Repentance and Faith
It has now become a standard mantra across Christendom that Salvation is by Faith alone. So popular it has become that there is even a convergence between Catholics and Protestants around this concept to the point that it is even being said by many that the Protestant Reformation is over. But the question arises, where does Repentance fit into all of this? Certainly, within a context where the primary message that was carried by Jesus Christ, the Messiah Himself, was “repent ye, and believe the gospel”, it begs the question as to whether something is being missed. The Bible speaks of Messiah’s message as follows:
“Now after that John was put in prison, 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)
Messiah’s message was clear: repent and believe! Today, people are saying, believe only! Not only was repentance a primary focus of Messiah’s message, it was specifically spoken of as “the gospel of the kingdom of God”. Not only Messiah, but also John the Baptist who was the forerunner who announced Messiah’s coming, preached repentance – “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:1, 2).
Repentance was the one thing that was specifically called for as preparation for the “kingdom of heaven”. Some may say that repentance was the message for that time because the kingdom of God was not yet established. But after Christ’s resurrection and ascension the disciples preached the very same message after receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost – “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 2:38). Repentance was not only the one requirement as preparation for the kingdom of heaven but it was a condition for “the remission of sins”. Without repentance our sins will not be forgiven!
As if to reinforce the point, Peter, after healing the lame man who was at the temple door pointed out to the people their great sin in killing Jesus Christ, the Son of God and told them: “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). In both cases, Peter was very specific about the sin that the people were guilty of. They had killed Jesus, the innocent, sinless Son of God. The result was that “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?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s answer was clear: Repent!
Repentance or despair
When one is pricked in the heart over the wrong that they have done, they can repent or despair. The story of two people who denied Jesus illustrates. Peter repented and wept bitterly – “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:75). Forced by his guilty conscience, Judas despaired and hung himself – “Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matt. 27:4, 5). Peter was saved – saved by Jesus’ words to him that drove him to repentance. This is where faith comes in – after Repentance! After sorrow and regret, one can either look to Jesus in faith and be saved or reject Him, our only hope of being saved and despair like Judas and be lost.
After the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, “lovest thou me?” (John 21:17). To this, Peter responded, twice, with great contrition, “Yea, Lord” and the third time, being grieved that Jesus asked him a third time, he humbly replied, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21:17). Jesus accepted Peter’s confession and gave him a commission in His cause to go and help others to be saved, likewise, telling him: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Message for us at this time
But that was Judas and Peter. What about us? Are we guilty of anything that heinous? The Bible says, yes! We too share the guilt of killing the innocent Son of God and all the innocents that have been killed upon the earth if we reject the prophets of God who are sent to call us to repentance – “ Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” (Matt. 23:34, 35).
Do we keep silent when we see injustice? We will be judged as accomplices if we do! One day, we will come face to face with all the deeds that we have done. We are told: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). That is not the end of it, we are told: “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Rom. 14:11).
No one will escape the judgement of God. Not even death will spare anyone. The wicked will be resurrected to face their day in God’s court – “ 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.” (Rev. 20:12).
At the Second Coming of Christ, there will be two classes of people. Of one set, it is said: “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17). Of the other set, it is said: “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isa. 25:9). Now is the time to choose which class we will be in – whether to repent now and look to Jesus Christ in faith and be saved or not to repent now but be forced by circumstances to repent later and despair, when it is too late, and be lost.
Need to repent
Hopefully, we can understand why the most important thing to do is to repent and do it now! We can choose to repent now and be saved, while there is hope or we can wait and be sorry later, when it is too late. One way or another, we all will face our wrong deeds and be sorry – either now or later. The choice is ours.
Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenburg, Germany, five hundred years ago to protest the sale of Indulgences – a guaranteed pardon for sins without the need for Repentance. These Indulgences would have guaranteed that many would go to their graves thinking that they were saved when they were not. Martin Luther was touched by the deception that would cause many to be lost. His concern sparked what has come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Today, people are saying that the Protest is over. Just believe and you are saved. No repentance needed? Has the Devil gone to sleep, and the whole world is being saved – calling upon Jesus – while wickedness abounds? We had better think again. Is there need for another Protest against a new form of Indulgence – Salvation without Repentance? May the Good Lord help us!
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
- Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6)
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