Repentance has been called “the hardest command”; yet, what wonderful blessings attend the command, “Repent” (Acts 2:38). Yes, and what notable sources we have to motivate us to repent (Rom. 2:4). Jesus had difficulty getting people to repent (Matt. 11:20-22). It is not hard to get a man to believe; in fact, it is far more difficult to overthrow the testimony and evidence that produces faith. It is not hard to get a genuine penitent to consent to baptism. But repentance is different. Noah could not get the antediluvians to repent (2 Pet. 2:5). Jeremiah largely failed in pleading for Israel to repent. John the Baptist preached repentance to Herod, but Herod did not repent (Matt. 14:3-12). Repentance is the most difficult command in the Bible because it strikes at the very taproot of our troubles—pride. It is hard for a man to say, “I’ve sinned”; and this is involved in repentance. Now, in more detail, and from a positive viewpoint, what is repentance?
1. Repentance is the making up of one’s mind to cease doing evil and to do good, to stop serving Satan and to begin serving God, to do an about-face, to stop going in the wrong direction and turn again and start going in the right direction.
Thayer, in his monumental lexicon, defines the word as “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Matthew 12:41 states that the Ninevites repented; and Jonah 3:10 says, “They turned from their evil way.” Therefore, repentance is turning from evil. In Matthew 21:29, we read of one who said he would not go, but afterwards became regretful and went. Therefore, repentance is a change of mind, prompted by godly sorrow, resulting in a change of life. Impenitence is to say no to God. The prodigal (Luke 15:11-24) repented; and, in so doing, he made an about-face, turned again, and went home. In 1 Kings 8:47-49, we read that when the people would repent, they would return unto the Lord with all of their heart and with all of their soul. Therefore, repentance is turning again. In Ezekiel 18:30-32, God’s people were called upon to “repent and turn yourselves.” In so doing, they would cast away their transgressions and make themselves a new heart and a new spirit. This is repentance. Marshall Keeble used to tell of a little dog snapping at his heels. He said he tapped him on his head with his walking cane and “he repented”; that is, the dog turned and went in the opposite direction. From these observations, we can see why repentance and turning are so often mentioned together in the Lord’s Word (Acts 26:20; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30). Too, we can understand why Hebrews 6:1 speaks of “repentance from dead works.” (To be continued)
From The Southwesterner, Nov 2010