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Why They Believe It

by J. G. Bow, D. D.


Baptists believe, not only in the importance, but the absolute necessity, of repentance.

The theme of John the Baptist was, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). Jesus preached, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). It is said of the apostles, "They went out, and preached that men should repent" (Mark 6:12).

Paul said to the Athenians, "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30). Jesus settles forever the question, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).

Most people acknowledge the Scriptures require repentance, but many seek to substitute something more palatable to the depraved human taste than the bitterness of scriptural repentance.

What is repentance?

"The word of which it is the translation in the New Testament has as its primary meaning, afterthought, as its secondary meaning, a change of mind. It is easy to see how the secondary followed the primary signification, for in all ages after-thought has discovered reasons for a change of mind. The discovery has had a close connection with the depravity of human nature and the fallibility of human opinions. Alas, how frequent have been the occasions for a change of mind! In this change of mind, so far as scriptural repentance is concerned, a great deal is involved, as we shall see; but I wish first to show that repentance is internal. I mean by this that it is a change of the mind, the heart, and not of the life, except so far as a change of life results from a change of mind or heart" (Dr. Pendletons Christian Doctrine, p. 264).

Repentance is not a form of words, is not an external act, is not reformation. Reformation is the fruit of repentance.

A repentance which does not reach the heart and affect the life will not avail for the soul. "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8).

Paul said to the Corinthians, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (2 Cor. 7:9-11). I have given this long quotation to show that genuine repentance does produce a change in life.

Repentance involves:

1. A consciousness of guilt. It is evident there could be no repentance without this. A man cannot be sorry for a guilt which he does not recognize. Man cannot be sorry for sin and turn from it unless he is conscious of being a sinner.

2. Sorrow for sin. This sorrow is not repentance, but is an essential element in repentance, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of." This sorrow which is "after a godly sort" (while there is no merit in it) is acceptable to God, for. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise."

Consideration in the light of Gods truth, will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, produce conviction; if the soul is honest with God and self, conviction will lead to contrition; if contrition is real, it lays the soul in submissive humility at the Saviours feet for healing forgiveness.

3. A turning from sin. As sin dishonors God and destroys the soul, the contrite soul loathes and hates sin, and, turning from it, God delivers it from the guilt and consequences of sin. Baptists believe this to be scriptural repentance.

The afflicting of the body by tortures, self-denial of such things as God has ordained to be received with thanksgiving, keeping a man-appointed lent, or observance of such things as are called "Doing penance," cannot be a substitute in the eyes of him who said "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

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