The Scriptural Definition Of Repentance

Repentance is another subject that is misunderstood and misused by most people involved in religion. Their thought process concerning repentance goes something like this: “You have to get people lost before you can get them saved.”

What do they mean by this kind of statement?

Speaking from personal experience as one who formerly walked in this same darkness, they mean that you have to point out to a sinner how grievously they have broken God’s law and then under the load of guilt inflicted on the convicted sinner by such knowledge, they must show remorse over their failure, usually evidenced by tears. Once the supposed ‘repentant’ sinner has shown some outward evidence of a change of heart, exhibited by a change of ways, the religious world tragically pronounces that sinner converted or saved.

This isn’t true Godly repentance, but mere conscious conviction which all men are capable of experiencing and which can drastically alter a person’s way of life. Under this kind of conviction the drunk will quit drinking, the adulterer will quit their philandering, and the nonreligious will act deeply religious. The problem with this kind of ‘repentance’ is that sinners are deceived into thinking everything is alright, while in reality they are in worse shape than they were before this experience – “Woe (judgment) unto you, scribes and Pharisees (moral, sincere, religionists), hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

What then is Biblical repentance?

Augustus Toplady the writer of one of my favorite hymns, “Rock of Ages”, wrote the following statement concerning repentance: “When Christ entered into Jerusalem, the people spread their garments in the way. When He enters into our hearts, we pull off our own righteousness and not only lay it under Christ’s feet, but trample upon it ourselves”.

Toplady was expressing the reality of true Biblical repentance which occurs in the heart of every sinner justified by Christ’s finished work at Calvary. In regeneration, manifest through the new birth, the justified sinner for the first time sees how holy God is, and how strict His justice is, and they are taught that ONLY the merit of the obedience and death of their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, removed God’s wrath and gained God’s favor for them. This radical change of mind affected in every sinner God the Father justified at the cross is something only common to the elect of God, and like faith. It is a gift – “When they (the Apostles) heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18)

True repentance is evidenced by a sinner willingly turning their back on everything they thought saved them or recommended them to God, and resting SOLELY on Christ ALONE as their only ground, hope, or cause of eternal life. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)

By R. Warmack

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