Repentance: A Vital Step

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).

- Luke 13:1–5

After David sins with Bathsheba and arranges for her husband to be killed, several months or more pass without the least sign of sorrow or regret on David’s part. His conscience seems to be seared. Finally, however, the Spirit-blessed word of God through Nathan the prophet opens David’s eyes to the depth of his guilt because of what he has done. He confesses, ” ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ ” With this admission, David begins the process of repentance—a process he recounts in great detail in Psalm 51. This psalm is a window on David’s soul, vividly portraying how a child of God ought to respond when he sins against the holy God. Because we all need to repent, both of our sinfulness and our sins, it is well that we give thought to this subject. Therefore, we will pause from our studies in 2 Samuel this week to consider David’s repentance with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s audio teaching series Psalm 51: Confession and Forgiveness.

Repentance is a thoroughly Biblical concept, but it comes into prominence in New Testament teaching. Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself began their ministries with this proclamation: ” ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). The apostles continued this emphasis; when those who heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon asked what they should do, his first exhortation was ‘ “Repent” ‘ (Acts 2:38). Clearly, therefore, repentance is an essential part of the process by which we are saved. But repentance is not a one- time event—the Scriptures are clear that a believer is a repenter, one who must constantly engage in repentance for his or her inevitable sins.

The Greek word that is translated as “repent” in our English Bibles is metanoia, which literally means “to change one’s mind.” Based on this fact, some say that repentance simply means changing one’s view of Jesus, coming to recognize that He is truly the Son of God. But repentance in the Biblical sense goes much deeper. It happens when the Holy Spirit pierces a person’s being to the very core, turning his life upside down. From the depth of his heart, the person resolves to leave his sinful lifestyle and seek pardon for his sin. Thus, to repent is to turn sharply away from pagan living and to flee to Christ, resolving to live in obedience to him. This is exactly what David does in Psalm 51, which we will begin to examine tomorrow.

Coram Deo

Think back to your conversion to Christ. In what ways did you “change your mind” when you came to Him? From what sorts of behaviors did you turn away? Have you kept the resolutions you made or do you find you must repent regularly? Think on these questions and ask God to use this study to strengthen your walk with Him.

Passages for Further Study

2 Chron. 7:14
Neh. 9:35
Job 36:10
Acts 14:15
Rev. 2:5

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