The greatest obstacle to the salvation of accountable humanity is the obstinacy of the human will. Since the introduction of sin in the Garden of Eden, God has been calling upon sinners to repent. H. Leo Boles once commented, “When God shut the gate of paradise to Adam, He opened the door to repentance.”
It has been falsely argued that we have placed too much emphasis upon baptism and not enough on repentance. As for me, I have never been able to put as much emphasis upon on it as did Christ and the apostles. There is not a case of delayed baptism recorded in the New Testament for individuals who had accepted the truth relative the gospel terms of pardon. On Pentecost in Acts 2, 3000 were baptized that day. In Acts 8, the nobleman was baptized along the way without reaching his destination. There was no assembly of a faithful local New Testament church when this baptism took place! We cannot and do not over emphasize the truth on baptism, however we do need to make sure that we give equal emphasis to the subject of repentance.
There is much confusion regarding the subject of repentance. Some individuals think that because we do not preach some direct, incomprehensible, inconceivable, unintelligible, intangible, mystical, mystified, better felt that told sort of a direct influence of the Holy Spirit; that we do not believe in repentance. Such is not the case!
Repentance is “the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds…” (Thayer’s Lexicon of The New Testament, p. 406). Repentance (metanoia) is thus a change or turning of mind, literally another mind and/or thought process that leads one to reform one’s life.
Repentance is not fear. While indeed there is a need for godly fear in all of our lives, just because may be fearful does not mean that they have repented. Repentance is not regret. Many are sorrowful over their sins because they were caught in them. and receive retributive justice. Repentance is not prayer as there are some prayers that are an abomination unto God (Prov. 28:9; Psa. 66:18; Matt. 7:21). Repentance is not conviction. Conviction is needful for salvation, however the gospel produces conviction in the hearts of believers. It only after conviction that one is moved to repent (Acts 2:36-38). Repentance is not reformation.
Reformation is a product or result of repentance. Repentance must first occur before reformation of life can take place.
Repentance is therefore a mental act—the act of the mind where one determines to cease sinning (Matt. 21:29).
Repentance was part of the fundamental message which after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension was preached (Luke 24:44-47; Acts 2:38; 11:15-18). Repentance was preached by Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17:30-31). Repentance was preached by Peter not only on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but also in his epistles (2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance was preached by Christ (Luke 13:1-5).
Repentance is developed in one’s hearing of the gospel of Christ and believing the message that is preached (Acts 2:30-38). Hearing the gospel brings about repentance due to the fact that when the word of God is received into good and honest hearts it produces godly sorrow which brings about repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance in the life of an alien sinner brings one the desire to become a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18; 6:3-7). Repentance in the life of a covenant sinner brings about restoration of fellowship with God (Acts 8:22-24).
Motivating Factors of Repentance
Genuine motives for repentance are set forth in the scriptures. In consideration of such we note three crucial factors;
· The goodness of God (Rom. 2:4).
· Eternal Judgment of God (Rom. 2:5-9; Rev. 20:11-15)
· The promise of Eternal Life (Rom. 2:7-10).
The Difficulty of Repentance
Repentance has often been referred to as being the most difficult command found within the scriptures. Such is indeed the case because it involves the human will. J.W. McGarvey correctly stated:
When you look through the record of the Savior’s earthly ministry, you find that he induced a great many to believe in Him…But when you search for those who repented under the Lord’s preaching, you will find but few… When you go out preaching among the people of this country, you will not find it at all difficult to induce your hearers to believe the truth concerning Christ, and, when they are prepared in heart and mind for baptism, you not find it difficult to persuade them to submit to that…You will find no difficulty provided they have repented and desire to obey the Lord; but how difficult it is to induce men to repent! Sinners outside the church and sinners inside the church cling to their sins, and it appears impossible in many instances to bring them to repentance (Chapel Talks, pp. 71-72).
May we all be convinced of the necessity of repentance.