The Doctrine of Repentance

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Stanford Murrell borrows from A.W. Pink on repentance.

The Doctrine of Repentance​

Extracted with Modification
From the writings of A.W. Pink
By Stanford E. Murrell​

1. Gospel repentance does not belong to a Jewish dispensation in the past, but is for men today as per Acts 17:30: “But God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”
2. There is nothing meritorious in a sinner’s compliance with the righteous demand of God to repent.
3. It is the gospel duty of man to repent (Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7).
4. The necessity for Gospel repentance is rooted in the fact and consequences that the Law of God has been broken, for “by the Law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Here in part may lie a practical reason as to why repentance is no longer preached, practiced, or even understood by a large part of society today or by the Church. A new generation has arisen believing that the Law of God has no place in this “age of grace.”

Can there be any wonder that our country and the nations of the Western world are in moral and spiritual chaos? A particular teaching in the Church has united with Humanism, Communism and anarchy in a common contempt for the Law of God. Why should men have respect for human laws if they are taught that the Law of God has no rule and reign over their lives today?

In contrast to popular theology of recent origin, the Apostle Paul plainly affirms, “I had not know sin, but by the Law” (Rom. 7:7). The exceeding sinfulness of sin (Rom. 7:13) is only exposed or made manifest when the Holy Spirit turns the light of God’s Law upon our conscience and heart.

“Practical godliness consists in conformity of our heart and life to the Law of God, and in a sincere compliance with the Gospel of Christ” (A.W. Pink). This is not legalism. It is the antidote for anti-nomianism (or lawlessness) which pervades our society and our churches.

The requirements of the Law are summed up in the Word of Christ, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thine heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5 and Matt. 22:37). Man is required to love God. The ground or reason for this love is because He is the Lord our God. The extent of this duty is to love God with all the heart.

Sin is failure to love God in this manner. Sin is saying, ‘I renounce God who made me; I disallow His right to govern me. I care not what He says to me, what commandments He has given, nor how He explains His Word: I prefer self-indulgence to His approval. I am indifferent to all He has done to and for me; His blessings and gifts move me not; ultimately I am going to be lord of myself.’ Sin is rebellion against the Majesty of Heaven; it is to treat the Almighty with contempt.

5. In contrast to sin, repentance results from a realization in the heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of the sinfulness of sin, of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of God and defying His authority. It is therefore a deep hatred for sin, both an acknowledgment and a complete heart-forsaking of it before God. When we turn to God, we turn away from our sin. It is in this repentant faith that God will pardon us (cp. Lev. 23:29; 1 Kings 8:47-50). No change in dispensation has wrought any change in the character of the thrice holy God. His claims are ever the same.
6. The Prophets taught repentance (Psa. 32:3-5; Prov. 29:13; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 18:30-32; Hosea 5:15; Joel 2:12-18).
7. John the Baptist preached repentance (Matt. 3:2; Luke 1:16-17).
8. The Lord Jesus preached and illustrated repentance (Mark 1:15; Matt. 5:3; Luke 4:18; 5:32; 13:3,5; 15:17-20).
9. When risen from the dead, Christ commissioned His servants “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations” (Luke 24:7), and Acts 5:31 tells us that both repentance and forgiveness of sins were given to the church.
10. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter did not say that the people were to do nothing but ‘receive Christ by a decision’ they make. Rather, he preached repentance saying, “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out!” (Acts 3:19).
11. When Paul was converted and sent to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, it was to “open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:20; cp. 20:21).
12. Only to those who shut their eyes, stopped their ears, hardened their hearts, and were given up to destruction in the days of the Prophets (Isa. 6:10), of Christ (Matt. 13:15), and of the Apostles (Acts 28:27), would the sentence be, “Lest they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with the hearts, and be converted, and I should heal them,” (Mark 4:12).
13. The nature of repentance should be clearly understood (Luke 13:3).
a. Trembling beneath the preaching of God’s Word is not repentance. Felix “trembled” (Acts 24:25) but he was not converted.
b. Being almost persuaded is not repentance. Agrippa (Acts 26:28) illustrates this (see also Matt. 13:20,21). A person may be conscious of his evil doing and acknowledge the same without being converted, just as Pharaoh confessed his sins (Ex. 10:16).
c. Humbling ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God on occasion, is not repentance. A solemn example of this is Ahab, who was sorry he had killed Naboth (1 Kings 21:27-29). Yet in the next chapter he again is rebelling against God.
d. Confessing sins is not repentance. Thousands have gone forward to the “altar” or “mourners bench” and then backwards into the same sin.
e. A person may even do works meet for repentance and yet remain impenitent, just as Judas confessed his sins to the priest , returned the money, but then committed suicide (Matt. 27:3-5).
f. Repentance is more than conviction of sin or fear of wrath to come. In Acts 2:37-38 men were already under such fear when they were still commanded to repent. Their legal fear of punishment did not produce saving repentance, in which there is an evangelical judging of self, and a mourning over sin out of a sense of God’s grace and goodness.
14. What then is repentance? In the words of A.W. Pink (paraphrased), we would say that:

Repentance is a supernatural and inward revelation from God, giving deep consciousness of what I am in HIS sight, resulting in a bitter sorrow for sin, a hatred for sin, a turning away from or forsaking of sin. It is the discovery of God’s high and righteous claims upon me, and of my lifelong failure to meet those claims. It is the recognition of the holiness and goodness of His Law, and my defiant insubordination thereto. It is the perception that God has the right to rule and govern me, and of my refusal to submit to Him. It is the apprehension that He has dealt in goodness and kindness with me, and that I have repaid Him with evil, by having no concern for His honor and glory. It is the realization of His gracious patience with me, and how that instead of this melting my heart and causing me to yield loving obedience to Him, I Have abused His forbearance by continuing a course of self-will.

Evangelical repentance is a heart apprehension of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. It is the recognition of the chief thing wherein I am blameworthy, namely, in having so miserably failed to render unto God that which is His rightful due.

True repentance is always accompanied by a deep longing and a sincere determination to forsake that course which is displeasing to God, out of a motive of love for Him. With what honesty could any man seek God’s pardon, while he continued to defy Him and to part not with that which He forbids? Would any king pardon a traitor, though he seemed ever so humble, if he saw that he would be a traitor still? True, God is infinitely more merciful than any human king, yet in the very passage where He first formally proclaimed His mercy, He at once added “that will be no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:5-7), i.e. guilty-hearted, those with false and disloyal hearts toward Himself, who would not be subject to Him in all things, and who decline to have their every thought brought into captivity to obedience unto Him (2 Cor. 10:5).

God’s mercy (Psa. 130:4) is never exercised at the expense of His holiness. God never displays one of His attributes so as to dishonor another. To pity a thief, while continuing as a thief, would be folly, not wisdom. Well did the Puritan Thomas Goodwin say, “Resolve either to leave every known sin and to submit to every known duty, or else never look to find mercy and favor with God” (cp. Deut 28:19-20).

(from Studies in the Scriptures by A.W. Pink)


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The 1689 LBC states:

13:2. This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

17:3 And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.

The 1689 LBC and the WCF are nearly identical on these two points. Murrell and Pink (in the OP) seem to be short on what 17.3 of the 1689 LBC points out, namely that through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves".
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