An Enemy of Soul Winning
By Jack Hyles
Answered by John Henry
Over and over again the question is asked me, "Is repentance necessary for salvation?" Of course, this is of utmost importance. Anything that deals with the way a person can escape the fires of eternal Hell and go to Heaven to live forever is of vital importance. In this chapter, we will address this most important question.
1. First, we need to find what makes one lost. Please notice John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." It is very plain in this verse what makes a person lost. Notice the words, "he that believeth not is condemned already." A person who does not believe is condemned, so not believing is what makes a person lost.
Bear in mind, the word "believing" is the Greek word which means "to rely upon." When one believes on Christ, he simply relies on Him to save him and take him to Heaven when he dies. It is very plain here that what condemns a person is believing not. Then notice it says, "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Once again, we are told what makes a person lost - because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. It is as simple as that.
Now look at John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Again, we are trying to decide and determine what makes one lost. It is very plain here. Notice the word believeth, "and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." What keeps a person from seeing life? Believing not! What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since "believing not" makes him lost, "believing" makes him saved. The repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected.
An erroneous and incomplete explanation! Belief is the second part of one's turning. Yes, repentance is turning from unbelief, but it is also a turning from what caused Christ's bloody death on the cross, namely one's sin. Just because a thing is mentioned in a verse of Scripture, in this case belief, and another is not, in this case, repentance, does not mean the latter is not also required.
Now turn to John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Oh, how simple this is, and yet how plain! Why does a person not have life, according to this verse? Because he will not come to Christ. So, if a person is going away from Christ, he must turn around and come to Christ, which is a change of direction or a change of mind. This is repentance - repenting of the thing that keeps one from being saved, repenting from "going away" to "coming to."
Agreed! However, our "going away" from Christ includes one's love of his sins. In order to turn to Christ (believe), one must turn from (repent) sin.
Notice Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Especially notice the words, "we have turned every one to his own way." That's what not being saved is - turning to our own way. Now if we turn to God's way, which is putting our faith and trust in Jesus, we turn around from going our own way to going His way, from unbelief to belief. This is Bible repentance. Bear in mind, it is the faith that saves. The turning around is necessary in order to put our faith in Christ. One must repent from that thing that keeps him from being saved in order to be saved.
Agreed! However, the phrase, "we have turned every one to his own way" indicates our sin, our transgressions, and our iniquities that must be turned from!
If a person were saved by good works, then he would have to repent of bad works, or of not doing good works, in order to be saved. If a person were saved by quitting his sinning, then he would have to repent of his sinning in order to be saved. A person is saved by believing, so he repents of his unbelief or turns from his unbelief in order to be saved.
What a misrepresentation of the Doctrine of Repentance! Repentance has nothing to do with works, but has to do with "godly sorrow" which causes a turning from sin (repentance) to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (faith). No Bible believer that I know of believes that Repentance is a work, much less, a work for salvation! Repentance if a turning from sin to God for salvation in Christ!
"... I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD, AND FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST." (Acts 20:20-21)
"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. FOR GODLY SORROW WORKETH REPENTANCE TO SALVATION not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
"For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how YE TURNED TO GOD FROM IDOLS TO SERVE THE LIVING AND TRUE GOD; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
Let us look at the verses that teach us we are saved by belief.
John 3:15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3.18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Acts 16:31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."
The not mentioning of something in a verse does not negate the fact of the thing. The second half of the turning in salvation (faith) being mentioned in a verse doesn't mean the first part (repentance) does not exist. Christ Jesus began His earthly ministry preaching repentance and He ended it with the command to continue preaching repentance:
"... Jesus came into Galilee, PREACHING the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT YE, AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." (Mark 1:14-15)
"... thus it behoved 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)
There are those who say we have to repent of our sins in order to be saved. No, we have to repent only of the thing that makes us unsaved, and that is unbelief. If a person needs to turn from his sins in order to be saved, what sins does he turn from? Does he turn from pride? Does he turn from selfishness? Does he turn from covetousness? The truth is, nobody can turn from all of his sins until he is raptured and he receives a body like the body of the Saviour. I John 3:2, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." According to Psalm 19:12, we do not even know all of our sins. David said, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." What he is talking about here is being cleansed from faults he doesn't even know he has. A person, when he is first saved, does not know all the things that he is doing that are wrong, and if a person has to repent of all of his sins, where is growth in grace? Where is being a babe in Christ? Where does the carnal Christian fit in here?
Just as faith is an act of the heart, so likewise is repentance. Neither are works. Both are a simultaneous turning in the heart from all that offends God (sin) to Christ (faith). This is the part of man in salvation. When one does this then God does His work of regeneration and we are born again, we receive a "pardon," our sins are "blotted out," and "the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
"Therefore also now, saith the LORD, TURN YE EVEN TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And REND YOUR HEART, and not your garments, and TURN UNTO THE LORD YOUR GOD: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." (Joel 2:12-13)
"... As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked TURN FROM HIS WAY AND LIVE: TURN YE, TURN YE FROM YOUR EVIL WAYS ..." (Ezekiel 33:11)
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7)
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19)
"... I [Jesus] send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me [Jesus]. ... I [Paul] was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should REPENT and TURN to God, and do works meet for repentance." (Acts 26:18-20)
Now don't misunderstand me. I am certainly for separation and for living a godly life, but the cleansing of our lives is not done by us any more than salvation is done by us. Salvation is simply repenting of unbelief, and believing, and letting Christ save us. We yield to Him to save us; He does! Immediately the Holy Spirit comes in to live. The Holy Spirit begins His work of cleansing in our lives. He is the one Who cleanses, just as he is the one Who saves. He is the one Who points our sins out to us after we are saved just as He is the one Who saves us when we are saved.
Yes, God is the One who cleanses us repeatedly after we are born again, but He is the One that also cleanses us when we first repent of our sins, and trust Christ Jesus.
":.. REPENT, AND TURN YOURSELVES FROM ALL YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and MAKE YOU A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT ..." (Ezekiel 18:30-31)
This chapter is being dictated in San Antonio, Texas. I am sitting in a Holiday Inn. Tomorrow morning early I will catch a plane for Chicago. Let's suppose I get on that plane, and I am trusting the pilot to take me to Chicago. I do not know how to operate the plane, nor do I know the route to Chicago by air. There is nothing I can do to get myself to Chicago by that plane. I trust the pilot to get me there. So, we get up in the air thousands of feet high, and let's suppose I get a knife and cut up the seat in front of me. Now, where am I going? I'm still going to Chicago. Why? I repented of "not trusting the plane to take me" to "trusting the plane to take me."
The stewardess comes and says, "Mr. Hyles, what are you doing back here?" I say, "I'm just cutting up a little bit!"
Then suppose I reach up and cut off a lock of her hair. Now where am I going? I'm going to Chicago. You see, how I behave on the flight does not determine my destination.
So, the stewardess goes to the pilot and says, "Mr. Hyles, back in seat 14A is causing some disturbance. Look at my hair. Go back and look at the seat." The pilot leaves the plane in the hands of the co-pilot and comes back to seat 14A and says, "Mr. Hyles, what are you doing back here?" He looks at the seat I've cut up, he sees the lock of hair that I've cut off the stewardess, and I reach out and cut off his tie. Now where am I going? I'm going to Chicago. That was all determined when I got on the airplane. Now the truth is, I will not enjoy Chicago as much as I would have enjoyed it, nor will I go to the part of Chicago I'd planned to, but I'm still going to Chicago.
Agreed. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
When we put our faith and trust in Christ, and repent of unbelief, and believe, God's Holy Spirit comes in to live and begins to straighten us out. He points out our sins, and as we yield to Him, He cleanses us from our sins. If we misbehave on the journey, we are still going to Heaven, because we go to Heaven by trusting Christ to take us there. The Holy Spirit Who came in to live begins to point out things that we should and should not do. If we do not obey Him, if we misbehave on the journey, we will still go to Heaven; we simply will not enjoy it as much as we would have had we behaved, just as I would not enjoy Chicago as much as I would have had I behaved.
I know a young man who recently got married. He got an apartment several months before he got married and lived there alone until the wedding took place. What a mess that apartment was! His pants were hung on the bedpost, his shoes were left on the floor beside the bed, and the bed was never made. Then one day he got married. Now how did he get married? He got married by turning from being single to being married. He repented of not being married and got married. When he took his new bride to the apartment, she was aghast, but immediately she began to straighten things up. She put his shoes in the closet, took his shirt off the chair, removed his clothes off the bedpost, and made a lovely little apartment out of the mess that he had made. Now he was not married because he cleaned up his apartment; he was married because he repented of that thing that kept him from being married. He repeated the vows and accepted her as his wife. It was then that she came in; it was then that his apartment began to get clean!
Good example to a point. That point being that his new wife is not Almighty Jehovah, holy, just, righteous and true. Suppose that mess was the SIN of the young man and he was lost, and rather than a new wife, he came face to face with God through the mirror of His holy Word. As there are steps and conditions in getting married, the same is true in receiving Jesus Christ. At a bare minimum, in this new case, he would first need to gain knowledge of 1) the holiness and justice of God, and 2) the love, mercy and grace of God. Number one here is called "the fear of the Lord." The Bible tells us exactly what "the fear of the Lord" is:
Proverbs 2:1, 5: "My son, IF thou wilt RECEIVE My words ... then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God."
Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."
Psalms 111:10: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever."
Job 28:28: "... Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."
Proverbs 14:27: "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death."
Proverbs 16:6: "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil."
Proverbs 3:7: "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." (cf. Prov 8:13, 10:27, 14:26, 15:16, 33, 19:9. 23, 22:4, 23:17)
Any one who will receive the Word of God which teaches us that it is "by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (turn from or repent), and put his trust in Jesus Christ who died in his place (turn to or believe) then he will be born again, and thus saved. Anyone who does not fear the Lord will meet the Lord at the Great White Throne Judgment:
"I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of My counsel: they despised all My reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." (Proverbs 1:26-32)
Above we do not see the lost "turn to the Lord" (2 Cor 3:15-16; cf. Acts 26:20; Deut 4:30; Hos 14:1-2), but rather rejection of God's calling, their "turning away" (Prov 1:32). The Holy Spirit ends Proverbs 1 with these words: "But WHOSO HEARKENETH unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil." (Proverbs 1:33) Harken to what? Harken to repent or "choose the fear of the LORD."
"And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: FEAR HIM, WHICH AFTER HE HATH KILLED HATH POWER TO CAST INTO HELL; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him." (Luke 12:4-5)
Case in point: In Luke 23 we have the salvation of one thief who had "the fear the Lord" and put his faith in Jesus, another who did not "fear God" and trust Him.
"And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, DOST NOT THOU FEAR GOD, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)
This thief on the cross with Christ was saved the exact same way all are saved: 1) he feared God, recognizing his own sin and that he deserved his punishment (this is called repentance), and 2) he realized that Jesus was sinless, that He was Lord (God) and that He was willing and able to save him (this is called faith). The thief repented and put his faith in Jesus Christ to take him to paradise. There was no ability or time for works whatsoever! It was a turning in his heart from sin to God. This is the same way I was saved. It is the only way anyone has ever been, or ever will be saved. When we do this, then God does His part and regenerates us and makes us His sons and daughters in Christ!
Practically every false doctrine comes from getting things out of order. God's divine order is salvation, then change; not change and then salvation! If one has to be changed to be saved, that's salvation by works. It is also salvation by the flesh. The truth is, one is cleansed from the sins of the flesh just as he is saved; by yielding to the Holy Spirit and letting Him do His work.
It is agreed that practically every false doctrine comes from getting things out of order. In this case repentance is the first part (faith being the second) of an instantaneous turning from sin to the Lord, from falsehood to Truth, from the Devil to Jesus Christ. Works have nothing to do with it! The new birth has everything to do with it! An instantaneous receiving of Jesus Christ by way of the Word of Truth into our hearts through repentance and faith on our part enables God to regenerate the residue of our dead spirits.
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is BORN OF GOD doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is BORN OF GOD. ... We know that whosoever is BORN OF GOD sinneth not; but he that is BEGOTTEN OF GOD keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." (1 John 3:8-9, 5:18; cf. Malachi 2:15: "And did not He make one? Yet had He the residue of the spirit ... that He might seek a godly seed" [see Gen. 2:24; Eph 2:1, 5]. Malachi 2:15 speaks of one's dead spirit before we are born again. The part of us that "cannot sin" is our born again spirit, not our soul and body, but these will also be made perfect and sinless at the Rapture when we receive our glorified bodies.)
"Blessed be the GOD AND FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy HATH BEGOTTEN US AGAIN unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. ... Being BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Peter 1:3-5, 23)
"Of his own will begat he us with THE WORD OF TRUTH, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. ... Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and RECEIVE WITH MEEKNESS THE ENGRAFTED WORD, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:18, 21)
"[The Father] hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in Whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Colossians 1:13-14)
"But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the WASHING OF REGENERATION, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:4-7)
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3:7)
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU, than he that is in the world. ... And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. ... He that believeth on the Son of God HATH THE WITNESS IN HIMSELF: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." (1 John 4:4, 5:6, 10)
2. You can repent of something other than sin. Matthew 7:3, "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders." Notice that Judas repented. Now what does it mean? It means he repented about keeping the money. He had sold our Saviour for thirty pieces of silver; he changed his mind and took the silver back. A change of mind and change of direction took place, but it had nothing to do with salvation. He had made a bad deal; he regretted he had made that bad deal, and he tried to correct it.
Everybody who lives in sin eventually repents, but they do not repent of unbelief. They change their mind about sin. No one lives in sin without realizing later that it did not bring the joy, happiness, peace and contentment that it claimed to bring. I talk to people every week who are tired of their sins, unhappy in their sinful life or living a miserable, wretched life because of the results of sin. What have they done? They have changed their mind about sin, and in some cases, they even quit their sin - at least that sin which was most predominant in their lives. You can repent of sin without repenting of unbelief. Such was the case with Judas. No doubt he repented that he had done wrong. He certainly repented of the bad deal he had made. He turned around, changed his mind and brought the money back, but he did not repent of that thing from which he must repent in order to be saved, and that is unbelief.
Agreed, one can repent of sin without repenting of unbelief, but this does not change the fact that the RIGHT kind of repentance is essential for salvation. That is, the kind of repentance the thief on the cross had. Namely: repentance in "the fear of the Lord" (Prov 1:29, Lk 23:40), and in "godly sorrow" (2 Cor 7:10). Not a mere change of action, direction or mind, but a change of direction toward God's judgment and hell, and a change of heart concerning one's sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. This immediately accompanied by faith in Christ Jesus' willingness and ability to save from hell. The fact that God repents or changes in the course of His actions, or that Judas and others often repent without receiving Christ is irrelevant.
3. God repents. Notice Genesis 6:6, "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." Bear in mind, the word "repent" means "change of mind." God made man and wished He hadn't. He was grieved because of what man had done, and He repented that He had made man. This does not mean that God repented from sin, because God could not sin; He simply changed His mind, which He does often. Basically, that is what answered prayer is much of the time.
Now notice I Samuel 15:35, "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel." God had made Saul king over Israel. The truth is that God did not want to do so, but Israel clamored for a king. Saul was chosen to be that king, but it then did not turn out as it should have. So, in this verse it simply says that God repented that He had made Saul king. He changed His mind.
What I'm saying is, there is repentance other than repentance from sin. A lady can change her mind about the kind of perfume she wears. A man can change his mind about the kind of food he eats or the kind of clothes he wears. He can change his direction concerning his manners. You can repent from discourtesy to courtesy. You can repent from stubbornness to leniency. You can repent from impatience to patience, but those things don't save. Repenting from the thing that makes you lost is the thing that makes you saved, and that is, repenting of your unbelief.
Now notice Exodus 32:9-14, "And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and thy shall inherit it for ever. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."
Let me paraphrase the story. God said to Moses, "I'm sick and tired of the people and their rebellion. Get out of the way so I can consume them." Moses came to God and said, "Lord, don't do that. You're the One Who brought the people out of the land of Egypt, and if You consume them, the heathen people are going to criticize You. Not only that! You promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that you would multiply their seed and that You would give them the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession." Moses pleaded his case before God, reminding God what God had promised. Then verse 14 simply says, "The LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." The word "evil" here means something that would cause them pain; it's not talking about sin. God decided not to hurt them after all. He decided not to consume them after all. He changed His mind, but He did not change His mind concerning a sin, because God cannot sin.
Now turn to Jonah 3:9, 10, "Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not."
God was going to punish Nineveh. Jonah had preached in Nineveh and had warned the people that destruction was coming. The people believed God, turned from their unbelief to belief, and God changed His mind about punishing the people. In verse 10 the Bible says, "And God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Again, God simply changed His mind and changed His direction. He was going to punish; they believed; He decided not to punish. He changed from the direction of punishing to the direction of not punishing. This is repentance, but not repentance from sin, because God cannot sin.
Look at Amos 7:3, "The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord."
Amos 7:6, "The Lord repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord God."
So, repentance does not always deal with salvation and sin; it is simply a change of direction or a change of mind.
In reality God never changes His mind, although He speaks thus, because He knows the end from the beginning, but does change His courses of action.
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." (Isaiah 46:9-10)
Note that in Genesis 6:6 that Godly sorrow was involved in the Lord's course of action:
"And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at His heart." (Genesis 6:6)
Also note that men repenting of sin (the fear of the LORD) does cause God to repent Himself of sending people to hell:
"He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; 28 He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. 29 Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, 30 to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living." (Job 33:27-30)
Again the fact that God repents of one course of action in lieu of another, or that the word, "repent" is not always used concerning "repentance to salvation" (2 Cor 7:10) does not change the fact that it is the first part before faith, the turning from sin before the turning to God.
Again these arguments are irrelevant.
4. Now we consider repentance and salvation. Look at Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
Peter is preaching here. He tells the people to repent and be converted. Now we have to go back to what saves. John 3:14-16, 18, 36, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Acts 16:31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."
So these people had to repent from not believing and believe in order that they might be converted. They had to change directions, change their minds.
The above tenet has already been proven false.
Let me say again that I do not believe for a second that Christian people should live like the Devil. No preacher preaches separation more than I do. I simply believe that that separation is a work of the Holy Spirit just like regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit, and it starts after one has repented from that which makes him lost, and that is unbelief. When this is done, he believes, he is saved. Then the Holy Spirit comes in and begins to tell the Christian what sins from which he should repent. The man changed his mind about unbelief. The Holy Spirit directed him there. Now the Holy Spirit comes in to live and begins to change his mind about other things.
This is true to a point. Repentance is a change of direction. For God it is a change of action. For man it is a change of heart. Unbelief is sin; and not trusting Christ is the greatest sin of all (it is the unpardonable sin). All have offended the Holy One and will stand guilty of all the sins they have ever committed without Christ (cf. Rev. 20:12 below). "The fear of the Lord" (fear of God's power to cast into hell as punishment for sin), and "godly sorrow" for offending God work the turning in the heart (repentance) that God requires. In order to turn to Jesus one must turn from his sin. He must see that there is a great price to pay if he does not Repent. Furthermore, "The fear of the Lord" and "godly sorrow" do not end at the moment of the new birth, just as the Holy Spirit's teaching, convicting and our repenting of sins do not end there.
Revelation 20:12: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
Now look at Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said unto them, 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."
Peter is saying, "Change your mind and be baptized." Now, about what did they change their minds? This is answered in verse 41. Look at what they did in response. "They gladly received His Word, and then they were baptized." So what was this repentance? It was repentance from not receiving His Word to receiving His Word. That's all Peter was saying. He was saying, "Change your mind about receiving the Word," which states that you must believe and repent from unbelief in order to be saved.
Again this is not merely a change of mind, but a change of heart through "the fear of the Lord" and "godly sorrow" for murdering the Saviour. Note that after preaching the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Peter, spoke of Christ's "foes" or "enemies" (Ps 110:1) invoking "the fear of the Lord," and then said "that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye [meaning both us and them] have crucified, both Lord and Christ." This caused "godly sorrow" to prick their hearts so they ask what was required of them. This was more than just unbelief convicting them. Read what it says:
"For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, 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 2:34-38)
Now what did they repent of? It was for being the enemies of God and for murdering the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the greatest sins imaginable, not only unbelief, although that is included.
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Now turn to Acts 17:30, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent." Notice God commandeth all men every where to repent. Repent from what? Repent from the thing that keeps them lost, and that's unbelief. What corrects this? Look at Acts 17:34, "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Dammaris, and others with them." Notice it said, "certain men believed." So, when he said, "repent," he was saying "repent from unbelief and believe," because just as in Acts 2:38 and 41 a command was given to repent, and the believing was the obedience to that command. They changed their mind about belief. They decided to believe instead of not believe.
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth 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 hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)
Why does "God ... now command... all men every where to repent"? The answer is in the following verse: "Because He hath appointed A DAY, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained ..." (cf. Rev. 20:12). Who is "that man whom he hath ordained" by whom "He will judge the world in righteousness." It is Jesus Christ to whom they must turn to in "the fear of the Lord" and "godly sorrow," because they have sinned against Him, because they are His enemies, because they murdered Him, and because they have not trusted in Him.
Now look at Mark 1:15, "And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
Jesus Himself is saying repent, and notice immediately He says, "repent, and believe." What He was saying is, "Quit unbelieving, and believe. Quit not believing, and believe." Again, I'm not saying a Christian should live like the Devil, but I am saying that changing your life does not save you. That's salvation by works. Faith is what saves you. You turn from unbelief to belief; from no faith to faith, and then repentance from sins begins, because He Who convicted you from the sin of unbelief to believing now lives in you. How easy it is now for Him to convict you day by day of other things from which you can repent and about which you can change your mind.
5. Repentance from sin is directed to God's people.
Absolutely! However, as we have seen God also "... commandeth 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 hath ordained ..." (Acts 17:30-31)
Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Here is a case of a church that was a good church. It was a church that worked. It worked hard. It hated sin. It was doctrinally sound. Revelation 2:2, "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." It was a patient church. It was a church that believed in the name of Jesus and did not faint in their standing for that. Revelation 2:3, "And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." However, it was a church that had left its first love. It does not say that that church lost its first love, but they left their first love. When you lose something, you don't know where it is. When you leave something, you know where to find it. It does not say that this church did not love any more. The truth is they did love. Love is what made them faithful, what made them work, what made them have patience, what made them hate sin, what made them stand for the name of Jesus, what made them hate false doctrine. This was a church of people who loved God, but they had left their first love - that first sweet love - maybe more shallow than the love they had then.
It does not say that they loved Him less. The truth is they probably loved Him more, but God is saying, "I want both. I want the deep, mature love that you have now and the sweet expressive love that you used to have.
The only sin this church had committed was the sin of leaving their first love -that "Amen!" love, that "Hallelujah!" love, that "Glory to God!" love, that sweet, expressive love. Nevertheless, they sinned, and God told them to repent. Repent from what? Repent from drinking? No. Repent from adultery? No. This is not the subject here. It's repenting from not loving Christ with the first love.
This same type repentance was commanded to the church in Pergamos. Revelation 2:16, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and willfight against them with the sword of my mouth." The same thing was said to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:21, 22, "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." The church in Sardis was told likewise to repent in Revelation 3:3, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." The church at Laodicea received the same command in Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
Both saved and lost must repent as is taught by the Lord Jesus in His letters to the seven churches. For example:
The Church at Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17):
"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." (Revelation 2:14-16)
In this passage Jesus is speaking to the Pastor or "angel of the church in Pergamos" who was tolorating lost people in his Church who held "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" and "the doctrine of Balaam." These false doctrines were the beginnings of Roman Catholicism. These false teaching were offences that required church discipline as prescribed in Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5. The Pastor of the church in Pergamos was negligent and needed to repent of this sin.
The Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29):
"Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Revelation 2:20-23)
Here again we have a pastor who was negligent and needed to repent. But notice too that "that woman Jezebel" was given "space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not." This false prophetess was clearly unsaved, and what she needed to repent of was clearly sin. The Lord says that He would cast "them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation." This is prophetic language speaking again of Roman Catholicism, this time full blown, after the Rapture and in the Tribulation. Be sure that they needed to turn from their sin of unbelief, but also of their sinful "deeds." Some of those in this church were God's "servants" (saved), but others were "her children" (lost). Both needed repentance!
So you can see that God tells individuals to repent; He also tells groups to repent. He tells nations to repent. Time and time again He called Israel to repentance.
Agreed. However, what I am trying to zero in on is repentance unto salvation.
Now let us review, as follows:
1. God says to the unsaved, "Repent of your unbelief."
It's very interesting that in I John the word "repentance" is never mentioned, and yet the purpose of I John was to give people the assurance of salvation. I John 5:13, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Of course, repentance is certainly implied throughout the entire book, because the book tells us that what saves is believing on Christ (or relying on Him) to save, which, of course, implies that that person must repent of what makes him lost, which is unbelief.
The thing that causes us to be lost in the first place is our sin nature received from Adam, and our own sin. Again this is the way of repentance unto salvation:
"He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see His face with joy: for He will render unto man His righteousness. 27 He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; 28 He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. 29 Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, 30 To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living." (Job 33:26-30)
"They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. ... 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3:12, 17-26)
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:12-21)
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
2. God says to the saved people, "Repent of sin." This is done by the Holy Spirit as He comes in to live to remind us to take the clothes off the bedpost, the shirt off the chair, put the shoes into the closet, etc.
Yes, saved people need to repent of their sins daily.
3. If a person must repent of his sins to be saved, of what sins must he repent? Can he repent of all of them? Isn't that sinless perfection or holiness? Isn't that salvation by works? Of what sin must one repent? He must repent of the sin that makes him lost, and that's the sin of unbelief.
One must repent (as already defined) of all his sins and put all his trust in Jesus Christ for his salvation. Of course, it is not necessary to name every sin, but to acknowledge one's depraved and sinful condition, and desire for forgiveness. This is what one does when he receives God's Word which testifies that we need to receive Jesus Christ and Saviour.
"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:18, 21)
"He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:11-13)
"Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is Truth." (John 17:17)
"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:18)
4. If turning from sins would get you saved, then turning back to sins would get you lost. In Acts 16:30 the very simple question is asked, "What must I do to be saved?" This is the one time in the Bible where this question is asked. Now the answer to this question must be what saves a person. Acts 16:31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." There's the answer-belief. There is nothing about repentance here, except, yes, there is something about repentance, because you can't believe without repenting from unbelief.
Let's take the Bible in it's whole tenor and context, and not pick a verse out here and there to make up new doctrines. We could take the following passage and just as easily say we only need to repent in order not to perish:
"There were ... some that told Him [Jesus] of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
But if we take the whole tenor of Scripture in context we find that there is a two fold turning from sin (repentance) to Jesus Christ (faith):
"... I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, ... and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:20)
This turning from and to is done in the fear of the Lord and in godly sorrow :
"The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." (Proverbs 14:27)
"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
5. If a person has to clean up his own life before he gets saved, we are back to Arminianism or salvation by works.
This is a straw man that no baptist that I know of believes. We do notbelieve in cleaning up our life before he gets saved; we believe in Biblical repentance and faith which produces the new birth into God's family. God never disowns His children! When one receives Christ he is born again and cannot be unborn again.
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye MUST be born again." (John 3:7)
"I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall ALL likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)
"I said ..., that ye shall die in your sins: for IF YE BELIEVE NOT that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24) "Jesus saith ..., I am the way, the truth, and the life: NO MAN cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) "NEITHER IS THERE SALVATION IN ANY OTHER: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
6. We cannot do what the Holy Spirit can do. The Holy Spirit first convicts us of our sin of unbelief to bring us to Christ. Once He brings us to Christ, He comes in us to live. Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spint of Christ, he is none of his." I Corinthians 6:19, 20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Then when the Holy Spirit is in us, He begins to convict us of things in our lives that should be changed. Then the Christian life becomes a constant repenting until we wake in the likeness of Christ.
"If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings." (Jeremiah 26:3)
"How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? 23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. 24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. 33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil." (Proverbs 1:22-33)
"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: WHEREFORE TURN YOURSELVES, AND LIVE YE." (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
From Chapter Four of Dr. Jack Hyles book The Enemies of Soul Winning, 1993.
Answered By John Henry, November 26, 2011