Rudiments of the Gospel

"Except Ye Repent"

Bobby Graham


"... but unless you repent you will all like-wise perish." (Luke 13:3) The same requirement here stated regarding certain ones is elsewhere applied to all people, for "God commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) Because it requires a change of mind and subsequent life, repentance probably is the most difficult command of the Lord to obey. Involved in such obedience is a change from whatever cherished beliefs, practices, and attitudes conflict with God's will to a life of service to God. Necessary to this change is one's admission of his own wrongdoing, as well as the producing of fruit befitting repentance. (Acts 26:20) From such a course there is no recourse for one desirous of pleasing God. The coming judgment is used by the Lord's apostle in Acts 17:30 to promote repentance.

In this study notice the emphasis placed upon repentance throughout the New Testament.

Its Meaning

The parable concerning the two sons asked by their father to work in his vineyard clearly reveals the meaning of repentance. In Matthew 21:28-32 we learn from the instruction to the sons and their reactions, combined with the textual comments, that repenting is a change of the will or the mind. While his admission of wrong was necessary, such did not constitute repentance. Nor was repentance his sorrow for disobedience to the father. His change of mind, which identifies his repentance, was not the entirety of what was needed in his case. He needed to go to work as requested by the father. Simply stated, repentance is that change of mind influenced by the Lord's Word, leading to one's change of course or life.

The liar must cease his lying, the murderer his murdering, the gossiper his gossiping, and the adulterer his adultery. In each of these cases of sin, the sin continues as long as the act of sin is committed. Adultery exists on the same basis as the other sins, in that it is a sin committed as often as the two persons illegally commit the sexual act. The decision to put away one's mate is not adultery, but it sets up the situation in which the sexual act in another marriage continues to be adultery as long as it takes place. The civil marriage of the two, lacking the divine privilege of remarriage to each other, can never change a sinful act into one approved by God. Contrived definitions do not alter the Lord's teaching about repentance. If the sexual act can continue with God's blessing, then the act of gossip or lying could also continue. The same command from the Lord calling for a halt to the one also demands a cessation of the other.

John's Preaching Of Repentance

In Luke 3:1-8 we see John proclaiming a baptism "of repentance" unto the remission of sins. His was the work of preparing people for the Lord's ministry, as seen in Isaiah's prophecy quoted here concerning the spiritual preparation needed by them. The language of road building was used to convey the idea of making the spiritual way ready for the Lord, but the real changes needed were in the individuals addressed by John. Fruits worthy of repentance were demanded by him on the part of those designated as a brood of vipers, who needed to flee the wrath to come. He warned that every tree failing to bring forth good fruit would be cut down and cast into the fire. Repentance was essential on the part of these if they were to be able to "see the salvation of God."

Jesus' Teaching Of Repentance

As Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, he told the people in Galilee to repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:14,15) It is obvious that any desiring to be included in the kingdom (under the rule) of Jesus Christ must repent. Repentance is one of the demands of the gospel, for submission to heaven's king requires it. One simply cannot continue to go on in his own willful way if he wants to be in the Lord's kingdom. Even when the kingdom was near in time, Jesus made it clear that only the penitent could receive or enter it.

Repentance Under The Great Commission

When Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach to people of all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, he told them to proclaim repentance. Luke's reference to this one requirement indicates it to comprehend even the belief and baptism elsewhere seen to be part of man's response to their preaching. Its universal application (all nations) shows all people to be amenable to God's will and in violation of it. The rest of Jesus' charge indicates God's part is remission of sins to the penitent. The repetition of repentance and its coordinate role with baptism in Acts 2:38 indicates that repenting is not God's exclusive requirement.

Proper motivation for repentance is found in Paul's writing in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, along with its fruits in life. Only godly sorrow, that prompted by the realization of doing wrong against God, will produce the desired effect.

Among Christians repentance is also a requirement when they sin against God. Just as Simon was told to repent in Acts 8:18-24, so must one today so that the thought of his heart be forgiven him. To the saints in Ephesus the Lord sent the directive to repent, as well as to the complacent Laodiceans. (Revelation 2:5; 3:19) The comments concerning repentance's demand in altering one's life, in the section on definition of the word, apply with equal force here in regard to the erring child's need to stop all practice of sin--murder, lying, adultery, or whatever.

Before one can repent he must become aware of his sin and be sorrowed by it. In such sorrow he must desire to amend his life in harmony with the Lord's will and then bring forth those fruits of repentance already noted in this study. (Psalm 51:1-3,17,7,13-15)

Many will be lost in the final day because of a failure to repent, even many claiming to be God's children. Let us all be careful that we not become stiff-necked, refusing to repent. In fact, every lost person will be in torment because he failed to repent.


e-mail this author at bobbylgraham@juno.com

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