top of page

Repentance in the Bible: Deep Desire 4 Love & Truth

Table of Contents:

Repentance in the Bible: Deep Desire 4 Love & Truth
Repentance is a reformation of the whole life according to the Law of God: John Calvin. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand! Jesus.

Repentance in the Bible: Deep Desire 4 Love & Truth

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus* in Luke 5:32

“Repentance” appears in 26 verses in the Bible, all but one in the New Testament.

The dictionary definition is:

repentance noun:

the action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings


contriteness, contrition, guilt, penitence, regret, remorse, remorsefulness, rue, self-reproach, shame


impenitence, remorselessness

The Christian definition brings another dimension:

Repentance is nothing else but a reformation of the whole life according to the Law of God. John Calvin*(1509-1564)

* Means a short biography of that person appears in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES

Calvin adds here the most crucial element:

No one repents of his own accord.

Repentance is essential

When Adam*(4004-3074 BC) and Eve* sinned, death came into the world. St. Paul*(5-67 AD) tells the Romans,

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12

There was no process of repentance in the sin-free Garden of Eden. There was a demonstration of God’s love in the sacrifice of animals to make clothing for the sinners and a promise of One seed of Eve who would crush the Serpent’s head.

Such love leads to repentance.

When that came, we do not know, but we see in place the worship of God centering on the sacrifice of a lamb by Adam and Eve’s sons Cain* and Abel. * The first family lived in the presence of God, and He spoke with them and governed their lives.

This comports with Calvin’s first definition: reforming one’s entire life to God’s law.

When jealousy and anger stirred Cain to murder his brother, Abel’s blood cried to the Lord for justice, and He gave it. This Cain could not bear. He did not repent and left the presence of the Lord. His end and that of all his descendants was death in the Flood.

One of the saddest truths of the Old Testament is that millions died, and none sought repentance. This establishes Calvin’s second observation:

No one repents of his own accord. God must initiate the process.

Repentance case studies.

We see this in the few instances of repentance recorded, notably those of Job*(1650-1440 BC), David*(1085-1015 BC), and Josiah*(640-611 BC).

Job’s case is the most dramatic. For 42 chapters he asserts his integrity, righteousness, and sinlessness.

Our fallen human nature blinds us to our sin. We think well of ourselves, in part because we compare ourselves to others and can always find someone worse.

After God shows up in a whirlwind, Job is changed:

now mine eye seeth thee.

Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.- Job 42:5-6

When we see God, we must react like Job, or Peter when Jesus miraculously filled his boats with fish:

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. – Luke 5:8

This blindness to sin and the need for repentance is universal. We see it in David*, a man after God’s own heart! His sin began as one of the eyes.

He lusted after a beautiful woman, the wife of one of his warriors. He committed adultery, tried a coverup, had her husband murdered, and covered that up too. He would never have repented had not God sent Nathan*(1065-967 BC) the prophet with these words:

Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 2 Samuel 12:9-10

David saw his sin and repented at once. He published his repentance in Psalm 51, in a prayer millions of sinners have used.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. – Psalm 51:1-3

Drawing from David’s psalms, Puritan Thomas Watson (1620-1686) developed a “Doctrine of Repentance” built on six points:

1,) Sight of Sin: We need to see ourselves as sinners:

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: St. Paul* in Romans 3:10

2.) Sorrow over Sin: We need to be sorry for our sin itself, not because we are hurting because of it.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. -- David* in Psalm 51:17

3.) Confession of Sin

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. – 1 John 1:9-10

4.) Shame of Sin

I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. – Ezra 9:5-6

5.) Hatred of Sin

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. -Proverbs 8:13

6.) Turning from Sin

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. – Ezekiel 14:6

Josiah’s* repentance

All 6 of these signs Watson gives us are evident in Josiah’s situation. His father and grandfather were the most wicked kings in Judah’s history. They disestablished worship of the LORD and sponsored idol worship instead, filling the Temple with images of Baal and other devilish gods that demanded human sacrifice.

Josiah* stepped away from that. When the high priest discovered the book of the law in the temple and read it to the king:

When the king had heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes. – 2 Kings 22:21

He made an immediate and permanent commitment to follow the LORD

And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. – 2 Kings 23:3

Josiah* met every one of Watson’s points and made it clear in his actions. He was sorry for this sin and ashamed of it. He confessed the sin and hated it. Most emphatically of all, he turned from it and led all his people in eschewing it.

  • He cleaned out the temple of all its idols: 2 Kings 23:4 all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them.

  • He ousted the priests of the idols: 2 Kings 23:5 And he put down the idolatrous priests

  • …. them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

  • He destroyed the shrine to the queen of heaven: 2 Kings 23:6 and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder,

  • He acted against those enabling it: 2 Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.

  • He extended his reform and purification to all of Judah: 2Ki 23:8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, from Geba to Beersheba.

Josiah’s repentance was thorough and glorious. He celebrated the most joyful Passover since God’s people came out or Egypt. The LORD said of him:

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. – 2 Kings 23:35

He was the one bright spot in the story of repentance in the Old Testament. His children returned to do evil in the sight of the LORD and Judah was destroyed. Here we see another aspect of repentance.

While repenting restores a right relationship with God, and our sins are forgiven, repentance does not remove the consequences of sin.

God’s people were in bondage everywhere, but the prophets looked ahead to a New Covenant when the One who was to crush the Serpent’s head would appear.

The New Testament begins with a call to repentance

The first call is from John the Baptist:*

Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 3:2

Matthew tells us that John* is the figure Isaiah* (700s BC) foretold would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Next Jesus begins His ministry:

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 4:17

John described repentance as a change in behavior:

And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He directed his points to specific groups:

To everyone: Share clothing and food

He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. – Luke 3:11

To tax collectors and businesspeople: Be fair in finances

Exact no more than that which is appointed you. -Luke 3:13

To soldiers:

Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14

But he said Jesus would do more: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Luke 3:16

Jesus explains how to be born again:

Early in Jesus’ ministry, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and ruler of the Jews, came to Him by night and acknowledged Him as a teacher sent by God. He saw but couldn’t understand the miracles Jesus was doing:

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. – John 3:5

We cannot understand our need for repentance on our own (Calvin’s 2nd point). We need the Holy Spirit to help us see our sin and our need.

That’s what being born again does, helps us SEE the Kingdom of God.

This new birth includes but is much more than the forgiveness of sins. Jesus gave us simple words to deal with our sins in the Lord’s Prayer:

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. ---- Matthew 6:10-12

It is the first point here that we need the Holy Spirit’s help with, praying for God’s kingdom and will on earth as in heaven. This is scriptural documentation of Calvin’s first point:

Repentance is nothing else but a reformation of the whole life according to the Law of God.

This is not easy:

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.Matthew 10:37-39

It is this transformation of our lives that water baptism represents, the dying of our own self and the resurrection with Jesus into newness of life! From a worldly standpoint, this is a tough sell, but from God’s standpoint it is joy beyond measure:

Jesus calls us:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

Repentance opens to us the powerful promises God has in store when we enter His rest:

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. – Psalm 16:11

When most of his disciples balked at taking up the cross, Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave too.

Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John 6:68

These words of life culminated in Jesus’ words just before He left them:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,

and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. –

You are witnesses of these things.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:46-49

The power of the Holy Spirit ignites repentance

We see this at work powerfully when the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost and Peter preached repentance:

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. – Acts 2:38

Anointed by the Holy Spirit, this message had a positive response. 3,000 people were added to the Church that day. And those 3,000 carried the message on so that millions and then billions have repented and come to Jesus.

And there is room for more!

St. Peter tells us:

The Lord is ….not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

And Jesus gives this assurance:

I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. – John 6:35 & 37

I trust everyone reading this has already repented and been baptized. Jesus continues to call today, Praise God!

Come to Jesus today, everyone reading this, and sing this song with me!

Just As I Am

Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,

To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need in Thee to find,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown

Hath broken every barrier down;

Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love

The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,

Here for a season, then above,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Words: Char­lotte El­li­ott, 1835;

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. ---- Mark 2:17

21 views0 comments


bottom of page