Friday, January 30, 2009

What is Biblical repentance?

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“We believe that Repentance and Faith are solemn obligations, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the quickening Spirit of God; thereby, being deeply convicted of guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and openly confessing Him as our only and all-sufficient Savior.”
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
True repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while, on the other hand, wherever there is true faith, there is also real repentance. . . . The two cannot be separated; they are simply complementary parts of the same process. ”
J. Goetzman, Conversion (in Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology 1986)
“The predominantly intellectual understanding of metanoia as a change of mind plays very little part in the NT. Rather the decision by the whole man to turn around is stressed. It is clear that we are concerned neither with a purely outward turning nor with a merely intellectual change of ideas.
J. Behm, Metanoia in Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1967)
“It demands radical conversion, a transformation of nature, a definitive turning from evil, a resolute turning to God in total obedience (Mk. 1:15; Mt. 4:17; 18:3) . . . . This conversion is once-for-all. There can be no going back, only advance in responsible movement along the way now taken. It affects the whole man, first and basically the centre of personal life, then logically his conduct at all times and in all situations, his thoughts, words and acts (Mt. 12:33ff. par.; 23:26; Mk. 7:15 par.). The whole proclamation of Jesus ... is a proclamation of unconditional turning to God, of unconditional turning from all that is against God, not merely that which is downright evil, but that which in a given case makes total turning to God impossible.”
Thayer’s Greek lexicon
“Metanoia is the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good works.”
The Orthodox Creed, Baptist, 1679
“Unfeigned repentance is an inward and true sorrow of heart for sin, with sincere confession of the same to God, especially that we have offended so gracious a God and so loving a Father, together with a settled purpose of heart and a careful endeavor to leave all our sins, and to live a more holy and sanctified life according to all God’s commands.”
Philadelphia Confession of Faith, Baptist, 1742
“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency; praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor by supplies of the Spirit to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.”
Abstract of Principles, Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, 1859
“Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things.”
Horatio Hackett, Commentary on Acts, American Baptist Publication Society, 1882
“Repentance and the firstfruits of repentance [baptism and other steps of discipleship mentioned in Acts 2:38-42] were generally inseparable. The former could not be genuine without manifesting itself in the latter. And in the circumstances of that day a willingness to be baptized was no slight evidence of a new heart.”
B.H. Carroll, Repentance and Remission of Sins, 1889
“The preacher who leaves out repentance commits as grave a sin as the one who leaves out faith. I mean he must preach repentance just as often, and with as much emphasis, and to as many people as he preaches faith. To omit repentance, to ignore it, to depreciate it, is rebellion and treason. Mark its relative importance: You may make a mistake about baptism and be saved, for baptism is not essential to salvation. You may be a Christian and not comprehend fully the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 5 :11), but ‘Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.’ So said the Master Himself. Repentance is a preparatory work. For thus saith the Lord: ‘Break up your fallow ground and sow not among thorns.’ I submit before God, who will judge the quick and the dead, that to preach faith without repentance is to sow among thorns. No harvest can be gathered from an unplowed field. The fallow ground needs to be broken up. The most striking instance on record of repentance as a preparatory work was the ministry of John the Baptist. He was sent ‘to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ He did it by preaching repentance, and Mark says his preaching was ‘the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ Here is the true starting point. Whoever starts this side of repentance makes a false beginning which vitiates his whole Christian profession. When true repentance was preached and emphasized, there were not so many nominal professors of religion. To leave out or minimize repentance, no matter what sort of a faith you preach, is to prepare a generation of professors who are such in name only. I give it as my deliberate conviction, founded on twenty-five years of ministerial observation, that the Christian profession of today owes its lack of vital godliness, its want of practical piety, its absence from the prayer meeting, its miserable semblance of missionary life, very largely to the fact that old-fashioned repentance is so little preached. You can’t put a big house on a little foundation. And no small part of such preaching comes from a class of modern evangelists who desiring more for their own glory to count a great number of converts than to lay deep foundations, reduce the conditions of salvation by one-half and make the other half but some intellectual trick of the mind rather than a radical spiritual change of the heart. Like Simon Magus, they believe indeed, but ‘their heart not being right in the sight of God, they have no part nor lot in this matter. They are yet in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.’ Such converts know but little and care less about a system of doctrine. They are prayerless, lifeless, and to all steady church work reprobate.”
Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, 1925
“We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.”
Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, 1963
“Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.”
J. Frank Norris, What Do Fundamental Baptists Believe, an address delivered at the annual meeting of the American Baptist Association at First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, 1935
“The proper evidence [of the new birth] appears in the holy fruits of repentance and faith and newness of life. … There was a time when the ministers never preached without giving a call for repentance. But it is out of date now. Oh, for a voice of a John the Baptist, ‘Repent ye, Repent ye, Repent ye, Repent ye!’ Jesus said, ‘Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.’ Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that Repentance and Faith are solemn obligations, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the quickening Spirit of God; thereby, being deeply convicted of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and openly confessing Him as our only and all-sufficient Saviour.”
John R. Rice, What Must I Do to Be Saved?, 1940
“To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when he turned from sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
G. Beauchamp Vick, The Biblical Faith of Baptists, Vol. II, Regular Baptist Press, 1966
“The very moment that soul that is dead, cut off, alienated from the very life of God, sees himself as a hopeless, helpless, Hell-deserving, and Hell-bound sinner; when that soul sees that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the only hope, and when he looks away from self; when he REPENTS OF HIS SIN and looks to the finished work of the crucified, buried and risen Lord for salvation -- that very moment, instantaneously, the Spirit of God operates.”
Dr. H. A. Ironside (Bible teacher, preacher, pastor, and author in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries)
“The doctrine of repentance is missing note in many otherwise orthodox and fundamentally sound circles today.

“Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man's sinfulness and guilt, calling on 'all men everywhere to repent,' results in shallow conversions; and so we have myriads of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that 'faith without works is dead'; and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradiction to justification by faith before God.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in a real change of life. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction. Not only action and language, but spirit and temper must be changed. . . . Abiding under the power of any known sin is a mark of our being the servants of sin, for "his servants ye are to whom ye obey." Idle are the boasts of a man who harbors within himself the love of any transgression. He may feel what he likes, and believe what he likes, he is still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity while a single sin rules his heart and life. True regeneration implants a hatred of all evil; and where one sin is delighted in, the evidence is fatal to a sound hope. ...”
A. W. Pink, 1937
“The terms of Christ's salvation are erroneously stated by the present-day evangelist. With very rare exceptions he tells his hearers that salvation is by grace and is received as a free gift; that Christ has done everything for the sinner, and nothing remains except for him to "believe"—to trust in the infinite merits of his blood. And so widely does this conception now prevail in "orthodox" circles, so frequently has it been dinned in their ears, so deeply has it taken root in their minds, that for one to now challenge it and denounce it as being so inadequate and one-sided as to be deceptive and erroneous, is for him to instantly court the stigma of being a heretic, and to be charged with dishonoring the finished work of Christ by inculcating salvation by works. . . . Salvation is by grace, by grace alone. . . . Nevertheless, Divine grace is not exercised at the expense of holiness, for it never compromises with sin. It is also true that salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world. ... A heart that is steeled in rebellion cannot savingly believe; it must first be broken. . . . Those preachers who tell sinners they may be saved without forsaking their idols, without repenting, without surrendering to the Lordship of Christ, are as erroneous and dangerous as others who insist that salvation is by works and that heaven must be earned by our own efforts.
“Divine grace is not bestowed with the object of freeing men from their obligations but rather with that of supplying them with a powerful motive for more readily and gratefully discharging those obligations. To make God's favor a ground of exemption from the performance of duty comes perilously near to turning His grace into lasciviousness.“”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Welsh Protestant Christian minister who was hugely influential in the reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century)
“Repentance means that you realize that you are a guilty, vile sinner in the presence of God, that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, that you are hell-bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world whatever the cost, the world in its mind and outlook as well as its practice, and you deny yourself, and take up the cross and go after Christ. Your nearest and dearest, and the whole world, may call you a fool, or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference. That is repentance.”
Augsburg Confession of 1530
“Moreover, ours teach that it is necessary to do good works; not that we may trust that we deserve grace by them, but because it is the will of God that we should do them. By faith alone is apprehended remission of sins and grace. And because the Holy Spirit is received by faith, our hearts are now renewed, and so put on new affections, so that they are able to bring forth good works.”
Belgic Confession of 1561
“We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do any thing out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
“They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart ,sJ and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and H personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they are more and more quickened and Strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. . . . Although the remaining corruption, for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
William Guthrie, 1658
“A godly man may argue thus. Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God—"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome the offer of Christ in all His offices, as a King to rule over me, a Priest to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word RECEIVING? . . .

“The second great mark of a gracious state, and true saving interest in Jesus Christ, is the new creature—"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Cor. 5:17). ... In all who do warrantably pretend to Christ, this new creature must be; . . . This new creature is called the "new man" (Col. 3:10), which points out the extent of it. It is not simply a new tongue or new hand, but a new man. There is a principle of new life and motion put in the man, which is the new heart; which new principle of life sendest for the acts of life, or of "conformity to the image" of him who created it,so that the party is renewed in some measure of every way (Col. 3:10.)”
Joseph Alleine, 1672
“Conversion then, lies in the thorough change both of the heart and life. ... If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph ii 1), a new creation (Gal vi 15; Eph ii 10), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph i 19). Are not these out of the reach of human power? If you have no more than you had by your first birth, a good nature, a meek and chaste temper etc., you are a stranger to true conversion. This is a supernatural work.”
Puritan Thomas Vincent's explanation of The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1674)
Q. 7. How is Jesus Christ to be received by faith?

A. Jesus Christ is to be received by faith as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 8. How is Jesus Christ offered to us in the gospel?

A. Jesus Christ is offered to us in the gospel, as priest, prophet, and king; and so we must receive him, if we would be saved by him.

Q. 9. When doth the soul rest upon him for salvation?

A. The soul doth rest upon Christ for salvation when, being convinced of its lost condition by reason of sin, and its own inability, together with all creatures' insufficiency, to recover it out of this estate, and having a discovery and persuasion of Christ's ability and willingness to save, it doth let go all hold on the creatures, and renounce its own righteousness, and so lay hold on Christ, rely upon him, and put confidence in him, and in him alone, for salvation.

Q. What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out ot a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.

0.3. Wherein doth repentance unto life consist?

A. Repentance unto life doth chiefly consist in two things—1. In turning from sin, and forsaking it. "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions: so iniquity shall not be your ruin."—Ezek. xviii. 30. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whose confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy."—Prov. xxviii. 13. 2. In turning unto God. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."—Isa. Iv. 7.

Q. 15. What is that turning from sin which is part of true repentance?

A. The turning from sin which is a part of true repentance, doth consist in two things—1. In a turning from all gross sins, in regard of our course and conversation. 2. In a turning from all other sins, in regard of our hearts and affections.

Q. 16. Do such as truly repent of sin never return again unto the practice of the same sins which they have repented of?

A. 1. Such as have truly repented of sin do never return unto the practice of it, so as to live in a course of sin, as they did before; and where any, after repentance, do return unto a course of sin, it is an evident sign that their repentance was not of the right kind. 2. Some have truly repented of their sins, although they may be overtaken and surprised by temptations, so as to fall into the commission of the same sins which they have repented of, yet they do not lie in them, but get up again, and with bitter grief bewail them, and return again unto the Lord.
Thomas Manton, 1693
“Works are an evidence of true faith. Graces are not dead, useless habits; they will have some effects and operations when they are weakest and in their infancy. . . . This is the evidence by which we must judge, and this is the evidence by which Christ will judge. . . . Works are not a ground of confidence, but an evidence; not the foundations of faith, but the encouragements of assurance. Comfort may be increased by the sight of good works, but it is not built upon them; they are seeds of hope, not props of confidence; sweet evidences of election, not causes; happy presages and beginnings of glory; in short, they can manifest an interest, but not merit it.”
Thomas Goodwin (Puritan)
“Where mourning for offending God is wanting, there is no sign of any good will yet wrought in the heart to God, nor of love to him, without which God will never accept a man. ...

Else there is no hope of amendment. God will not pardon till he sees hopes of amendment. Now, until a man confess his sin, and that with bitterness, it is a sign he loves it. Job xx. 12-14. Whilst he hides it, spares it, and forsakes it not, it is sweet in his mouth; and therefore till he confess it, and mourn for it, it is a sign it is not bitter to him, and so he will not forsake it. A man will never leave sin till he find bitterness in it; and, if so, then he will be in bitterness for it, Zech. xii. 10; and "godly sorrow works repentance," 2 Cor. vii. 10.”
Matthew Henry
“We are too apt to rest in a bare profession of faith, and to think that this will save us; it is a cheap and easy religion to say, "We believe the articles of the Christian faith;" but it is a great delusion to imagine that this is enough to bring us to heaven. Those who argue thus wrong God, and put a cheat upon their own souls; a mock-faith is as hateful as mock-charity, and both show a heart dead to all real godliness. You may as soon take pleasure in a dead body, void of soul, or sense, or action, as God take pleasure in a dead faith, where there are no works. . . . Those works which evidence true faith must be works of self-denial, and such as God himself commands. . . . The most plausible profession of faith, without works, is dead. . . . We must not think that either, without the other, will justify and save us. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it.”
George Whitefield, the great preacher and defender of the faith in Britain and colonial America
“Had a conference after sermon with one, who I fear with some others, maintained antinomian principles. From such, may all that know them turn away; for though, (to use the words of our Church Article) good works, which are the fruits of faith, cannot put away our sins, or endure the severity of God's judgment (that is, cannot justify us), yet they follow after justification, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.”
Jonathan Edwards, the finest preacher and clearest theological thinker of the 1700s
“That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference. God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion. . . .

“Those who thus insist on persons' living by faith, when they have no experience, and are in very bad frames, are also very absurd in their notions of faith. What they mean by faith is, believing that they are in a good estate. Hence they count it a dreadful sin for them to doubt of their state, whatever frames they are in, and whatever wicked things they do, because it is the great and heinous sin of unbelief; and he is the best man, and puts most honour upon God, that maintains his hope of his good estate the most confidently and immovably, when he has the least light or experience; that is to say, when he is in the worst frame and way; because forsooth, that it is a sign that he is strong in faith giving glory to God, and against hope believes in hope. But from what Bible do they learn this notion of faith, that it is a man's confidently believing that he is in a good estate? If this be faith, the Pharisees had faith in an eminent degree; some of whom Christ teaches, committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. . . .

“... It may be from unbelief, or because they have so little faith, that they have so little evidence of their good estate. If they have more experience of the actings of faith, and so more experience of the exercise of grace, they would have clearer evidence that their state was good; and so their doubts would be removed. . . .

“... It is not God's design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively exercises of it. And although self-examination be a duty of great use and importance, and by no means to be neglected; yet it is not the principal means, by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination, as by action. The apostle Paul sought assurance chiefly this way, even by forgetting the things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those things that were before, pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. And it was by this means chiefly that he obtained assurance, 1 Cor. ix. 26. "I therefore so run, as not uncertainly." He obtained assurance of winning the prize more by running than considering. . . . Giving all diligence to grow in grace, by adding to faith, virtue, etc., is the direction that the apostle Peter gives us, for making our calling and election sure, and having an entrance ministered to us abundantly into Christ's everlasting kingdom. Without this, our eyes will be dim, and we shall be as men in the dark; we cannot plainly see either the forgiveness of our sins past, our heavenly inheritance that is future, and far off, 2 Pet. i. 5-11.”
John Gill, British Baptist minister (1767)
“The foundation of sanctification is laid in regeneration; as it is a holy principle, it is first formed in that; the new creature, or new man, is created in righteousness and true holiness; and it appears in effectual vocation, which is an holy calling; and is to be seen in conversion, which is a turning of men from their iniquities: and that holiness which is begun in regeneration, and is manifest in effectual calling and conversion, is carried on in sanctification, which is a gradual and progressive work, and issues and is finished in glorification.
“In subjection to him, as King of saints; they not only receive him as their Prophet, to teach and instruct them, and embrace his doctrines; and as their Priest, by whose sacrifice their sins are expiated; but as their King, to whose laws and ordinances they cheerfully submit; esteeming his precepts, concerning all things, to be right, none of his commandments grievous; but from a principle of love to him, keep and observe them.”
A. W. Tozer
[Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a meeting and say, "I am a Christian" if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord. It was only then that he could say, "I am saved!"

Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the proviso that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at some time in the future.

Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience?
We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see things and I hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch them operate within the profession of Christianity I do raise the question of whether they have been truly converted.

Brethren, I believe it is the result of faulty teaching to begin with. They thought of the Lord as a hospital and Jesus as chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that had gotten into trouble!

"Fix me up, Lord," they have insisted, "so that I can go my own way!"
That is bad teaching, brethren.
Lester Roloff, Repent or Perish
“Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin. Repentance is a forsaking of sin. Real repentance is putting your trust in Jesus Christ so you will not live like that anymore. Repentance is permanent. It is a lifelong and an eternity-long experience. You will never love the devil again once you repent. You will never flirt with the devil as the habit of your life again once you get saved. You will never be happy living in sin; it will never satisfy; and the husks of the world will never fill your longing and hungering in your soul. Repentance is something a lot bigger than a lot of people think. It is absolutely essential if you go to heaven.”
John A. Broadus, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 1886
“To repent, then, as a religious term of the New Testament, is to change the mind, thought, purpose, as regards sin and the service of God--a change naturally accompanied by deep sorrow for past sin, and naturally leading to a change of the outward life.”
Bruce Lackey, Repentance Is More Than a Change of Mind, 1989

“The Greek words [for repentance] mean ‘a change of mind which results in a change of action.’ When that refers to man, there is a sorrow for sin involved. This definition is substantiated both by the scholarship of Trench and Thayer, as well as by the New Testament usage”

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