Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Biblical Repentance: Introduction

Few doctrines of the historic Christian faith lie closer to the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the course of the Christian life than the doctrine of repentance. Indeed, when our Lord was said to first preach the Gospel of forgiveness of sins in His name, the first command He uttered was, “Repent” (Mk 1:15). Yet within Christendom – and even within Evangelicalism – there is widespread confusion and disagreement about the precise nature of repentance.

What does it mean to repent? What is the place of our feelings in repentance? Should we feel like we haven't repented unless we've felt sorry enough? Or should we confess and move on and trust that our feelings will catch up with us later? What about our works? Do we have to offer some sort of satisfaction for our sin beyond what Christ has accomplished, like feeling sorry enough or confessing to others? Or does the requirement of "obedience in keeping with repentance" undermine justification by faith alone? What is it, exactly, that God wants from us when we confess our sin and seek forgiveness? How should our walk with Christ look if we have a Biblical understanding of repentance?

Over the next couple of weeks I want to do a series on Biblical repentance. In the upcoming posts, I'll try to answer some of the questions I asked above in a number of ways. First, I'll examine three of the most common words used in the Bible to signify repentance. We'll study each word in its original Hebrew or Greek from a lexical and semantic perspective. The analysis of these words and their surrounding contexts will give us a theology of the nature of Biblical repentance. We'll see how Scripture uses these terms and look at what the authors of Scripture mean when they talk about repentance.

Once we have an idea about the nature of repentance, we'll look to apply that understanding to repentance both in justification and sanctification. In justification, we'll look at repentance as the sinner's turning from his sin as the ruling principle of his life. This takes place at conversion. Regarding sanctification, we'll look at the believer's habitual, ongoing repentance of specific sins throughout his Christian walk.

After this, I will spend some time contrasting Biblical repentance to the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance. That might seem a bit random, but I assure you that I'm not just going out of my way to pick on Catholics. The reality is, many Evangelical Protestants who would vehemently denounce the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance -- a sort of paying God back for your sins -- unwittingly practice penance while thinking they are practicing Biblical repentance. This is something that so many of us are prone to, because it is a natural human inclination to try to earn one's own righteousness before God. This goes to the heart of the Gospel, and calls into question the sufficiency of Christ's atonement.

Then, after all of those theoretical considerations, I'll do my best to specifically apply these principles to a practical counseling situation in which a church member has confessed to an immoral affair. I'll try to show how a Christian should come along side his brother and lead him to Biblical repentance while leading him away from the dangers of penance. This way, we can see what it would look like for us to practically live out these Biblical principles in the context of the body of Christ. Examining this hypothetical case study will also demonstrate how church leaders might evaluate the genuineness of a sinning member's repentance.

Finally, I'll conclude the series by presenting how my own study of the doctrine of repentance has affected me personally in my walk with Christ, and how I hope it will have affected you who undertake to study it with me. May God grant that this be a fruitful and beneficial endeavor, and that it serve to raise our affections high toward Him as we look into the wonderful things He's revealed in His glorious Word.

Satisfy us with Yourself, O God, as we carefully study the Word you have given us in order to see the beauty of Your manifold perfections with ever-increasing precision and clarity! And as we behold that glory, grant that we would become transformed into the very image of Your Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren and come to have the preeminence in everything, and that You might be honored above all things!


Biblical Repentance: Introduction

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Look forward to it, Mike! There is confusion surrounding this "word," so I think any work done on it can be beneficial for the body of Christ.

Have you ever read Joseph Dillow's treatment of this (in his book: Reign of the Servant Kings)? He is in the "Free Grace" camp (i.e. Zane Hodges version); but he provides some robust exegetical insights that I think should be dealt with.

Anyway, look forward to reading what you have to offer!