Fruits Worthy of Repentance
Study No. 56
Hosea 13:14 states: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes."
Repentance here is the Hebrew nocham, meaning "ruefulness, being sorry, turning back." God wonít turn back from His plans to redeem us from death, even though death is what we deserve. He wonít change His mind.
Romans 11:29, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (irrevocable)." God doesnít uncall anyone!
Johnís "Baptism of Repentance"
To be acceptable with God, we must bring forth fruits fit or worthy for repentance. There must be tangible evidence of our repentance, Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia. The root words imply a change in mind, or a change in thinking (compare with meta-morphis, which means change of form). Repentance means a complete change of mind and heart away from sin and self, and towards God and holiness.
John the Baptist could not see the change of mind of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Before he would baptize them, he insisted on tangible evidence of their change of mind. John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, Acts 13:24, 19:4, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3. The "baptism of repentance" means that John baptized those who had the evidence of true repentance. John did not baptize just anyone: only the truly repentant. It is a serious matter.
Why Did Jesus Live, Die and Be Resurrected?
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32, not the righteous just men, who have no need for repentance, Luke 15:7, 10. He died and rose that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, Luke 24:47, Acts 5:30-32.
Repentance Is a Gift From God
God grants repentance, which leads unto Life, Acts 11:18. The goodness of God leads us to repentance, Romans 2:4. Repentance allows us to see our errors and acknowledge the truth, II Timothy 2:25. Repentance is toward God, Acts 20:21. It is a change of mind from the carnal mind to the spirit-controlled mind of God. Repentance is a turning to God and doing works fit for repentance, Acts 26:20.
Repentance is something you come to, not something you go out and get, II Peter 3:9.
Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and salvation, not to be revoked, but worldly sorrow leads to death, II Corinthians 7:9-10.
Repentance is turning from dead works, Hebrews 6:1. It leads to a purging of the conscience from dead works, Hebrews 9:13-14. It is a permanent thing, Hebrews 6:11 and Romans 11:29, Hebrews 12:17 (margin for "place of repentance" is "way to change his mind"). Repentance is a gift of God that enables one to acknowledge the truth, II Timothy 2:25.
When God Says Something, He Means It!
Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent [change His mind]: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?"
I Samuel 15:29, "the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent."
Psalms 110:4, "The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:21).
Jeremiah 4:28, "For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it."
God Will Repent (Change His Mind) For His Mercies Sake
Exodus 32:12, "Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people."
Deuteronomy 32:36, "For the LORD shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, When He seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left." (also Psalms 135:14).
Psalms 90:13, "Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning your servants."
Jeremiah 18:8, 10, "If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them . . . . If it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them."
Jeremiah 26:3, "If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent Me of the evil, which I purposed to do unto them because of the evil of their doings." Verse 13, "Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will repent Him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you."
Ezekiel 24:14, "I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord God."
Joel 2:13-14, "And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Who knoweth if He will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him?"
Jonah 3:9, "Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?"
Repentance Is Basically An Abhorrence of the Self
Job 42:6, "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Why Are We Commanded to Repent?
Matthew 3:2, 8-12, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . . who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? . . . . 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 . . . . He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Godís day of judgment is at hand: that is why we should repent. Jesus preached the same message as John the Baptist, Matthew 4:17, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" also Mark 1:15. The disciples were sent out two by two, "And they went out, and preached that men should repent" Mark 6:12. On Pentecost, when Peter preached to those who had crucified the Messiah, many were pricked in their hearts and asked what they should do. Peter answered, "Repent and be baptized" Acts 2:37-38, 3:19. Repentance is something done, there must be tangible evidence of the change in mental processes. Later, Peter told Simon the magician to repent of his wicked thoughts, Acts 8:22. Paul preached that God commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30. Men are accountable for their actions. That is why all are commanded to repent.
Godís Church Is In Need of Repentance
In Revelation 2 and 3, five of the seven churches are told to repent: (1) Ephesus: "repent and do the first works," Revelation 2:5, (2) Pergamos: "Repent [of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes] or else I will come unto you quickly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth," Revelation 2:16, (3) Thyatira: "I will cast her [Jezebel] into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds," Revelation 2:22, (4) Sardis: "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent," Revelation 3:3, (5) Laodicea: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent," Revelation 3:19.
It would behoove us to know just what repentance is, and what are the fruits worthy of repentance.
Some Wonít Repent Until It Is Too Late
Hebrews 12:16-17, "Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright . . . afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears."
Jeremiah 8:5-6, "no man repented him of his wickedness."
Matthew 11:20, "Then began He [Jesus] to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not." Also verses 21-24; 12:41.
Parable of the two sons, Matthew 21:28-32.
Matthew 27:3-5, "Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself . . . and went and hanged himself."
II Corinthians 12:21, "I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."
Revelation 2:21 shows that God gave Jezebel space to repent of her fornication, but she repented not.
Read this sad commentary of willful sinners who will not repent: Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11.
What Does It Take For Men to Repent?
Tragedies happening to others should be lessons to us that now is the time to repent, to bring forth fruits fit for repentance, Luke 13:1-9.
Personal messengers from God wonít be of any help to lead us to repentance if we donít "hear" Moses and the prophets, Luke 16:19-31.
How can we expect God to forgive us if we donít forgive our brothers? Luke 17:3-4.
Repentance is a gift of God, Romans 2:4, which is demonstrable with visible proofs.
Biblical Examples of "Fruits Worthy of Repentance"
When John the Baptist demanded the multitude to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance before he would baptize them, the people asked him specifically what he meant, Luke 3:1-10. Here are some of the specifics (verses 11-19):
(1) Give to the poor, verse 11.
(2) The publicans (public officials) were to exact no more than that which was appointed them, verses 12-13.
(3) The soldiers were to do violence to no man, not accuse any falsely, and be content with their wages, verse 14.
(4) They were to correct many other things not recorded, verse 18.
(5) Herod the tetrarch was reproved for having his brother Philipís wife, verse 19, a clear case of improper divorce and remarriage.
What this shows is that various individuals have different major sins that they must bring forth evidence of a desire to overcome, as fruits fit for repentance. These major sins are their "idols" that must be put away.
The first item, that of being charitable to the poor, was and is a common problem. The rich ruler who came to Jesus wanted to know what to do to inherit eternal life. This man was a commandment keeper, but lacked concern for the poor. Jesus observed this, and pointed out that this was that manís test of fruits fit for repentance: sell all that you have and give to the poor, and come and follow me. This rich man couldnít do this and went away sad, Luke 18:18-23.
Zacchaeus is an example of one who brought forth evidence of true repentance. Read Luke 19:1-10. He sorrowfully said that he would give half his goods to the poor, and would restore anything taken by false accusation fourfold, verse 8. Because of this Jesus told Zacchaeus that salvation had that day come upon his house, verse 9.
Few believe in the validity of Godís laws of restitution and recompense. Zacchaeusí confession comes from Exodus 22:1. Read Exodus chapters 21 and 22 and contrast Godís method of punishment with todayís judicial and prison system, where society pays the criminal, rather than the other way around.
So "fruits worthy of repentance" includes the making of amends for oneís sins previous to conversion.
Church Members Lack Understanding of Real Repentance
It is very plain from the Scriptures that the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins blots out the death penalty for the sins committed prior to baptism. They are remitted only if these sins are truly buried and put behind, covered with the blood of the lamb. No sins are remitted that are not done away with.
Why is it that almost no one in the Sabbath-keeping churches of God understands this? If you are called to the truth and are converted, repent and are baptized, you still owe the debts you have incurred in the past. Your banker will not agree that your baptism washed away your home mortgage. If you have defrauded or stolen, or in any other way injured anyone in the past, you must make amends, as Zacchaeus did.
If you are called, and have been a thief, or murderer, or a homosexual, or an adulterer, you must stop doing these wicked acts. You must attempt to make amends for the damage you have done prior to receiving the knowledge of the truth.
But ministers today do not demand "fruits fit for repentance." They say repentance is just a change of mind and doesnít have to be accompanied by tangible evidence of desire to make amends.
Nowhere is this so sadly lacking, even in the Churches of God, than in the area of divorce. Almost all Sabbath-keeping groups allow divorce and remarriage contrary to the Scriptures, and allow people to be baptized and come into church fellowship who have been divorced and remarried in the past, also contrary to Bible laws (see our article: "Marriage: Theme of the Bible").
As one Mormon friend admitted to me: if someone who had been divorced and remarried several times before he came into the church, "the repentant thing to do would be to return to the first mate." However, the Mormons do not follow this, and even allow divorce and remarriage for a number of reasons after being married in the Mormon Temple.
The issue of divorce and remarriage is crucial to understanding real repentance. It was one of the proofs of repentance demanded by John the Baptist (Luke 3:8, 19), over which he lost his head.
Repentance and conversion does not undo a right marriage of the past: neither does it legitimatize an adulterous union of the present. In a similar manner, repentance did not absolve Zacchaeus from paying back those he had defrauded in the past. Repentance does not change the past; it is a change of mind in the present, that gives one the incentive to make amends for the evil past.
Repentance and the Law
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul tells what repentance is and what the fruits of repentance are. Mankind is inexcusably guilty of sin because God and His laws are known to all mankind (1:18-32), laws which include adultery, vile affections, fornication, covenant breaking, etc. Their conscience shows them Godís laws, (2:14-15). Even unconverted people are accountable for their actions. Only Godís goodness leads us to repentance of these sins (2:4).
We who claim to be Godís people cannot judge others as guilty of breaking Godís laws if we also break them (2:1-3, 17-29). God judges all by their deeds, not by their person (2:6-11).
Ignorance of the law is no excuse (2:12), only the doers of the law shall be justified: these are the only truly repentant ones (2:13). If your heart is circumcised through true repentance, you will keep the law (2:25-29).
All the world stands guilty before God (3:9-19, 23). When one comes to repentance, he acknowledges his sins (3:20), he abhors his past sins, and through faith in the blood of Christ he becomes justified (set forth as being righteous) by the blotting out of the death penalty for past sins (3:25). Future law keeping does not justify you of your past sins (3:28). We donít make void Godís laws upon repentance and faith in Christ; no, we establish the law (3:31). In other words, Godís laws are in effect and in force upon all people at all times, converted or unconverted. If this were not so, no one would be guilty of sin, and there would be no need for repentance.
Repentance is more than merely a change of mind, it is a change of action! But how many times have I heard Church of God brethren say that their baptism washed away their former marriage, and they are now free to remarry! This is a gross lack of understanding of real repentance.
Church of God: Amend Your Ways
The Prophets contain messages that are for today. Someone like Jeremiah needs to stand in the Eternalís house and proclaim:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place . . . . For if you truly amend your ways and doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place . . . . [but] will you [continue to] steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods . . . . and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by My name, and say "We are delivered!" ó only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:3-10 RSV).
Church of God, amend your ways! Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. W
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