“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (v. 21).- Matthew 7:21–23
Second Kings 25 ends with the people of Judah in exile, the curse promised to God’s people if they remained impenitent in their idolatry (see Deut. 28:15–68). Yet it also provides a glimmer of hope that exile would not be the final word by telling us of the exaltation of King Jehoiachin of Judah in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27–30). Indeed, the Mosaic law said exile would not be the final fate of the covenant community. Deuteronomy 30:1–10 promised the Jews that when they finally repented, the Lord would restore them from exile and pour out incredible blessings.
This promise of blessing in Deuteronomy is not unusual in Scripture, for the Bible frequently promises that those who repent—who turn from their sins—will enjoy life forever in God’s presence (Mark 1:14–15; John 3:16; Acts 11:18). In order to better understand what Scripture says about repentance, we will now pause our look at the Old Testament Historical Books and base the next few days of studies on Psalm 51, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
If we read the Bible honestly, we cannot miss its repeated calls for repentance. In addition to the calls for repentance given to the old covenant people in exile that we noted above, we are warned that those who do not repent are in danger of destruction (Ps. 7:12). John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles all call for sinners to repent, to turn from their wickedness and follow the Lord (Mark 1:4, 14–15; Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:8–9). Sadly, however, this call to repentance often goes unheeded today. Frequently the gospel is presented as if no repentance is required. Too many individuals believe that they are saved simply because they have professed faith in Christ even though there is no evidence that the direction of their life has changed.
We do not earn salvation by our repentance; nevertheless, Scripture says we do not belong to Jesus apart from repentance. If we profess faith and yet do not seek to follow Christ—who commands us to repent—we do not have saving faith in Jesus (Matt. 7:21–23).
The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means “change of mind.” Yet, this change is not exclusively mental. True metanoia—true repentance—is the change of mind about our sin and about Christ that results in a change in the direction of life away from transgression and toward the Savior. To have truly repented does not mean we are perfect; it means we are looking daily to Christ and seeking more and more to deny sin and to live according to His way.
Repentance and faith can be distinguished but they cannot be separated. Saving faith is a repentant faith, and authentic repentance is repentance that trusts in Christ. Daily as we follow the Savior, we should be grieving our sin, asking for forgiveness, trusting in Jesus, and asking Him to strengthen us to serve Him. That is the way of repentance.
Passages for Further Study