In the initial creation of man, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image,” and -“according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Image refers to man’s outward appearance. In a way, what this says of man is not true of any other creature. Man reflects the outward appearance of God. It was appropriate, therefore, that when the Son of God carne to dwell on earth, it was in the form of a man-not an ox or a beetle-and not even in the form of some heavenly creature, such as a seraph.
Likeness refers to man’s inner nature. Scripture refers to God as a triune being: Father, Son, and Spirit. Similarly, man is revealed as a triune being, consisting of spirit, soul, and body.
The account of man’s creation in Genesis 2:7 reveals how his triune nature carne into being: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man becarne a living being.” A more correct translation of a living being would be a living soul.
Man’s spirit carne from the infused breath of God, transforming his body which was formed from clay, into living human flesh. Instantly, by the breath of God, he became a living soul.
The soul thus formed is the ego, the individual personality. It is usually defined as consisting of three elements: the will, the intellect, and the emotions. The soul has the responsibility for making personal decisions, expressing itself in three phrases: “I want;” “I think;” “I feel.” Unless touched by the supernatural grace of God, all human behavior is controlled by these three motivations.
Man was created for personal fellowship with God. However, his sinful disobedience produced disastrous effects in all three’ elements of his personality.
Cut off from contact with God as a result of sin, man’s spirit died. This was in fulfillment of God’s warning: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall; not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The physical death of Adam’s body, however, did not follow for more than 900 years.
Through exercising his will in direct disobedience to God, man became a rebel in his soul. Since that time, every person descended from Adam has inherited that same nature of a rebel.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul describes the results of rebellion which have affected every one of us:
And you … were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience [rebellion}, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Sin causes us to be dead in our spirits. In our souls, we have all been in rebellion against God. Our bodies, too, have become subject to corruption-that is, to sickness, decay, and death.
Yet the boundless love of God is such that He continually longs for the restoration of His fellowship with man. “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5, nas). Furthermore, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has opened a way for the restoration of that fellowship which was lost.
In Ephesians 2:4-5, Paul goes on to describe the outworking of salvation in our spirits: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Our spirits, being reunited with God, are alive once more. At the same time, our souls-through repentance and faith-are released from rebellion and reconciled to God.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:10-11
When we realize that we have all been in rebellion against God, we understand why there can be no genuine salvation without repentance. Repentance means laying down our rebellion and submitting ourselves to God’s righteous government.
Salvation also makes provision for the body. Delivered from the slavery of sin, our bodies become temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Our bodies now have become instruments of righteousness (see Romans 6: 13). Finally, at the return of Christ, our bodies will be transformed into immortal bodies like that of Christ Himself!
I believe repentance is just as much for believers as it is for sinners; Christians who maintain a repentant attitude bring upon themselves God’s special attention. If we walk before the Lord with a repentant heart, we will be inundated with incredible blessings.
A noteworthy characteristic of a repentant heart is a willingness to accept blame for wrongdoing, to say, “Lord, I’m the one who has sinned.”
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). And John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
It can be excruciating to admit that we are wrong. We justify our actions and perform all sorts of machinations to escape blame in an effort to divert attention from ourselves. And none of this pleases God.
Being repentant means more than just apologizing or making things right with the person we have wronged. It is also about making things right with God. David exemplifies this for us perfectly — he believed in conducting heart searchings. In the hard discipline of digging out sin in his heart, David cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
David continually opened up his heart to God’s searchlight. He welcomed the examination of the Lord, going so far as to cry, “If I’ve sinned against you in any way and I don’t know it, please reveal it to me. I repent.” “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:3-4).
Do you need to allow God to search your heart today? Repenting of any hidden sin will keep your heart soft and pliable before him, tender and easily molded by the Holy Spirit.
David Wilkerson (1931-2011)
We know Daniel as the stalwart, gifted young man who loyally served Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and interpreted his dreams. But his greatest exploits came as a result of his being a righteous man of prayer.
Daniel lived such a devoted, holy life that you would not expect to find him repenting before the Lord. But his heart was very sensitive to sin and he identified with the horrible sins of the people of Israel. Notice his use of the plural pronoun we in his prayer.
“We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land” (Daniel 9:5-6).
“I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God” (Daniel 9:20). Daniel was saying, in essence, “Lord, deal with me while you are dealing with your people. If there is any iniquity in my heart, bring it out and show it to me!”
Are there really benefits to repentance? Yes! One truly wonderful benefit is the gift of a new, clearer vision of Jesus Christ. After Daniel repented, he had a vision: “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen [appeared]” (Daniel 10:5). Daniel was the only one who saw the man, who was actually Jesus in all his glory!
Understand, Daniel was not praying for this vision; he was just repenting, confessing and mourning over sin. Jesus took it upon himself to come to Daniel in this revelation — the Lord initiated it! You see, when we humble ourselves before the Lord and make things right with him and others, we don’t have to seek a revelation. Jesus will manifest himself to us! It may not be in a vision but we will know that he is present.
David Wilkerson (1931-2011)
Are you a Christian who has never repented? Did someone (erroneously) tell you that it was not necessary to repent before becoming a Christian, that all you needed to do was “believe”? If so, please read on. The following is an excerpt from the book The Spirit-Filled Believers’s Handbook, which was written by the late bible teacher Derek Prince.
The New Testament is unanimous on this one point: True repentance must always go before true faith. Without true repentance there can never be true faith.
The call to repentance begins at the very introduction to the New Testament with the ministry of John the Baptist.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.”
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:3-4).
John the Baptist’s call to repentance was a necessary preparation for the revelation of the Messiah to Israel. Until Israel had been called back to God in repentance, their long-awaited Messiah could not be revealed among them.
A little further on we read the first message that Christ Himself preached after John had prepared the way before Him.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel…and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1: 14-15).
The first commandment that ever fell from the lips of Christ was not to believe but to repent. First repent, then believe.
After His death and resurrection, when Christ commissioned His apostles to go out to all nations with the gospel, once again the first word in His message was “repentance.”
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
Here again it is repentance first, and after that, remission of sins.
Shortly after the resurrection, the apostles, through their spokesman Peter, began to fulfill this commission of Christ. After the Holy Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost, the convicted (but still unconverted) multitude asked: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). To this inquiry there came an immediate and definite answer.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Here again it is repentance first; after that, baptism and remission of sins.
When Paul spoke to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he outlined the gospel message which he had preached to them.
I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).
The order of Paul’s message is the same: first repentance, then faith.
Finally, as we have already seen in Hebrews 6:1 -2, the order of the basic foundation doctrines of the Christian faith is first repentance from dead works, then faith, baptisms and so on.
Without exception, throughout the entire New Testament, repentance is the first response to the gospel that God demands. Nothing else can come before it, and nothing else can take its place.
True repentance must always precede true faith. Without such repentance, faith alone is an empty profession. This is one reason why the experience of so many Christians today is so unstable and insecure. They are seeking to build without the first of the great foundation doctrines. They are professing faith but they have never practiced true repentance. As a result, the faith which they profess procures for them neither the favor of God nor the respect of the world.
In many places today the simplification of the gospel message has been taken one step too far. The message often preached today is “Only believe.” But that is not the message of Christ. Christ and His apostles preached “Repent and believe.” Any preacher who leaves out the call to repentance is misleading sinners and misrepresenting God. For Paul tells us that it is God Himself who “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). That is the general edict of God to the entire human race: “All men everywhere must repent”
In Hebrews 6:1 repentance is defined as “repentance from dead works”; in Acts 20:21 it is defined as “repentance toward God.” This means that, in the act of repentance, we tum away from our dead works and face toward God, ready to hear and obey His next command.
The phrase “dead works” includes all acts and activities that are not based upon repentance and faith. It includes even the acts and activities of religion- even of professing Christianity – if they are not built on this basis. It is in this sense that Isaiah cries out:
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6).
There is no reference here to acts of open sin and wickedness. Even those acts which are done in the name of religion and morality, if they are not based on repentance and faith, are not acceptable to God. Charity, prayers, church attendance, every kind of religious rite and ordinance – if they are not based on repentance and faith- are merely “dead works” and “filthy rags”!
There is one other fact about scriptural repentance which must be emphasized. True repentance begins with God and not with man. It originates not in the will of man but in the free and sovereign grace of God. Apart from the working of God’s grace and the moving of God’s Spirit, man left to himself is incapable of repentance. For this reason the psalmist cries out for restoration.
Restore us, O God … and we shall be saved! (Ps. 80:3,7).
The word translated “restore us” means literally “cause us to tum back.” Jeremiah uses the same word in Lamentations 5:21.
Turn us back to You, 0 Lord, and we will be restored.
Unless God first moves man toward Himself, man cannot of his own unaided will tum to God and be saved. The first move is always made by God.
In the New Testament Christ expressed the same truth.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44).
The supreme crisis of every human life comes at the moment of the Spirit’s drawing to repentance. Accepted, this drawing leads us to saving faith and eternal life; rejected, it leaves the sinner to continue on his way to the grave and the unending darkness of an eternity apart from God. The Scripture makes it plain that even in this life it is possible for a man to pass “the place of repentance”- to come to a point where the Spirit of God will never again draw him to repentance, and where all hope is lost even before he enters the portals of eternity.
It is fitting to close this study with the words of Christ in Luke 13:3 (which are also repeated in verse 5).
Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Christ was speaking of men who died in the very act of performing a religious rite; that is, a company of Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their own sacrifices. While carrying out their sacrifices in the temple, these men had been executed by order of the Roman governor, and their blood had been mingled on the temple floor with that of their sacrifices.
Yet Christ tells us that these men perished; they went to a lost eternity. Even their religious act of sacrifice in the temple could not save their souls, because it was not based on true repentance.
The same is true of the religious ceremonies of many professing Christians today. None of these religious activities is any substitute for true repentance. Without such repentance, Christ Himself said, “… you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).