Monday, December 29, 2008

THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”—Luke 13:3

The text that heads this page, at first sight, looks stern and severe: “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” I can fancy someone saying, “Is this the Gospel?” “Are these the glad tidings? Are these the good news of which ministers speak?” “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” (John 6:60).

But from whose lips did these words come? They came from the lips of One Who loves us with a love that passeth knowledge, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They were spoken by One Who so loved us that He left heaven for our sakes—came down to earth for our sakes—lived a poor, humble life for three-and-thirty years on earth for our sakes—went to the cross for us, went to the grave for us, and died for our sins. The words that come from lips like these must surely be words of love.

After all, what greater proof of love can be given than to warn a friend of coming danger? The father who sees his son tottering toward the brink of a precipice, and as he sees him cries out sharply, “Stop, stop!”—does not that father love his son? The tender mother who sees her infant on the point of eating some poisonous berry and cries out sharply, “Stop, stop! Put it down!”—does not that mother love that child? It is indifference that lets people alone and allows them to go on every one in his own way. It is love, tender love, which warns and raises the cry of alarm. The cry of “Fire! Fire!” at midnight may sometimes startle a man out of his sleep—rudely, harshly, unpleasantly. But who would complain, if that cry was the means of saving his life? The words, “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish,” may seem at first sight stern and severe. But they are words of love, and may be the means of delivering precious souls from hell.

I pass on now to…consider the necessity of repentance: Why is repentance needful? The text that stands at the head of this paper shows clearly the necessity of repentance. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are distinct, express, and emphatic: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” All, all without exception need repentance toward God. It is not only necessary for thieves, murderers, drunkards, adulterers, fornicators, and the inmates of prisons and of jails. No. All born of the seed of Adam—all without exception need repentance toward God. The queen upon her throne and the pauper in the workhouse; the rich man in his drawing room, the servant maid in the kitchen; the professor of sciences at the university, the poor ignorant boy who follows the plough—all by nature need repentance. All are born in sin; and all must repent and be converted if they would be saved. All must have their hearts changed about sin. All must repent, as well as believe the Gospel. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat18:3). “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

But whence comes the necessity of repentance? Why is such tremendously strong language used about this necessity? What are the reasons…repentance is so needful?

(a) For one thing, without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. In saying this, I must guard myself against misconstruction. I ask you emphatically not to misunderstand me: the tears of repentance wash away no sins. It is bad divinity to say that they do. That is the office, that the work of the blood of Christ alone. Contrition makes no atonement for transgression. It is wretched theology to say that it does. It can do nothing of the kind. Our best repentance is a poor, imperfect thing and needs repenting over again. Our best contrition has defects enough about it to sink us into hell. “We are counted righteous before God only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings,” not for our repentance, holiness, almsgiving, sacrament receiving, or anything of the kind. All this is perfectly true. Still it is no less true that justified people are always penitent people and that a forgiven sinner will always be a man who mourns over and loathes his sins. God in Christ is willing to receive rebellious man and grant him peace if he only comes to Him in Christ’s name, however wicked he may have been. But God requires, and requires justly, that the rebel shall throw down his arms. The Lord Jesus Christ is ready to pity, pardon, relieve, cleanse, wash, sanctify, and fit for heaven. But the Lord Jesus Christ desires to see a man hate the sins that he wishes to be forgiven. Let some men call this “legality,” if they will. Let some call it “bondage,” if they please. I take my stand on Scripture. The testimony of God’s Word is plain and unmistakable. Justified people are always penitent people. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins.

(b) For another thing, without repentance there is no happiness in the life that now is. There may be high spirits, excitement, laughter, and merriment, so long as health is good and money is in the pocket. But these things are not solid happiness. There is a conscience in all men, and that conscience must be satisfied. So long as conscience feels that sin has not been repented of and forsaken, so long it will not be quiet and will not let a man feel comfortable within…

(c) For another thing, without repentance there can be no meetness for heaven in the world that is yet to come. Heaven is a prepared place, and they who go to heaven must be a prepared people. Our hearts must be in tune for the employments of heaven, or else heaven itself would be a miserable abode. Our minds must be in harmony with those of the inhabitants of heaven, or else the society of heaven would soon be intolerable to us…What could you possibly do in heaven if you got there with a heart loving sin? To which of all the saints would you speak? By whose side would you sit down? Surely, the angels of God would make no sweet music to the heart of him who cannot bear saints upon earth and never praised the Lamb for redeeming love! Surely, the company of patriarchs, and apostles, and prophets would be no joy to that man who will not read his Bible now and does not care to know what apostles and prophets wrote. Oh, no! No! There can be no happiness in heaven, if we get there with an impenitent heart…

I beseech you by the mercies of God to lay to heart the things that I have just been saying and to ponder them well. You live in a world of cheating, imposition, and deception. Let no man deceive you about the necessity of repentance. Oh, that professing Christians would see, and know, and feel more than they do, the necessity, the absolute necessity of true repentance towards God! There are many things that are not needful. Riches are not needful. Health is not needful. Fine clothes are not needful. Noble friends are not needful. The favor of the world is not needful. Gifts and learning are not needful. Millions have reached heaven without these things. Thousands are reaching heaven every year without them. But no one ever reached heaven without “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Act 20:21).


Let no man ever persuade you that any religion deserves to be called the Gospel, in which repentance toward God has not a most prominent place. A Gospel, indeed! That is no Gospel in which repentance is not a principal thing. A Gospel! It is the Gospel of man, but not of God. A Gospel! It comes from earth, but not from heaven. A Gospel! It is not the Gospel at all. It is rank antinomianism and nothing else. So long as you hug your sins, and cleave to your sins, and will have your sins, so long you may talk as you please about the Gospel, but your sins are not forgiven. You may call that legal, if you like. You may say, if you please, you “hope it will be all right at the last—God is merciful—God is love—Christ has died—I hope I shall go to heaven after all.” No! I tell you, it is not all right. It will never be all right…You are trampling underfoot the blood of atonement. You have as yet no part or lot in Christ. So long as you do not repent of sin, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is no Gospel to your soul. Christ is a Savior from sin, not a Savior for man in sin. If a man will have his sins, the day will come when that merciful Savior will say to him, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41).

Let no man ever delude you into supposing that you can be happy in this world without repentance. Oh, no!...The longer you go on without repentance, the more unhappy will that heart of yours be. When old age creeps over you and grey hairs appear upon your head—when you are unable to go where you once went, and take pleasure where you once took pleasure—your wretchedness and misery will break in upon you like an armed man …Write it down in the tablets of your heart—without repentance, no peace!

I expect to see many wonders at the last day. I expect to see some at the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ whom I once feared I should see upon the left. I expect to see some at the left hand whom I supposed to be good Christians and expected to see at the right. But there is one thing I am sure I shall not see. I shall not see at the right hand of Jesus Christ one single impenitent man.

What ever happened to the preaching of repentance? It seems that in the day we live it is all but lost. Praise God for men like JC Ryle who stood up boldly in their day and preached repentance. Where are the men that will stand up and preach the one and true gospel?

1 Corinthians 1:21 - For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.


Acts 17:30-31 - 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Bro Pat

4 comments:

Mark Swan said...

"So long as you hug your sins, and cleave to your sins, and will have your sins, so long you may talk as you please about the Gospel, but your sins are not forgiven. You may call that legal, if you like. You may say, if you please, you “hope it will be all right at the last—God is merciful—God is love—Christ has died—I hope I shall go to heaven after all.” No! I tell you, it is not all right. It will never be all right…You are trampling underfoot the blood of atonement. You have as yet no part or lot in Christ."

Wow!
Praise God for His precious Holy Spirit Who convicts of sin and CAUSES me to repent!
Glory, glory to the name of Jesus!

"Not too many days"

zacswan said...

I like this part:

"The words, “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish,” may seem at first sight stern and severe. But they are words of love, and may be the means of delivering precious souls from hell."

I praise Jesus that some weren't afraid of how I felt, when they told me I was a sinner, but proclaimed 'except ye repent'. If they had not... I would not be saved today. Only by God's precious electing hand.


Bro. Z

Randall Wilmot said...

Praise the Lord Jesus for granting us (His elect people) repentance. I'm thankful too, that it wasn't my tears that secured my salvation, but His atoning blood that secured my impenitent heart.

Bro, Randy

Randall Wilmot said...

Oh, that professing Christians would see, and know, and feel more than they do, the necessity, the absolute necessity of true repentance towards God! There are many things that are not needful. Riches are not needful. Health is not needful. Fine clothes are not needful. Noble friends are not needful. The favor of the world is not needful. Gifts and learning are not needful. Millions have reached heaven without these things. Thousands are reaching heaven every year without them. But no one ever reached heaven without “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Act 20:21).

OH, I praise the Lord Jesus Christ, who grants us the gift of "repentance unto life." Acts 11:18 We can say all the words and go through all the motions, but only after He condescends Himself to us, can we truly see the sinfulness of ourselves.