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William

Repentance: What Saith the Scriptures?

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What do the Scriptures teach about repentance? A. W. Pink counters false views of repentance and attests that repentance is not merely a superficial admission of guilt, but is a Spirit-led response to God's view of sin that leads the penitent to hate sin by loving God and His holiness.

 

Pages: 44.

 

One of the divinely predicted characteristics of the “perilous times” in which we are now living is that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2Ti 3:13). The deeper reference of these words is to spiritual seducers and deceivers. Men with captivating personalities, men who occupy a prominent place in Christendom, men with an apparently deep reverence for Holy Writ, are beguiling souls with fatal error. Not only are evolutionists, higher critics and modernists deluding multitudes of our young people with their sugar-coated lies, but some who pose as the champions of orthodoxy and boast of their ability to “rightly divide the word of truth” (3Ti 2:15) are poisoning the minds of many to their eternal destruction.

 

Such a charge as we have just made is indeed a serious one, and one which is not to be readily received without proof. But proof is easily furnished. The Word of God teaches plainly that in this dispensation,1 equally with preceding ones, God requires a deep and sincere repentance before He pardons any sinner. Repentance is absolutely necessary to salvation, just as necessary as is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luk 13:3). “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Act 11:18). “For godly sorrow worketh repentance, not to be repented of” (2Co 7:10). It is impossible to frame language more explicit than that. Therefore, in view of these verses, and others yet to be quoted, we cannot but sorrowfully regard those who are now affirming that repentance is not, in this dispensation, essential unto salvation, as being deceivers of souls, blind leaders of the blind.

 

A careful comparison of the prominent place which is given to repentance in the New Testament with the very small place it has in present-day teaching, even in so-called orthodox pulpits, brings to light one of the most significant and solemn signs of the times. Some of the most prominent of those pleased to style themselves teachers of dispensational2truth insist that repentance belongs to a past period, being altogether “Jewish,” and deny in toto3that, in this age, God demands repentance from the sinner before he can be saved, thus blankly repudiating4 Acts 17:30: “But now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” When it is borne in mind that these men are most diligent students of Scripture, we can but sorrowfully see in them the fulfillment of those words “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Ti 3:7).

 

Others, in their recoil from salvation by reformation, have failed to duly preserve the balance of truth, and give proper place to such scriptures as “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Pro 28:13), and “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him” (Isa 55:7). It is not that there is anything meritorious5 in a sinner’s compliance with this righteous demand of God, but that the claims of the Holy One must be pressed on those who have transgressed against Him. Yet that is just the thing the haughty rebel desires to hear about least of all, and the sad thing is that so many are now, wittingly or unwittingly, withholding that which is unpalatable6 to men but which is honouring to God. How widespread this withholding is, may be quickly discovered by an examination of present-day tracts purporting7 to explain how a sinner may be saved: in most of them not a word is said about repentance.

 

Even where it is held that repentance is necessary before a sinner can be saved, only too often the most shallow and superficial views are entertained of what repentance really is. In many circles it is assumed that if a person sheds tears or appears to be broken-hearted on account of the evil course he has followed, this is clear proof that a saving work of divine grace has begun in that person’s heart. But this by no means follows. The prickings of an uneasy conscience are not the same as the conviction of sin which is produced by the Holy Spirit. Esau wept, and wept bitterly, yet he was not regenerated. Felix trembled under the preaching of Paul, but there is no hint in Scripture that he has gone to heaven. Multitudes are deceived on this very point, and there is very little in present-day ministry which is calculated to undeceive them. Every one of us who values his soul and is concerned about his eternal destiny, will do well to carefully examine his repentance in the light of Scripture and ascertain whether it be of man or from God, natural or supernatural.

 

The first occurrence of the word “repent” furnishes the key to its meaning and scope. In Genesis 6:6 we read: “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth.” The language is figurative, for He who is infinite in wisdom and immutable in counsel never changes His mind. This is plain from “God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent” (Num 23:19), and “…the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man that he should repent” (1Sa 15:29); and again, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jam 1:17). Thus, in the light of these definite statements we are compelled to conclude that in Genesis 6:6 (and similar passages) the Almighty condescends to accommodate Himself to our mode of speaking, and express Himself after a human manner—as He does in Psalms 78:65, 87:6, Isaiah 59:16, and in similar verses.

 

Now by carefully noting the setting of this word in Genesis 6:6 and attentively observing what follows, we discover: first, that the occasion of repentance is sin, for in Genesis 6:5 we read that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”: thus repentance is a realization of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Second, that the nature of repentance consists in a change of mind: a new decision is formed in view of the deplorable conditions existing—“it repented the LORD that he had made man.” Third, that genuine repentance is accompanied by a real sorrow for sin, for that which necessitated the change of mind: “and it grieved him at his heart”—compare with 2 Corinthians 7:10. Fourth, that the fruit or consequence of repentance appears in a determination to undo (forsake, and rectify as far as possible) that which is sorrowed over: “and the LORD said, I will destroy man” (v. 7). All of these elements are found in a repentance which has been produced in the heart by the gracious and supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit. Let us now consider the following.

 

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