2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God has no way to save sinners apart from repentance. (3:50)

Pastoral Duty

"Since this matter of repentance is of such a crucial nature, if I have any genuine concern for your never-dying soul, I must—to be free of your blood—from time to time take up this subject in a very focused way and seek to set before your minds what is that repentance by which we shall avoid perishing." — Albert Martin (4:36)

If you remain a stranger to repentance, you will perish!

  • "Remember the issue at stake: this is not a matter of reshuffling a little bit of your mental furniture about a biblical doctrine. We are dealing with issues of life and death, issues of eternal glory or eternal shame, issues of heaven and of hell." — Albert Martin (7:05)

  • "Repentance unto life—if you are a stranger to that, you have no spiritual life." — Albert Martin (14:10)

  • "If you say 'I don't have a clue what that is in my experience; what shall I do?' Cry to the exalted Christ who, from His place as Prince and Savior, stands ready to give what He demands, and without which you will perish." — Albert Martin (24:50)

Strategies for understanding the nature of evangelical repentance (8:25)

This sermon will take the third approach.

  1. Consider passages in which the word of God says certain people repented and extract the principles that demonstrate what their repentance was (8:30)
  2. Examine the key words in the Old and New Testaments—the very words the Holy Spirit uses—and enlarge upon various aspects of the significance of those words as they are illustrated in the Scriptures (10:00)
  3. Take a good, balanced, working definition of repentance and demonstrate how it expresses the major elements of the doctrine as found in words, examples, and precepts (10:28)

What is Repentance unto Life?

"The framework of our study will be the marvelous definition of repentance found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It is my conviction that there is no finer, more balanced, more comprehensive statement of the basic issues of the nature of repentance to be found in any uninspired literature than the definition of repentance in the Shorter Catechism. I am persuaded it is the most accurate definition setting forth the essence of the teaching of the Bible on the nature of repentance. It enables us, once memorized, to hold the basic strands of the biblical doctrine altogether." — Albert Martin (10:53)
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 87: What is repentance unto life? (13:30)

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 Major Categories of the Nature of Repentance (14:25)

I. Source — Repentance unto life is a saving grace (14:45)

"Wherever there is true repentance, the grace of God has been operative in planting the grace of repentance in the sinner's heart, just as clearly as the Bible teaches that God implants the grace of faith within the sinner's heart." — Albert Martin (16:20)

3 texts in which repentance is said to be given by God (16:40)

  • Acts 5:30-31 (16:55)
    • "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
    • God does not grant forgiveness apart from repentance
    • God grants repentance as surely as He grants the forgiveness of sins
  • Acts 11:18 (18:15)
    • "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, 'Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.'"
    • Against decisionism (18:30)
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (20:05)
    • "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
    • Sinners recover themselves only when God is pleased to give repentance

True repentance is not a one-time act but a continuous state (22:30)

  • Those who claim to have repented at one point but are not now repenting have not come to true repentance.

  • If you ever truly repented, you are repenting.

  • The repenting and believing sinner is the only type of sinner who is on his way to heaven.

  • Repentance and faith are ongoing, beginning when a sinner has first begun to repent and believe and continuing all the way until repentance and faith are no longer needed—when faith is turned to sight, and the indwelling sin nature is completely eradicated.

If you have come to repentance, it is only because God gave it (23:04)

  • It is God who has taken out your stone of heart and given you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

  • The first conscious actings of the secret regenerating work of God are repentance and faith.

  • "If you are a penitent, believing sinner, it is because God has put forth that marvelous, gracious energy of His Spirit upon your spirit." — Albert Martin

How can God hold me accountable for something I can't do?

"You say, 'If I have no innate power to repent, how can God call upon me to do what I can't do?' Because it is your duty to do it—it was never your duty to sin. It was never your duty to be a rebel against God. You were made to know God, to obey God, to follow the Lord Jesus; and it is your wicked, perverse will that has turned you aside. And though you have no power to rectify it, Almighty God commands you to repent, and assures you that One is exalted at His right hand, in glory and power and in a plenitude of grace, to give the very thing He commands." — Albert Martin (24:14)

This ought to have a profound impact on our evangelism (25:00)

II. Soil (25:50)

2 things constitute the soil out of which true repentance grows:

  1. A true sense of sin
  2. An apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ

1. A Spirit-Wrought Conviction of Sin (27:00)

  1. Romans 3:19-20 (29:25)
    Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 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.

    • The law speaks to all for the purpose not of bringing men to merely admit that they are sinners, but that they might shut their mouths! (31:46)
    • "I am prepared to state from the Bible that if your mouth has not been shut, and you have not come to a knowledge of sin that goes beyond a mere intellectual admission…you know nothing of true evangelical repentance." — Albert Martin (37:42)
    "When the law has done its proper work, it brings the knowledge of sin. And what is that knowledge, a mere intellectual admission? No, it is a knowledge that shuts your mouth! It is a knowledge that presses you into silence before Almighty God, with the head dropped and the spirit crying with that publican, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner.' Not one sinner among many! When Holy Ghost conviction grips a man, he becomes a very lonely person—there's just God and the sinner, and the burning eye of God has searched him, and his mouth is shut. I want to ask you: has your mouth ever been shut? Nothing to say, no excuses, no equivocating, no blame-shifting. Almighty God has called me a hell-bent rebel against whom His anger justly burns; my mouth is shut and I say O God, the indictments are warranted; the indictments are justified!" — Albert Martin (32:20)
  2. John 16:8 (34:45)
    And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

    "Jesus said, in John 16:8, when the Spirit comes, what will His ministry be to the world through the people of God, to whom He comes? 'And when He is come, He will convict—He will reprove, convince—that word convict means to so persuade so as to shut the mouth of the adversary." — Albert Martin
  3. Acts 2:37 (35:28)
    Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

    "They were not there just merely admitting under pressure that they did something bad; they were stabbed in their hearts as with a dagger." — Albert Martin
  4. Romans 7:7-9 (36:00)
    I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, "Thou shalt not covet." But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of evil desire. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

    "Paul said, 'I had not known sin'—I had not known in the sense of felt reality of what it was to be a sinner, until God the Holy Ghost saddled up the Tenth Commandment and rode into this proud Pharisee's heart, and He took him to pieces. He said, 'I had not known sin except the law said, 'You shall not covet,' and suddenly, that heart that I thought was pure, I saw to be a seething, boiling, smelly, bottomless pit of evil desire. And he who strutted around alive before God's law suddenly found that that law killed him. I ask you—have you been killed?" — Albert Martin
  5. Luke 15:17-19 (42:40)
    And when he came to himself, he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son make me as one of thy hired servants.

    • He was guilty of moral and spiritual insanity, out of his mind—he came to himself
    • He sees beyond his father—confessing that he had sinned against heaven
    • "I am no longer worthy to be called your son"—a genuine sense of the shut mouth
    • He was willing to be a slave—a transformation of his whole perspective of his father
    "There was that operation upon his mind that the Bible calls repentance—Spirit-wrought conviction of sin." — Albert Martin (45:15)

2. A Spirit-Imparted Grasp of Christ (45:20)

Definition of "apprehend"—to lay hold of, such as when a police officer arrests a criminal (45:50)

Repentance unto remission of sin should be preached in the name of Christ

"The repentance that is unto remission of sin is to be preached against the backdrop of the revelation of God's mercy in the person and work of Jesus Christ. To preach repentance in the name of Christ is to preach repentance in the context of the proclamation of the gospel—that Christ must suffer, and that He did suffer, and what God has accomplished in His suffering; He was buried, He was raised, the fact of His resurrection, the implications of His resurrection—He is a living Christ, [so] stack arms, turn from your sin, lay hold of the mercy of God in Christ!" — Albert Martin (47:10)
"All true faith is permeated with repentance; and all true repentance is permeated with faith." — John Murray (48:00)

Definition of True Faith and Repentance

"To talk about the priority of repentance or the priority of faith is ludicrous! Faith is engagement of the whole person of the sinner with a whole Christ—to be saved by Christ to the ends for which Christ is a Savior. What is He a Savior from? He is a Savior from sin. Put yourself in His hands and you are saying, 'I want done with sin—its power as well as its guilt, its dominion and its defilement—I want done with sin! Jesus saves from sin, I trust Him!' All true faith is permeated with repentance; and if it is true repentance, it will be permeated with faith. Merely to know from the law of God that I am a sinner and condemned and helpless is to be driven to despair, but to know that I am all of those things, but Christ is a willing, able, pleading, entreating, and welcoming Savior—it is in that context that true repentance is wrought in the heart of a sinner." — Albert Martin (48:30)
"The law can awaken us to the reality of our sin, but it is when we view that sin in the light of the cross that the Spirit of God works in us a hatred for that sin." — Albert Martin (50:10)

How much conviction and faith are needed?

  • How much conviction must I have? (51:50)
    • Enough to know you deserve the wrath of God, that hell is what you deserve
      • Enough to make you persuaded that if God gave you what you deserve, He would plunge you into hell and cause angels to praise Him for His justice.
    • Enough to cause you to despair of fixing yourself up
      • Enough to know that you must go out of yourself to another
    • That much! No more, but no less
    • You may or may not shed tears or lose sleep (compare Lydia with the Roman jailer in Acts 16:14, 29-30)
    "Don't ever get hung up on how much of this, that, and the other—the issue is this: have you had enough conviction to know that hell is what you deserve, and anything other than that is all mercy, and have you had enough conviction of the pollution and bondage of your heart to know you can't turn over a new leaf and fix yourself up—you've got to run to Christ, with all your chains and all the vomit of your sin all over your being, and cry to Him to deliver you." — Albert Martin (54:50)
  • How strong must the faith in Christ be? (55:22)
    • Enough to embrace Him
    • The Bible says you are saved by grace through faith, not through strong faith
    • John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Miscellaneous Notes

The Apostasy of Contemporary Evangelicalism

Horrible evangelism, both preaching and personal evangelism, induce and even manipulate men to merely admit that they are sinners, and wrongly equate this with repentance.

"So often in our day, evangelism is carried on this way: you have an opportunity to speak to someone or you hear an evangelist preaching, and he'll say, 'If you are here tonight and you are without Christ, if you are ready to admit you're a sinner, then go to Christ, who died for sinners, and He will receive you.' Personal evangelism techniques are all geared to get someone to admit their sinnerhood. The framers of the Shorter Catechism had no place for mere admission. They wrote these words and with great purpose and with a sensitivity to biblical teaching: 'Whereby a sinner out of a true sense of his sin'—a true sense of his sin—that has to do with an experiential acquaintance with what my sin is at the level of my spiritual sensitivity, not a mere intellectual admission! … There are many who will admit that they are sinners, but that is not the issue. The issue is a Spirit-wrought conviction of sin." — Albert Martin (27:05)
"The soil of repentance is conviction of sin wrought by the Spirit. And this is what exposes the Achilles' heel of most modern evangelism: it is trying to get people very comfortable in a climate where there can be a kind of a sneaking in of the fact that Jesus is the answer to your problem. Musical forms are used that in no way will challenge whether or not the musical forms that the average American is used to is a reflection of a decadent, lawless culture! And you will never see people brought under pungent conviction of sin, crying out like the prodigal. They have been tapping their feet and swaying and getting high on the 'Christian' contemporary rock stars' performance—shamelessly! You watch the modern evangelistic crusades, and they clap, why? Because you clap to give your approval of performers, musical performers! Football players give their testimony, and clap, clap, clap! Where was the clapping when it says they were cut to their heart? Where was the clapping when Saul of Tarsus went down like someone had shot him with a rifle through the skull? Where was the clapping when David is prostrate saying, 'Against You, and You only have I sinned!' Where was the clapping when the publican, beating upon his breast, said, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I'm no killjoy. I laugh as hard as anyone in this place when it is appropriate to laugh. … But I tell you, you don't happify people into true repentance, and you won't sneak them into repentance by a watered down gospel. And I say again to you—the rising generation—God help you to resist the pressure that will be on you! 'Oh, don't you love souls? You have to be like them to win them!' When you're like them to win them, you have nothing to win them to—nothing worth winning them to!" — Albert Martin (38:00)

The law versus the work of the law on the heart

"All men are under the law. Some have God's written, codified law in the Ten Commandments; some have the remnants of that still upon their constitution. They show not the law—that is the distinctive privilege of a believer—but the work of the law written upon their hearts." — Albert Martin (30:36)

A wrong picture of effectual calling

"People have a misunderstanding of effectual calling. They think it is God taking the sinner kicking and screaming and still wanting to cling to the world and drags them into the kingdom against his will. No. Effectual calling is God working beneath the level of our consciousness, doing those things which so dispose the soul that we want the very things God commands of us—we want to forsake our sins, we want to go to Christ, we want to get out of the God-business, we want to get out of the self-savior business. We are joyfully prepared to cast ourselves upon Christ and Christ alone, as He is freely offered to us in the gospel." — Albert Martin (57:50)

Beware of compromising the gospel!

"We have a wonderful gospel to preach, and though we wish these pews were filled with seeking sinners, we are not prepared to compromise the message—which alone can do them good—to get the pews filled, and may God grant that you never will. … There is only one instrument God is going to use: it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. That gospel that indicts men for what they really are, that sets forth God's saving acts in Jesus Christ, and that sends out a clarion call that they must repent toward God and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other gospel." — Albert Martin (58:43)