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Spring Warrior Church of Christ

7432 S. Red Padgett Road


Perry, FL 32348
584-5176

Prove All Things Vol. 1 No. 14


“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Repentance by Jeff Himmel, jshimmel@perry.gulfnet.com [5/9/01]


The theme of repentance is a common thread running through the preaching of
the New Testament. John the Baptist came on the scene warning, “Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Shortly afterward, Jesus began his
public ministry with the same solemn command (Matthew 4:17). Throughout his life,
the Lord stressed men’s need to repent (see Luke 13:1-5); and his apostles continued the
message (see Acts 17:30). Given its obvious importance in the gospel plan, we should
make sure we understand what repentance is.

Most of us tend to think of repentance as a sorrowful acknowledgment that one


has done wrong. But repentance is more than that. God’s word makes a distinction in 2
Corinthians 7:9-10 between “godly sorrow ” and “the sorrow of the world.” Godly
sorrow, we learn, “produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (verse
10). It “feels pain because of the guilt of sin as an offense against God” (Charles
Erdman). The sorrow of the world, on the other hand, is sorry only at the result of the
sin, not the sin itself. It leads only to death. A person who has sinned against God may
only be sorry that he got caught. He may be sorry over the pain or damage his
wrongdoing has caused (and he should be!). But such sorrow is only “the sorrow of the
world.”

But there’s more to repentance than even godly sorrow. When Peter preached to
the crowd at Pentecost, he commanded them to repent (Acts 2:38). He surely had more
in mind than their feeling sorry, because they were already “pierced in their hearts” at
their sin, and asked, “What shall we do?” (verse 37). They were convicted in their hearts
of sin. That conviction was produced by gospel preaching that was directed by the Holy
Spirit. Surely, then, their sorrow was godly sorrow! Yet, it still needed to produce
repentance.

Repentance means that I acknowledge my sin, but it’s more than a mere apology.
It means that I feel sorrow over my sin, but it’s more than mere regret. The New

Bibleweb.com, Copyright © 2001 Jeff Himmel All Rights Reserved

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Testament word translated “repent” literally means “to perceive afterward.” It is a
change of mind, of heart, of life, which comes from perceiving that one has sinned
against God. Jesus observed that the people of Nineveh repented when the prophet
Jonah preached to them (Matthew 12:41). What did these people do? They showed
sorrow over their sin, yes. But they did something more: they turned away from it (see
Jonah 3:5-10).

Repentance goes beyond just being sad over the mess that sin has made. It is a
change of heart which produces a change in conduct. John the Baptist commanded men
to “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8), and went on to describe
specific changes they must make in their lives (verses 10-14). Paul preached the same
message, calling for men to “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to
repentance” (Acts 26:20). Repentance is a complete change of direction in thought and
in deed. Until that dramatic U-turn is made, real repentance hasn’t occurred (see 2
Corinthians 12:20-21).

Repentance means that I cease and desist from my sin. I sever my ties with it,
just like those at Ephesus who went so far as to burn their books of witchcraft (Acts
19:19). It also means that, as much as is within my power, I try to make right what my
sin has made wrong. For example, Zacchaeus promised to repay fourfold those he had
defrauded — a promise that found favor with Jesus (Luke 19:8-9). T. W. Brents wrote,
“In vain may any one tell me that he repents slandering me while he refused to correct
his false statements concerning me, or that he repents stealing my horse while he
continues to ride him without my consent.” When there is repentance, there is an
obvious reform of character and conduct.

’Tis not enough to say,


“I’m sorry and repent,”
And then go on from day to day
Just as I always went.

Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing them no more.

(Poem’s author unknown)

Bibleweb.com, Copyright © 2001 Jeff Himmel All Rights Reserved

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