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Godly Sorrow Produces Repentance

Redemption In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he admonished them for their toleration of error in the church. An ungodly man was in their fellowship, and they were, “…puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2). He admonished them, saying, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (vs. 6). As a result of his admonition, it seems that the church repented of their sin in this, and withdrew fellowship from this man. Regarding this repentance, Paul wrote in his second letter, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). Godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation!

This particular call to repentance was to erring Christians. We have already specified that even after having obtained redemption, as child of God can forfeit their salvation by sinning against God. Fortunately, God has given to His children a means to obtain forgiveness for such sin. John wrote in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” A willingness to acknowledge and repent of our sins, combined with a prayer asking God to forgive us is always sufficient to secure for us that forgiveness. God is faithful and just. Peter explained this to Simon in Acts 8, who had sinned before God, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (vss. 22-23). How wonderful our relationship with God is, in that we always have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

The call to repentance is not only to the Christian. It is to the alien sinner as well. The Jews on the day of Pentecost were given the charge to repent. When convicted of the fact of their sin, they asked Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (vs. 37). Peter’s answer to them is the same to anyone who would come to God. “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall received the gift of the Holy Spirit'” (vs. 38).

Other passages teach the necessity of Repentance:

    Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”Jesus warned the Pharisees in Luke 13:3, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    Paul told the Athenians about their responsibility before God in Acts 17:30-31, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    Paul admonished the Jew for his sin in Romans 2:3-11, “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

Repentance IdentifiedA simple definition of repentance is supplied by Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “lit., to perceive afterwards, hence signifies to change one’s mind or purpose, always, in the N.T., involving a change for the better.” (pg. 962).When a person hears the proclamation of truth, God demands a change in his mind or purpose. A life that is lived up to that time in self-will must now be lived by God’s will. Sinful practices and thoughts which characterized that life lived without respect for God must now be subjugated and conformed to His will. Paul put this in wonderful terms when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Repentance is not a small thing. It is a complete change of direction in the life of the penitent. Some want to come to God on their own terms, and this simply cannot be done. When we tell individuals that they need to be baptized into Christ, and that they will not need to change much in their lives, we do them a disservice. To please God there must be a fundamental and pervasive change. Self must die. All thoughts must be brought into subjection to Christ. There must be sorrow for sins committed against God, and that sorrow must lead to the determination to serve God acceptably.

You Can Change!Brother Warren Berkley has written a tract (Quest for Truth, Preceptor Co.) which is titled You Can Change! It is a wonderful, encouraging tract that all who are mired in sin should read. He exhorts those who are caught in sin, and see no way out, to repent of their sins and begin to serve God. He affirms that it is possible! You CAN change your life, and turn to God. No matter how difficult your circumstances might be, you can CHANGE! Berkley writes:

    “There are multiplied barriers and excuses. ‘I’m too old to change.’ ‘I’m too young … I’ll sow my wild oats, then repent.’ ‘My family will criticize me.’ All kinds of barriers set up by Satan … all kinds of excuses that carry no weight with God; reasons that may sound good to men, for conduct that’s bad!”But what we need to do is: Swallow any foolish pride we might have … put our confidence in our God, and decide we’re going to go to Heaven … fully committed to any changes that need to be made, to get there!” (page 14).

Repentance in the Scheme of RedemptionWe have time and again emphasized that redemption is conditioned upon the actions of man. Not all are saved despite the fact that Christ died for all. God has tarried long. He has not yet come to the world to judge man. But He will come. His longsuffering should not be misconstrued. Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…” (2 Peter 3:9-15).Christ will come again, will we be ready? To be saved, we must be sorry for sin, and change our lives. Our lives must be characterized by holy conduct, godliness, peace, blamelessness. We must present ourselves before Him in purity, having repented of our sins and having had them removed from our garments. You can change, and you must before that day!