Repent And Pray
The apostle Peter commanded Simon, an erring child of God to "repent and pray." Peter's exact words are: "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee" (Acts 8: 22). One who has obeyed the gospel of Christ is a child of God and a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:17, 18). When one sins after having become a child of God, he is still a child of God, but an erring child. It is a fact that children of God may sin. James writes, "My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shalt save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins" (Jas. 5:19, 20). John writes, "If we say that have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I Jno. 1:8). There are over 200 passages of Scripture in the New Testament that warn the child of God of the consequences of his sins. Why would God warn his children of the consequences of their sins if it were not possible for them to sin?
The child of God may "err from the truth" through indifference, lukewarmness, unfruitfulness, worldly-mindedness, or through outright stubbornness and rebellion. When he does his heart is not right before God and he is in a perishing state. Simon the Sorcerer had believed and had been baptized, and was saved from his past or alien sins, according to Jesus. He said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Simon believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12), and, therefore, he was saved. Afterwards he sinned or erred. He became an erring child of God.
The story of the prodigal son illustrates what an erring child of God is. He does not represent the alien sinner. He was a son. His going away from his father's house and wasting his substance in riotous living represents the course of the child of God in turning from the way of righteousness to sin. He was a wayward, disobedient and rebellious son. There are many, who have obeyed the gospel, who have followed Christ for a time, who have once walked in the narrow way, who have grown careless, indifferent and have wandered. away from God. The possibility of such a course is, taught by Jesus in the parable of the sower. "And he that was sown upon the rocky places, that is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth" (Matt. 13:20, 21)
Is there a way of salvation for one who has obeyed the gospel and then errs from the truth? Some teach that there is no pattern of salvation for the erring child of God ; no certain way that one may be forgiven when he sins after having become a child of God. Many seem to think that God saves in various ways and on different conditions. But there is a plan or pattern of salvation, a law of pardon for the child of God who sins, just as certainly as there is a plan or pattern of salvation for the alien sinner. There is only one thing that can keep any one from being delivered from his sins, and that is: a refusal to obey the Lord; a failure to comply with the conditions that are applicable to him. God, the Father, is willing to forgive his wandering child, he is waiting to receive him back home, but the erring child must be willing to return home.
In order for the erring child of God to be saved from the error of his way he must repent. Repentance of sin is a change of mind toward sin, produced by godly sorrow, and that results in a reformation of life. Repentance is not simply regret, sorrow, prayer, or fear. It is a change of mind-the decision to quit sin that results in a complete turning from evil.
In the parable of the two sons Jesus shows what repentance is. "But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son go to work today in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went" (Matt. 21:28, 29). The impenitent son said, "I will not." The penitent son said, "I will." The word "not" is the difference in penitence and impenitence. Repentance, then, is the decision, the determination, to quit sin and obey God. When a child of God who, is leading a life of sin, either by indifference and carelessness in respect to his duty to Christ and the church, or by a life of immorality and worldliness, comes to himself and repents, he quits the life of sin, turns from sin and obeys God. The prodigal came to himself, realized his condition and made a resolution, "I will arise and go to my father." That illustrates what repentance is. It was, in the case of the prodigal, the determination to quit doing his own will and do the will of his father.
The erring child of God must repent or perish. Isaiah pled with the children of Israel, erring children of God, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa. 1:18). Ezekiel said, "Turn ye from your transgressions, for why will ye die, O house of Israel." John the Baptist, the harbinger of Christ, came to the Jews, saying, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." From the time John was delivered up, "Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus called the twelve, "And they went out, and preached that men should repent." Peter told Simon the Sorcerer, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee." One cannot receive forgiveness of sins except he be willing to repent. No one will be lost because of God's unwillingness to forgive, but one will be lost because of his OWN unwillingness to repent.
Peter commanded Simon to "repent and pray." The erring child of God must not only repent, but he must also pray to God, in order to enjoy the forgiveness of his sins. To pray means to beseech, seek, ask, entreat; in the New Testament it means requests addressed by men to God. Prayer must be made to God for forgiveness by the erring child of God who repents. The alien sinner was not told to "repent and pray" for forgiveness. He was told to believe and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). Peter told alien sinners on Pentecost, who believed, to "repent, and be baptized . . . for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The believing, penitent Saul of Tarsus, was told, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name (Acts 22:16). Peter, the same one who told aliens to "repent and be baptized," told the erring Simon to "repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord." Why did Peter tell the people at Pentecost to "repent and be baptized . . . for the remission of your sins," and tell Simon at Samaria to "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee?" Because, there are two laws of pardon-one to the alien sinner and another one to the erring child of God. Prayer is the right of the child of God, but he must pray in penitence, in faith, in harmony with the will of God, and in the name of Christ. "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (I Pet. 3:12). "If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us." We must ask in faith through Christ. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I Jno. 2:1).
In prayer to God for forgiveness, confession of sins is included. One cannot pray to God for forgiveness unless he admits to himself and acknowledges to God that he has sinned. The command to repent and pray implied the necessity of confession of sins. James says, "Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (Jas. 5:16). John says, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I Jno. 1:9). Hence, the second law of pardon includes repentance, confession of sins, and prayer. It does not include baptism, for baptism is a condition of forgiveness of alien sins. Any child of God who sins and refuses to comply with the second law of pardon, can no more expect remission of his sins than an alien sinner can expect remission of his sins, when he rejects the commandments of Christ to believe in him, repent, to confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, and to be baptized in his name.
The story of the prodigal son's return to his father's house illustrates what God's erring child must do to be saved from his sins-to receive his Father's forgiveness. He repented when he came to himself-when he recognized his undone condition. "I will arise and go to my father." "And he arose and came to his father." He repented and reformed his life. The father saw him while he was afar off. He ran to receive him. "And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be thy son" (Lk. 15:21). He confessed his sin to his father. He requested his father to make him as one of his hired servants. This showed his lowliness of mind and humility of heart. The result was that his father forgave him and received him back into his house, a son who "was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
The action of the father in the story of the prodigal son pictures the attitude of the Father in heaven toward one of his erring children who repents and prays. The willingness to forgive is demonstrated by the father seeing the son afar off, being moved with compassion, running to meet him, failing on his neck and kissing him. The bountiful grace of the Father's forgiveness to his erring but penitent child is beautifully set forth in the command of the father to put the best robe on him and kill the fatted calf, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to make merry." This graphic story told by the matchless teacher, Jesus, the Son of God, illustrates what an unfaithful member of the Lord's church must do to be saved, and it, also, shows the freeness of the Father's forgiving heart. But God cannot be consistent with his character and forgive an impenitent child, one who rebels against the Father's will, refuses to repent and pray for salvation, who stubbornly rejects his proffered mercy and will not "sue for loving favor." He is waiting with outstretched arms to welcome home those of his children who "have gone astray," if they will but repent, confess their sins and pray to God. These are the conditions set forth in the will of God, with which an erring child of God must comply in order to the forgiveness of his sins through the mercy of the Father, and the blood of his Son, Jesus, the Christ.
Truth Magazine II:12, pp. 18-20