By B.E. Echols
The next thing, after one has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ preached and believed, is to repent (Acts 2:37-38). A thorough prayer of repentance prepares one for water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of his past sins. It is unprofitable to be baptized unless one has thoroughly repented of all his sins and is ready to forsake a life of sin (Proverbs 28:13).
The Necessity And Importance of Repentance
The Scriptures are very definite and plain concerning this requirement of the gospel. Jesus had this to say: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).
We also read in II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise” (concerning the coming of the Lord in judgment) “as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God does not want anyone to be lost.
The apostle Paul emphasized the necessity of every person repenting of all his sinful acts, words, and thoughts: “While God overlooked those times of ignorance, He now calls upon all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30, Goodspeed ‘s Translation). The scriptural references we just listed are not to be lightly considered by those who are seeking salvation for their souls.
Would you take another prayerful look at another scriptural quotation concerning the absolute necessity of repentance? On the Day of Pentecost, after conviction had seized the hearts of many, they asked: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:37:18). Repentance was so important that he commanded “every one” to repent. It is my hope that you are thoroughly convinced of your need of repentance, if you have not already repented. We shall deal with another point connected with this subject.
Confessing And Forsaking All Sin
When one starts out to confess and forsake his sins he begins to come face to face with them and discovers something of the sinfulness of his unrighteous and unholy thoughts, deeds, and actions. One must also be cautious lest he goes only halfway in this endeavor. There is no benefit to be derived from confessing one’s sins unless he is willing and ready to forsake them. Moreover, it does no good to try to forsake sins unless one also confesses them. Note Solomon’s advice: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and for-saketh them shall have (obtain) mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). First John 1:9 also says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In Isaiah 55:7, we have another exhortation concerning the forsaking of sinful ways and thoughts: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Of course this reference only deals with the point of a sinner forsaking his sins.
As for the importance of one confessing his sins, the apostle Paul had this to say: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). So we see by this statement that one’s salvation actually depends upon whether or not he properly confesses his sins and thus repents of them. Paul further stated in Romans 14:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” It is therefore an evident fact that every sinner must confess his sins, in order to obtain mercy and forgiveness from the Lord. This has been true concerning those who have lived before and after Jesus died on the cross. There are a number of Old Testament references which show that when people repented they confessed their sins. (See Ezra 10:1, 10-12; Nehemiah 9:1-3; Daniel 9:3-6, 20-22; and Joshua 7:19-20.)
Some Advice Concerning Confessions
In the matter of confessing sins, one can always be guided by this principle: “confession to whom confession is due”—in reference to men, and to God in every case (Romans 14:11; Joshua 7:19). If a person has sinned openly or publicly, his confessions should be made publicly (Acts 19:18-19 and Nehemiah 9:1-3). If he has wronged an individual, in a personal or private matter, then a confession to him should correct that (Matthew 5:23-24, 26). If one’s sins are only known by the Lord, then a confession to Him should correct that unless the Lord should lead or impress him to do otherwise.
An Overlooked Element Of Repentance
Making restitutions for things stolen, or deceitfully obtained, or for trespassing on other folks’ property, or for obtaining money by lying, or charging extortionate prices is positively demanded by the Scriptures, when it is possible for one to do so. (See Proverbs 3:2 7; 6:30-31; Leviticus 6:1-7; Exodus 22:1-6; and Luke 6:31; 19:1-10.) ( )1 le cannot disregard or set aside these Old Testament scriptures by saying that they are not for anyone under grace, for they also appear in the New Testament: (II Timothy 3:16-17 and Matthew 5:17-20).
In the case of Zacchaeus, as soon as he assured Jesus that he would make restitution for anything he had taken by false accusation, the Lord informed him: “This day is salvation come to this house.” When a person has come to the place that he is willing and ready to pay for the things he has stolen or obtained falsely, he is generally in earnest about his soul’s salvation. The making of restitutions is something that gets next to the heart of God (Luke 19:8-9). The Lord is certainly going to be merciful and work in one’s behalf when he goes this far in making his past sinful life right before man and God.
One who has an open heart for God’s Word and Spirit to direct him in such matters as making restitution and the confessing of his sins need not fear being misled or of being unduly punished for his wrong deeds by men, courts, or kings. (See Romans 8:31.) I saw a wealthy man break down and weep when I confessed to him how I had cheated him out of about thirty-five dollars. When I offered to pay him this amount, he forgave me and assured me that he did not want me to pay him. He insisted on forgiving me of the entire amount, which I accepted. Oh thank God! I shall never forget how I felt as I left this man’s home, with my soul forever relieved of that sinful act.
A man who had stolen about eight hundred dollars’ worth of hogs from one of his neighbors sought the Lord very earnestly for about five years to no avail—until he became willing to confess and pay for those hogs. He received the Holy Ghost the next night after he confessed and paid for them.
I was personally delayed five weeks in receiving the Holy Ghost because I had not made restitution for something which I thought was too insignificant to consider, but lite very day I made that restitution the baptism of the Holy Ghost came in “old camp-meeting fashion”—shouting, and speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance. If any of you are wondering why you have not received the Holy Ghost after seeking God for so long to no avail, check and see if there may be something yet you have not confessed, forsaken, restored, or made restitution for.
Repentance, A Message Proclaimed By Many
Many of the Old Testament prophets, including Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, and Amos, either preached or referred to repentance as an “essential act” for correcting wrongs committed toward God or man. Repentance was also greatly emphasized by John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-8), Jesus, the apostle Peter, and the apostle Paul. As you may know, Peter and Paul were the foremost authorities of the New Testament ministers and writers, and they demanded that all men everywhere repent. (See Acts 17:30 and II Peter 3:9.)
There is a great need of more teaching and preaching today along the line or theme of repentance. The more stronger we preach repentance the more people we ‘v I I have repenting and getting saved—by way of the New Birth” (John 3:1-7). May God give us ministers the know-how and the courage to preach repentance until the good Lord calls us home to our eternal abode.
It Is Repent Or Be Lost
Turning again to II Peter 3:9 we quote, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Then, on the Day of Pentecost Peter answered those who inquired of him what they must do to obtain New Testament salvation, by telling them to “repent, and be baptized every one of you.” So it was repent or be lost (II Thessalonians 1:7-9 with Luke 13:5) as repentance is one of the four requirements or essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul declared that God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30); for it is written, “As I live, saith the Lord . . . every tongue shall confess (an act of repentance) to God'” (Romans 14:11). He further stated, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth . . . thou shalt be saved. For . . . with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
As further evidence on this point of repentance we will quote that declaration of Jesus, which He made while commenting on how Pilate had mingled the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifice—in references to other folks’ sins, Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
The need of repentance is so vital to eternal life that God often extends man some extra time in order to allow him space to repent (Revelation 2:21 and Jonah 3:4-10). But if man fails to avail himself of such opportunities and goes on committing sins as before, he is heaping up the wrath of God against himself for the final reckoning day (Romans 2:2-6, 8-9, 11-12).
Something That Produces Results
Repentance, if carried out as God desires and demands—in making of restitution and the confessing and forsaking of one’s sins—certainly gains God’s favor and approval. One will often begin to weep before God and men as he begins to confess his sinful acts. It produces such reactions that sometimes one may think he is already saved or “born again” when actually he is not (Titus 3:5). It often produces great joy in one’s heart or soul. (See Acts 8:5-8; Luke 24:45-53.) Both of these references refer to people who had not received the Holy Ghost, and those down at the city of Samaria had not yet been baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:8, 12).
The blessings that accompany repentance are simply wonderful. To begin with, it makes hardened hearts tender and enables one to weep before the Lord. Moreover, it often fills one with such joy and appreciation for what God has done for him that he begins to praise God and rejoice in his soul; or he may even shout aloud for joy. Actually, such feelings are evidence that one’s sins are forgiven or that awful load of sin and guilt has been lifted or “rolled away”—as the old song goes. Yes, such experiences are God’s approval upon one’s acts of repentance, but a person should never accept these experiences as complete salvation or a “born-again experience,” according to John 3:5 and Acts 2:38.
Some Timely Advice To Follow
Dear ones, if you have repented of your sins, you should go further with God by being baptized in water. (See Acts 2:38.) You should seek the Lord’s attention, ask him for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then with faith and expectation wait on Him to fill you with his Spirit (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:4, 5 and 2:1). This is what the people at Samaria did. (See Acts 8:5-8 with verses 12-16.) If you fail to seek and ask in faith, you will not obtain that lasting joy that comes into one’s heart when he is filled with the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17 and Galatians 5:22). Neither will you be in God’s church until you are baptized with His Spirit, the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:13 and Romans 8:9). When the people of Samaria heard and believed Philip’s preaching concerning the “kingdom of God,” as explained to Nicodemus by Jesus in John 3:1-7, they asked Philip to baptize them (Acts 8:12, 16). Then, at a later date, the apostles came down from Jerusalem and “prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost,” and they did when the apostles laid their hands upon them for that purpose (Acts 8:14-17).
The “joy of repentance” is not a lasting joy, though very real and wonderful at the time one repents. Definitely that peace and joy that one needs all through his Christian experience is obtained by those who go all i le way with the Lord and meet the requirements of the gospel, according to Acts 2:38, and are filled with the Holy ( ;host as recorded in Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46 and 19:1-7. (See also Galatians 5:22-23.) If one fails to obey these commands he may eventually end in a worse condition than he was before he ever repented or began to seek the Lord (Matthew 12:43-45).
The man Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:43-45 became possessed with eight unclean spirits, instead of the one lie had at the beginning, because he stayed empty or vacant too long after repenting and being cleansed. When that evil spirit came back and found that man “swept, and garnished”—which signifies that he had repented and possibly been baptized in water by John the Baptist for the remission of his sins (Luke 3:3)—but was still empty and not filled with God, the Holy Ghost, he goeth “and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is (and was) worse than the first” (Matthew 12:43-45).
So, precious hearts, do not stop at repentance, as real and wonderful as it may be to experience at the time one repents; but go further in your seeking after God and be I baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins (Luke 24:47-48 with Acts 2:37-38), and be filled with the Holy Ghost. You must be baptized in the name of Jesus in order to obtain remission for your sins (Acts S) and to become a part of God’s church (I Corinthians 13:13 with Ephesians 1:22-23 and Romans 8:9).
For more light on water baptism and the necessity of being filled or baptized with the Holy Ghost—after one repents read chapters four and five.
Another Thing Sometimes Lacking
It is almost a matter of impossibility for a person to repent without a God-given conviction for his sins. If that is lacking in one’s heart, he should attend services where the gospel is being preached in its fullness and under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. It will also help along this line if one will do a lot of reading God’s Word—especially the Book of Acts, which is a record of what the apostles preached and did when the New Testament church first came into existence. If this does not bring about that needful conviction for sins, one should try fasting and prayer, in addition to these other things. (See Matthew 5:6 with Acts 9:8-11, 17-18.)
It could be that when a person has spurned conviction in times past and grieved God’s Spirit away from dealing with his heart that he would have to repent of such acts—if perchance God would forgive and extend his mercy to him again; for no one can repent or come to God unless His Spirit draws and convicts him (John 6:44).
How can one afford to allow himself to become so discouraged that he would quit seeking after God for the salvation of his never-dying soul? But this has been the case with some folk. May God help these people to get stirred and take new courage, and by some means renew their efforts to repent and find Him real and precious to their hearts. Eternity is never ending; hell is too hot and such a terrible place to go to, and a person’s salvation is so important that he cannot afford to give up; he must keel) trying.
The writer knows folk who have gotten saved five, eight, and even twenty-seven years after they first started to seek God. Another thing he has taken note of is that those who have made such extended efforts to find God seldom ever backslide after they are saved. Oh friend, keep seeking God until He forgives you and rains righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12).
If by chance you are one of those “chronic seekers” after God—one who has sought God for some time, seemingly to no avail—read Hosea 10:12 with Revelation 22:17; John 7:37-39; Matthew 5:6; Psalm 42:1-11; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8; Song of Solomon 3:1-4; 5:6-8; 6:1; and II Peter 3:9, and be encouraged by these scriptural references to keep seeking the Lord until He forgives you of all your sins and fills you with the Holy Ghost. Then, you will have One within your soul who is greater than your adversary, the devil (I John 4:4), and you will be able to live an overcoming life—by His help and all sufficient grace. (See II Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13; and Galatians 2:20 with Acts 1:8.)
Good Works and Self-righteousness May Hinder
My dear friend, repent and keep repenting and searching your heart as David did—which is recorded in Psalms 51:1-17 and 139:23-24—until the Lord rains righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12) and fills your soul with His love, joy, peace, and goodness, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 5:5; 14:17. Moreover, be sure that the “self-righteous spirit” of the enemy does not prolong your seeking after God, like it did for my sister-in-law, who sought the Holy Ghost for twenty-seven years. She let the enemy of her soul keep her thinking she was good enough without receiving the Holy Ghost—though she kept seeking the baptism of the Spirit occasionally. Honestly, such righteousness is referred to as “filthy rags” by Isaiah: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our (self-) righteousness’s are as filthy rags; and we do all fade as a leaf” (Isaiah 64:6), and pass away to be seen no more in this world.
The writer knows of people, who were seeking God for salvation or the baptism of the Holy Ghost, that were hindered and held up until they discovered they were clinging to their own goodness for salvation. Just as soon as they cast those “works of righteousness” (Titus 3:5), of their own making, aside and cried to God for mercy He saved them by filling them with His Spirit, which put them into His church (I Corinthians 12:13 with Psalm 87:5-6).
God does not save us because of any goodness, lest we should have something to boast about: “For by grace are ye saved through faith (as you obey the gospel—Acts 5:32 and 2:38); and that not of yourselves (or your own ‘works of righteousness’); it is the gift of God (via the Holy Ghost or ‘New Birth route’—Titus 3:5 and John 3:5): not of works, lest any man should boast”
(Ephesians 2:8-9). If any man could save himself, by means of some good deeds and self-made righteousness, then Christ would have died in vain, for without the shedding of the blood of Christ there is no remission for our sins (Hebrews 9:22). We must all come where the blood of Christ can heal or atone for all our sins, by believing in “His sacrificial atonement”—made for whosoever will repent and completely obey Acts 2:38.
The above article “The Second Essential: Repentance” is written by B. E. Echols. This article was excerpted from chapter three in Echols’s book Four Essentials Unto Salvation.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.