Download PDF – Repentance
Romans 2:4 “…the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”
In Genesis chapters 42 through 45 we have an account of Joseph and his brethren. Joseph is a great type of Christ in the Old Testament, and his brethren (in this case as well as others) are a type of God’s children. In these few chapters we can see, by the grace of God, how that man is brought to repentance. Paul said in Romans 2:4 that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. The goodness describes Gods rich mercy, love, and grace towards his elect. Where goodness of God is found, there too will we find mercy and grace shining down on those whom God has loved with an everlasting love. It is through his goodness that he foreknew and predestinated a people before the world began. It is through his goodness that Christ atoned for their sins on Calvary. It is through his goodness that we have a great hope of meeting Christ in the air on that last and glorious day. And it is through his goodness now that leads us to repentance. If we are to receive any blessing from God surely we can say it is by His goodness.
Repentance is a great blessing for a child of God. For it is only a child of God that the ability to repent is given. Repentance, more closely defined, is: a sorrow for sin committed as an offense and dishonor to God. It is remorse and shame that one feels after having committed an offence, having seen by faith, the price that Christ paid for those sins on Calvary. Repentance brings about a change of heart and mind to serve the living God in a way that is pleasing to God, not man. As Elder Marvin Loudermilk once stated, “repentance is an afterthought”. It isn’t until after you have committed a sin that repentance is sought out.
A non-elect will never feel the desire nor need to repent as true repentance stems from Godly sorrow. Repentance comes about after we have, by the grace of God, been made to see our sins as a sin against God and his righteousness and what he has done for us on Calvary. In speaking of Esau, Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:17, “For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears”. Esau was indeed sorry for what he had done in selling his birthright to Jacob. But his sorrow was not a godly sorrow but rather a worldly sorrow. There is a vast difference in worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. One may be sorry he got caught committing a heinous crime and wish he was freed from the prison cell, but his sorrow is only in getting caught. He may have no true sorrow for the crime itself. Paul stated in 2Cor. 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death”. In Luke chapter 16 we read the account of the rich man and Lazarus. Because of the rich mans nature, he had no compassion for the beggar Lazarus, who laid at his
gate full of sores. When both died the rich man lifted up his eyes from hell, being in torment, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Surely this would be a time for the rich man to repent of his way of life and beg himself to Abraham for deliverance. But listen to his plea in verse 24, “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame”. Here again, as with the case of Esau, we see a sorrow for the just torment he was receiving, yet we hear nothing of a true repentance in his words. We hear nothing of a godly sorrow or even of him desiring to be lifted out of hell. But rather he desired a temporary relief of his torment. He goes on to ask Abraham that Lazarus be sent to his five brethren and testify unto them, “lest they also come into this place of torment”. V.29-30 state, “Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”. This is proof evidence that the doctrine of “all men without exception can repent” is from hell.
As stated earlier, only the elect of God can repent and then only if the goodness of God allows it. A child of God can be brought to the place, through disobedience to God, where the need of repentance is taken away. And if it can be taken away it is only because at first he had it. 2 peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us- ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”. This repentance is a result of the new birth. The “all” under consideration is all the elect of God. At the new birth the Holy Spirit reproves us of sin. We are made to see at some depth the state of man’s depravity and who he is without God. Though a child of God has a spirit of repentance at regeneration, through godly sorrow, and is made to repent having seen his unrighteousness, he can get to the place that he no longer sees his need to repent, having become self-righteous in his works. He will then excuse or seek to justify his wrong course of action and feel little or no remorse over his disobedience to God. It is not so much that he cannot repent but rather that he has been made blinded to his need of repentance. Christ, in speaking about those who would not hearken to his voice said in Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them”. Paul, speaking of spiritual Israel states in Romans 11:7-8, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day”.
To be an impenitent child of God is to be alienated from the fellowship of God. He does not know, or has forgotten, the goodness of God and his wonderful blessings and care that he has for all those that will humbly seek his face. Proverbs 28:13 states, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy”. God has no fellowship with those that ascribe to self-righteousness, for they do not see their need for God. 1John 1:6 states, “If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”. Through repentance we have a purging of sin and a cleansing from unrighteousness that will allow us to commune with God. Verse 7 states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”. God seeks the fellowship of sinners who have a need to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness
Christ said, while hanging from the nails on the cross at Calvary, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Who is the “they” that Christ is referring to? Is it only those who were bodily present at the crucifixion? Or is Christ speaking of all that the Father gave him? If we have received forgiveness of sins by God the Father then it must be the latter to whom Christ was referring, for it is through his sacrifice that a blood bought sinner can have hope of eternal glory. True repentance begins at Calvary. One must be brought to the place to see all that Christ suffered for, and to see it as a personal atonement. When we view the Lamb of God dying for our “my” sins, sins that are so carelessly and freely committed, then are we brought to a point of godly sorrow. Ashamed of who we are and what we have done a penitent sinner begs for forgiveness in the sight of a merciful and loving God. He desires fellowship with his creator and yearns for the ability to please God once again. True repentance brings about sincere conversion. When there has been a change in the heart and mind of a penitent sinner, from doing evil to doing good, there is also a change in his walk.
This thought of repentance can be seen with the case of King David. When at a time that Kings go out to battle David thought it better to stay back at home. This was the sin that culminated in the downward spiral to David’s disobedience and backsliding from God. After staying home we find where David lusted after Bathsheba and brought her up to his room to lie with her. When David received word that she had become pregnant he sent for her husband Uriah who was out in battle for David. His hope was to cover up his sin by bringing Uriah back home. We read that this ploy did not work but rather David continued his downward spiral. After having Uriah sent back to the war and putting him in the front line so that he might be killed, David at last thought he had found a way to cover up his tracks. It was after Uriah was killed in battle that David took Bathsheba for his wife. But how foolish we are to think that we can deceive God, that we can hide our sins and still be in fellowship with Him. Moses, speaking to the children of Israel said in Numbers 32:23, “…Behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out”. It was sometime later that God was about to bring these things back to David’s mind that he might find occasion to repent. Just when David thought he was clear of the matter God sent Nathan. Anytime we think we have outrun our sins we best beware for then are we about to run into them. Nathan told David a story concerning a poor man’s little ewe lamb that was taken by a rich man who had many sheep and used it to serve his guests. David’s anger kindled against the rich man for doing such a deed. It was then that Nathan said to him, “Thou are the man”. David, being shown the error of his way stated, “I have sinned against the Lord”. It wasn’t until this point that David desired to seek repentance from God. He now began to see his sin against God, not man. In Psalms 51 we can read his prayer of supplications to God. Listen to his pleas in this Psalm. “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee and thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in they sight”…“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of they salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit”. These words of David have a resounding plea for the mercy of God.
Has this ever been your plea? Have you, in the still of the night when your sins were before you, begged God for forgiveness? Have you desired, more than the riches of this world, to be back in fellowship with God, to commune with the consolation of Israel and to feel his warm presence? If so, thanks be to God, for he has granted you repentance. He has given you the desire to draw nigh to him. It was the goodness of God in bringing Nathan to David that led him to repentance. Had God not sent Nathan, David would have found no place or desire for repentance. Now that David had repented he was once again in fellowship with God. O’ the mercy of God that he would continue to bring a wretched sinner as me back to a place that I, through his power, might find repentance for past deeds and be brought once again into his manifested love and providential care! I pray that my eye would ever be on the dying Lamb of Calvary, that I might not soon forget the great price that was paid for the hope that is within me. This is all my desire, thanks be to God!
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; Now thee alone I seek, give what is best
Now let us look for a moment at the scriptures concerning Joseph and his brethren. Herein foreshadows the goodness of God leading his children to repentance. As stated earlier Joseph is a type of Christ while his brethren typify God’s children. Much could be said in regards to Joseph. He was despised and hated by his brethren. So too was Christ despised and rejected of men. Joseph’s brethren said they would never bow down to him, as he had stated they would in his dream. We then see that a plan was devised to rid Joseph. His brethren cast him in a pit and sold him to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver. We read where Christ was sold for thirty pieces of silver. They took his coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a slain goat and presented it to Jacob saying, “this have we found: know now whether this be thy son’s coat or no”. All this they did to Joseph. But what had Joseph done to deserve such treatment? He was innocent of any wrongdoing and only guilty of doing his fathers will in going to see if his brethren were all right in the land of Dothan. So too was Christ treated by his brethren. Christ came to seek and save that which was lost and the world had no use for him. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yet he was the Son of God who should come to pay the ransom to bring his children home. Our hearts were at enmity towards God and all we could say was “crucify him, crucify him”!
We then see where Joseph was sold into Egypt unto Potiphar. And then cast into prison, wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph stayed for some two years in prison until the Butler had remembered that Joseph was still there and that he was a revealer of dreams. Pharaoh ordered his release that he may reveal his dream of corn and kine. Joseph revealed that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and suggested that the crops be gathered those seven years and kept for the years of famine. As a result Pharaoh put Joseph in charge over the land to see that enough provender was stored up to last the seven years of famine. Joseph went from being an innocent man in prison to second in command over the land of Egypt. How fitting a type is Joseph when we look at Christ who was hated by his brethren, yet we see him sitting now at the right hand of the majesty on high! Christ is that bread of life and we through him have access to the storehouse wherein lies food enough for those who hunger in this desolate and barren land.
Now we arrive to the place in scripture that outlines the beautiful doctrine of repentance. All the while that Joseph is in Egypt we hear nothing of his brethren who by now have put their cruel deeds in the past, having forgotten their bother and what they had done. But the famine caused Jacob to send his sons to Egypt, for he had heard that there was corn there. When they arrive Joseph recognizes who they are but they are unaware of who Joseph is. Joseph says, “Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come”. There reply was, “We are all one man’s sons; we are true men”. Because of the response, it was not yet time for Joseph to reveal himself to them, for Joseph did not see any conviction or remorse for what they had done to him. All they saw in themselves was that they were upright people having done no evil. God will not reveal his presence to us who are high minded, trying to cover our sins in a cloak of self-righteousness, but commands us to confess our sins and forsake them that he may have mercy on us. The Pharisee prayed in the 18th Chapter of Luke, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are…or even as this publican”. Such is the prayer of natural man. He has not seen that his righteousnesses are as filthy rags, nor has he been brought to the place where he is made to see that Christ is his all in all. He feels much as I have in the past, that I could excuse my own sins and continue to live life as I sought fit. What a deception we put ourselves in. Our thought is, “this is my life and I will live it as I please”. This concept pleases man well until God begins to move in our lives. Then we, through repentance, are made to see who we really are: undeserving sinners not worthy of the least of his blessings but rather fit subjects for eternal wrath. Much different is the prayer of the publican, “who standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner”. O’ how God can turn a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke! He is able to bring down the mighty man who is full of pride and cause him to graze as the beast of the field!
This would be the very thing that Joseph would do for his brethren before he would reveal himself to them. Joseph put his brethren in ward for three days and after commanded that they bring Benjamin back with them to prove they were not spies, lest they should die. As an assurance Joseph kept Simeon with him. For Joseph, being Benjamin’s true brother, both having the same father and mother, longed to see Benjamin. Then they said one to the other, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us”(Gen.42:21). Here we see the first sign of sorrow for what they had done to Joseph. It was through these trials that the goodness of Joseph was leading them to repentance. I doubt that they would now say within themselves that they were true men.
On return from their journey they opened the sacks only to find that the money had been placed back in their sacks. Now their heart failed them and they were afraid. They answered, “What is this that God hath done unto us”? What a wonderful lesson is taught here. That one may receive the blessings of God and pay for it, that he might feel deserving of it, is foreign to the word of God. Peter said that the gift of God couldn’t be purchased with money. Isaiah 55:1 states, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”. Do you desire to drink from the fountain of living water? The blessings of God are bestowed upon the poor and contrite heart, to those that feel they have nothing to offer but praise and glory to God. Though he may owe ten thousand talents, yet he has not a penny to pay, for it is not his righteousness but the righteousness of Christ that he desires to be clothed with. He, through the grace of God, has been made a beggar on the dunghill who’s only desire is to commune with the living God. It is then, when he has been made low, that God will lift up and allow the poor sinner to fly as an eagle, soaring above the troubles and trials of this life. Only then can one rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know These for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and thou alone; In my hand no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.
Jacob hesitated in letting his brethren return back to Egypt with Benjamin. But in time the need to return was greater than his reluctance, for their food was about to run out. Jacob had told them that if Benjamin did not come back that it would bring down his gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. When they returned back to Joseph, it is all he could do to refrain himself before his beloved brother Benjamin. Yet, it wasn’t time that he should reveal himself.
Joseph once again fills their sack with food and puts their money back in it. But this time he also puts his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. The brethren left on there journey back to Canaan, but had not gotten far past the gates when Joseph ordered his steward to go and look in their sacks and to bring the person back that had the silver cup. When the steward stopped them in the way he accused them of taking the silver cup. They then answered, “With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen”. They were sure that they didn’t have the cup. Joseph’s steward answered, “Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless”. And as he searched, behold he found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. “Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city”. Notice the difference in their attitude towards losing Benjamin and losing Joseph. They were given freedom to leave and go back to Canaan without Benjamin. But there was something preventing them from doing as they had done when they left Joseph. They had a great love and concern for Benjamin. This love was reflective of the sorrow and conviction they now began to have for what they had done to Joseph. Judah said in Gen.44:16, “What shall we say unto the Lord: what shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants”. They no longer saw themselves as true men, but rather as evildoers that sold their beloved son for thirty pieces of silver. They now had the question of Job when he said, “How can a man be just with God”?
They had now, by the goodness of Joseph, been brought to the place of great sorrow for what they had done to Joseph. They began to plea to him that they be allowed to take Benjamin back home. They were not about to leave without him! Judah says in Gen.44:33-34, “Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? Lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father”. This was all more than Joseph could endure. He had seen a change in their heart. He now knows by looking at their great love for Benjamin that they would have done things much different than before. They have now been brought to the place of repentance through godly sorrow. Joseph was now ready to reveal himself to them and to have fellowship with them. Joseph cried out, “Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren”. What a blessing it is to a child of God when he is brought to repentance, for it is then that Christ will reveal his face to him and the yearning for fellowship can be made. The once disobedient child of God can again look upon his Savior and commune with the everlasting Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He has been cleansed from all unrighteousness and is now able to worship God with a purged conscience. Now is his mind far from displeasing God but rather he desires to walk in the light, as He is in the light.
In his second letter to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul spoke of what true repentance fulfills by listing seven things that clears the child of God’s heart after he has repented after a godly manner. He stated in 2Cor. 7:10-11, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrow after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter”. After true repentance the penitent sinner has carefulness not to sin anymore in a like manner as before. He is careful not to offend God. There is a clearing or purging of ones conscience and a cleansing from all unrighteousness.
It brings about indignation: a loathing or abhorrence for your sins, with shame. He has a fear of ever offending God and his grace and righteousness. He has a vehement desire to be kept from sin: not to dishonor God, and a desire to commune with God. His zeal is now for God and his glory, His doctrine and ordinances and to perform and maintain all good works. Last but not least he has revenge: not on others, but on himself and his sinful lusts. His desire is to strive against sin.
How we need God to lead us to repentance, to renew our hearts desire for him! Without His almighty power to pull us back by his goodness we would surely be left in this world with no chance of ever knowing the peace and consolation that is found in Christ Jesus. Zechariah 12:10 states, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn”.
How fitting is the event that is recorded in Acts 2, concerning the day of Pentecost. Peter tells them, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they had heard this, they were pricked in the heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do”? O’ how their hearts had now been changed from the time that Pilot brought Christ before them! Surely, if they would have had this state of mind earlier they would not have cried out, “crucify him, crucify him”. But now they see the blood stain on their hands and the dark cloud of guilt and shame is more than they can bear.
Notice Peter says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly”. I pray that we might see ourselves amidst the rebellious Jews that cried out against Christ, that we might look at our own hands covered in blood. It was I that smote his face and laid the stripes upon his back. It was I that mocked him and platted a crown of thorns upon his head. It was I that spit on him and smote him on the head with a reed. And it was I that was sitting down to watch Christ suffer on the cross. Can you, dear child of God, see yourself on that day consenting to his death? Do you feel convicted of the crime of crucifying the Lord of Glory? That spotless Lamb of God died in my room and stead for the sins that I have committed against him! It was because of the great love that he had for me that he suffered and bled and died! How undeserving I am to have the great hope that I am counted among the saints, that his love is everlasting! Through Him my sins are removed from me as far as the east if from the west. Have you the desire to bow to your knees and say, “what shall I do”?
Peter answered those Jews and said, “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”. Repent, have a change of heart out of the shame of offending God. Then, be baptized. Convert your ways that they would be pleasing to God. Walk in his light. True repentance will always result in sincere conversion. Once a child of God’s heart and mind has been stirred and turned from worldly pleasures to serving God, his walk will be more in line with God. Then shall we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost!
What is that gift? After Joseph had made himself known unto his brethren he said,
“And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: And I will nourish thee…lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty”. What a wonderful blessing! To have sweet fellowship with God and to know that as long as we dwell with him the storehouses will forever be open. We will never hunger in the land of famine. The repentant child of God desires to turn to the fountain of living water, and turn from the broken cistern, which cannot hold water. He has been made to lie down in green pastures.
Little wonder why Jonas could cry out, “salvation is of the Lord”! He is our refuge and hiding place, our rock in a weary land.
May we, by the grace of God, follow on to know the Lord. I trust that we may understand the true importance of repentance in our daily walk with God. Repentance is not a onetime thing. I need it daily in my life and would soon find myself away from God and his blessings were it not by his grace. O’ how I need my heart to be pricked with the conviction of his blood on my hands. It is only then that my thirsting soul can be quenched by the good new of Jesus Christ my Savior, and that great hope of salvation that he has been placed in my heart.