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Dear Brethren and Friends,
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A teaching about repentance and forgiveness is becoming popular among many fundamental and reformed churches in the Philippines. Basically, it is a question of why must a believer keep on repenting when he is actually forgiven of his past, present and future sins? A quick look at this question may appear logical and biblical since the scriptures say that Jesus paid it all and His precious blood cleanses the believer from all his sins. So if a man is already justified and is declared righteous why ask again to be forgiven?
Let us look at the Bible whether this teaching is according to God’s Word. We will only consider two passages of the Scriptures which can already refute the above claim. We shall learn that the right attitude of a sinner saved by grace and an adopted child of God through faith in Christ is a constant repenting of sins.
First is 1 John 1:5–10, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
John portrays here the fellowship of a believer with his God. God is light and every false way and errors are exposed by Him. He is the truth and no one can hide from him. Even a born-again believer still has the sinful nature of the flesh striving against the new nature. As Paul describes “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15).
A person who says he is a believer is one who strives to walk in the light, and if he is in the light then the blood of Jesus continually cleanses him from all his sins. How can he walk in the light? It is when he is in the truth, acknowledging his besetting sins and confessing those sins unto God. For, if he confesses his sins, God is faithful and just to forgive him of his sins and to cleanse him from all his unrighteousness. This shows how the Scriptures necessitates the continual confession or repentance of sins for a believer to be cleansed and sanctified unto the Lord’s glory.
John Calvin emphasizes the “promises to the faithful that God will be propitious to them, provided they acknowledge themselves to be sinners. It is of great moment to be fully persuaded, that when we have sinned, there is a reconciliation with God ready and prepared for us: we shall otherwise carry always a hell within us. Few, indeed, consider how miserable and wretched is a doubting conscience; but the truth is, that hell reigns where there is no peace with God. The more, then, it becomes us to receive with the whole heart this promise which offers free pardon to all who confess their sins.”
The opposite happens when a person refuses to confess and repent of his sins. He is a man who either claims not to have sinned or thought God has given him the license to sin. The former is making God a liar the latter is making God a derelict Father. Calvin added, “Whosoever then tries to escape this charge carries on war with God, and accuses him of falsehood, as though he condemned the undeserving. To confirm this he adds, and his word is not in us; as though he had said, that we reject this great truth, that all are under guilt.” Thus a sinner saved by grace has the assurance of continual cleansing when he keeps on repenting his sins every time the Holy Spirit convicts him. One who does not anymore confess his sins as if he is automatically washed clean without repentance only proves his ignorance of God’s Word. He is without the indwelling Holy Spirit who reproves the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). According to the Scriptures, he is judged as an unbeliever.
The second passage to consider is in Luke 15:11–32. Many of us are familiar with the story of a prodigal son who took his inheritance while his father was yet alive and squandered everything in his vices and lusts. Nonetheless, it came to a point where he used up all the riches he had. He ended up becoming a servant and fed swine. The animals were better off than him for they have their shelter and food while he labored and hungered. Suddenly, he came to his senses and realized he can go back to his father and serve him instead. But the story did not describe of a son who returned to his father and accepted without repentance of his sins. One of the highlights in this passage is the man’s confession as this was recorded twice, first while he thought about it and second, when he verbally expressed this to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:18–19 and 21). The father has been waiting for him since he left and the son knew well that his father was merciful and ever ready to always receive him. Yet, he was not foolish to assume that everything was okay and as a son, repentance was not necessary. Matthew Henry describes the great love wherewith the father received the son. It was shown in the father’s reaction even when the son was yet a great way off. The father expressed his kindness even before the son expressed his repentance. This does not teach repentance as not necessary but because God knows the hearts of men.
The man sinned not only against his earthly father but to the Heavenly Father as well, and if he repents before his human father would he not be more accountable to repent before the thrice Holy God? Matthew Henry comments, “Forasmuch as we have all sinned, it behoves us, and well becomes us, to own that we have sinned. The confession of sin is required and insisted upon, as a necessary condition of peace and pardon. If we plead not guilty, we put ourselves upon a trial by the covenant of innocency, which will certainly condemn us. If guilty, with a contrite, penitent, and obedient heart, we refer ourselves to the covenant of grace, which offers forgiveness to those that confess their sins.”
Charles Spurgeon has these words to say,
“It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in His precious blood need not make a confession of sin as culprits or criminals before God the Judge, because Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once and for all accepted in the Beloved.
“But having become children, and offending as children, should they not every day go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin and acknowledge their iniquity in that character? Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend and ought not to rest without daily pardon. Suppose that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to Him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus–what will be the consequence? If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offenses against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from Him; I shall doubt His love for me; I shall tremble before Him; I shall be afraid to pray to Him: I shall grow like the prodigal who, although still a child, was yet far away from his father. But if with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to Him and tell Him everything, and do not rest until I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father and shall go through my Christian career not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.
There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.”
The teaching of non-repentance as a believer is unbiblical and a blasphemy against God, calling Him a liar and dishonouring His compassion and mercy as a Father. These are attitudes of false believers! – Bro Jose
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