sundays at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, & 4:30 PM

Doctrine of Repentance Unto Life: Introduction

April 17, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:18–21

Quote: Thomas Brooks

On the Nature of True Repentance (Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices)

The first remedy is, seriously to consider, that repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power. There is no power below that power which raised Christ from the dead, and which made the world—which can break the heart of a sinner or turn the heart of a sinner!

You are as well able to melt adamant, as to melt your own heart; to turn a flint into flesh, as to turn your own heart to the Lord; to raise the dead and to make a world, as to repent. Repentance is a flower which does not grow in nature’s garden! ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.’ (Jer. 13:23).

Repentance is a gift that comes down from above. Men are not born with repentance in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths: (Acts 5:31): ‘Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior—to give repentance.’

Introduction (Jer 31: 18-21)

Last week we concluded our discussion on the doctrine of sanctification.

Today we will begin talking about Repentance unto Life.

The next chapter in the confession of faith, chapter 15: repentance unto life.

I hope that you see that it is the statement of the grace itself, that it is repentance unto life, that the Divine’s believed when they wrote about this topic.

We will begin by first looking at some examples of repentances in Scripture that is not a repentance unto life.

Repentance is a work of grace.

  • It has a certain aim
  • It has a certain goal in mind.

The term repentance alone will not suffice to describe the biblical doctrine.

Lord willing, today we are going to do some character studies that demonstrate to us a false repentance in Scripture.

WLC #76 What is repentance unto life?

The goal is not just repentance unto physical life.

The goal is a repentance unto eternal life.

And we must see that there is good wisdom in this, because there are many kinds of repentance.

  • Just as we have spoken that there are many kinds of faith.
  • We understand that there are also many kinds of repentance.

We are going to see that sometimes in Scripture, the entire preaching of the Gospel, is called the preaching of repentance.

Cain (Genesis 4:9-14)


And if you might just keep in the back of your mind,

2 Corinthians 7:10 throughout this discussion

  • For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death
  • There is a sorrow, which is not repentance, although it often passes for repentance.
  • And the first man in whom we will see this is really the first identified sinner beyond the garden (beyond Adam and Eve).

This is Cain.

Genesis 4:9

  • And the LORD said unto Cain: Where is Abel thy brother?
  • And Cain said, “Am I my brother's keeper? “
  • This is hard to pass by that phrase pastorally, isn't it?
  • Are we our brother's keeper? Yes, we are.
  • Yes, we are to care for one another.
  • But Cain reveals his hard heartedness here, toward his brother.

Genesis 4:10

  • And the LORD said unto Cain: What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
    • And Cain said unto the Lord: My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

Consider Cain’s sorrow.

It is interesting, isn't it?

John tells us in 1 John 3 why Cain slew Abel.

  • Because Abel's deeds were righteous, and Cain’s deeds were wicked
    • Cain was of the wicked one.
    • Abel was righteous by faith.

Listen to the punishment: What was the punishment?

  • The ground is going to be cursed → It is not the first time we have heard that.
  • What does the Lord do here with Cain? He reiterates to him the curse.
    • He shows him how the curses led already to this murder.
    • This rising up of the weeds and thorns from the earth is going to be a constant reminder to Cain of the wickedness of his own heart and the cursedness of it.
  • This is not a new curse
    • But it seems, perhaps, the Lord is somehow doubling down against Cain.

Listen to what he says again

  • When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
  • Now the part about being a fugitive and a vagabond
    • that speaks to him being cast out from the presence of the Lord, cast out of the visible church, in a sense, excommunicated from the place of blessing.
  • And in that he will be a fugitive and a vagabond
    • it is a further pressing of the punishment of excommunication
    • It is evidence that he has separated out and delivered unto Satan → that is the New Testament term for it, right?

So, he is cast out from the presence of the Lord.

How does Cain respond?

He says unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Do you hear the lament?

  • You have driven me out.
  • You have made be a vagabond and a wanderer.
  • You have made be susceptible so anyone that sees me will kill me.

Do you see what Cain has done?

  • Cain has seen the sorrow of his situation. Cain has felt in this judgment of God.
  • Cain has felt the heavy hand of God's providence pressed down upon him.

Does he respond with repentance unto life or some other kind of sorrow?

Is there a sorrow for sin here in Cain?

In fact, what we see from Cain here is what?

  • Not self loathing.
  • It is self pity.

Self Pity

This is one of the marks of counterfeit repentance.

Cain has forgotten what he deserved

  • was to be completely annihilated by God
  • was to be sent off to an eternal punishment of fire and judgment for slaying a righteous man.

Instead, Cain says, his punishment is greater than I can bear.

There is sorrow.

  • There is sorrow that he has to deal with a righteous judge.
  • There is sorrow that the Earth will no longer be his friend.
    • It will bring forth thistles
    • He will have to wander upon the earth as a vagabond over the face of the earth.

That is not repentance unto life.

  • Cain is feeling sorry for himself.
  • Cain is not sorry for his sin but for the consequences
  • Cain is filled with self pity.

He does not have a repentance unto life.

King Saul

1 Samuel 24:1-22

This is that first instance where David upon Saul unawares.

  • David snuck up behind him in stealth, and cut off a piece of his skirt, and took it out with him.
  • A lesser man may have said “the Lord has delivered my enemy into my hand”
  • But not David.
  • He just took a piece of Saul’s skirt to prove to Saul that he was no threat.

Then David lifts up his voice in verse 9-11

  • After David stopped speaking at verse 16
    • Saul lifted up his voice and wept and responded until verse 22.

What did Saul do? He wept.

  • He wept out of the realization of his own miserable life.
  • He wept thinking upon how he had set his best efforts and hatred and malice toward David that David had returned righteousness unto Him.
  • He wept thinking of his own sin and misery.

But it was not repentance unto life.

  • And we will see this by his later actions in life.

1 Samuel 26:7-21

This is the 2nd instance where David comes upon Saul.

In this case, a deep sleep from the Lord falls upon Saul in his camp entirely.

  • David goes in, and he takes Saul’s spear and the bolster (belt) off of his armor
  • Once again, David proves his loyalty not to Saul, but to the Lord because Saul is the Lord's anointed.
    • Aside: Notice the sharp distinction here between David’s respect and honoring of those in authority over him as how we typically respond today in self-righteousness and pride….

Then David goes to the top of a hill and calls out to Abner.

  • Notice verse 17 ➔ And Saul knew David's voice and said, Is this thy voice? My son, David?
    • We have here a similar exchange as we saw just two chapters earlier.
    • David once again returns Saul's wickedness with righteousness.

Now verse 21. This is really important. Do not miss it.

  • Then Saul said → I have sinned. Return my son David, for I will no more do the harm. Because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day. Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.

But this is not repentance unto life.

It is only a confession of sin.

It is a confession of sin accompanied with tears, yes, but it is not repentance unto life.

He acknowledges the sin and weeps.

This is a worldly repentance with a worldly sorrow.

  • Many are willing to go as far as Saul has gone
    • to bemoan their estate
    • to confess their sins,
    • to weep and to cry
    • to recognize their misery

But this is only a worldy repentance...

Esau (Gen 25:29-34, Heb 12:16-17)

What did Esau do?

Before we continue:

  • Consider what it would have been growing up in Isaac's house and learning about God’s covenant.
  • Remember that after Abraham's death, the Lord appeared to Isaac and said to him, the covenant that I have made with Abraham is yours.
  • Jacob and Esau are raised up in that particular household hearing of God's covenant promises
  • Jacob and Esau are raised up knowing what the birthright and the blessing mean.

So, then Esau comes in from the field hungry and Jacob has made up a bowl of something that he wants to eat.

  • Esau says, give me some of that.
  • Jacob says, I will give it to you.
  • He asks for Esau’s birthright.
    • Jacob understood the value of the birthright, the blessing, the covenant, such that he desired it.
    • Esau, obviously, did not desire the birthright, the blessing, the covenant as much.
  • Esau traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup.
    • And he was later tricked out of his blessing

Scripture reveals that Esau wept and sought after repentance but did not find it.

  • But he did seek it with tears.

He wept. But he did not repent unto life

Pharaoh (Exodus 9:22-30)

Did you know that Pharaoh repented?

Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron confessed his sin.

But was he sincere in his repentance?

  • No, he did not mean it.
  • But there was a moment there.

Is being filled fear and begging for relief repentance unto life?

  • Repentance unto life is not simply confessing sin.

Pharaoh did not repent into life

  • because he kept on sinning as before - justified in his own eyes but condemned in the eyes of God.


There are so many things that we do to give ourselves comfort.

There are so many things that we do to assuage ourselves of our guilty conscience.

  • If I cry enough
  • If I am scared enough
  • If I tremble enough
  • If I asked the preacher to pray for me enough

You could have all of those things and not have true saving repentance.

I hope, as we reach the end of this sermon talking about examples of counterfeit repentance

  • that you are now asking the question “Well, what is true repentance?”

Because in the end, counterfeit repentance, like counterfeit faith, is the last thing we want.

We want that true repentance that finds its hope and finds its rest only in Christ Jesus.

  • Everyone that trembles will not be saved.
  • Everyone that weeps will not be saved.
  • Everyone that asks the preacher or the elders to pray for them will not be saved.

You have heard me speak against altar calls before.

I continue to bring this up from time to time because they are still so very prevalent and still so very misleading.

  • Sometimes a preacher would say, there will be someone up here to pray with you and for you.
  • But not everyone that comes forward to have those men pray with them, for them, will be saved.
  • They did not repent unto life.

Often, that kind of repenting is not:

  • a casting of their souls on Christ
  • a true sorrow for sin
    • not because of its consequences
    • not because of its effects
    • not because you lost something
    • not because of its misery
    • not avoid something
    • but because you offended the thrice Holy God.

The only remedy is that God has cast that guilt upon Christ.

My dearly beloved, the last thing we want for you is that you rest in some other kind of repentance.

  • It is under Christ Jesus
  • it is only under him.
  • It is a reckoning that our sins are a grief to God, and thereby we are grieved

More in Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

September 17, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment - The Finality of Judgment

September 10, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgement - The Great White Throne

September 3, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment