The following text explores the concept of repentance from both secular and Biblical perspectives. Society has become so preoccupied with personal rights, that the thought of repentance is now archaic. , but man’s fickle nature does not alter your responsibility before the Lord.
Webster offers two secular definitions for repentance: 1. Sorrow for anything done or said; the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury or inconvenience produced by his own conduct, or 2. in theology, the pain, regret or affliction which a person feels on account of his past conduct, because it exposes him to punishment. Biblical repentance includes regret about an act of commission or omission before the Lord, but adds censure from repetition of the same.
Relevance Of Repentance
Repentance is antiquated now, primarily because sin and the consequences thereof both here and eternally have lost their place in the contemporary church. Notions of easy-believism and decisional-regeneration now supersede the Biblical decree that the fall and subsequent curse (Genesis 3) separated everyone ever born from the Lord and eternal life, which can only be regained by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10) through repentance. One of the popular religious ideas is that everybody enters life on a neutral spiritual plane, and one’s action/reaction set in the course of life earns you merits and/or demerits, which some divine authority tallies at death to determine that soul’s eternal disposition. These lists vary depending on which religion you align with, but irregardless, there is no Biblical support for this methodology because…
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 3:23 (KJV)
And the Apostle James clarifies…For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
James 2:10 (KJV)
In theory, there are two ways to attain eternal life: either by never committing any sin, or by realizing your separated state from the Lord and submitting yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ! In practice, the Apostle Paul disqualified option one when he wrote, ‘there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). The Lord Jesus Christ clarified mankind’s disposition in life when He said…
(13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)
Therefore, the consequence is…
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (KJV)
While some religious disciplines suggest a third possible cleansing portal, Scripture only identifies two dispositions following death: Heaven, or Hell! The above verses tell you that every one of us, even if we committed only one sin is guilty of the entire Law, for which the tariff is eternal separation from God (Second Death – Revelation 2:11 20:6, 20:14 and 21:8), and no humanly-devised contrition can make up for this short-fall. For those desiring Heaven, the Lord Jesus qualified that there is but one way to get there…
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
John 14:6 (KJV)
Sin is the prohibiting factor to Heaven, a reality we must all deal with and in fact, are trapped in. Concerning this, in the Apostle Paul’s correspondence, he spoke often about redemption and the context was from the slave market of sin.
Spiritual Condition Of Everyone At Physical Birth
Tragically, redemption is also archaic to contemporary Christians, because many equate redemption with a simple financial transaction, but relative to eternal life, it carries a far deeper meaning. The etymology of the Greek language created mental images to help the audience understand the depth of presented principles. The root word in redemption painted the picture of a slave being set free from the slave market. Slavery was a widespread social practice in the land and time of the Bible, particularly in the Roman Empire. This formed the backdrop of the Apostle Paul’s correspondence. People became slaves for a variety of reasons, and it should go without saying that these people had no freedoms whatsoever. Once classified as a slave, you were the master’s property to be sold or traded at his discretion. Children born to slaves were the master’s property, and slaves spent all his or her energy for the master’s benefit.
First-century slave trade was a lucrative business. Insight to this sociological practice may help you better understand the Apostle Paul’s references to slavery. Slaves for trading were transported chained together in the holds of ships, but weren’t released to relieve themselves, so the slaves had no choice but to defecate and urinate where they stood; in many cases, on one another. You can imagine the foul stench from these ships by the time they reached the destination. The market was surrounded by ten–to–fifteen–foot fences made from tree trunks, driven in the ground adjacent to one another. These walls extended out from shore several hundred feet to thwart escape attempts. Slave ships eased into shallow water between the walls, where the chained slaves waded to shore. The slave holding place resembled a concentration camp, with a limited number of doors that opened onto a slave–block. These doors were secured to prevent escape from these filthy, stinking areas. On trade days, slaves were stripped naked and paraded under guard through the secured doors onto the slave–block for viewing and inspection. Here the auctioneer called for, and received bids.
This was the slave market, with only one way out! Wealthy masters desiring to buy slaves would survey the merchandise from afar. They didn’t get too close because of the stench, but sent ambassadors to examine candidates with a rag over their nose, wait for the master’s signal, and submit bids. On payment, slave custody transferred from the slave–block guards to the ambassador, and his first responsibility was to mark the slave with the new master’s seal for identification. This consummated the transaction. They were then freed from the slave–block to serve his or her new master. The slaves could do anything they wanted to behind the secured doors of the slave–block, but they could not declare themselves independent, pass through the door and jump to freedom. When the slave’s owner changed, the slave was now free to serve the new Master, but not free from an authority.
And so you have the sociological backdrop painting a vivid portrait of the unregenerate’s spiritual condition, and what happens in the salvation process. Here we should pause to explain the term unregenerate. In the Lord’s economy, you are either alive or dead spiritually, saved or lost spiritually, unregenerate or regenerated to new life in the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul certified this in his letter to Titus…
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Titus 3:5 (KJV)
Repentance is no more a meritorious work than its counterpart, faith, but is an inward response. Genuine repentance pleads with the Lord to forgive and deliver from the burden of sin and the fear of judgment and hell. The Lord Jesus contrasted two men in the Temple to exemplify true repentance…
(10) Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (12) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (13) And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke 18:10-13 (KJV)
The Pharisee completely missed the point, while the publican clearly understood his sin could only be absolved through the Lord’s mercy. Regeneration is not an earned status, but a divine gift of God, according to the Apostle Paul…
(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)
Repentance is not merely a change of behavior because it involves a change of heart and purpose and results in a change of behavior. Like faith, repentance affects the intellect, emotion and volition. Because of the politically-correct press to tolerate all manner of conduct, sin has swept through the church like a tsunami. Western culture struggles to relate to the squalor of the slaves’ condition, but then so do we struggle to comprehend the depravity of sin. Sin is just as repugnant in the nostrils of Holy God as the stench in the hold of slave ships. The contemporary attitude toward sin is, “Hey, this stuff smells pretty good”, and yonder you go! Terms such as “coming out of the closet”, politically–correct and/or pro–choice, do very little to camouflage evil portent. The unregenerate are free to marry, divorce, make money, steal, cheat, politic, go to church, do charitable deeds and/or anything else they choose. They can play games, do tricks and fantasize about freedom, but remain bound and for the most part, are blind to their bondage and don’t even realize it. They are free to walk, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). Redeemed slaves didn’t return to the slave market to reminisce, nor did they swim back out to the ship to savor the odor of the hold, yet this graphic portrait reflects the actions in the modern church community. The Apostle Paul wrote…
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
II Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
The redeemed are not freed from the slave–block of sin to continue in carnality, living any way you choose, nor is God a Divine Genie at your disposal, but you are to actively seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, Who redeemed you by His blood. Are you doing that? The Apostle Paul mentions being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise twice in his letter to the Ephesians. Referring to the Lord Jesus, he wrote.
(13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13–14 (KJV)
The serious disciple would ask, “What is this seal and why is it important?” The theme for the book of Ephesians is God’s eternal purpose in redemption. Please note that the focus is on the Lord Jesus, Who is the Operator. The events in operation are, hearing the gospel, trust or faith in Him, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit. The term translated sealed, carries legal, military and social connotations, representing contractual authority. In Roman law, a man’s word was as binding as a mark used to execute written contracts. In a military sense, citizens of an occupied country could redeem their freedom. Wealthy people were known to purchase their freedom for a great price. The poor were constrained to captivity until the captors were overthrown or a benefactor redeemed their freedom for them. This idea originated with the slave market of the ancient world. Very few slaves were ever able to buy their own freedom, but a wealthy, benevolent individual could redeem one from the slave block, again for a price.
The term sealed by the Holy Spirit does not imply that the Holy Spirit is the agent delivering the sealing mark, but rather the Holy Spirit is the seal, which lives in and works through the saved to accomplish the Lord’s eternal purpose. When a soul gets saved, the Lord puts His mark on that one and that mark is the Holy Spirit of God. That one is then freed to serve the Lord. This seal has to do with the past, the present and the future work of the Lord in the life of one of the one being saved.
But the seal itself is not the most important aspect of this principle, but rather the effect of the seal. Ephesians 1:14 tells us that the Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. This is a commercial term. If you put earnest–money down on a contract and do not fulfill the terms thereof, you forfeit the earnest–money you paid. The Apostle Paul is saying that if the Lord does not fulfill your inheritance, He forfeits the Holy Spirit. If that happened, God would cease to be God and that will never be. This certifies your assurance of your personal salvation!
If you are a Christian, you have two citizenships and therein must you function effectively in both temporal and spiritual realms. Nobody ever said it is easy to be a Christian. In fact, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit living the life of the Lord Jesus Christ through you, it is impossible! The Apostle Paul makes an interesting statement in his letter to the Romans…
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
The Apostle Paul’s Roman audience would have understood the verse above in this context. Every one of us is born in the slave market of sin, because of the nature you inherited from Adam through your Dad. The sin nature passes from generation-to-generation through men, because Eve sinned by virtue of deception, whereas Adam sinned volitionally.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
I Timothy 2:14 (KJV)
This cannot be altered, overturned or negated by good deeds. The only way anyone can get out of the slave market of sin is to be purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! According to the Apostle Paul, you either serve the Lord or Satan (Ephesians 2:1–2). The unregenerate may think he or she serves neither, but he or she is only fooling himself or herself.
As a member of the human race, you must live with others like yourself. The unregenerate are left to personal recognizance, which explains the conflict around you. Self and Satan walk a common course. It’s like being in a trough. The unregenerate can bang around in the belly of it all they want, but they can’t get out. Those saved by the Blood of the Lamb can act as the world (Galatians 5:19–21), or live according to the direction of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The cause of Christ, together with your testimony rest on your decision. Choose wisely today.
The Apostle Paul clarifies the spiritual condition and desire of everyone at physical birth…
(10) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become (spiritually) unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (13) Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: (14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood: (16) Destruction and misery are in their ways: (17) And the way of peace have they not known: (18) There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Romans 3:10-18 (KJV)
The Apostle Paul’s words certify that if you possess any measure of spiritual sensitivity, an external agent (the Holy Spirit) must have engineered it in you!
Now For A Closer Look At Repentance
The Old Testament contains twenty-two references to repent in various forms, which are translated from two Hebrew words…
Nahum – to lament, or to grieve, a word describing the emotions aroused when you are motivated to take a different course of action.
Shuib is a word expressing a radical change of mind toward sin. It implies a conscious moral separation from a specific action, followed by a decision to forsake it and agree with God.
The New Testament contains forty-six references to repentance in various forms, which are translated from two Greek words…
Metamelomai means to have feeling or care, concern or regret, akin to remorse?
Metanoeo means to have another mind, describing a radical change whereby a sinner turns from the idols of sin and of self to God.
The primary message of Biblical prophets was calling their audience to repentance. In the four-chapter book of Jonah, the Lord commanded Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites, who actually repented. Over the next century, sin diluted the Ninevite’s righteousness, and the Lord sent Nahum to call them to repent, as had Jonah, but they disregarded Nahum and the Lord destroyed Nineveh! Jeremiah preached repentance to Judah his entire life, having had but one possible convert, and the Lord sent Nebuchadnezzar to sack Jerusalem and take Judah into captivity for seventy years. John the Baptist, Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles all preached repentance as the prerequisite to eternal life, and so it is. Consider the Apostle Peter’s instruction…
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:38 (KJV)
Regeneration precedes repentance! In the lost state, repentance begins when you realize your sinful condition separates you from the Lord, and ultimately from eternal life. There are some who claim they want to go to Hell, but they occupy an extreme minority. In the lost state, most reason that compared to others, they are relatively good and God would certainly excuse your faults, but your conduct is not the deciding factor on your eternal disposition! In short, repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God, and the Lord Jesus Christ provided clarity…
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
II Corinthians 7:9 (KJV)
Repentance In Practice Following Regeneration
Regeneration must occur before a soul even realizes they need to repent! In some, the transaction is immediate, while in others, a process of time, but once regenerated to new life in the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit indwells you from that point on. His responsibility is to conform those He regenerates to new life in the Lord Jesus Christ, to His image…
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 8:29 (KJV)
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Philippians 1:6 (KJV)
When a regenerated soul is tempted to sin, the Holy Spirit quickens you not to yield and enables you to resist the temptation. Everyone develops a unique list of familiar sins prior to salvation, and these are the things we are most often tempted to commit. Obedience to the Holy Spirit’s quickening advances your spiritual maturity. This is called sanctification. Failure to obey the Holy Spirit’s quickening pauses your spiritual maturity, and you can be certain you will experience similar temptation until you learn how to obey.
One who has never been regenerated to new life in the Lord Jesus Christ does not have the Holy Spirit to guide their conduct. Their action/reaction set is governed only by opportunity and fear.
Now I direct your attention to the Apostle Paul’s confession…
(18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 7:18-25 (KJV)
I hasten to point out that this passage is not license to sin, freedom to disregard the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, but the reality of the Christian life. You can be certain that if the Apostle Paul struggled with familiar sin, the rest of us will, as well, and this is why the Apostle John wrote….
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9 (KJV)
Christians are repenters! This is repetitive repentance. Only the Lord Jesus Christ spent His time on earth in sinless perfection. The rest of us commit either sins of omission or sins of commission on a regular basis. This is why it is critically important for every Christian to develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s Voice and learn to obey Him when He speaks to you.