 2:25. Taken by itself, and with a dose of preconceived theology, the verse may appear to say that God may "gift" repentance to "those in opposition." But does it really? Paul is telling Timothy how to minister, saying a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition. This last is conditioned on what God does however, if God grants them repentance so that they may know the truth and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2Tim 2:24-26.

This is just like 1Cor 5 & 2Cor 2 again, these disorderly Brethren had become false teachers and had to be marked and separated from. Just like the young man, they were to be put out into the snare of Satan to teach them not to live by the flesh. In 2Tim 1 Paul talks about his ministry and how he has held fast his doctrine about the grace of God. In 2Tim 2:1-2 Paul tells Timothy to therefore be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ and to entrust this doctrine to faithful men who will also be able to teach it.  He continues with warnings to Timothy of the price to be paid to preach the Gospel, that he will also be treated like an evil doer, that he is to realize he is like a soldier in a war who will suffer at the hands of the opposition. 2Tim 2:3-13

Then in 2Tim 2:14-26 Paul talks about how to minister to the Elect, the Believers in Christ, warning them to stay away from error. He warns that tiny errors will grow like cancer! He even warns Timothy himself to be a workman in the Scriptures ensuring he rightly divides the Word of Truth. Paul is warning Timothy to be ware of even his own doctrine! Paul names Hymenaeus and Philetus saying their strange doctrine had over thrown the faith of many! Timothy is told to "shun" such vain babblings.

In 2Tim 2:20-25 Paul explains this shunning. He says that even in a great house there are vessels of honor and dishonour. There are faithful men to which teaching is to be entrusted, and their are unfaithful men who's words are to be shunned, and who are to be put out of the fellowship. He says "Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter (the vessels of dishonour) they will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." Paul then says to "flee also" youthful lusts, and to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes... this is Biblical Separation at work. Other reference verses would be: 1Tim 6:3-5, Titus 3:9-11, Rom 16:17, 2Jn 1:9-11

Finally, Timothy is to be able to teach these opposers of the truth, should God grant them repentance. Or like the young man in Corinth who had been sexually immoral, if God should allow Timothy to allow them back into fellowship, that they may learn the truth and be freed from the same snare of the devil that the young man in Corinth suffered.

If this passage were about God giving repentance and the knowledge of the truth to these opposers - as is often taught of the passage - then Timothy would not need to be instructed "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel bu be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition..." For if God "gave" them repentance so that they knew the truth, then Timothy would not be the one tasked with correcting them. It is apparently possible that God will either grant them repentance, or allow them to return to fellowship, or He may not. Yet, Timothy is to be prepared for God to allow it. While Acts 11:18 talks about granting repentance unto life, here we could say that God is granting repentance unto correction.

I'm well aware that many Calvinist readers will think I'm abusing the Text. I ask those same readers to examine the Text without their theology informing them. Does the Text say that God may "gift" repentance or that He may "grant" or "allow" it? The word didomi has a range of meanings which include both senses. Which does the Text support? Giving someone the truth and having them be corrected? Or allowing them to be brought back in safe from the snare of the Devil where they can be corrected? There is a third option which I must mention, out of integrity, but I fear some Calvinist interpreters will find appealing: Or is Paul ignoring all of his instruction to separate from false teachers, and saying that Timothy is to be such a minister that God can use him to correct the opposers and at the same time giving them this repentance. The only non-convoluted option, which does not add to the Text, matches Paul's instructions and does not assume the answer is that Paul is telling Timothy to be prepared to work with these people if God allows him to welcome them back into fellowship.

Israel is a very high profile example. When the Lord came to them He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, repentance was granted. They were allowed to enter in to the promises given them. When they rejected the King, they were turned over and blinded as a nation. Individually they may be saved, but their is no opportunity for the Nation of Israel to be welcomed back in now. The Lord has set appart a time to bring them to their own repentance. This time is known as the Time of Jacob's Trouble, or the Great Tribulation. This time will bring the Nation of Israel to repentance, and repentance will be granted to them. They will then have the opportunity to say "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!" and be welcomed back in. Ps 118, Jer 30:1-24, Mat 23:37-39, Luk 13:34-35, Luk 19:41-44, Rom 9, Rom 10, Rom 11... among many other passages. National repentance for Israel is not granted right now, but will be again soon.

Some extreme cases of repentance being disallowed include Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit and were immediately killed by God. Acts 5:1-11 Moses is even an example of the same! After he struck the Rock a second time God told him to go up on a mountain and die. Deut 32:48-51. You can read more about this example in the article Faith in the Flinty Rock.

What's true of all the above examples is that given particular conditions repentance is granted, and under different conditions repentance is disallowed. This brings us to our second last issue, and a passage some use to describe repentance as a gift from God.

Acts 11:18 is a similar pattern but an altogether different situation. Again, if you read it by itself and insert some theology into it you can get the impression that God is gifting repentance to people. I've heard it taught that this is an example of God gifting repentance to sinners several times, but is that what's going on here?

Israel is God's chosen nation. Deut 7:6-8 Even Jesus says that "Salvation is of the Jews" Jn 4:22 Throughout the NT the issue the Jews have is that God might fellowship with, and use people other than the Jews. It is an unthinkable thought to the mind of the Israelite. Jews could not even themselves fellowship with Gentiles. Throughout Israel's history anyone who would be saved would have to convert to Judaism and become part of Israel in order to do so. There was no access to God except through the Nation of Israel. Rom 9:4-5, Ruth 1:15-18 (for example), and so on.. The idea that the Gentiles could be reconciled to God without becoming Jews was astounding.

This is exactly the kind of opposition Peter faced when he returned to Jerusalem with news of his ministry among the Gentiles. He explains how he struggled with the same fears and thoughts, but that God convinced him to go to the Gentiles. Then he talks about the Gentiles conversion and it is then clear to his opposers that God indeed had allowed the Gentiles to be born again. He had granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles. This isn't gifting each of the people with repentance, it is allowing it to bring Gentiles to life directly without them becoming Jews. Such had not ever happened in all the history of Israel up to the Cross. But, by Peter's testimony of what had happened it was obvious, even to these Israelites, that God had indeed granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles.

I could go into detail about other passages on the subject of Repentance being granted, not given, but these two will suffice for now. First God commands all men everywhere to repent. It is God's command, not God's gift. Further, when Believers are judgmental about others being saved the Apostle Paul reminds us that it is the goodness of God that "leads" people to repentance. Rom 2:4. You don't lead someone to a gift. However, you might lead them to something you've commanded them to do, and that will have a result.

Finally we come to the most immediate, and currently important, issue: repentance granted to each individual in the world. 

Currently, repentance IS granted - we may enter in by the Door which is Jesus Christ, but that Door will be shut all too soon for many. Then repentance unto life will no longer be granted. Mat 25:10, Jn 10:9, Luk 13:24-27, Gen 7:1-24 Pay close attention to Gen 7:16 noting that the Lord shut the door to the ark and no one else could then get in. The next thing that happened was the flood. Repentance unto salvation was no longer granted, it was disallowed. The people could repent about their sin, but there was nothing left to save them even if they did. There is soon coming a moment where the Lord will remove the Church which is His Body from the face of the Earth and He will turn His attention to the Time of Jacob's Trouble which will draw Israel to national repentance. At that time, just like the national repentance of Israel is disallowed right now, everyone who has disbelieved in this age will be blinded. God will send them a strong delusion, and they will believe the lies of Satan and his anti-Christ. 2Thes 2:1-12

Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of Salvation. There may be no other for you. 2Cor 6:2


Anonymous said...

Well said about Esau. They always read "repentance" and apply it to Esau. But the repentance (change of mind) in question, is Isaac's (and of course at the deepest level, God's). Isaac can't change his mind about the blessing. It's gone.

A similar example is in the life of the believer. The believer could unwisely choose to live the life after the sinful flesh, to waste decades living for sinful lusts. If they do that, it's too late to turn back the clock and "retake" those lost decades. You can't turn back time. So what's lost, is lost. That's the essence of the believer needing to avoid "giving up the blessing for a worthless bowl of beans". The believer is saved in the eternal heavenbound sense. But the believer can still waste their after-salvation life, and that's the life we're told to not treat a la Esau's irreverence for the things of God.

Kevl said...

Well said Mr. or Missus Anonymous!