Q: What is repentance unto life?
A: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
We've been discussing how God provides everything we need for salvation. This is sometimes referred to as "monergism". Monergism is a fancy way of saying that salvation is the complete work of God. In other words, salvation is not a "team effort" between God and man. The Triune God does it all. Most of you may be familiar with the term "synergy". Synergy, or synergism, is the idea of a cooperative effort. When people team up, work well together, and accomplish a great task, we say that team of people has synergy. Some people view salvation in the same way. They believe salvation requires teamwork between God and the person being saved. But the catechism, and we believe the Bible itself, teaches that salvation is all together, from start to end, a work of the Holy God. It is not a synergistic work (a cooperative work between God and man), it is a monergistic work-the work of one, namely, the one true and living God.
So two weeks ago we saw how God requires faith and repentance for salvation. But then last week, we saw how faith itself is a gift from God, and when someone expresses saving faith, that too is a work of the Holy Spirit in that person's life. Now, this week, we see that repentance is also a gift from God. The catechism, just as it did with faith, refers to repentance as "a saving grace". This means that even repentance is a gift from God. Once again, God is requiring something for salvation, but also is providing what he requires!
Last week we asked, "what is faith"? And it's only right that we ask the question, "what is repentance?" I don't think there's really a better answer for this question than what the catechism already gives us. Repentance is not merely "being sorry" for your sins. It's also not the act of simply confessing that you have sinned and that you are a sinner. Repentance is much more than this. First, it's a grief and hatred for our sin. Nothing should grieve us more than the fact that we are sinners and that we have sinned against a Holy God! There is nothing more terrible than to sin, to rebel, to offend the infinitely Holy God. And that grief for and hatred of our sin should cause us to flee from sin. It should cause us to turn away from it. Repentance isn't just deep sorrow for sin, it includes action. It means that we desire to turn away from our sinful patterns. And what are we turning to? We're turning to lives lived with a "full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience."
Thank God that repentance is a gift from him! Who could ever achieve repentance apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Part of me cringes to write this blog because, like all of you reading this, I know that I fail even at repentance. I'm so quick to fall back into the same sinful habits time and time again. We're so often like the Israelites. God delivered them from the bondage of the Egyptians, and yet in their desert wanderings, how many times did they cry out, "oh that we were still in Egypt!" God has delivered us from an even greater bondage. He has delivered us from the bondage and slavery of the power of sin, death, and the devil, and yet we live our lives in a way that screams, "we want to go back to our old slave masters!" But just the fact that we recognize this, just the fact that we battle against this day in and day out, shows us God's grace at work in our lives. Repentance is not a once-done action. It's a pattern for the life of the believer in Jesus Christ. As we live day in and day out, we should be grieved by our sin, and continue to look to God in grief and sorrow, confessing our sins, and striving to live lives with a "full purpose of, and endeavor after" obedience to God. We do this not to maintain our salvation, but rather, because our salvation has already been accomplished. And that's the great hope in all of this. We have the promise that, as the author of Hebrews wrote, he (Jesus Christ), by a single offering has "perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). In other words, at the cross Christ has already perfected his people. And while the sanctification process is a life-long grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives, a work that will only be completed when we are either called home or Christ returns, we know that as we live lives of repentance, as we strive to live lives that reflect the reality that we are indeed new creations in Jesus, our salvation-our perfection-has already been accomplished at the cross. It is a once-and-done, finished work. What better hope do we have than that!? What better motivation do we have than that to live lives of obedience to the Word of God!?