Exclusive Studies by Paul Davidson
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The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:30, 31.
What is this thing of repentance? Why does Peter speak of it as a gift? How is it related to forgiveness? For he wrote, to give repentance . . . and forgiveness of sins.
We don’t hear as much on the subject as we did years ago, and there is not much evidence of it being done among God’s people. However, repentance was the heart of New Testament preaching.
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17.
When Jesus sent the twelve, they went out and preached that men should repent. Mark 6:12.
In His last meeting with His disciples He charged them that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. Luke 24:47.
Repentance was the heart of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. When his listeners, under conviction, asked him what they should do, he answered, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38. On the occasion of the healing of the lame man at the gate Beautiful, Peter in Acts 3:19 preached, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.
It was also the heart of Paul’s preaching. Before a heathen audience who were hearing the Gospel for the first time, he preached in Acts 17:30, God … commandeth all men everywhere to repent. In his farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:21, Paul reminds them how he testified both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the last recorded sermon in the Bible, Paul is preaching to King Agrippa and says in Acts 26:19, 20, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem . . . and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
Why do we hear so little of it today? Is it less important?
In the Old Testament there are two Hebrew words translated into English as “repent.” The first, nacham, “by implication to be sorry, to breathe deeply.”
Job had said some strong things about God, and now when God reveals Himself to him he cries , I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (42:5, 6) God, I’m sorry for what I said.
Jeremiah said in 8:6, No man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?” No one is sorry for his sin.
The second Hebrew word used most often is the word shoob, “to turn oneself.”
Ezekiel 18:30. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Both the words, “repent” and “turn,” are the Hebrew word, shoob, literally, “turn, turn” or “repent, repent,” repeated for emphasis.
There are two Greek words in the New Testament translated into English, “repent.” The first, metamellomai, seldom used, and better translated, “regret.” The second, metanoia, meaning, “To change one’s mind, to feel sorry that one has done this or that. To change one’s mind for the better. To amend one’s life with abhorrence of one’s past sins.”
You say, “Preacher, I’m confused. I don’t understand.”
The old retired godly preacher must have felt the same way that day as the young seminarian, preaching on repentance, used all the Hebrew and Greek words to explain it. Finally he could stand it no longer. Arising from his seat, he started toward the back, in a loud voice saying, “I’m going to hell! I’m going to hell!” Reaching the back, he turned toward the front shouting, “I’m going to heaven! I’m going to heaven!” That, sir, is repentance — a change of mind, of heart and direction!
Paul preached in Acts 17:30, “God . . . commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Jesus in the seven letters to the churches of Asia (Revelation 2 and 3) five times pleads for them to repent, saying, “Repent or else,” “except ye repent.” Repentance is not only a message for sinners, but sinning saints as well!
You may say, “If I ask God to forgive me, why doesn’t He simply do it? Why do I have to repent to be forgiven?” I’m sure thousands would accept Jesus if they were not required to repent.
There is a principle in life I think we all understand. When your child disobeys and does wrong, and needs discipline, what two things do you look for if you would forgive? Isn’t it the words, “I’m sorry, Mommy; I’m sorry, Daddy; I won’t do it again”? My mother was a good disciplinarian, and she knew how to spank. One day when she was really laying it on I asked her, “Mom, how long are you going to spank me?” She said, “Until you quit doing what you are doing.” But if I came to her genuinely sorry for what I had done and said, “I’ll not do it again,” she would gather me in her arms and say, “Paul, I forgive you.” Those are wonderful words!
When Jesus said in Luke 17:3, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him,” He is not asking you to forgive him, unless he repents. Every good judge looks for genuine sorrow and a determination to change from the one who asks for mercy.
If this is true on the human level, how much more on the divine? “Forgive us our trespasses.” We have broken His laws. (Mt. 6:12), “Forgive us our debts.” Sin is a debt that must be paid. It cannot be ignored. However, before God pays that debt He requires confession for sin, repentance, a change of mind, and a willingness to turn from it. There is no plea bargaining in His court. “Every transgression . . . received a just recompense of reward.” The word “forgive” is made up of two English words — “for” and “give.” Something must be given — for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. (II Cor. 5:21), “For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”
But there must be more than sorrow for our sin. There must be change of mind as well. God’s word paints a dark picture of mankind in Genesis 6:5, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The margin in my Bible reads, “the Hebrew word signifieth not only the imagination, but also the purposes and desires.” Both the mind and heart of man know only evil continually, and it is only ten generations from Adam!
The story of creation is a beautiful story. Every act of creation closes with these words, “and it was good.”
The last and highest of His creation was man. (Gen. 1:27), “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.” It is repeated for emphasis. God placed man over
His whole creation to replenish the earth and subdue it – that is, have mastery over it, develop it – and gave him dominion over every living thing on earth.
There is a touching scene in Genesis 2:19. The Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
It was a beautiful sight: God creator, man created, working side by side to develop the earth in all its beauty. God gave to man an intellect capable of accomplishing the task — a mind that could comprehend God and understand Him, and a heart to love Him. It was a beautiful relationship of love. What went wrong? One word — sin. Paul puts it in the simplest language. (Romans 5:12), “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Ten generations later “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:11), The earth also was corrupt before God. This is bad, not good. And the earth was filled with violence. When men’s minds and hearts go bad, they corrupt everything about them.
Scripture paints a dark picture of the human mind apart from God, so different from the mind God gave to Adam. Instead of a mind in harmony with God, with His purposes, a mind that is at enmity with His law.
The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Romans 8:7,
Alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works. Colossians. 1:21,
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Ephesians 2:2,3
God made man that way. He was to have dominion to be a master, not a slave.
Note the expression, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind.” This is a mind controlled by fleshly desires.
Think for a moment. When God created man He gave him a mind, encased it in a structure of bone, and set it as head over the body to control the body, not for the body to control the head.
But when sin entered the world the mind became controlled by the flesh.
All flesh had corrupted his way. Genesis 6:12
Paul reminds us that if we sow to the flesh we shall of the flesh reap corruption, which Webster defines, “to change from a sound condition to an unsound one, spoiled, morally unsound, debased.”
Go back to that hour of temptation in Genesis 3. What was Satan’s first appeal? You shall be as gods. This is stupid. What more could they want than in the state God had created them in a paradise? Not only that, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him. Genesis 1:27.
But the snake insisted, Oh, but you can have a mind of your own to make your own decisions.
When Eve bought that, the second temptation was easy.
He showed her that the forbidden tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, a tree to be desired, to make one wise. This is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. Lust became the controlling passion. They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.
That mind has to change. There is a passage in Ephesians 4:17-19 that gives me a clue that something else has to change before the mind can change. In it, Paul gives a description of the Gentile world in his day, which so accurately describes our own day, That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness (hardness) of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Look closely at that passage. It’s all about vanity of mind, living a life that is meaningless, without purpose – the understanding darkened. Why? Ignorance of God kept them in a state of alienation with God. What was the bottom line? Hardness of heart. Calloused, they gave themselves over to unbridled lust, and worked at this thing of uncleanness with greediness. In Paul’s day among the Gentiles, it was sex and more sex, normal or perverted. What about our day? A man boasted on a T.V. broadcast of having over 2,000 sexual encounters with different women. Is that what life is all about? Never! Sex has its proper place in marriage, where it is meaningful and beautiful. However, there is something wrong with a mind that makes lust, not love, its aim. It must be changed! For the mind to change, the heart must be changed as well.. The hardness of heart must be broken, for the heart is the fountain, the seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors. When the heart becomes hard, the mind becomes evil.
Anyone familiar with human experience and Scripture knows that sin hardens the heart.
My friend, a successful pastor of a fine congregation, shared with me two incidents in his past life for which he still has the deepest regrets. In the first, his mother, who was a very sick woman, was in the hospital under the oxygen tent. He said, “I walked into her room, lit a cigarette, pulled back the curtain of the tent and blew smoke in her face, as tears filled her eyes.” Secondly, he said, “I was a boxer. I told my father not to lay his hand on me or I would deck him. He did. I knocked him unconscious to
the floor, bleeding, and walked out of the room with my mother screaming, ‘You killed him! You killed him!'” Today my friend is a very tender, compassionate man.
How do you explain the change in Saul’s life? Speaking of his past (1 Timothy. 1:13), Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. Acts 22:4, I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. There is no darker scene than that of a man tearing babes from mothers’ breasts and sending them to their death!
There is only one explanation. God gave to both of them the gift of repentance. But in reaching the heart, God never bypasses the mind, even in the unusual way He worked with Saul. This Jesus is alive! He called me by my own name, “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4). He knows the inner struggle Saul is going through since hearing Stephen’s message and observing the manner in which he faced death and died. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).
And now the awful realization of his sin. His persecuting saints was a sin against Jesus Himself (v. 4), Why persecutest thou me? And this Jesus, in spite of all he had said and done against Him, loved him enough to call him. It broke His heart.
It wasn’t easy for Saul. Three days and nights passed with no drink or food touching his lips. But when Ananias was told by the Spirit to go to Saul (v. 11), he was reassured, You need not be afraid of him, he is a changed man in mind and heart — behold, he prayeth. How beautiful Acts records that change (9:20), And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
Listen to Paul’s message to the crowd in Athens, hearing the Gospel for the first time. It was an appeal to the mind, using things they were familiar with, when he said to them, God . . . commandeth all men everywhere to repent. It was the same as he stood before Agrippa. So great was the effect on King Agrippa’s mind that he cried, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:28)
A careful reading of Peter’s message to that dangerous crowd, who fifty days earlier had been part of the mob that crucified Jesus, clearly reveals God seeks to reach the heart through the mind.
They were drawn that day because of the strange manifestation they heard and saw — men speaking in languages never learned, the wonderful works of God. Peter explains the demonstration of the Spirit and its significance from the Old Testament prophets. He preaches Jesus to them, His life, His ministry with its miracles, His death — and charges them with being partakers of that awful crime, “With wicked hands ye have taken and crucified Him, but God hath raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 2:23, 24)
When in 2:36 Peter comes to the heart of his message, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ, his hearers were pricked in their hearts and cried, What shall we do?
The Greek word translated “pricked,” katanusso, is a metaphor — to pain the mind sharply, smitten in heart with poignant sorrow.
Peter answers, 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. Convicted by the anointed Word, pained in mind, heart smitten with poignant grief (2:41), they that gladly received his word were baptized. They made a complete turn by being publicly baptized, identifying themselves with the hated name of the crucified One. And they did it gladly.
Minds once alienated and at enmity with God have now been renewed in the Spirit. Hearts once filled with hate are now filled with love. That, sir, is the grace of God. Read the rest of Acts 2 to see how great the change really was.
While God commands all men everywhere to repent, He never forces anyone, but makes His offer of the gift of repentance in His Word. Whether it was John the Baptist, Jesus, or the twelve, they all preached repentance. Jesus’ last word to His own (Luke 24:47), that repentance and remission of sins should be preached. God never bypasses His Word to reach the mind.
The true story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:20-31 illustrates this simple truth. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to his father’s house, for he has five brothers, that he may testify unto them lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, 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. The Greek word for persuade is peitho, to induce one by words to believe. Faith comes by hearing.
God knows that sending a man back from the dead to testify will not persuade one to repent. Not even the most excruciating suffering will cause one to repent. Revelation 16:10, 11, They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because
of their pains and their sores, and repented not. The command and invitation to repent are made in His Word. He knows without His help they cannot, so He offers repentance as a gift.
There is something touching about Paul’s advice to ministers. 2 Timothy 2:24-26, The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
He was like my own son. A young man who dearly loved the Lord, felt a call into the ministry. He was a very gifted person. He had a beautiful family. But as I watched him move away from spiritual things, I became deeply concerned. I remember walking into his office one day and saying to him, “Careful, you may end up losing your family and be on alcohol.” I was surprised at my words to him. He was very angry with me. “I’ll never touch alcohol as long as I live. My father was an alcoholic.”
Some months passed. He left his beautiful wife and children to go to a large city, apparently for his work, but in reality for a life of deepest sin. Months passed by to years. For a period I would meet with his wife to pray for him once a week in the noon hour. Nothing seemed to change. Occasionally he would call me, generally at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and by the sound of his voice I knew he was under the influence of alcohol.
One day while preaching I saw him come in with his family. No sooner was the altar call given that he was there. I have never seen a man more emotionally moved. His chest heaved. Sobs came from a broken heart. Tears streaming from his eyes fell to the altar bench. He was there a long time, but when he arose there was a changed look on his face. The road to recovery was long and hard.
On walks we would take he would ask why did it happen. I could not answer. He shared how often he had wanted to come back, but for some reason could not. He had been taken captive by Satan at his will. The only thing he had left was a cry, and God heard it and helped him to repent. Today he is a dearly loved pastor of a fine church. God in His love gave him the gift of repentance.
That is all God asks. A cry – whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This was the cry of the Psalmist (80:3), repeated in v. 7 and v. 19, Turn us again, O God . . . and we shall be saved.
It was the cry of Ephraim uttered by Jeremiah (31:18), Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Jeremiah closes the book of Lamentations with the same cry (5:21), Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned. And according to 2 Chronicles 7:14 it is when we turn that God hears, forgives and heals our land.
David wrote in Psalm 34:18, The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. When he fell so terribly in his sin of adultery and murder, he knew the only way he could break his heart, hardened as it was by sin, was through repentance. You have his story in Psalm 32:1-5 and Psalm 51. He opens it with the cry, (51:1) Have mercy upon me. (v. 3) I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. He pleads for cleansing, for God’s forgiveness. (v. 10) Create in me a clean heart,
O God; and renew a right spirit within me. He knew the only sacrifice acceptable to God was (v. 17) a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart . . . thou wilt not despise.
The key to revival is brokenness and contriteness. (Isaiah 57:15), For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity . . . I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Webster defines contrite as crushed by a feeling of remorse, earnest repentance, for sin hardens the heart.
The key to brokenness is repentance. My mind goes back to my freshman year at C.B.I. in 1934. There had been earnest seeking of God – now a spirit of repentance swept the campus. For weeks there were no classes as we met daily in the chapel. What searchings of heart, of confessions for sin took place. Restitutions were made. Our godly President, W. I. Evans, would lead us to the cross, to the blood for cleansing. Revival came as I have never witnessed it before, or since. There were pure manifestations of the Spirit, pure love, pure joy.
As a nation we have become hardhearted. One and a half million innocent unborn babies are murdered every year. But hardness of heart is even invading our churches. Jesus charged Israel in His day (Matthew 13:15), This people’s heart is waxed gross (calloused), and their ears are dull of hearing. This dullness of hearing affecting our youth and adults like that of Israel, is due to our hardness of heart as well. We are in a crisis of hearing. May God help us not to be like Ephraim in Hosea’s day (5:4), They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God. A Jewish translation reads, Their habits do not let them turn back to God.
May we each pray for a spirit of repentance to sweep through our churches, and let us encourage our pastors to once again to boldly proclaim its message by our willingness to practice it in our own lives.
We need to remember Jesus’ words to those who told Him of the Galileans who perished when Pilate mingled their blood with their sacrifices (Luke 13:3), Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. The rich man of Luke 16 knew why he was in Hell. He hadn’t repented, and he knew his five brothers would soon be with him unless they did. You say that is for sinners. Yes!
But in closing let me remind you Jesus speaks directly to His church when He writes (Revelation. 2:5, 16), Repent, or else.