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I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32 NASB)

INTRODUCTION

In the last chapter we looked at the first of the basic teachings which is “repentance from dead works”. We learned that the original sin of Adam and Eve disobeying God lead to all of mankind receiving a sin nature. This “sin nature” causes us to sin and separates us from God through a spiritual death also passed on to us. However, as we also learned, God has provided a way towards spiritual life which is found in Jesus who died for our sins.

This chapter continues to study the first foundational teaching of repentance from dead works.

REPENTANCE

We previously learned repentance was to turn away from the things that oppose God and His will. It is an inward decision to change our lives, to change the way we think and act, all of which results in an outward action to turn from sin to God and His righteousness.

solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21 NASB)

Luke records in the book of Acts a “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”. What a beautiful thought that when we repent from doing evil we move our lives towards God. Often we view repentance as labor intensive, hard to do, or something we do without really getting any closer to God. Yet these cannot be any further from the truth.

When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18 NASB)

Peter had been describing to those around him a vision God had shown him about how “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (verse 15). Peter was being instructed by God that salvation was not just for the Jews but for anyone who wanted to come to God.

We can see here that repentance not only brings us to God but leads to life. This is the eternal life God has promised to those who accept Him and believe on His name.

Repentance is a gift which God has freely and graciously given to those who believe, to the Jews first (the Israelites) and then to the non-Jews.

He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31 NASB)

When we are brought to that point of repentance it is filled with emotions. We cry and are sorrowful. But emotions are not enough. We need to act on those feelings. Repentance is to make a decision. We need to stop doing the works that lead to death, both physical and spiritual, start doing works that lead to life. Again, both physical and spiritual.

 

WHY REPENTANCE IS IMPORTANT

There are several reasons why repentance is so important to the life of a believer. These reasons also explain to us why it is considered a foundation of our Christian faith. The very first of these reasons is simply God commands it.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, (Acts 17:30 NASB)

Jesus repeated this command continuously throughout His ministry on earth.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2 NASB)

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 NASB)

And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that men should repent. (Mark 6:10-12 NASB)

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32 NASB)

Repentance is necessary to avoid spiritual death.

I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3 NASB)

It is also necessary for eternal life. Since through sin we have received the penalty of death it is through repentance that the penalty of death is removed and we receive eternal life.

When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18 NASB)

For us to be forgiven, to have our sins removed, we must first repent.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NASB)

God’s desire for us is that we should not die. He wants us to be with Him forever.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 NASB)

Jesus’ mission while on earth was to remind God’s people who He is and to call us to repentance.

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32 NASB)

 

DO CHRISTIANS NEED TO REPENT?

Most of us are very structured people. We are set in our ways and really do not like change. As Christians we can also become legalistic in our approach towards repentance. We like to make a list of what we need to do and check the boxes as we do them. Then we tend to become complacent in our spiritual lives thinking all is well now that we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.

This mindset helps us fall back into old patterns of sinful living. But all is not lost. According to God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures we call the Bible, whenever a believer sins they must repent.

EXAMPLES

Corinth was a city where a Christian church had been established. They quickly believed, repented,  and began their walk with Jesus. But they fell back into old practices and word had gotten back to Paul who had helped plant their church.

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (2 Corinthians 7:9 NASB)

For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (2 Corinthians 12:20-21 NASB)

The Ephesians suffered the same problems. Jesus told John on the isle of Patmos to write letters to the seven churches. One was the church of Ephesus.

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 NASB)

Jesus also warned the churches in Pergamos, Sardis, and Laodecea.

Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (Revelation 2:16 NASB)

So remember ]what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3 NASB)

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 NASB)

When we sin we must repent. This is not just saying, “Sorry, God for my sins” but to act on that sorrow and work to stop sinning. This is extremely freeing because we are forgiven when we ask God to forgive us and we repent.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 NASB)

Because repentance is so important to our salvation God’s plan involved John the Baptist to begin the call to repentance before Jesus began His ministry.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:3-4 NASB)

John had to call Israel to repentance before Jesus could be revealed. Once Jesus was baptized Himself He continued calling Israel to repentance.

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost they continued to preach repentance to those they delivered the Gospel to.

. . . testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21 NASB)

Most Christians today are onboard with sharing the Gospel throughout the world. But few of them ever talk about repentance much. They read one Scripture verse that we know as the “Great Commission” and they stand on this alone.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16 NASB)

We are to proclaim in the name of Jesus repentance for forgiveness of sins.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47 NASB)

 

HYPOCRISY

Throughout Jesus’ ministry He dealt with hypocrites. He boldly called them out and openly called them hypocrites. But what made them hypocrites in the eyes of the Lord?

Simply put, a hypocrite is one who tells people one thing and does something else themselves. For example, there are those who taught not to commit adultery but would sleep with prostitutes. That is hypocrisy. This is what we need to stay away from and it is done by repenting.

For anyone to preach the Word of God without being a hypocrite they must live a repentant life. They must “practice what they preach” in other words.

God has given us His Word and teaching on what hypocrisy is.

But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written. (Romans 2:17-24 NASB)

God motivates us through His Word when He speaks the truth about how we deceive ourselves and others through our words and actions.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)

I don’t know about you but this reference scares me. It tells me I need to be repentant always. I need to be loving more than knowledgeable. My relationship with God must lead me to my relationships with others. I must live as I believe and have faith in God like a child.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:1-6 NASB)

Does God send His blessings to ungodly people? Yes. But understand it is not an approval of that person’s life choices. God sends blessings to the ungodly to lead them to repentance.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NASB)

Repentance comes also through preaching. Read the story of Jonah and how God used him to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah. They not only heard Jonahs words but they believed him and changed their ways. It was because they repented that the people of Ninevah were saved.

Because they repented God honored them and held them in a higher standing. Jesus spoke of this when He explained the people of this generation were in danger because they were not repenting.

The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41 NASB)

Jesus did not come into this world to call the righteous to repent but sinners to repent.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NASB)

The teachings of Jesus, His doctrine, and the preaching of God’s Word tells us to repent. It reminds us that God wants us to repent. But it is God Himself who calls us to repent. Through His Spirit we are called and nudged towards repentance.

 

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 NASB)

God rebukes us through His Word. When we repent He forgives us. Likewise we are called to do the same for others.

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3 NASB)

Human emotions of sorrow is not enough to lead us to repentance. We need to have “Godly sorrow” which will lead us to repentance.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB)

When we repent we can experience a number of things associated with the repentance.

 

FAITH

The second foundational principle of the Christian faith is faith itself. Repentance from dead works must be accompanied with faith towards God.

. . . repent and believe . . . (Mark 1:15 NASB)

. . . repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21 NASB)

Most Christians are familiar with Acts 2:38:

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NASB)

Most would agree there are two steps to becoming saved. First is to repent. Second is to be baptized. Essentially this is true. But in all this there is also the requirement of believing in Jesus.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NASB)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, (John 11:25 NASB)

 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. (John 12:44 NASB)

We must believe, repent because we believe, and be baptized to testify to the world that our sins are forgiven.

How do we know there has been true repentance?

God’s Word tells us that “fruit” is evidence of repentance.

Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; (Matthew 3:8 NASB)

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-18 NASB)

When there is true repentance both “works” and “fruit” are revealed in outward behavior. Our behavior changes bad to good. It will be obvious to others.

Repentance works through conversion as well. After all, conversion is repentance. To repent is to convert from dead works to life works.

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19 NASB)

To convert means to turn. In terms of Biblical repentance it means turning away from evil and turning to the good.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:16 NASB)

And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:35 NASB)

And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:21 NASB)

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:18 NASB)

and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:15 NASB)

For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9 NASB)

Conversion is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God.

. . . Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 NASB)

There is a special blessing for those who work to convert sinners to be forgiven.

let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20 NASB)

Conversion wipes away sin.

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19 NASB)

One of the greatest skills Jesus had when trying to get people to understand what He was saying was to use parables. Parables help people to relate. One parable that helps us to understand repentance is the parable of the prodigal son.

And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:11-32 NASB)

The prodigal son had emotions. He felt sorry he had been so arrogant. He regretted his actions. But this was not repentance. The repentance came when he took action by humbling himself and seeking forgiveness from his father.

Just like God our Father, his father forgave him and celebrated his return. This is our Father in Heaven.

Like us, this young man left his old life of sin and returned home to his father. This is conversion.

All people are like this prodigal son. We have all turned our backs on God and went into this world to live they way we wanted to. We were selfish. But when we came to that realization of what we were doing to ourselves and those around us we looked towards God the Father for forgiveness.

This is the state of the world around us. For those who do not believe in God they are destined to die in their sins unless they repent and be converted. They must decide to change their lives. When they do, their lives change from dead to alive forever.

In repentance and conversion we will find a few other terms which are important to all believers. They are “Salvation”, “Righteousness”, and “Justification”.

To live in sin is to be condemned to die. Judgment has already been passed.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:18-19 NASB)

When you repent your relationship with God becomes right. This relationship become justification. You go from being judged as being unrighteous to being righteous.

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18 NASB)

One of the greatest testimonies of God’s forgiveness and turning one’s unrighteousness into righteousness is that of king David. David, although he started out a strong believer and a faithful follower of God’s will, was turned towards sin as he lusted after a married woman. He had the woman’s husband killed so he could marry her. But eventually he repented and had the temple of God built.

The simplest testimony of righteousness was that of Abraham.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3 NASB)

It is faith that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.

We can be servants of sin or of righteousness. The choice is ours. But our righteousness is not because of anything we have done. It is purely because of what Jesus did for us.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)

If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and He died for your sins, if you repent and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you will not experience spiritual death and eternal separation from God.

Everyone will die a physical death. But those who do not believe in Jesus will also die a spiritual death. But because of the justification we receive through faith in Jesus Christ we are redeemed.

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:24 NASB)

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9 NASB)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1 NASB)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NASB)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10a NASB)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17 NASB)

 

SUMMARY

On the next page you will find a chart to help you see salvation through repentance.

Lucifer (Satan) rebelled against God and was condemned to rule the earth.

Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and sinned against God which resulted in

All men inheriting the sin nature and committing sins due to this sin nature

This lead to spiritual and physical death for all men

Jesus died for all of man’s sins and brought justification

Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to give us power and guidance

Leading to repentance and conversion which results in

Justification of sinful man before a righteous God and salvation from a life of sin and mans’ sin nature


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