Study 2 REPENTANCE
GREAT WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Luke 15: 3-24)
Anyone who has any doubts as to the importance of the doctrine of repentance needs only to read the solemn words of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 13:3. The Bible is full of this subject, and the word is used over one hundred times – fifty-eight times in the New Testament alone. Yet, someone has rightly said of repentance that it is “the missing note in modern evangelism.” It was the key-note of New Testament preaching: John the Baptist began his ministry with a call to repentance (Matthew 3:2); our Lord’s first word was “Repent…” (Matthew 4:17); those whom He commissioned were commanded to preach repentance (Mark 6:12 and Luke 24:47); there is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10); Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:37-38); Paul preached repentance (Acts 17:30-31); and repentance leading to faith is everywhere laid down in the Bible as the condition of salvation (Acts 20:21).
1. WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT
- Conviction of sin is not repentance. Repentance includes conviction, but a sinner can be deeply convicted and still not repent. Felix is an illustration of this – Acts 24:24-25.
- Sorrow for sin is not repentance. Repentance includes sorrow and remorse, but it is more than this, for it is possible to be sorry for sin and yet not to repent of sin – look up 2 Corinthians 7:9, and notice that the sorrowing is “to repentance”.
- Hatred of sin is not repentance. Repentance includes this, but it is possible to loathe sin and yet not to turn from it. Is it not true in a sense that every sinner hates sin? Nobody can repent without hating sin, but hating sin alone is not repentance.
- Promising to be better is not repentance. Many people make a life-long habit of doing this. The Prodigal determined that he would return (Luke 15:18), but repentance was not indicated by his determination merely. “The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
- Turning from one sin is not repentance. It is not giving up sins, the fruit; it has to do with sin, the root.
2. WHAT REPENTANCE IS
Repentance is a change of mind – an intellectual experience; it is a change of feeling – an emotional experience; it is a change of purpose – a volitional experience; and it is a change of conduct – a moral experience. Repentance is not one of these, but all of them together.
- Repentance is a change of MIND. The Greek word “metonia” means “after-thought”. The change of mind involved in true repentance is so radical that the sinner takes up an entirely new attitude towards God, towards the Lord Jesus Christ, towards sin and towards himself – look up Matthew 21:28-29 for our Lord’s illustration of this aspect of repentance.
- Repentance is a change of FEELING. After his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was overwhelmed with a sense of remorse when he thought of the way he had treated the Lord Jesus – compare Psalm 38:18. The Publican expressed deep emotion when in penitence and confession he “beat his breast” (Luke 18:13); and so did the Prodigal when he returned and said: “Father, I am no longer worthy…” (Luke 15:21).
- Repentance is a change of PURPOSE. The will is involved. The Prodigal said, “I will set out…” (Luke 15:18) – “…so he got up” (Luke 15:20). See what Jesus said to the man in John 5:6, and compare Psalm 119:59; Isaiah 55:7 and Ezekiel 18:30.
- Repentance is a change of CONDUCT. This is illustrated in the conversion of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-6), and the jailer (Acts 16:30-34).
Repentance is to leave
The sins I loved before;
And show that I in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.
3. HOW REPENTANCE IS BROUGHT ABOUT
- Repentance is a Divine gift. Look up Acts 5:30-31; 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25.
- The gift of repentance is bestowed through the preaching of the Gospel – look up Matthew 12:41; Acts 2:38-41 and 19:8, 10 and 19, and compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
- The goodness of God leads to repentance. Romans 2:4 tells us this. When we consider the love of God, especially in the gift of His Son (John 3:16), who went to the cross for us (1 Peter 2:24), then we are brought to repentance.
- The sorrows of life bring people to repentance. Trials and bereavements are all instruments in the hands of God for bringing men and women to repentance – look up Psalm 78:34, and compare Genesis 42:21; Exodus 9:27; Job 42:5-6; Psalm 119:67 and Revelation 3:19.
- The emptiness of life makes some repent. This was surely so in the case of the Prodigal Son – see Luke 15:17.
4. WHEN IS THE TIME TO REPENT?
NOW – Acts 17:30-31. Look up what is one of the best verses in the Bible – 2 Peter 3:9 –
“The Lord is…patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”