"Repent Ye Therefore"
Repentance-a commandment of God, an obligation of man, but at the same time a wonderful privilege extended hy God, to man. What if, after committing sin, there were no chance for repentance ? Since sin cannot enter heaven, all who ever sinned (and "all have sinned") would surely stand condemned before God in the judgment, and be shut out of heaven. Therefore, whatever else we might say the subject, repentance is an expression of the longsuffering mercy of God. The Jewish disciples were thankful that God had "granted" repentance unto the Gentiles. (Acts 11:18.) So, when we come to think of repentance as a burdensome obligation, we should remember that without it all are doomed! and that it therefore is one of the manifold blessings of God.
But, what is repentance? As is most often true, instead of giving us a dictionary-like definition, inspiration gives us a number of illustrations of such. One of these is found in Matthew 21:8 ff. Here Jesus, in showing his disciples the meaning of this commandment, without obedience to which all would perish, says that a man had two sons who were ordered to go work in his vineyard. One said he would, but did not. The other said he would not, but later "repented and went." It is easily seen here that repentance is a complete change of mind. This is seen also on the part of God concerning His creation of man, when we are told that "it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth." (Gen. 6:6.) God had changed his mind about man, and had Noah not found favor in His sight, He might have brought an end to the human race then.
Repentance can only be brought about by godly sorrow, which in turn must be produced by genuine faith. One of the many erroneous ideas concerning repentance is the confusing of godly sorrows, or any other kind of sorrow, with repentance. Sorrow, even godly sorrow, is not repentance, but if it be of a godly sort, will lead to repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10.) A person might simply conclude that it is wise, because of social reasons, for business purposes, or even for fear of the "powers that be," to change his way of living. This is not a result of "godly" sorrow, and therefore is not the results of Bible repentance. On the other hand, one might be genuinely sorry, with sorrow of a godly sort, and yet be short of repentance. We see then that since godly sorrow worketh repentance, it is not repentance itself. And, since godly sorrow worketh repentance, the changes brought about in one's life because of some other motive, are not the results of repentance.
Repentance, as faith, can only be proven to be a reality by practical evidences. Just as James shows that saving faith is only that which is shown by works, so John the baptizer demanded of those who came for his baptism, in pretense, that they "bring forth fruits meet for (as evidence of-C.G.M.) repentance." (Matt. 3:8.) Until there was practical evidence of such, he would not believe that they
had repented, which they must do in order to be fit subjects for baptism. Genuine repentance will lead one, first of all, to frankly admit having been wrong. One who will not admit guilt of sins has surely not come to repentance. A penitent individual will also repudiate every former practice found to be out of harmony with the will of God. The individual who continues to practice old sins, has obviously not repented, no matter how much he might say so.
Repentance is UNTO LIFE (Acts 11:18). Man, short of repentance, is "dead in trespasses and sins," and there can be no spiritual life short of true repentance. Peter told the Jews on Pentecost, "repent and be baptized unto the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). To another similar group, he said, "repent ye therefore and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). This being so, one is still in his sins as long as he has not genuinely repented, regardless of how many religious groups he might belong to, or how pious he might seem to be.
Of course repentance is not the only command which must be obeyed in order to obtain the remission of sins, but one whose faith and godly sorrow have led him to repent, will gladly confess the blessed name of Christ, and be buried with Him in baptism, for the remission of his sins.
Let us not conclude that repentance is demanded of the alien sinner only (seemingly many "Christians" have so concluded), for Jesus once and for all denounced that idea when he said to his own disciples, "I tell you nay: but except YE repent, YE shall all likewise perish." (Lk. 13:3.) Indeed God does command "that all men everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30), whether it be one out of, or in covenant relations with Him. Peter told Simon, who had obeyed the gospel, as the others of Samaria had done, to "repent of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart be forgiven thee." (Acts 8 :22.) In the letters to the seven churches of Asia, the Lord, over and over calls upon them to repent. (Rev. 2-3.) As then, so today, there needs to be much repenting done by many members of the Lord's church.
The impenitent heart is always abominable in the sight of the Lord, regardless of by whom it might be possessed. While on the other hand, God has always respected the penitent and contrite heart. Christ suffered on the cross that "repentance and remission of sins" might be preached in His name (Lk. 24:47). God desires that all come to repentance, and continues his longsuffering for that very purpose (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, good reader, in the words of the Lord to the church of the Laodiceans, "be zealous therefore, and repent."
Truth Magazine III:9, pp. 15-16