Repentance is a reoccurring theme of the New Testament books. With this emphasis it seems we need to be sure we understand what God says about repentance and not rely on traditional thought. John the Baptist began his ministry in Judea preaching repentance. Jesus began his ministry in Capernaum preaching repentance. Jesus sent out his disciples to preach repentance. Peter began the church age on the day of Pentecost preaching repentance. Paul preached repentance. Through all the scriptures its seen that there are two aspects of repentance for us as God’s creation. There is repentance unto salvation and repentance unto holiness after salvation. One is repentance from sin and the other from doing things that are associated with or give appearance of our previous sinful life. Also, know that there is a sin that cannot be repented of.
A PLACE OF REPENTANCE
Part of what Jesus told his disciples at the “last supper” was that it was expedient for them that he goes away. Because, if he departed then he would send the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth (Jn. 14:16, 17, 26; 16: 17). The Holy Ghost is sent to reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. (Jn. 16:8). It is, then, the “job” of the Holy Ghost to convict us of sin in our life. You see, it is the love and goodness of God through the Holy Ghost that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God leads us to repentance through godly sorrow. Not just sorrow that is fleeting and comforts our guilty mind for a time, but a godly sorrow that causes true repentance. We need a true repentance that brings forth a lasting fruit in our life. Church membership doesn’t do this nor bring salvation. Neither does confession of sin with worldly penance. True salvation can only come with true repentance.
To see this in the scriptures, note the work of the Holy Ghost through Paul as he lead some of the Corinthians to this place of repentance. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: For ye were made sorry after a godly manner, [… ] for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor. 7:9, 10). It is the goodness of God that leads to this place of repentance.
It is the spiritual law of God that shows us our sins. Paul said he would not have known sin but for the law (Rom. 7:7). The “rich young ruler” in Mark 10:17-19 was told by Jesus that the way to eternal life was by this law. In both instances it is the 10 commandment law that is referred to. Paul says this law is holy, just and good. (Rom. 7:12). John tells us that sin is the transgression of the law (1 Jn. 3:4). The transgression of the 10 commandments given to Moses has shown mankind what sin is for 3500 years. We have all sinned and we all need to repent of sin. God wants us to repent. He loves us and gave his only begotten son that we can repent, find forgiveness, crucify the our old nature with Christ on the cross and be born of his spirit. He leads us to salvation because of his love and his goodness. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). But, be not deceived, God is not mocked. God sent his son as a sacrifice for our sins and the Holy Ghost is sent to lead us to a place where we see what we are and our need to repent. God will not indefinitely continue to lead us to this place. The work of the Holy Ghost on our heart is not a given. Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s love and forgiveness cannot be taken lightly. Look at Hebrews 6:4-6 in which the word “impossible” is used. See all the ways that the HolyGhost works on our heart to bring us to salvation. To sin after all this love is that final sin that cannot be forgiven. This shows us blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which Jesus said there is no forgiveness in this world or in the world to come. (Matt. 12:31, 32). Hebrews reads, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame.” ( More on this in the first chapter of Romans.) Esau sought a place of repentaance but could no longer find it. Look at the tragic place he put himself in. Hebrews 12:16, 17, “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
We need to take heed to ourselves and see that we don’t mock God by rejecting the work of the Holy Ghost and the gift of God offered to us by the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross. His shed blood is able to cleanse us from all sin (1 Jn1:7). How do we know if we have repented of a certain thing in our life? By bringing forth the fruit of never doing that thing again. That’s what true repentance is. God will help us do this great work He is a life changing God. Paul told those to whom he preached to “repent and turn to God, and do the works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20).
REPENTANCE UNTO HOLINESS
In speaking of Christ caring for and nourishing his church, Paul wrote, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5;25, 26). Remember the Holy Ghost has come to not only reprove of sin (for salvation) but also of righteousness and judgment. These latter two will cleanse his church of the spots, wrinkles and blemishes. (See 2 Peter 2:11, 13, Job 16:8, 12 and Jude :4, 12 for the meaning of these.)
When the children of Israel came out of the wilderness into the promise land they found it occupied by seven nations mightier than them. God drove these nations out from before them a little at a time so they could possess the land of blessing. (Read Deut. 7:1-8 and Acts 13:19.) These nations were a hindrance to Israel possessing the full blessing that God had for them. In the same fashion there are things that must be driven out of our life after salvation for us to grow in God and receive his full blessing. This is vividly shown to us as Jesus speaks to us, his church, in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the messages to the seven churches. These messages show our growth in our walk with God. The more of the world we remove from our life the more we grow and the closer we can draw nigh to God. The more we grow in God the greater our joy, peace and effectiveness for him in this world. We are in the world but not part of this sin sick mixed up world. Look at the church age at Ephesus in Rev. 2:5 where we are admonished to repent and do the first works (because we have left our first love, Jesus Christ). In the message to us at Pergamos we are told to repent of entertaining those that have the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes (the cursing and making money from God’s people and having brother lording over brother, Rev. 2:16). In the message to Sardis our works for him are not perfect and we are to repent (Rev. 3:3). In the message to us at Laodicea Jesus tells us that as many as he loves he rebukes and chastens and we are to be zealous and repent (Rev. 3:19).
We are not to despise the rebukes and chastening of the Lord. God never asks us to repent except it is for our own good. Our repentance, though unto God, is beneficial to our walk with God. “Now no chastening for the present seems joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”(Heb. 12:11). It is God’s love for us that leads us to a place where we see our need to repent. It is our love for him that causes us to repent.
(For more on the message to the church at Laodicea see the article “THE LAST OF THE CHURCH AGE” published in April on this blog.)