What Is True Repentance?

Pharaoh, David, and Judas all confessed, “I have sinned.” Yet the confessions of Pharaoh and Judas brought them no saving benefit while David’s confession met with the response, “The LORD has forgiven your sin.” Why is that? What was lacking in the repentance of Pharaoh and Judas that made it ineffective?

Some say that Pharaoh was not sincere, and that Judas was concerned only with being caught and his life ruined. But the real contrast between the repentance of Pharaoh and Judas and that of David is that neither Pharaoh’s nor Judas’ repentance never moved them to seek God’s mercy in Christ for their sin. But David did seek God’s mercy, as it is written, “Have mercy on me O God!” (Psalm 51:1)

All repentance that brings a sinner to plead God’s mercy in Christ is saving repentance no matter what other deficiencies it may have. Any repentance that does not bring a sinner to trust in God’s mercy in Christ is a repentance that needs to be repented of no matter how sincere or strong it is (2nd Corinthians 7:10).

In repentance, just as in all other matters pertaining to salvation, Christ is the issue.

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