Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Repentance Unto Life

The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."

Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

"I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

"The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’

This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

"Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life" (Acts 11:1-18 NIV).

What is repentance unto life?

Contextually, this "repentance to life" is the faith induced by hearing the Good News of God's provision of complete forgiveness in Christ.

The conclusion was forced by undeniable evidence of the Holy Spirit coming to the just-believing Gentiles who did not submit to Jewish regulations in the Law for God's supreme blessing promised to Israel--the Holy Spirit. (They may have supposed that the all flesh portion of the promise meant all flesh which binds itself to keeping God's covenant with Israel.)

It is a summary phrase equivalent to what some today call conversion, accepting Christ, trusting Christ, coming to Christ, et. al.. However, Russian Evangelical Baptists will ask you, "When did you repent?" rather than "When did you accept Christ?"

It describes what God did which brought about the reception of the correct heart attitude (which is repentance). It is the ministry and work of God upon which all preaching relies for effectiveness. So, Paul told Timothy to patiently teach opponents "in the hope that God would grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth that they may escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will." Repentance is a desire to embrace God's truth and the perfection of God. It is what was rejected and abandoned in the garden. This is a gift from God which He must grant to people who have been running from His truth trying to escape reason and reach a demonic fantasy.

Thank you, Father, for your supreme gifts. In Christ's great name, Amen!

Pastor Brian Tidd
Big Rock Congregational Church
Atlanta, MI

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