REPENTANCE (Part 2)
By Nath Onyeukwu 08091799406
SOURCE: A GIFT OF GOD OR HUMAN ACT: Some divines view true repentance as human nature, thus ascribing it to the unaided workings of the natural heart. This view is not supported by various – and they are many – scriptures such as Acts 5:31, 9:18; II Tim. 2:25; Ps. 80:3,7,19; 85:4; Jer. 31:18; Ezek 9:19. The New Testament texts are quite clear in asserting or indicating that true repentance is a Divine – human operation. The Old Testament Texts do not make a direct reference to the human action, but limits it to the act of God in the prayers: “turn me again” i.e repentance. This is due to the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures were God’s revelations to His people Israel under the “Mosaic covenant and the Administration of law” And the “Grace of God” was shed abroad mainly in the era of the New Covenant and the Administration of the Church secured by the blood of Christ (Luke 22:20).
In this context it becomes clear that while true repentance is a duty for man to exercise, it remains one to which he must be moved by the supernatural grace of God, hence the scriptures represent it as God’s gift or work. In several of the text quoted earlier, those who already possess the Gospel means, pray to God to work repentance in them. True penitent not only feels the danger of his sins, and the involuntary sting of a conscience, which he would disarm, if he could, but an ingenuous sorrow for the sinfulness of his sin, and a sincere desire for godliness. Can he who hates God grieve for having wounded or injured His Holy laws; can he who loves sin as the native food of his soul, thus loath sin for its own sake? No one feels godly sorrow, but he who is passed from death unto life. In truth, no true spiritual desire can exist till God has actually renewed the will. God has to do the work not man. And, God must savingly begin it, unmasked by man. This is “Sovereign Grace”. That a man should hold this theory, and yet pray for a new heart, is no greater paradox than that the hope that our sins are forgiven should encourage us to pray for pardon. The truth is that the instincts of a pre-existent spiritual life find their natural expression in a breathing after spiritual life.
God in His omniscience nature anticipates peace and His reconciliation to the condemned sinner by bestowing the gifts of (a) a new heart which virtually constitutes eternal life, and (b) those eternal gifts of faith and repentance, to which eternal blessedness is inevitably tied by the Gospel. The glorious fact is that Christ has reserved all these saving gifts for His people. To him who believes an unconditional election, there is no difficulty; because he believes that these saving gifts are all pledges to the believing sinner, not only before he fulfills any instrumental conditions, but before he is born. All predicated on God’s grace.
FAITH AND REPENTANCE: The relations of faith and repentance inter se as to the order of production or causation are important to the understanding of conversion. Both graces are the exercises of a regenerate heart alone. They presuppose a new birth. Faith alone is the condition of salvation (Eph 2:8-10; Acts 16:31), repentance is bound up with faith and inseparable from it, since without some measure of faith, no one can truly repent, and repentance never attains its deepest character till the sinner realizes through saving faith how great is the grace of God against whom he has sinned. On the other hand there can be no saving faith without true repentance.
When we speak of faith as the origin of repentance, we dream not of any space of time which it employs in producing it, but it must be asserted that a man cannot truly devote himself to repentance, unless he knows or believes himself to be of God through appropriating faith. Just as there can be nothing like “penitent unbeliever”, there is also no other means of effecting repentance then the preaching of the gospel; and repentance can exist nowhere except where God works it. In rational adults He works it only be means of gospel revelation in confirmation of the prime efficiency of the doctrine of the cross, and of the hope, gratitude, love, tenderness and humiliation of Christ, which faith draws there from, as means for cultivating repentance. The two graces (faith and repentance) ever after conversion stimulate each other reciprocally. The man begins to believe because he has begun to repent.
Repentance and faith are twin graces, both implicitly contained in the gift of the new heart. They cannot but co-exist. Repentance is the right sense and volition which the renewed heart has of its sin; faith is the turning of that heart from its sin to Christ. Repentance feels the odiousness of sin; faith embraces the remedy. But when we inquire for the first conscious acting of faith or repentance after the instant of the new birth, the result is decided by the object to which the soul happens to be first directed. If the object of its first regenerate look, be its own ungodliness, the first conscious exercise will be one of repentance; but just so surely as the volition is potentially in the preponderating motive, so surely does that soul look from ungodliness to Christ, the remedy of it. This may be unconsciously at first, but in due time, consciously. Its first act may be one of trust and joy in Him. Yet the trust implies a sense of the evil of sin, as the thing for deliverance from, for which Christ is trusted.
REPENTANCE (penitence) PARDON AND ATONMENT: The exercise of repentance, while absolutely necessary in all who are saved, in itself has no atoning merit; and constitutes no ground whatever in justice, why the penitent should have remission of his sins. The carnal mind here labours under an obstinate delusion; and how often do we hear Christians say “they hope their sins are pardoned because they have repented?”
A moral fitness which stipulates that no impenitent person shall be pardoned, is often mistaken for another thing. The ground for that moral fitness is that pardon having otherwise been made just, God’s holiness and majesty may have some practical assurance in the state of the sinners own failings against his repetition of his sins. But this end does not express the whole intent of God’s law. Its true object is, to express and sustain His immutable holiness. It demands perfect and perpetual obedience. Repentance is no obedience. Secondly: Repentance is no reparation whatever for past disobedience. It cannot place the sinner, in the eye of law, in the position of Him who has never sinned. It has in itself no relevance to repairing the mischief the sin has inflicted. In the third place: Repentance is no more than a feeling of ill-desert and consequent guilt – confession. A man cannot pay a just debt by his acknowledgment of its justice. This would lead to a contradictory absurdity of: the more thoroughly unworthy a man felt about his sin, the more worthy he would thereby become, further, repentance after transgression is work, so that justification by repentance would be justification by works.
In Rom. 3:30, Apostle Paul expounds that faith in Christ involves a personal relationship with the Redeemer which implies an attitude of love and gratitude towards the Saviour in response to his love. This emphesises that without such faith there can be no justification, for God is not concerned merely with forgiving past sins. He is primarily concerned with man’s restoration, and restoration can be experienced only by means of such faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore justification cannot be separated from the transforming experiences of conversion and rebirth (which involves repentance) and subsequent growth in sanctification. Only the faith that gladly accepts and willingly enters into every phase of God’s programme can rightfully claim the imputed righteousness of Christ in justification.
There is no controversy among divines that the “works” of law cannot atone past sins. It is also agreed generally that Repentance which cannot be separated from faith – its twin grace – has no merit of its own to procure remission of sins. Repentance after transgression is “work”, so that justification by repentance would be justification by “works” But justification is not earned by “works” but can only be received from God through saving faith in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This therefore indicates conclusively that only faith in the efficient atonement by the blood shed at Calvary’s cross, can impute the righteousness of the Saviour unto the repenting sinner and effect the remission of his sins.
In the OT. The blood is regarded as representing life, God forbade men to eat “flesh with the life there of”, which is the blood thereof. (Gen 9:4). The shedding and sprinkling of the blood in the OT sanctuary service meant the taking and offering of the life of the animals sacrificed. Thus the antitypical shedding of the blood of Jesus means the offering of His life as a sacrifice. The blood of Christ represents His life offered as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The NT. lays much stress on the blood of Christ in connection with the work of redemption. Jesus spoke of His own blood as being “shed for many” (Mark 14:24). We are “justified by the blood” (Rom 5;7). “We have redemption through His blood” (Eph 1:7). “Christ made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). Those who were “far off” have been made “neigh by His blood” (Eph 2:13). The church of God has been “Purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:25). We are “washed from our sins in His blood” (Rev. 1:5)
The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has met the penalty of sin and has made possible the pardon and reconciliation of all who have faith in Christ. This of course must not be understood to mean that the sacrifice of Christ was like pagan sacrifices, offered to conciliate an offended god and to persuade it to regard sinners more favourably.
The atonement of Christ was not made inorder to induce God to love those whom He otherwise “hated”, it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence, but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God’s heart. Actually, God scarified Himself in Christ for man’s redemption. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”. (II Cor 3;19).
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ brings pardon and reconciliation to those whom God set forth by the shedding of His blood to be a propitiation through faith. This indicates that the sacrifice of Christ is the means by which the propitiation is accomplished. The atoning sacrifice becomes effective through the faith that appropriates it. Unless the proffered pardon is accepted by faith, the atonement is of no avail in reconciling the minds and hearts of those for whom the sacrifice has been made.
There are certain acts which are essentially dictated by repentance, and which, proceed immediately from the attitude of penitence.
1. Sincere penitence must lead to confession and the highest form of this duty is the confession of our sins to God in prayer. True repentance will always thus utter itself to Him.
Then if our sins have scandalized the church, we must also make public confession of the particular sin which produced the scandal. Again, if the sin is immediately aimed at a fellow man and he knows about it, repentance must lead to confession to him.
2. The next consequence of repentance will be to prompt us to make reparation of our sins whenever it is practicable. He who truly repents wishes his sin undone. And if he truly wishes it undone, he will of cause undo it if it is within his power to do so.
3. The third fruit of repentance is holy watchfulness against its recurrence (II Cor. 7:11). This involves the determination to serve God in Spirit and in truth.