Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 10, 1952
NUMBER 48, PAGE 2,5b

Repentance And Remission Of Sins

George Tipps, Jackson, Tennessee

None of us doubts that the suffering and resurrection of Christ came in direct fulfillment of divinely inspired prophecy. To this our Lord gives testimony inasmuch as he says, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and rise from the dead." (Luke 24:46) In the immediate context however, there is another truth that is much overlooked. "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" is by our Lord also said to be in fulfillment of prophecy.

Relation Of Repentance And Remission Of Sins To The Suffering And Resurrection Of Christ

It should be remembered that these words of Christ were spoken after his suffering and resurrection, and previous to his ascension. Therefore, while repentance and remission of sins were both preached prior to the cross, they were preached in prospect of the cross; moreover they were totally dependent upon the cross for their meaning and efficacy. It was not until the suffering and resurrection of Christ that repentance could have its fullest meaning and that there could be an efficacious remission of sins. (Heb. 9:22; 10:4; 9:12)

The Importance Of Repentance

Volumes might be written about "The Importance and Values of Repentance," yet the Lord of Glory set forth in a minimum of words how greatly important it is for all to repent, "Except ye repent, ye shall perish." There it is, a stern, divine decree. How can the importance of repentance be better stated?

What Is Repentance?

Difficulty is encountered with regard to teaching on the matter of repentance, largely because preconceived and mistaken ideas prevail in the minds of many.

For example, many feel that repentance is being sorry for a wrong done. Yet Paul teaches simply being sorry with the sorrow of this world will not even produce repentance. How could it then be repentance? Further, he teaches that it is sorrow after a Godly sort that will lead men to repentance. (2 Cor. 7:8-10) In reference to worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow it might be briefly stated that worldly sorrow might come because of being found out, while Godly sorrow comes because one realizes he has broken the Lord's own commandment and is sorry because he has transgressed against God, not because he has been caught.

Neither is repentance a feeling of conviction, for we read that after the Jews were pricked in their hearts (convicted), they cried out to know what they should do. In answer they were told to repent and be baptized. Were repentance conviction, Peter's command of them was meaningless. Yet conviction in this case did precede repentance and serves as a mighty requisite thereto. (Acts. 2:37-38)

Again, repentance is not fear, as many have been led to believe. For we read of Felix that he trembled, and we have no evidence that he ever repented. (Acts 24:25) Still, a conviction of sin can lead to a fear of falling unprepared into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31), and thus lead to repentance.

Nor is repentance a reformation of life, for repentance produces reformation. (Luke 3:8) Reformation therefore follows repentance and accompanies it.

A common misconception with regard to repentance is that when it takes place, then the individual is converted.

Yet the inspired commandment rings out in answer, "Repent and be converted." (Acts 8:19) The fallacy of such a position is readily seen.

Examples Of Repentance

Having shown what repentance is not, let us have the scriptures exemplify it for us that we might see what it is. With his parable of the prodigal (Luke 15) Christ shows that this errant son first saw his sin (vs. 16), was sorry for it (vs. 17, 21), change his mind and went home (vs. 18), and in going home, reformed his life (vs. 20). Thus we understand from our Lord that repentance is that change of heart that leads to a changed life.

In Matthew 21 is found Christ's parable of the two sons. The first son answered, "I will not" to his father's request that he go work in the vineyard. Later he is said to have changed his mind and gone to work. This change of heart which lead to a changed life is in verse 29 called repentance. He carried out his change of heart in the matter by going to work.

Both these examples corroborate the very meaning of the word repent. The words which the Spirit spoke were METANOEO (to have another mind) and METANOIA (a change of mind). Both come from the root word NOEO, meaning to perceive, to comprehend, to conceive.

How Are Repentance And Remission Of Sins Related?

There are many who feel that when this difficult change has been wrought, salvation has been obtained. But what say the scriptures? Inspiration declares that one repents that he might have the forgiveness of his sins. A much used but unworn text locates the teaching. (Acts 2:38) It is therefore seen that repentance is not the remission of sins, nor the evidence that there has been the remission of sins.

Our text and its context likewise made clearly known that repentance alone does not make possible the remission of sins. The words "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ' indicate the necessity of their confidently believing in Jesus. Truly the majority of Peter's sermon was designed to inculcate the necessity of faith on their part. Moreover, baptism is not to be reckoned with lightly in this particular. What repentance is in order to in this passage, baptism is also in order to. Nor is repentance in order to remission of sins and baptism because of remission of sins. Certainly repentance is necessary to remission of sins, but, like faith, is insufficient in itself.

It should be understood that repentance is not done "once for all." By this, it is meant that the Christian will ever be repentant with regard to evil. Just as it is necessary for him to repent to be saved, it is necessary for him to repent to keep saved. (Acts 8:22) The stiff-necked impenitent Christian will be as certainly lost as the impenitent alien.

How Is Repentance Brought About?

"God hath also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18) From this passage many adduce that repentance is a gift that God has given, rather than a requirement that He makes of us. God has granted us the air that we breathe, but He still requires of us that we do the breathing. The preponderance of the scriptures is too great to allow such interpretation. The command is explicit: 'repent ye' . . . 'except ye repent.' Before long someone will actually have God doing the repenting for man.

Whether in the alien sinner or the erring child of God, repentance is brought about in the same manner. Jesus upbraided many of the cities of his day by pointing out that wicked cities of ancient times would have repented from their wickedness had they been privileged to have done in them mighty works such as he did in his ministry. He then pointed to judgment day, showing it would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon there than for impenitent Bethsaida and Chorazin. Reference to judgment should have brought those haughty cities to their knees in penitence, just as thoughts of God's judgment day should cause men to repent now. "God has commanded men that they should repent." Why? "He has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world." (Acts 17:30)

Think on the goodness of God. Now think of the evil done by man. As sinful man thinks on God's goodness his heart should melt within him that the goodness of God might lead him to repent. (Rom. 2:4) Now sorrow after the Godly sort should fill his heart that repentance might be worked in him.

A Concluding Thought

It is not difficult to get people to be baptized when they are truly penitent, and it is not difficult to get wayward folk to reform their lives when they are truly penitent. The difficulty lies in getting men everywhere to repent. Herewith goes a prayer that these words might help us to repent and to teach more effectively the necessity of repentance unto the remission of sins.