Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1956
NUMBER 39, PAGE 2-3b


Chester Estes, Sheffield, Alabama

Men are called upon to repent because they are sinners. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3.) God now "commandeth all men every where to repent." (Acts 17:30.) Any theory that sets forth salvation for sinful man without repentance is based upon a false interpretation. The Bible has not been allowed to interpret itself. When we allow the Bible to interpret itself, all obscure or difficult passages will be understood in the light of the plain passages every one is able to understand. God did not purposely veil His will in obscure language. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" is not obscure. Any theory, Calvinistic or otherwise, that teaches man repents because he is saved is erroneous. It grows out of a bad interpretation of the scriptures. Some who claim that one is saved at the point of faith without any further acts of obedience also tell us that one repents first and then believes in Christ. They do this in order to keep from being accused of teaching salvation without repentance. But we would like to know how one can repent toward Christ when he does not even believe in Christ. Suppose you contact a man to tell him what to do to be saved, and say to him, "Now, you are saved at the point of faith, without any further acts of obedience. So, you need to repent toward Christ in order that you may believe in Christ." Why, you know the man would answer, if he had never heard of Christ, "How can I repent toward Christ when I do not even believe in Christ?" Men with bad interpretations may teach error about the order of repentance and faith, but there is only one way to practice it, faith in Christ must precede repentance. Let us again turn to the scriptures: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6.) Suppose the person does repent without faith, the Bible says he cannot do so and please God. If one admits that repentance is coming to God, and most men do, and yet contends that repentance precedes faith, is he not contradictory in teaching? And, does he not have one coming to God without faith, in a manner displeasing to God? But we are told, as an objection, that Jesus preached, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15.) What if he did? Did he preach one thing in one place that would contradict every thing he preached in another place? Certainly not. Jesus was telling the Jews to repent toward God, in whom they already believed, and believe the gospel of Christ. Only a false interpretation could put repentance toward Christ before faith in Christ, and only illogical reasoning could conceive of it in that order.

There certainly is a need for repentance on the part of man. Otherwise, God would not have made it a command to be obeyed. There are two very good reasons why all men should repent. First, because God commands it. The greatest reason for doing anything is that God commands it. Men are too prone to demand of God a reason. Second, there is a great need for a reformation of men and women. This reformation is impossible without repentance. Repentance must precede reformation. Some confuse reformation and repentance. We will have occasion to point out the difference in this study. However, it is enough just here to know that the human race stands very much in need of reformation, and that repentance precedes reformation.

Repentance does not exclude other commands of God. It has already been seen that repentance cannot precede faith, nor can it be separated from faith. Faith is a prerequisite of repentance and essential to it. Luke mentions repentance in recording the commission. "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46, 47.) Matthew and Mark, who also give their records of the commission, do not mention repentance. But they must not be made to contradict Luke's record. Each record is supplementary to the others. Luke records the first gospel sermon preached under the great commission. In this first sermon the answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved? is given. The sinners who were guilty of the blood of our Lord were told to "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.) Surely no one, who believes in the inspiration of the New Testament, thinks that an inspired writer, such as Luke, contradicts himself. It should be remembered that Luke records both Acts 2:38 and Luke 24:46, 47. We think of Luke as giving the truth in both passages, perfectly harmonious with himself, regardless of which passage we read first. It is impossible for one who recognizes the fact that the Bible interprets the Bible to believe repentance excludes baptism, or any other command of God.

Perhaps we need to, at this stage in our study, ask, "What, then, is repentance?" One of the most prevalent answers it, "Repentance is Godly sorrow for sins"; but that is not what the Bible calls repentance. Paul says, "though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent (regret it); though I did repent (regret); for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season, but that ye sorrowed to (unto) repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner... For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of (a repentance which bringeth no regret); but the sorrow of this world worketh death." (2 Cor. 7:8-10.) It is not only shown here that sorrow itself (for it may be of a worldly sort) is not repentance; but even godly sorrow itself is not repentance. Sorrow does not lead to repentance, but godly sorrow may lead to repentance. Godly sorrow is not repentance; but leads to repentance. Then repentance leads to a reformation of character. Hear Paul in the eleventh verse of the same chapter: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourself, yea, what indignation, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, what revenge!" Of course, every character who genuinely repents, leads a reformed life. John the Baptist taught that reformation of life is the fruit of repentance. The people were taught to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance," or worthy of repentance. Repentance stands between sorrow for sins and a change Hof life. Repentance leads to a godly sorrow and godly leads to reformation.

Since we have learned what repentance is not, what, then, is repentance? It is a change of the mind. Not merely a change of the mind; but a change of the mind for the better. It is a change of that stubborn will which is the seat of all rebellion against God. It is a determination to forsake sins and submit to the will of God. Repentance comes from the Greek word metenoia, which means a change of mind: or, from meaneo, to have another mind. In Romans 11:29 and 2 Corinthians 7:10 repentance comes from ametomeletos, and is used in the sense of regret. When it is said, "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance," (Rom. 11:29) it is not meant that God calls men to salvation and bestows the promises of the gospel without repentance on man's part; but that the gifts and calling of God are not to be regretted. Only a false interpretation accepts the former.

(To be concluded)