Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1956
NUMBER 43, PAGE 2-3b


Chester Estes, Sheffield, Alabama

As stated in a previous article, repentance on the part of man, essential to his salvation, is not merely a change of mind; but a change of the mind for the better. Paul said, concerning Esau, "For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." (Heb. 12:17.) Paul did not mean that Esau could not repent (change his mind for the better; but that he could not get his father to change his mind (repent). He sought a change of mind in his father in respect to his inheritance. Instead of a change within himself. However, we should be careful to point out that one can reach a state in life from which it is impossible for him to repent. "For it is impossible .... to renew them again unto repentance." (Heb. 6:4-6.) Any one who can be led to repentance can be saved; any one who can be reached with the gospel can be led to repentance; but if one has reached the point where the gospel has lost its appeal in his heart, he cannot be brought to repentance, for the gospel is the means for bringing one to repentance.

In the twenty-first chapter of Matthew we have a good illustration of what repentance is and of what it is not, as respects the change of mind. "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not but afterward repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go sir and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first." (Matt. 21:28-31.) One must do the will of God to repent. Both the sons changed their minds; but only the first son changed his mind for the better.

Even a change of the mind for the better is not repentance, unless made while one is living, or at least, will not avail anything. The rich man who lifted up his eyes in hell (Luke 16) is an example. Man will not have a second chance after death. God will not accept post mortem repentance. It is said of this man that "in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life time received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house, For I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto them, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." This man learned about repentance when it was too late, and wanted his brethren to repent, even if he did want a miracle performed to bring it about.

Another question that concerns us is, "How is repentance brought about?" Some think repentance is a direct act of God in the soul of man. How can such be, since so few repent, and since 'God is no respecter of persons? ('See Matthew 7:14; Acts 10:34.) The New Testament not only teaches that "few" will be saved and that God is "No respecter of persons," but just as emphatically that he is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9.) If, then, repentance is a direct work of God, wrought unconditionally in the heart of the sinner, why do not all repent? You might as well ask, "Why does not God operate upon all sinners directly and cause them to all repent at once, and, thereby, put an end to all sin at once?

Some, while ignoring the principle, The Bible Interprets the Bible, are emphatic in their claims that God directly produces repentance in the soul of the sinner, and offer in support of their claims, the statement of "the apostles and brethren that were in Judea," who said, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted (given) repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18.) Also, they call attention to 2 Timothy 2:24, 25, which reads, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." But these passages do not teach that God gives repentance unconditionally. In the first, teaching was necessary to lead the Gentiles to repentance; in the latter, the sinner is given repentance through the teaching of the servant of the Lord. God gives repentance when His goodness leads to repentance. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." (Rom. 2:4.) The goodness of God is made known to the sinner by preaching the gospel. God gives us our daily bread, but that does not mean that He does it in a miraculous manner. Neither does the fact repentance is a gift of God exclude conditions on the part of those who repent.

What motives are used to induce men to repent? Since preaching leads to repentance, we must look to the preaching of Christ and his apostles in order to identify the motives. Whatever the motives, then, they will be made to the sinner through preaching. Jesus said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you." (Matt. 11:20-24.) He pronounced the same sentence upon Capernaum. He appealed to them with the terrors of the Judgment. Jonah brought the city of Nineveh to repentance in sackcloth and ashes through his preaching to them the terrors of God's judgment. "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." It is said they "repented at the preaching of Jonah." (Matt. 12:41.) Paul stood in the midst of the philosophers in Athens, Greece and called upon all men to repent in view of the coming judgment. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he bath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:30, 31.) Since God will judge the world in "righteousness," all the "unrighteous" will be lost, and only the "righteous" will be saved. This thought constrains men to repent.

The apostle also presents another motive that leads men to repentance. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." (Rom. 2:4.) The goodness of God is revealed in the scriptures. When the sinner reflects on what God has done for man that he might be saved, he is constrained to determine in his mind that he will no longer serve sin, but that he will become a servant of God.

The judgment of God to be meted out to the sinner, when all men shall stand before the Lord Jesus at the last day, on the one hand, and His great goodness on the other are powerful motives to compel men to repent.

The alien sinner is called on to repent; the erring child of God is called on to repent; weak and indifferent church members must repent; and cold, fallen, disloyal, unfaithful, lukewarm churches must repent. (See the first three chapters of Revelation.)

No one is saved at repentance; but he must repent in order to he saved. Faith prepares one to repent; repentance must result in obedience; and in obedience, in baptism, the guilt is removed.

Will you not repent, sinner friend? "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3.)