The most important doctrine that should concern every Christian first and foremost is the doctrine of justification before God. Christ should be and remain the center focus of every Christian. We hold that a man is justified by faith in Christ apart from works of the law and that faith is a gift from God and man does not possess the power to believe without being regenerated by the means of grace ( word and sacrament). This can be found all throughout scripture, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 2:14, etc…
After we understand the doctrine of justification we need to understand what Biblical Repentance is. This doctrine is vital as it often goes hand in hand with faith. We hear in the Old Testament to repent, and we hear in the New Testament to repent, so we must break down this vital doctrine to understand what Repentance is.
- What is Repentance?
- Who’s work is Repentance?
- How often should a person Repent?
- When we Repent, what should we do next?
In this article I will break down all of these questions on Repentance. My goal is to loose the burden on the conscience of people who are overwhelmed with terror from their sins. I will lay out scripture to support every angle of evidence concerning the important doctrine of Repentance. Let’s begin!
1. What is Repentance?
To repent in the Old Testament means “to turn and go the other way,” whereas in the language of the New Testament, to repent means to be “of a changed mind” or to “think differently.” This has to do with acknowledge one’s sin against God, desiring, and turning in a godly direction, and to think differently about God, one’s self, sin, faith, as well as life and death. It is to learn to think in accordance with God’s Word.
Matthew 3:2 ESV
2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Luke 13:3 ESV
3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish
Acts 3:19-20 (ESV
19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus
2. Who’s work is Repentance?
To consider this we need to consider the fact of Scripture that God speaks to us with two key distinct ways – God’s law and God’s Gospel. The law is what God tells us to do and not to do. The Ten Commandments are a summary form of God’s moral law. God’s moral law is descriptive of His design for us in His creation – the way things are designed to be by Him. The law shows us the problem. The law’s main function is to show us our sin, like a mirror or an X-Ray. It shows our problem (sin and death) but does not heal us. But it is good that we are enlightened by this. For we not only do bad things, but they come from a heart and mind that are fatally infected with original sin (Psalm 51:5).
The Gospel, meaning “good news,” is the specific message of the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Gospel proclaims and bestows upon us forgiveness of sins before God, eternal life, and salvation in body and soul. This comes about because Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, became a man by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and lived a perfect life for us as our substitute and willingly was sacrificed on the cross of Calvary to pay the wages of our sin. He was raised the third day for our justification in God’s sight and now in the preaching of the Word of God and in the administration of the mysteries we call the sacraments the fruits of His saving work is distributed (given out) to the world through the ministry of the Church in the here and now. It is offered to everyone, to all nations. The world has been justified in God’s sight by the sacrifice of Jesus and this is to be offered to all in the preaching of the Word of God so that it benefits individuals.
John 16:7-11 ESV
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Romans 3:20 ESV
20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Psalm 51:17 ESV
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
John 17:20 ESV
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word
So you see that Repentance is the work of the third person of the Trinity. It is God the Holy Spirit who leads us to repentance through the word. Mainly through the law. The law is Holy and perfect but as sinful beings we cannot keep it. So we are left only to despair until the proclamation of the Gospel, where we hear that we are forgiven for Christ sake.
3. How often should a person Repent?
I am going to start by adding some key scripture’s to answer this important question.
Romans 7:15-25 ESV
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Galatians 5:17 ESV
17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do
Matthew 3:8 ESV
8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Luke 11:1-4 ESV
11 Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
Now that we have the texts in front of us we can see that we have two natures after being regenerated to faith. We are simultaneously saint and sinner. We are in the weakness of the flesh and at the same time inhabited by the Holy Spirit and this causes a dual nature. therefore repentance is not a one time thing, no, we sin daily in our flesh and must bear fruit with keeping daily Repentance. When Jesus taught us how to pray, he gave us a daily prayer which included asking for forgiveness.
1 John 1:8-9 ESV
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So we can conclude that God is not angry with us because of what Christ has done for us. He is ready to forgive us and feed us with his word and sacraments. As a side note it is important to not abuse Grace. Grace is not a license to sin, it is freedom from our sinful nature to our Lord and savior who loved us and gave himself up for us that we are made perfect in him by faith.
4. When we Repent, what should we do next?
God has graciously granted us the gift of the Holy Spirit so our eyes are open to our sin through hearing the law. God’s standard for everyone is perfection. One sin is enough to send us to hell and God would be just in doing so. When we hear the law it terrifies our conscience leaving nothing but hopelessness and despair. It is only through the proclamation of the Gospel that we are made free by the crucified God man, Jesus Christ and for his sake we are forgiven. The only thing we must do is continue in the Grace of God.
Get to Church so you can hear Christ crucified proclaimed and receive forgiveness through word and sacrament. We have nothing to offer God. He does not need our good works, our neighbors do. God is generous to the point of not even sparing his only begotten Son for our sake. He desires all men to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved. Do not take his kindness for granted. Gladly hear his word, confess your sins, and be forgiven. The more we are away from God’s Word, the more we start to die.
Think of it as eating. You can go a while before you’re hungry, but soon you’ll be starving and then you will die.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Matthew 13:18-23 ESV
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and y
tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.[a] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Repentance consists of two parts. First that we see our sin through the knowledge of the law and we are contrite and sorry for them, confessing them to God and one another.
The second part is absolution. We believe that for Christ sake we are forgiven of those sins without doubting but firmly believing that we are indeed forgiven because of the work of Christ.
It is impossible to recall all sins ( ps. 19:12) but necessary to confess those we are aware of (Prov. 28:13). Then hold fast to the promise of forgiveness in Christ (1 John 1:8-9).