Lesson 3 – Repentance and Confession
REPENTANCE BEING THE DIVINE REQUIREMENT
The believers’ repentance is according to the divine requirement for God’s New Testament economy. Acts 26:20 indicates that everyone should repent and turn to God. In Acts 17:30b Paul says, “God now charges all men everywhere to repent.” In His New Testament economy God requires us to repent. Although He has “overlooked the times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30a), He now charges all people to repent. Repentance, therefore, is a crucial item in God’s New Testament economy.
Repentance is a gift given by the exalted Christ as a Leader and Savior. “This One God has exalted to His right hand as a Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). This clearly reveals that repentance is a gift given to us by the exalted Christ. To give repentance and forgiveness of sins to God’s chosen people required Christ to be exalted as a ruling Leader and Savior. His sovereign ruling causes and leads God’s chosen people to repent, and His salvation based upon His redemption affords them forgiveness of sins. Repentance is for forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). On God’s side, forgiveness of sins is based upon His redemption (Eph. 1:7). On man’s side, forgiveness of sins is through repentance.
Repentance and forgiveness of sins are major gifts, and only the Lord Jesus as the Leader and the Savior is qualified to give them. No one else is qualified to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to others.
Finally, repentance is a crucial item of the proclamation of God’s New Testament economy. In Luke 24 the resurrected Christ commissioned His disciples to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. After pointing out to them that it was written that Christ should suffer and rise up from the dead on the third day, He told them that “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (vv. 47-48). Now that Christ’s vicarious death for the sinners’ sins has been accomplished and has been verified by His resurrection (Rom. 4:25), repentance for forgiveness of sins needs to be proclaimed. Hence, in our preaching we must emphasize repentance, proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
BEING ENLIGHTENED BY GOD TO CONFESS OUR SINS
Every person is sinful before God, but not everyone can see that he is sinful. In the Old Testament once a person came to God, he immediately sensed that he was sinful. When Isaiah the prophet was enlightened, he immediately found that he was unclean. When seraphim from heaven were saying, “Holy, holy, holy,” Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am finished! / For I am a man of unclean lips, / And in the midst of a people of unclean lips I dwell” (Isa. 6:3, 5). There are at least four things in us which are unclean: our upper lip, our lower lip, our tongue, and our throat. Some people may say, “This is not true; my lips, my tongue, and my throat are all very clean.” However, one day when we are truly enlightened by God, we will see that there is no other part of our body that sins more than our lips.
No matter who a person is, once God comes to him, he will confess his sins. Even two hours will not be enough time for him to confess all his sins. Even though we do not know how many sins our tongue and our lips have committed, we do know that we have said things that we should not have said, and that our speaking is often mixed with a bit of evilness and wickedness. As long as a person’s lips are clean, he is a clean person. Even today, whose lips have not sinned from morning to this moment? Some may say that they are right and that they do not have sins. Yet when someone really touches God, he will immediately see that he does not have only a few individual sins but piles upon piles of sins. After he has confessed some of his sins, he will still have more to confess. In fact, there will always be more to confess.
One of my gospel friends told me that before he was saved, he thought that he was a perfect gentleman. I also admit that his temperament was one of a righteous gentleman. However, one day he became sick and began to suffer from several diseases: high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, and so forth. After he had stayed in the hospital for a long time, he still had not recovered. One day he became really desperate and started to consider, while lying on his bed, what kind of person he was. The more he thought about himself, the more he found himself good; the more he assessed himself further, the more he still found himself good. At that moment, however, he saw a Bible beside him. At that time he had not yet believed in Jesus, and he did not know the meaning of salvation. He opened the Bible, read a little, and suddenly, he discovered that something was wrong in his being—something that he had never found before. He realized that there was a thought in him that was not right, so he confessed this sin before God. Right after he confessed this sin, a second feeling came, causing him to confess a second sin. Then a third feeling also came and he confessed a third, then a fourth, and then a fifth sin. He was confessing his sins in this way, until eventually he lost track of how many sins he had confessed. After a while he felt that because he had so many sins, he should not continue to confess while lying on the bed, so he rose up and prostrated himself in front of his bed. After he had confessed more sins, he took his hands off the bed and entirely prostrated himself on the floor, weeping and confessing at the same time. For at least three hours, he felt that the more he confessed his sins, the more sins he had to confess. In the past he had not sensed that he was wrong, but on that day his sense was completely different. In the beginning he only felt that he was a little bit wrong. But once he made one confession, another sin came; once he made another confession, the third one came. This continued until he forgot about time—confessing on the one hand and weeping on the other. Although he was quite a strong man and was accomplished in his career, he was saved! His salvation was not a casual one, but one in which he confessed all his sins.
Luke 5 records Peter’s story. Originally, Peter did not realize that he was sinful, but when the Lord shined on him, he immediately said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord” (v. 8). In the Old Testament Job was one who also did not realize his sins until God shined on him. His three friends told him that he must have sinned before God, but Job did not agree and wanted to argue with God to see where his sins were (Job 5—6). This shows that Job was in darkness; he had never touched God or seen the light. However, at the end of the book of Job, he met God and said to Him, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, / But now my eye has seen You; / Therefore I abhor myself, and I repent / In dust and ashes” (42:5-6). Why did he repent? He repented because he saw his uncleanness. All of us are filthy and unclean before God. A person who has touched God sees his filthiness, and one who is enlightened by God senses his uncleanness. But one who has never touched God or seen the light, even though he is filthy and unclean, does not have any feeling of filthiness. Every time a person touches God, he will see that he is full of sins and that he is a constitution of sin.
Over fifteen hundred years ago there was a man named Augustine. When he was young, he lived a life of debauchery. His mother loved the Lord devoutly and always prayed for her son. One day Augustine suddenly had a feeling and asked himself why he was living in debauchery and not turning to God. At that moment he repented. To his surprise, that day he discovered that the more he confessed his sins, the more sins he had. It seemed that before he began to confess, there was not much sin, but the more he confessed, the more severe and abundant the sins became. Later, he wrote a book called Confessions, in which he describes his experience of confession. He confessed his sins to the extent that he said something like, “Even the regret in my confession needs to be forgiven by God; even the tears that I shed for the sorrow of my sins need to be washed with the precious blood.” Can you imagine the extent to which this person confessed? Even though he had already confessed everything, he still felt that even the regret in his confession needed to be forgiven by the Lord.
A person who is before God and who touches God should see that he is sinful. The more he confesses his sins, the more he senses his filthiness; the more he senses his filthiness, the more he comes to God; and the more he comes to God, the more he finds himself sinful. Every saved one, from the moment God leads him to walk this way, has to pass through this experience. From the time we were saved until today, have we ever had a thorough confession before God? This is a very serious question. Many people do not have any problem with their salvation, but it is questionable whether or not they have ever had a thorough confession.
When God enlightens us, we immediately see our filthiness and evilness. If we have never allowed God to enlighten us, we have not walked, or progressed, even one step before God. When God wants us to walk a step further, He must first enlighten us and cleanse us. Anyone who has never been enlightened thoroughly, no matter how long he has been saved, how much doctrine he understands, or how deeply he knows the Bible, although he is saved, he has never walked one step on the path of God. God’s first step in enlightening us is always to cleanse us thoroughly.