By Dennis H. Wilson
The following article was at first a sermon, written as a result of the author’s strong feeling that generally the subject of repentance had been neglected. The author realizes the need for sermons on the nature and necessity of immersion, and faith verses “faith only,” etc. However, at the same time he realizes the need to frequently get back to the real “first principles,” i.e., a need to establish sin and man’s need to turn back to God (repentance).
The purpose of this paper shall be to answer the following questions: (1) Where did sin come from and what does man need to do? (2) What does repentance involve, and when did it become a part of God’s plan? (3) Where does it come in God’s plan?
Before we address the above questions, a couple of definitions are in order:
1. Sin: “To miss the mark, to transgress God’s will.”
2. Repent: “To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to correcting one’s life” (Webster).
From the information the author found on the original language, repentance involves a change of mind (primarily intellectual or academic), and a change of soul or heart (attitude). (See Acts 2:38; Rom. 2:4; Matt. 27:3; 2 Cor. 7: 9,10.)
Where did sin come from and what does man need to do? When we examine the Scriptures on the matter, we can see that the first sin was committed by individual choice. In Genesis 3 we find that Eve chose to transgress God’s law. Then Adam likewise chose to sin and the result was separation from God. Ezekiel 20:15,16 shows us that Israel as a nation chose to turn away from God, and again the result was separation from God. We can also learn from Ezekiel (20:27) when man chooses to sin, he has committed blasphemy against God. We commit sin today by not following God’s “new law.” James shows us that, contrary to the popular belief “the devil made me do it,” we today choose to sin by giving in to our own evil desires (James 1:13). The consequence again is separation from God; therefore, we need to repent or turn back (Lk. 15:7; 2 Pet. 3:4-9).
What does repentance involve? We might think of a man walking through life toward self-centered goals or walking through life in Satan’s service. (After all, if we are not serving God, we are serving Satan.) In order to serve God, he must turn around and start walking in the direction of God and serve Him. We must crucify the “old man” (Rom. 6:614). We must strive to walk in the light. This is at least in intent and purpose (Rom. 7:18-25).
When did repentance become a part of God’s plan? God has required repentance from the time sin first entered the world and still requires it. There are at least one-hundred eight references to repentance in the Bible which are fairly evenly distributed between the testaments. A few of which are Joel 2:12-14; Jonah 3:8; 1 King 8:46-50; Ezekiel 14:6, 18:13; Matt. 3:2, 11:20; Mk. 1:15, 6:12; Acts 2:38, 17:30. This makes it clear that it was a requisite under the Old Covenant and still is under the law.
Where does repentance come in God’s plan? It must, by its nature, necessarily come after faith, and we will show, by Scripture, that it must come before baptism. To do this let us examine Romans 6:1-7. After having opened your Bible and read the passage, it should be clear that Christ is the example we must follow. Let us look at the following chart:
Christ died . . . . was buried . . . . then arose
We are to “die” and be buried then to be resurrected
We must be raised to walk as a new creature, born again, walk in newness of life, etc. If one does not die before his burial, he is buried alive. Therefore, he cannot be raised as a new creature! If one dies but is never buried, how can he be resurrected as was Christ? It seems self-evident that neither repentance without baptism nor baptism without true repentance is acceptable to God, and is not He the one we should strive to please?
There are three essential elements involved in repentance. The first is a genuine sorrow toward God on account of sin (2 Cor. 7:9, 10). The second, an inward repugnance to sin followed by the action of forsaking it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Third, humble self-surrender to the will and service of God, as in the conversion of Saul (Acts 9). It clearly involves more than just thinking or saying, “I need to get my act together! “
In Romans 3:9,23, we find “all are under sin,” and “all have sinned.” There is not a single person reading this article that is without sin and has no need for God. The result of sin is separation from God (Rom. 6:23). Have you ever “died”? Were you “buried”? Now that you know where repentance and baptism fall in God’s plan, we ask, “Where are you in God’s plan?”
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 18, p. 552
September 20, 1984