2 Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Gospel repentance is the work of God wherein He changes the mind of an elect sinner, causing him to turn away from dead works and toward Christ alone as the only source of righteousness before God. It is only through God’s gift of Gospel repentance that believers are lead into “a knowledge of the truth.” Yes, the Lord “gives us understanding” in the gift of repentance! Repentance is an essential element of God’s salvation in Christ. Without repentance, a sinner cannot experience the blotting out of his sin. As Peter preached to the crowds gathered in Acts chapter 3, “Repent, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” God must grant repentance before we ever look to Christ for all righteousness. And only Christ can blot out sin, imputing His perfect righteousness to His people.
While believers are exhorted to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace,” Gospel repentance is not, as so many wrongly present it, a repentance of sin. Repentant sinners will be ever aware of and sorrowful for their sin. We will wage war against the temptations of our flesh and the fallen tendencies of our current state until the day we breathe our last breath. Gospel repentance, however, is a settled reality firmly and universally settled in the minds of each and every believer. It is a work wrought to completion in the lives of God’s beloved elect by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without full and complete Gospel repentance, no one, NO ONE, would even venture a glance in Christ’s direction, much less forsake all their so-called worth and works and turn to Him for all righteousness before God! Repentance, God’s work in us, is the gift of God to each and every person “whom the Lord our God shall call” to faith.
I. Gospel repentance is a Change of Mind Concerning Christ
Following Peter’s powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost, men pricked at their heart, asked what they must do in response to the Gospel:
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Peter expressed the necessity of repentance concerning Christ. Those in attendance had murdered the Lord of Glory. Yet, as Peter boldly proclaimed to them earlier in the text, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. A change of mind was needed concerning Christ, a change only God can grant!
II. Gospel Repentance is a Turning Away from Dead Works
The writer of Hebrews exalts Christ as He who purifies our conscience “from dead works to serve the living God”
Hebrews 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) (12) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, (14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
It is through Gospel repentance that the flood gates of Christ’s righteousness are opened unto poor and needy sinners. By God’s power, we turn away from all of the works we previously placed our trust, casting them down, burning them out as one would set fire to a brush pile. Then, looking only to Christ as our righteousness, knowing that through His blood we are secured forever, we serve the living God. We turn from dead works toward the living God in Christ: This is Gospel repentance!
III. Gospel Repentance Exhorts Us to Humility and Gentleness
Paul exhorted Timothy to be kind and gentle with everyone. He even encouraged Timothy to patiently endure unkind and even evil treatment. Of course Timothy was free to teach and preach the Gospel to these evildoers. But Paul made it clear that Timothy was not free to be meanspirited or impatient with them.
The reason is clearly indicated in the text: Repentance isn’t wrought in the lives of sinners by skillful debate, the result of clear intellectual reasoning, or any other work of fallen man. Repentance is sovereignly granted by the Lord alone as the Spirit of God accompanies the preaching of the Gospel.
Mind the text! “God may perhaps grant them repentance….” Repentance is God’s work, not ours. And as we consider the matchless grace and mercy of which we as God’s people have freely received, let us encourage one another unto humility, gentleness, meekness, peace, patience, love, and thanksgiving all in response to the manifold blessings of God’s grace in Christ!
Let this be an encouragement to all of us as we endeavor to share the Gospel with friends and family. The work of changing minds concerning Christ and His Gospel is not ours to perform! We are simply to share this Gospel message far and wide. It is the Lord’s work to gather His people into the fold.
Let us be thankful for God’s gift of Gospel repentance. He alone has opened our eyes to our darkness, sin and shame. He alone has changed our minds concerning Christ, causing each of us to look to Christ alone for all righteousness. It is the Lord alone that has, in the words of Paul, “given us understanding.” And it is through eyes made new by Gospel repentance that we endeavor to be kind and gentle toward one another as we, ever sorrowful for our sin, trust Christ alone to go our way until the brightness and glory of His coming.