God’s message to a fallen world has never changed. It has always been the same. It is the message of repentance. It was the message of the Old Testament prophets (Ezekiel 18:30). It was the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-2). It was the message of Jesus (Matthew 4:17). It was the message of Christ’s disciples (Mark 6:7-12). And it is the message Christ’s has commissioned His church to proclaim to the world today (Luke 24:46-47). Man’s need is and always has been to repent—to turn from his sin with a broken heart and to turn to the Savior with all of his heart.
That repentance is necessary for salvation is a scriptural certainty. For instance, the Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed to his fellow-countrymen in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” No one can “be converted” and have their “sins…blotted out” apart from repentance. This is an indisputable biblical doctrine. The question, however, is how can a sinful heart sorrow over sin to the point of perennial penitence (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The answer to this all-important question is found in the biblical teaching that true repentance is divinely granted. It is not the product of human resolve, but divinely bestowed in the miracle of regeneration. Let’s listen to a couple of confirming testimonies to this scriptural tenet by two past heroes of the faith.
First, let’s listen to the voice of Oswald Chambers. In his Christian classic, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance.” Chambers then goes on to add that it is only “the Holy Spirit who produces these agonies.”
Like Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, “the prince of preachers,” also understood that repentance was divinely granted, never humanly induced. Spurgeon wrote: “Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters, but penitence never shows itself in sinners except divine grace works it in them. If thou hast one particle of real hatred of sin, God must have given it thee, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig.”
Far more important than the testimony of these two great saints is the testimony of Scripture itself. In Acts 5:31, the Apostle Peter explains how Christ was “exalted…to be a Prince and a Savior” so that He could “give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). Later, thanks to the vision Peter received at Simon’s house in Joppa and his subsequent visit to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea, the church in Jerusalem was forced to conclude that God had also “granted repentance unto life” to “the Gentiles” (Acts 11:18). Notice, in both cases, whether to the Jew or to the Gentile, repentance is represented in Scripture as a gift from God.
In 2 Timothy 2:25-26, the Apostle Paul taught the young minister Timothy that those who oppose the gospel have no hope of ever “acknowledging the truth” and escaping “out of the snare of the devil” unless God “gives them repentance.” Again, repentance is shown to be something given to us by God. All of this leads to the inescapable conclusion that the sinner’s only hope of ever confessing Christ and being delivered from sin’s captivity is a divinely conferred repentance.
I pray O God that you might grant repentance to the lost for whom I am burdened. Without your bestowal of this gracious gift through the miracle of regeneration, my lost loved ones and friends will never acknowledge the truth, escape from the snare of the devil, be converted, and have their sins blotted out. Therefore, I appeal to your mercy to be so gracious as to give to them so extraordinary a gift. Amen.