Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: II. False Repentance

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

II. False Repentance

Why We are Failing the Great Commission
II. False Repentance
“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

        The only solution to the problem of God’s curse and His condemnation of all of humanity is “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).  However, explaining what is involved in “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” without explaining what is involved in “repentance toward God” will result in false repentance decisions accompanied by false professions of faith.  Secondly, what is involved in “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” must be carefully explained and defined Biblically.  

Allowing a corrupted and/or limited definition of repentance has filled local churches with lost people who have prayed the prayer, but who have never been truly “born again” of the Spirit of God.  The practical outcome of this corruption is that these people cannot possibly live the Christ-life because they do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ to empower them.  Local churches, filled with lost people that have never genuinely repented, will be powerless to fulfill the Great Commission.  Certainly, there can be no expectation of life-exchange if there is no indwelling of the Spirit of Christ.  This is true because a major outcome of genuine repentance is turning from the pursuit of the pleasures and values of this world to turn to pursue the heart and mind of God (I John 2:15).  Therefore, genuine repentance ALWAYS precedes a turning from worldliness and a turning to godliness.  In other words, genuine repentance is not just merely a turning around in thinking, genuine repentance results in a change of direction in thinking, attitudes, walking, living, and priorities.  

Most Greek Lexicons expand the definition of repentance from a mere changing of the mind to include the desire to reform the life to correspond with God’s will (a turning).  Granted, the actual reformation is the fruit (outcome) of genuine repentance.  This reformation certainly is the expectation of genuine repentance that we find throughout Scripture that should be the evident “fruits” (Matthew 3:8) of genuine repentance.  Genuine repentance of sin and “dead works” is the foundation of genuine faith and genuine salvation.

          Genuine repentance ALWAYS produces some fruit unto righteousness.  Repentance is the first decision in the many acts of God’s grace in the sinner’s life.  Genuine repentance leads the sinner to faith in Christ for salvation and then to yield to the indwelling Christ for empowerment over the sin nature.  Genuine repentance has a beginning point in time, but never an ending of it in this life “under the Sun.” 

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12).

We are told in Luke 15:17 that the prodigal son “came to himself.”  This is a solid example of Biblical repentance.  This hypothetical man, in this parable, understood his failures, the consequences of those failures, remorse for those failures, what he deserved due to those failures, and turned from those failures hoping only for grace.  These are critical factors manifesting genuine repentance essential to any genuine conversion experience.  

Often people rescue the unrepentant amid the consequences of their sins before these people come to see their sins as the cause of their life disasters.  Cognizance and conviction of sin is the recognition that sin has temporal and eternal consequences connected to these actions.  Such cognizance of sins brings the sinner to make a Biblical evaluation of his character that has brought him to the situation in which he now exists.  It is not enough to want to merely escape the situation caused by his depravity.  Genuine repentance wants to escape the depravity that caused the situation.  If we miss this point, we fail to understand genuine repentance.  Without genuine repentance, such a person will soon be back eating the husks meant for the pigs.

On the opposite scale, the self-righteous religionist never experiences the consequences of sin in any real sense of outcomes.  Therefore, it is so difficult for him to come to repentance.  The self-righteous religionist views himself as a morally good person.  Jesus often dealt with this failure in the mindset of the Jews.  

In Matthew chapter nineteen, Jesus has a conversation with a very rich “young man.”  The “young man” comes to Jesus and acknowledges Jesus as a “master,” or a teaching rabbi understanding the will of God.  His question is found in Matthew 19:16, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  At first, Jesus bypasses his question and addresses the root of his problem.  The “young man” addressed Jesus as “Good {agathos} Master.” 

Herein lies the first necessity in genuine repentance of self-righteousness.  Jesus responds to the young man’s statement with a remarkable truth.  This truth confronted the very heart and soul of the misconceptions of thinking in the self-righteous religionists in coming to repentance.  Jesus says, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17).  Only God is morally good all the time.  All the time is the singular qualification for being self-righteous.  Only God is self-righteous.  Everyone else is a sinner because no one else but God is good all the time.  

Jesus then exemplifies what moral goodness does in Matthew 19:21; “If thou wilt be perfect {teleios; morally complete}, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”  Doing what Jesus commanded would exemplify God’s moral perfection through God’s grace.  

To understand with what Jesus was dealing in saying this to this man, we must understand the cultural mindset of the Jews at this point in history.  The “poor” were viewed by the self-righteous Jews as being sinners living in the consequences of their sin.  In other words, the Pharisees believed people were poor because they lived in sin, broke the Law, and were under God’s chastisement.  This was due to a misunderstanding of the “blessing and a curse” promise of God to the nation of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant.  The Jews applied the “blessing and a curse” promise of God to individuals. 

26 Behold, I set before you {plural, refers to all of the nation of Israel} this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse {removal or withdrawal of blessings}, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. 29 And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put {pronounce or proclaim} the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and {pronounce or proclaim} the curse upon mount Ebal. {These two mountains as monuments of remembrance were very near the exact center of the land of Israel with a valley of a mere two-hundred yards between them.} 30 Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign {the open, sterile valley of Jordan} over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh? 31 For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. 32 And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day (Deuteronomy 11:26-32). 

Therefore, when Jesus told the young man to sacrifice all his earthly treasures to acquire the heavenly treasure of eternal life, the young man started to choke to death on his self-righteousness.  Christ Jesus was telling him that a change of mind about his wealth would result in using that wealth to exemplify God’s loving grace to the undeserving sinner.  The self-righteous Jew saw giving to the poor as supporting sinners in their sins.  

This required more than just a change of thinking, but rather a change of mind that was accompanied by giving his wealth to benefit the poor.  Of course, doing so would bring him into poverty and total dependence upon God for his own sustenance making him appear to be a sinner too in the eyes of other self-righteous Jews.  This sacrifice would require that he see himself in the degradation of his own spiritual poverty before God even in his temporal wealth.  

This is why Jesus said to the disciples in the next few verses of Matthew 19:23 and 24, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly {duskolos; with great or extreme difficulty} enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God {get saved}.”  Most people teach that this text teaches giving as a work necessary for salvation.  This interpretation TOTALLY misses the context.  Self-righteousness is a maximum-security prison from which it is almost impossible to escape. 

Jesus was exemplifying how this false notion of self-righteousness, and the false interpretation of wealth as a blessing upon self-righteousness, would keep the Moralist from seeing his true sinfulness before God and repent of the sin of self-righteousness.  The first point of genuine repentance of self-righteousness is to understand “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). 

Certainly, we can see this genuine repentance of self-righteousness and religious rituals in the life of the Apostle Paul.  Paul reflects a completely different opinion of himself after he is “born again.”  Paul calls himself the chief “sinner” in I Timothy 1:15.  Paul communicated his previously perverted opinion of himself and his false understanding of the Mosaic Covenant as a source of righteousness in Philippians 3:4-6.

4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:4-8 reflects his dark blindness of self-righteousness before his repentance and conversion.  This statement by Paul reflects just how far short the ideas of man-kind righteousness come from the glory of God (Romans 3:23; God-kind righteousness).  The point is that there is NO “righteousness . . . in the law.”  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  “Therefore,” repentance of such beliefs is ESSENTIAL to justification by faith. 

After salvation, Paul makes a statement reflecting truly repentant believers in their evaluation of themselves before God; “For we are the {true spiritual} circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). 

Self-righteousness is incapable of sanctifying anyone before God.  Self-righteousness, or any attempts at it, will bring nothing but God’s loathing condemnation.  Paul understood this because this was the substance of his very first conversation with the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus on the Damascus road when he got saved.  Paul rehearsed his conversion as he spoke to King Agrippa in Acts chapter twenty-six.  After which Paul was committed to the same message and the same repentance that brought about his own conversion.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may {conditioned upon their turning; not just a change of mind} receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus {Jews}, and at Jerusalem {Jews}, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea {Jews}, and then to the Gentiles, that they {Jews and Gentiles} should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance {comparable to; or living which aligns with repentance} (Acts 26:12-20; compare Ephesians 2:8-10).

Certainly, Acts 26:20 reveals that genuine repentance is always expected to reflect itself in a genuine change of life, not just a change of mind.  Genuine repentance involves turning “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18), not just a change of mind.  Action is involved in genuine repentance.  In other words, a change in direction is the outcome of genuine repentance.  

We also know that this repentance text is not referring to merely turning away from trust in the “works of the Law” (Moralism and ritualism Sacerdotalism) because the text is referring also to the Gentiles; Acts 26:20.  The Gentiles were not trusting in the “works of the Law” for their standing before God.  The Gentiles needed to repent of idolatry and turn from the licentious, fornicating lifestyles that accompanied idolatry.  

The word fornication often simply meant the practices of idolatry.  The Greek word translated “fornication” in the New Testament books is the word porneia (por-ni’-ah).  The word often simply means to practice the licentious, lustful sexual perversions of idolatry.  Turning completely away from this lifestyle and its practices was included in genuine repentance.  These practices had become common in Israel prior to the Babylonian captivity.  God’s chastisement of the nation of Israel in the Babylonian captivity was intended to bring them to repentance and return them to pure worship of Jehovah and obedience to Him.  This is the Biblical context of repentance of sin.  Repentance is a turning “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).  The Greek word translated “turn” in Acts 26:18 is epistrepho (ep-ee-stref’-o).  

This same Greek word is often translated “converted,” as it is in Acts 3:19.  In Acts 3:19, the subject of repentance to conversion is about the Person and redemptive work Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection/glorification.  This text addresses the Jews and their rejection of the Person and work of their promised Messiah. 

12 And when Peter saw it {the wonder at the healing of the man lame from birth}, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? 13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. 14 But ye {plural} denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. 16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent {metanoeo} ye therefore, and be converted {epistrepho}, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing {recovery of breath; the implication is spiritually revived from death} shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ {the second coming}, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution {the spiritual reconstruction of national Israel and the restoration of dominion to humanity through the last Adam, which is Christ Jesus} of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began {Genesis 3:15}. 22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers {Deuteronomy 18:18}, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren {during the seven-year Tribulation}, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people {this will happen at the second coming of Jesus at Armageddon}. 24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away {apostrepho; to turn away or turn around} every one of you from his iniquities (Acts 3:12-26).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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