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REPENTANCE

jonathan edwards repentance

REPENTANCE

           Hebrews speaks of ‘repentance from dead works and faith toward God’ as ‘elementary principles (Heb. 6:1).’  In fact, the scriptures say, after returning from the wilderness where ‘He had fasted 40 days’ and was ‘tempted by the devil,’ “from that time Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17)’.”  But what is the doctrine of repentance; what place does it have in Christianity and more specifically in salvation?  Paul said, we ‘are saved by grace through faith, and it is a gift of God and not’ of ourselves (Eph. 2:8).   And he said, ‘with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10).’  Yet, he also added, ‘but they have not all obeyed the gospel… Isaiah said… (the Lord said) ‘all day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient people… (Rom. 10:16, 21).’

Now, some might say that only applies to Jews, or a different dispensation;  however, Paul knew the Lord shows no partially (Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:11) and said, ‘the goodness of God leads… to repentance, but …God will render to each one according to his deeds; eternal life to those who …do good… but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – wrath… on every soul of man who does evil… Jew and also the Greek… for there is no partially with God.  For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (Romans 2).’  So we see these actions and concepts of deeds or works and obedience in the life of a Christian, as well as this struggle with sin.

Let’s look at the old and new testaments to see how verses lined up.  Daniel said, a time will come at the end of this temporary world, when ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:2-3).’  And Jesus said, as quoted by John, ‘for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29).’

This is as the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Gen. 4:7).”

In a simpler manner Paul said, ‘first to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and do works worthy or that are consistent with repentance (Acts. 26:20).’ Let’s look at the definition of repentance and then see how this that Paul taught matches up with what the prophets, Christ and the apostles taught.

Definition of Repentance

             Strong’s Concordance defines repentance from the Greek metanoia (3341) as, ‘a change of mind, change in the inner man.’   Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds, ‘it appears in one who repents of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done… especially 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…’  And Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, defines Repent as ‘to feel pain, sorrow or regret for something done… to express sorrow for something past… to change the mind… in theology, to sorrow or be pained for sin, as a violation of God’s holy law, a dishonor to His character and government…’

As to Repentance Webster stated, “in theology, the pain, regret or affliction which a person feels on account of their past conduct, because it exposes them to punishment… fear of punishment… legal repentance… Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God… His holy law and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence.  This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.  Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.  Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation (2 Cor. 7; Matt. 3).  Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.”  Thus, true repentance results in a changed behavior – as in ‘you must be born again (John 3:7).’

 The Prophets on Repentance

             Isaiah said, “‘come now and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow… if you are willing and obedient… but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword… (Isaiah 1:18-20).’

Jeremiah said, ‘turn now every man from his evil way and amend your deeds… (Jer. 35:15).’  “Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and to all the people, saying, ‘The Lord sent me to prophesy against this… city… amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God… (26:12-13)’.”

“Then Solomon finished the house of the Lord… then the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, ‘I have heard your prayer… if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land…’ (2 Chronicles 7:11-14).”

Jonah “began to go through the city …and he cried out… ‘Yet 40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’  Then the people …believed in God and called a fast; and… when God was their deeds that they turned from their wicked way then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared… (Jonah 3:4-10).”

And see how David prayed a prayer of repentance in Psalm 51: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness… and tender mercies, blot out my transgressionsWash me from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions… against You I have sinned… wash me and I shall be whiter than snow… create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation… God of my salvation…”  This psalm is full of doctrine and overlapping with God’s truth.  By two or three witnesses God speaks (Deut. 17:6; 2 Cor. 13:1).  As Isaiah said, even though our sins our scarlet and bloody, through repentance and the sacrifice of God mercy – Jesus Christ, we shall be white as snow – pure and righteous, if we are willing and obedient to God.

Thus, the Lord said through Moses, ‘observe the Lord’s commands… for your own good (Deut. 10:13).’  Thus, Christ said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth… (John 14:15-17).’  So see here also the Holy Spirit is involved in affecting a clean heart both in the old and new testaments.  And also the requirement of love and obedience are in both, as well as these separate types of sin: transgressions, iniquity and sin.

Moses said in the essence or heart of the law, ‘what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commands… (Deut. 10:12-13).’  And see Christ Jesus said also, ‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment (Mark 12:30).’  And concerning sin and judgment Moses taught us the very name of GOD, ‘Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord… “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation (Exo. 34:5-7).”

So we see these truths, these things in the very name of God.  We see there is but a path to forgiveness and one to guilt.  As the narrow way to life and broad way to destruction, Jesus spoke of (Matt. 7:13).  Ezekiel helps us to understand it.  Ezekiel said, the Lord is just, “If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die.  But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life.  Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die (Ezek. 18).”

                     Ezekiel continues, ‘Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezek. 18)”

And does not the Bible say, ‘The Lord… desires that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).’  But let’s take a closer look and His words and the teachings of the apostles.

Jesus and the Apostles on Repentance

Many speaking of grace covering future sins without repentance and some will say this is for the Jews.  Let us see and be willing to look for and received the truth.  The new testament in Hebrews says, ‘if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and the fire of wrath… (Heb. 10:26-27).’

Concerning these verses, Clarke’s Commentary states, ‘…a man may be overtaken in a fault, or he may deliberately go into sin… his case is dreary and dangerous, but is not hopeless; no case is hopeless but that of the deliberate apostate, who rejects the whole Gospel system, after having been saved by grace, or convinced of the truth of the Gospel.  To him there remains no more sacrifice for sin; for there was but the One, Jesus, and this he has utterly rejected.’  A case is hopeless, because God calls us to ‘godly sorrow’ and repentance; and if we repent and call upon Jesus for help and salvation and turn and follow Christ and His way, His commands, then ‘the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without sin to God, will purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God… (Heb. 9:14);’ ‘…by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9).’

Barnes stated, ‘one who sinned ‘willfully’ must look on fearfully to the judgment without a possibility of being saved… if a sincere Christian should apostatize he could never be converted again… see Heb. 6:4-6… he would have tried the only plan of salvation, and it would have failed.  He would have embraced the Saviour and… he would have renounce the Holy Spirit… and there would be no other agent of greater power to renew and save him after he had apostatized… he must look forward only to the terrors of the judgment, and to the final condemnation.’

First, understand Barnes is not talking about just any sin, not even those that John and Paul warned that if anyone – calling themselves Christian or not – continues in, such as murder, stealing, lying, adultery, drunkenness, and the like (1 Cor. 6:9) then they ‘shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven;’ Barnes is talking about forsaking the Holy Spirit and Christ.  He as others uses the verse where Christ Jesus said, ‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:29).’

Who am i to say anything; so i am not changing at all what Christ stated, only questioning what Barnes and others state.  When Barnes stated the ‘plan of salvation… failed’ that believer; i say no; the former believer rejected the Gospel.  Secondly, it is important see that we are talking about a former believer or Christian, thus John Wesley says, ‘when we – any of us Christians sin willfully – by total apostasy from God, termed drawing back, Heb. 10:38.  After having received the experimental knowledge of the gospel truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins…’

And what about the beloved John Calvin?  It took Calvin decades to write his commentaries without the aid of computer search engines or even Strong’s concordance.  And Calvin worked on and amended his ‘Institutes of Religion’ over the course of his life.  Few know Calvin’s works and thus true and total Calvinism; so some say this of him or imply some TULIP theory and theology, but what did Calvin say?

He wrote, “For if we sin willfully, or voluntarily etc.  He shows how severe a vengeance of God awaits all those who fall away from the grace of Christ; for being without that one true salvation, they are now as it were given up to an inevitable destruction. With this testimony Novatus and his sect formerly armed themselves, in order to take away the hope of pardon from all indiscriminately who had fallen after baptism. They who were not able to refute his calumny chose rather to deny the authority of this Epistle than to subscribe to so great an absurdity.  But the true meaning of the passage… is quite sufficient of itself to expose the effrontery of Novatus… Those who sin, mentioned by the Apostle, are not such as offend in any way, but such as forsake the Church, and wholly alienate themselves from Christ. For he speaks not here of this or of that sin, but he condemns by name those who willfully renounced fellowship with the Church.”

Before continuing Calvin’s commentary note two things; this forerunner of the Baptist Church DID IN FACT BELIEVE, know and understood THAT A CHRISTIAN CAN LOSE THEIR SALVATION.  And when he spoke of forsaking the Church, remember that the previous verse Hebrews 10:25 had said, ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some…’ but Christ nor the Apostle said, we will lose our salvation if we do not assemble, although danger will likely follow those that try to abide in Christ, and not take part in ‘exhorting one another as we see the day approaching.’  Yet Calvin does make his case plainer.

He continues, “But there is a vast difference between particular fallings and a complete defection of this kind, by which we entirely fall away from the grace of Christ. And as this cannot be the case with anyone except he has been already enlightened, he says, If we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth; as though he had said, “If we knowingly and willingly renounce the grace which we had obtained.’ …And that the Apostle here refers only to apostates, He now declares that there remained for such no sacrifice for sin, because they had willfully sinned after having received the knowledge of the truth.  But as to sinners who fall in any other way, Christ offers himself daily to them, so that they are to seek no other sacrifice for expiating their sins.  He denies, then, that any sacrifice remains for them who renounce the death of Christ, which is not done by any offense except by a total renunciation of the faith.  This severity of God is indeed dreadful, but it is set forth for the purpose of inspiring terror.  He cannot, however, be accused of cruelty; for as the death of Christ is the only remedy by which we can be delivered from eternal death, are not they who destroy as far as they can its virtue and benefit worthy of being left to despair?  God invites to daily reconciliation those who abide in Christ; they are daily washed by the blood of Christ, their sins are daily expiated by His perpetual sacrifice.  As salvation is not to be sought except in Him, there is no need to wonder that all those who willfully forsake Him are deprived of every hope of pardon: The Apostle then refers to those alone who wickedly forsake Christ, and thus deprive themselves of the benefit of his death.  …But a certain fearful looking for, etc. He means the torment of an evil conscience which the ungodly feel, who not only have no grace, but who also know that having tasted grace they have lost it forever through their own fault; such must not only be pricked and bitten, but also tormented and lacerated in a dreadful manner.  Hence it is that they war rebelliously against God, for they cannot endure so strict a Judge. And thus he reminds us, that they are all to be counted the enemies of Christ who have refused to hold the place granted them among the faithful; for there is no intermediate state, as they who depart from the Church give themselves up to Satan.”

Calvin shows that Christ offers grace to those who repent from their sins and trust in His sacrifice,  but to all who count Christ’s blood and sacrifice as nothing or common, they will be given up to Satan.  And see how the Apostle says soon afterwards, ‘how much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, as if it were common and unholy; they have insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29).’  Thus, as it is written, ‘let us hold firmly to the hope we profess.’

Now there are some who will say, no the common blood the apostle speaks of is that if the ‘bulls and goats’ of the old testament, and that Christ has cleansed us by His blood once and for all.  That is faulty reasoning; for yes Christ paid the price, and does not have to keep paying the price; but the blood of animals was temporary and a common blood; the apostle speaks here only of the uncommon blood of the Son of God.   He is speaking of apostasy and man – 666 – as in John 6:66, where Christ had made the Gospel clear that He is the Son of God, and many of those who previously followed Him could not believe that.  John says, ‘many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.  And He “asked the Twelve, ‘Do you want to leave also?’  Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:68).”

I understand that many of these did not believe that Christ was the Son of God and that is why they left; and thus as some say were not saved in the first place.  But in this part of Hebrews, the apostle is directly speaking of those who believe in the entire Gospel, that Christ Jesus is the Son of God, and then turn their backs on the Gospel and rejected Christ and His lordship as the Son of God.   This is one apostle and one part of a chapter and not the entire matter of the subject.  Thus we must explore what the apostles said and why Christ said, ‘go and sin no more (John 8:11).’

The Apostle Peter

         On the day of Pentecost Peter was preaching to ‘men of Judea, Israel and many who dwelled in Jerusalem,’ and after he spoke to them about Jesus, who the Jews ‘crucified,’ and about certain things David and Joel had spoken about the ‘Holy Spirit,’ some ‘said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’  That is how can we ‘do what is righteous (Gen. 4:7)’ and be saved?

Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit... (Acts 2:38).’  “And with many other words Peter testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40)’.”  Peter knew as Christ said to Nicodemus and others that ‘Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… born of water and of the Spirit…’ (John chapter 3)  He knew that ‘darkness’ and perversion fills the world and Christians must ‘come out’ of the darkness, ‘come out of’ the ‘sins’ (Rev. 18:4) that plagues the world – that most of the people are ‘partakers’ of – often because of ‘the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16)’ that they love the ‘riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14)’ of the world, or often due to the ‘pride of life’ or the ‘cares of this world’ that distract and oppress so many.

So note that Peter said ‘repent’ and ‘be saved.’  Thus, he is speaking of actions and conscience choices.   Thus, later went writing his ‘second epistle’ to Christians, ‘to those who have obtained like precious faith,’ and warning the elders and others of ‘false teachers,’ and of the ‘day of the Lord,’ the ‘day of judgment’ to come, and words of ‘the holy prophets,’ he reminds them of the love of God and the promise of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:4) he says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)...”  If nothing was required in repentance, he and Christ would have said so, he would have not said ‘not willing that any should perish, but’ – he would have simply said none all perish because of His love and sacrifice.

The Apostle Paul

 And it was Paul manner to say the same thing.  In Thessalonica, he preached ‘Christ’ crucified and resurrected and in Athens said, in the past, ‘in times of this ignorance God overlooked (some things); but now He commands all men every where to repent: because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world...’ by Jesus who He ‘raised from the dead (Acts 17:30-31)’.”

And Paul testified to his pattern before king Agrippa saying that he went especially to the ‘Gentiles,’ ‘to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins… (Acts 26:18)’  As he told the Corinthians, ‘godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation… but the sorrow of the world (only) produces death (2 Cor. 7:9-10).’

So Paul understood what the Lord said through Isaiah (65:2), ‘All day long I have held out My hands to disobedient and rebellious people (Rom. 10:21)’ longing that they would ‘listen’ see their wickedness and ‘sins’ and be ‘willing and obedient’ in allowing the Spirit to led them to sorrow and repentance and thus salvation at the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).

The Apostle James

    In James’ letter to ‘the twelve tribes’ of the Jews and to all who would hear, says “if someone says he has faith (believe in God and even Christ) but has no works?  Can that faith save him?  …You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demos also believe and shudder (but are not saved)… man is justified by works and faith – not by faith alone… faith without works is dead.  …God gives grace to the humble.  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands (REPENT), you sinners; and purity your hearts, you double-minded… Mourn and weep… humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will rise you up… strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near… the Judge is standing at the door…”

 John and the Revelation from the Spirit of the Lord

To the churches, to Ephesus ‘I know your works… repent and do’ what is righteous; to Smyrna… ‘be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life…;’ to Pergamos ‘…Repent or else I will come to you …with the sword of My mouth…;’ to Thyatira, ‘…I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience… yet I have a few things against you… you allow …sexual immorality… and adultery… repent… (for) I am He who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works… (see Jeremiah 17:10)’  To Sardis… ‘I know your works… (you call yourselves Christians) but you are dead.  Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain… for I have not found your works perfect (complete) before God… hold fast and repent.  If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief… They who overcome shall be clothed in white garments (righteousness), and I will not blot out their name from the Book of Life, but I will confess their name before My Father and His angels (see Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:32).’   To Philadelphia… “I know your works… Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  They who overcome will… (be in) the temple of God… the New Jerusalem…  Hear what the Spirit says to the churches… to the Laodiceans… I know your works… neither cold nor hot… you say, ‘I am rich… and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked – be zealous and repent… Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to them… (and fellowship) with them…'”

OTHER WITNESSES

The Didache (the ‘Teachings’) was included as an appendix in certain early Bible codex.  Thus it was a very important source of the Early Church Fathers and their teaching which were received – as passed down by the apostles.

The Diadache (chapter 10): “Hosanna to the God of David.  If any man be holy, let him come! (and partake of the Eucharist – the Lord’s Supper).  If any man be not, let him repent: Maranatha, Amen.” (see 1 Cor. 11:27).

Clement of Rome, his letter was also included in certain early Bible codex.  He wrote ‘to the Corinthians’ saying ‘Let us repent with our whole heart of the evil things which we have done in the flesh (and of course implying if still doing), that we may be saved by the Lord, while we have yet time for repentance.’

MORE TO COME

 

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