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Doctrine of Repentance Unto Life: A Saving Grace

April 24, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:18–22, 2 Corinthians 7:5–12

Quote: Rev. Zachary Crofton

Repentance is different and distinct from all penitential acts: sighing, self-castigation, and abstinence from all sinful actions, are fruits and expressions of repentance, but not the grace itself; for that diffuseth itself into the heart, and disposeth, habituateth, and enableth to all acts of sorrow for and cessation from sin.

The repentance, which is given of God, is not an action, but power, principle, and frame of spirit.

The power and principle is divine; but act and exercise of repentance is human: God plants the root whereby man brings forth fruit worthy repentance


Last week we started a new topic in our Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith – Repentance unto Life.

We looked at some Biblical characters as examples of a false repentance in Scripture.

Just as we have spoken that there are many kinds of faith.

  • We understand that there are also many kinds of repentance.

We looked at Cain

  • And saw that he responded with a repentance, but it was not a repentance unto life
  • It was a repentance unto self-pity\
    • Remember, he said -> My punishment is greater than I can bear.
  • It is self pity.

This is one of the marks of counterfeit repentance.

We looked at King Saul

  • Remember his encounters with David?
  • There was repentance
  • There was a confession of sin
  • There was sorrow and weeping

But this was not repentance unto life.

  • It is only a confession of sin.
  • It is a worldly repentance with a worldly sorrow.

But this is only a worldly repentance...

We looked at Esau

What did Esau do?

  • Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of soup.

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 have repentance unto life

Finally, we looked at Pharoah

  • He was filled with fear of consequences
  • He confessed his sin

But was he sincere in his repentance?

  • No, he did not mean it.

Is being filled fear and begging for relief repentance unto life? No.

Pharaoh did not have repentance unto life

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


Jeremiah 31:18-22

2 Corinthians 7:5-12


In our continuing look at repentance unto life, we are going to look at why it is called “Repentance unto Life” and how it is to be understood as a saving grace.

It is called repentance unto life

  • it is a part of the path that leads to eternal life.
  • It is characterized by the principles of eternal life, and it has faith in Christ as its foundation.

False repentance does not follow in the path of life.

False repentance is ruled not by the principle of eternal life and faith in Christ.

False repentance is ruled by sin and bondage to corruption, which leads to death

How can you tell when the sorrow that you have is the sorrow of the world?

  • or is the repentance unto life?

Have you turned the perspective around?

  • so that you are considering things from what the Lord would say in his own condescension to us?

When he says things like…

  • My Spirit is grieved for the sin of the race?

This this is one of the marks of repentance into life when that perspective is turned around

  • Such that our sorrow is not focused on our own weaknesses or the sad consequences of them.

Rather, it is when we begin to look at things with that new heart from the perspective of heaven.

  • when we see the damage that sin does
  • when we see the disappointment and grief of God Himself over our sins
    • as he condescends to reveal himself in that way to us.

These are the beginnings of repentance underlying.

Repentance unto Life is a saving grace

Remember, saving faith was not something that we can have apart from the gracious work of God?

So also, repentance unto life is a saving grace.

It is a grace.

It is a gift.

It is something that God gives to us

It is not something that we go out and purchase or barter or procure ourselves.

Yet, as in our study of regeneration and conversion, this does not mean simply that there is nothing for us to do

There are things for us to do.

Consider this:

If someone said to you, I'm going to give you a million dollars free.
You don't have to do anything.
All you have to do is show up.
You would probably show up. In fact, you'd probably write yourself a note, set a reminder, and put it in your phone and put a calendar and do all of those things that we do as people to remind ourselves of the important appointments that we have to keep.

So, it is with repentance unto life.

  • It is a grace that cannot be earned.
  • It is not something you have within you.
  • It is not something you will find in natural man.

But the Lord does tell us where he dispenses it and what the paths are of finding it.

We must find and be found in those places.

We must be found watching daily at his gates.

That is where repentance is being shed abroad.

Repentance unto Life is at God’s sole discretion (2 Timothy 2.22-25)

Paul speaking to Pastor Timothy

  • teaching him how to order his ministry says this.

Paul says that it is God who grants repentance, unto the acknowledging of the truth.

  • It's very clear, repentance is a gift from God.


If God would give them grace

  • this term peradventure has caused some people to stumble
  • as if somehow, this was left to some sort of whim or chance

The Apostle Paul is taking it out of the purview of men

  • and putting it in the purview of God.

In other words, this is saying

  • if God according to His will, would give it.
  • It's not simply that we go and get it.
  • It’s not a fake it until you’ve got it.

It is something that is completely and fully at the behest of God, the Father almighty

If he would grant them repentance unto life

Use of Means

What does he tell Timothy?

  • I want you to avoid this and avoid that.
  • But here's what I want you to do.
    • In meekness, I want you to instruct those that oppose themselves.

Note: these are not necessarily opponents to Timothy

  • but these are those that oppose sound instruction, oppose the truth
  • those who hold the truth in unrighteousness

Note Paul is talking about instruction.

  • What instruction?
  • What is he talking about?

He's talking about preaching

He's talking about Bible instruction.

Notice the use of means → Paul doesn't say here to Timothy.

Now remember, there's nothing that we can do with regard to repentance, so don't do anything and wait for God to give it doesn't do that.

He says → Timothy, I want you to be diligent to press these means

  • I want you to avoid strife.
  • I want you to be gentle to all of them. Stay away from silly arguments.
  • Stay away from these endless disputes.
  • Stay away from all of that because they detract from the mission.

The mission is that you are, in meekness, to instruct those from the Word of God

  • those who oppose themselves.
  • you use the means Christ gave as gifts to the church
  • Then pray, that peradventure God
    • according to his will
    • will give them repentance unto life through the use of these meetings.


We most certainly can think about this for a moment.

If there is indeed the command to continue meekly to instruct, then there is also by way of inference to command to be

What is the conduit through which the Apostle says here that men will receive repentance from God?

  • The instruction and the receiving of instruction.

Notice how it can be completely gracious, completely out of our hands

  • yet, means put into our hands as the conduit through which God makes the blessing to flow.

When our larger Catechism says → Repentance unto life is a saving grace.

  • We must see exactly what Paul says here
  • We must see this saving grace comes through means
  • We must see the means are not the grace itself
  • We must see the means are simply the bearers of the grace through which God works to bring his people to repentance unto life

The means here are instruction and the receiving of instruction.

  • We hear His word
  • We hear his proclamations of sin and righteousness and judgment.
  • and through those means God is pleased to give repentance unto life as a saving grace.

But it is indeed a grace.

Paul's instruction to Timothy here as a means:

  • instruct those who in themselves have no hope
  • instruct those who are indeed opposers
  • instruct those who are enemies unto to repentance. do not write them off

The dispensation of the Lord is sovereign and depends not upon the human calculus.

So then be diligent in the use of these means.

So, congregation as hearers

  • who knows whether the Lord will send the blessing to follow
  • do not forsake the means of grace
  • That's where the peradventure is.

And if the use of means is that which the Lord has chosen to bless certainly then we must do our best to seek and submit ourselves to those means where God sheds forth His grace.

Repentance unto Life is as Necessary as Faith (Acts 11.1-18)

What Peter understands here is this: the thing that separates us from the Gentiles

  • if they can eat it, and I can eat it, then I can go see them.

Picking up in verse 15

  • the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning….
  • Notice what they say, God has granted repentance unto life.

It was a gift of God

It was a gift that was bestowed upon them

This repentance unto life belongs to all of God's people

  • it is all a gift from God
  • it is a gift from God to all of his people.

We hear much about the preaching of the Gospel today that it is, indeed, faith in Christ.

We hear faith in Christ, faith in Christ over and over again.

And that's fine. That's good.

Faith in Christ is a wonderful thing.

But apostolic preaching of the gospel

  • it is not just faith in Christ
  • it is also repentance unto life.

We cannot have one without the other.

  • If we preach faith without repentance, we preach antinomianism
  • If we preach repentance without faith, we preach legalism.

We must understand these things.

We must have it straight in our minds

If we don't have the one, we don't have the other

  • repentance and faith are twins of regeneration.

You cannot have the one without having the other.

Repentance unto Life does not spring from Man’s efforts (Jeremiah 31.18…)

Remember what the passage says about Ephraim?

  • It is characterized as the northern kingdom

The Ephraim that is spoken of here is prophetically speaking of an apostate church

  • a church that is turned away from God and turn toward idols and has been destroyed for it.

Ephraim is characterized like a stubborn bull

  • You got him hooked up to the yoke, and he just won't pull
  • And he's trying to avoid pulling by any means
  • Ephraim, bemoans himself says “Turn thou Me and I shall be turned”

You hear whatever he was saying here?

Ephraim is making the confession that the apostate church is making

  • I will not turn if left to my own devices.
  • I am that stubborn bull unaccustomed to the yoke and I won't pull it
  • I won’t submit to any authority but my own. That's who I am, I am my own master
  • If I am to be turned, it will have to come from outside of me, but I am not doing it.
  • I have come to the end of myself.

Turn thou Me and I shall be turned.

And so, we have even in this Old Testament passage a recognition.

We have a recognition that turning to Him is indeed a gift from God.

  • After that I was turned, I repented
  • After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh I was ashamed even confounded because I did bear the reproach of my youth
    • the reproach of youth - scripturally speaking - is in my former days when I was a fool

Use of Means (again)

  • set the up waymarks
  • make the high heaps
  • set thine heart toward the highway
    • even the way which thou wentest turn again,
    • oh, virgin daughter of Israel, turn again unto thy cities

The Lord there is promising a temporal blessing in the greater promise of spiritual blessings.

You've been choked out of your cities → turn back to them

Go back to the ways those former ways → turn back again.

Walk in those ways that lead the life.

Even in this Old Testament reference here, we have the Lord Himself as the giver of repentance unto life.

So, Ephraim…

  • Is not asking for relief from the sorrows of sin.
  • Is not asking for deliverance from the consequences and discomforts of sin and folly


  • he is asking for a heart turned against his own sin
  • he is asking for a love for God
  • he is asking for a love for God’s way

that he might return to God.

Repentance is Caused by God (Psalm 80. 1-19; 3, 7, 19)

There is this imperative, an urgency, crying out to God

  • not in the commanding sense
  • but as many prayers that are an urgent imploring of the act of God upon the soul.

The Causative Construction

The Hebrew word here is a hiphil and is a causative construction.

Normally, the word “turn” simply means to turn this way, or that way to turn.

  • it has the theological import of a turning from sin and turning to God
  • that you are moving in a direction away from the Lord and you turn toward the Lord

But here, as a hiphil

  • it means “cause me to turn”
    • cause us
    • cause me to turn.

Turn us again, is a wonderful translation

  • although it might not bring forth this meaning of the Hebrew
    • which is cause us to turn Oh, Lord God.

But this is what you would expect

  • if it's a saving grace.

This is what you would expect if it came from God

  • It is indeed a strong construction in the Hebrew.

Progression in the Names of God

In this progression, we see the greater urgency of the psalmist

  • Verse 3 ➔ turn us again, oh, God
    • it's God, the Mighty One Elohim (same word as used in Psalm 82
  • Verse 7 ➔ turn us again, oh God of hosts.
    • O thou mighty one that commanded us to armies (Sabbaoth)
  • Verse 19 ➔ turn us again, oh, Lord God of hosts
    • O Yahweh Elohim Sabbaoth (the covenantal name, the strong and might one, the self existence, eternal one)

Notice how the psalmist is growing in urgency and marshaling those arguments l

Brothers and sisters, you must recognize the urgency.

This is what the psalmist is teaching us here

  • Without repentance unto life, there is no hope.
  • Without repentance unto life, we have not faith in Christ

If we have not one, we have not the other.

This is a pearl of great price.


We have seen Repentance unto life is a saving grace.

But we've also seen that we are not left to simply rest on our own power

  • What we've seen is just the opposite in Scripture
  • We have seen that the Lord has put things into our hands.
    • as the roads and routes and ways and markers
    • in those things in which He would be pleased to give repentance.

First → We Have Instruction

In hearing instruction

  • we understand preaching of the Word of God

In hearing instruction

  • we understand the laying down our ear
    • the giving ourselves up to the authority of Jesus Christ and His church
    • And not remaining like Ephraim, that stubborn bull that will not be turned and will not submit.

Second → It is Continual

This is the beginning of the Christian life

  • not the end of it

It is the beginning of the Christian life

  • when the Holy Spirit comes

He comes with repentance unto life

Third → It is both a Throwing Off and a Putting On

With Ephraim, we saw that he had the reputation of being the church that was apostate and cast off

  • But God in His mercy and in the way, God condescends to us causes Him to turn

Brothers and sisters, I hope you see the sweetness

  • God himself saying, my bowels are stirred for Ephraim, and I will turn him to me.
  • There is no longer a throwing off of the yoke.
  • There is a taking of that yoke, and being turned, because God gives.

Fourth → Repentance and Faith are Twin Necessities

In Psalm 80, we've seen urgency

  • that God would marshal his resources, His might, his armies, his covenant to bear upon us
  • that if we asked for repentance unto life
  • that if we continue in those ways and means that God has said he would be pleased.

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, without which there is no salvation.

It is the essence of the preaching of the Gospel, along with faith in Christ.

What did Paul say characterized his ministry?

  • repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, do not settle for a truncated message that is cut off

  • if we have faith only and no repentance, then we have devolved into antinomianism.
  • if we have repentance and no faith, then we have devolved into legalism.

Finally → Repentance deals with the offense to God first and foremost

Let us remember this, if the bulk of our sorrows

  • have to do with the calamities of this life
  • have to do with the afflictions under which we suffer
  • have to do with the difficulties and unfulfilled desires that we have
  • have to do with the pleasures we couldn't quite obtain

Remember, all of that is just repentance

  • It is only repentance.
  • It is the sorrow of the world that leads to death.
  • It is NOT repentance unto life

This is repentance unto life:

  • to sorrow for your sins
  • to be grieved
  • because the Spirit of is grieved
  • because the anger and chastisement of the Lord is stirred up against His people.
  • because you weep and sorrow at the love you have for sins while Jesus Christ was bleeding on the cross to ransom you from death

Those are the signs of life that we look for.

Let's stand and call upon the Lord in prayer.


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