Pristine Grace

Gospel Repentance
by J. Max Walker

     Your queries concerning the high and noble Scriptural subjects of repentance, following the Lord in baptism, exhortation, etc., have most solemnly arrested my mind. I can witness with your confession — yet far more so — respecting the meager part, I have played in the vast field of true gospel preaching. Oh, how little I know, actually, of its real manifold intent! And how few times I have come even close to the real unction and power of it — just close enough to realize that neither I nor men in my time, have entered fully into the blessed field. Oh, to understand it more is truly the cry, daily, of this poor, smitten heart of mine — so embittered to the things of this vile, despicable world, yet so void, feelingly, of sweetening, enlightening grace! But with such as I have, I most willingly consider briefly:

     1. Repentance. This blessed subject has in Scripture, its divers phases and heads. However, I deem it expedient (if indeed I am able to discern between them), to confine my considerations to (1) inward, or spiritual; (2) gospel, or evangelical; (3) legal, or external. Inward, spiritual repentance is a Spirit work, wrought solely and sovereignly by efficacious, free grace (Heb. 8:14), upon the heart and conscience of the elect. This is that repentance which godly sorrow worketh (II Cor. 7:10), not to be repented of. And as God’s Ransomer was exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel (Acts 5:31). This is as sure for every elect vessel — and they for it — as Jehovah’s eternal, unconditional election that embraced them, and the “blood of the everlasting covenant” that ransomed them. Yea, one may not have this repentance wrought upon his soul until his dying hour, but if he be of that “remnant according to the election of grace,” it will not fail, somewhere between the womb and the tomb!

     Gospel, or evangelical repentance is no less the peculiar gift of God. For unless men are called thereunto, and given “eyes to see, and ears to hear” the truth of the kingdom, they cannot attain to it. Although all the chosen, elect of God shall and must have the former inward, spiritual repentance, and it is the prerequisite to the latter, yet it is certain truth that they all have not the special grace accompanied call to gospel repentance. Now that inward repentance is essential and a prerequisite to evangelical, none can deny. This truth is signally set forth in the very outset of the gospel kingdom on earth (Matt. 3:8; 7:17). And immovable soever it is that every blood-ransomed soul has had, or shall have, the blessed inward work of God the Spirit — Scripture abundantly sets forth invincible account of some elect who are not able in this present world to attain gospel repentance. Such as, the elect who die in infancy, as those whom Herod slew (Matt. 3:16); the poor, crucified malefactor (Luke 23:42); the national elect Jews whom Paul defends in Romans 11:27,28. How pregnant with gospel truth is the Psalm of Israel’s sweet singer (127:1): “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Many good (sic) men have labored to bring “converts” into the camp of the Lord’s witnesses upon whom God laid no burden. This blessed burden will not be laid upon even elect men by the power of the persuasion of man (Matt. 16:17; Gal. 1:11,12). Such Scriptures as Luke 14:23; Acts 2:47; and Rom. 11:29; and the whole of I Cor. 12, declare that the church visible, as well as general is in the hands of Jehovah, and that the almighty Husband, and Head of the church calls with power every witness for His truth severally and invincibly from apostles to the weakest, most insignificant member. Then with this sovereign truth in view, what a vast ocean of mercy it is, even with the reproach that ensues, for a poor creature who is no better by nature than the damned to have this distinguished treasure, evangelical repentance, wrought so beautifully and immovably upon his heart, with the blessed door opened by the Holy Spirit to the unsearchable riches of Christ’s free gospel.

     Legal, or external repentance is that outward turning away from sin and wickedness. This is an obligation resting upon all men (for they are His creation— Ed.) from which none are excused. The mighty language of John: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” embraced this phase of repentance, as well as gospel repentance. It laid immovable responsibility upon all men to repent legally and literally from an adulterous, idolatrous course to a land morally worthy of the kingdom of heaven. And this glorious kingdom will not remain visibly in any nation unworthy of it. Jesus Himself followed up Johns ministry, upbraiding them. “wherein most of His mighty works here done, because they repented not,” and pronouncing God’s everlasting judgment upon them for the same. (Matt. II: 20-24) These righteous judgments of Jehovah God are often poured out upon wicked men, because they repent not of their deeds; (Luke 13:3,5) that is because they turn not away from their external sinfulness. Yea, many a whole nation has fallen utterly in their impenitence. This also is meant in Psa. 9:17.

     There lies a profound characteristic in the proclamation of God’s literal preached word, in the world, respecting the subject of repentance that few men of our day have acknowledged. That is: when the creature (man) fell under the curse of God’s infinitely righteous law and lost by that fall all ability of himself to do good, morally or spiritually, God LOST NOT, NOR CAST AWAY His sovereign right and power to command. Man’s inability, therefore, does not render him excusable. It is of God’s holy justice then, as well as His decree, that men perish in their impenitence. And, but for the eternal merits of Christ’s atoning blood, and God’s gift of grace through faith, the elect must needs perish (as the reprobate) in theirs.

     Oh, blessed be that spotless, covenant blood! There is in it efficacy enough to impute to every vessel of mercy. Repentance in all its phases. Yea, they stand complete in Him.” (Col. 2:10)

     But the ministry who takes the “oversight thereof” to “feed the flock of God” (I Pet. 5:2), is to follow the tenor of God’s word, and command “all men everywhere to repent, (Acts 17:30) for they know not “the mind of the Lord” — demanding of ALL who would follow the Lord Christ, “fruits, meet for (evangelical) repentance —instructing in meekness “those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,” (II Tim. 2:25) pronouncing G 0(1’s promised judgments upon all types of impenitence. For, to better understand the righteous doom of the wicked (Psa. 73:3-17), will check time envy in arty saint toward their prosperity, and make him more diligent and concerned in his own soul’s safety.

     Now to follow the Lord in baptism, those two borne testimonies (spiritual, and evangelical repentance) must be witnessed in the comers thereunto. These are drawn forth by the ministry in one singular, blessed method — “preach unto them Jesus!” (Acts 8:35). And they, in patience, should always wait the Spirit’s prompting in the hearers to inquire: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

     Exhortation is peculiarly given to the household of faith. (Acts 2:40; 27:22; II Cor. 9:5; I Thess. 4:1; 5:14; II Thess 3:12; I Tim. 2:1; 6:2; II Tim. 4:2;Titus1:9; 2:6,9;15; Jude 3; and I Peter 1:5). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13).

     How beautiful and expedient then is this noble work, seeing it is given of God to His church — those who have both spiritual and evangelical repentance. But this, as all other precious gifts, has seemingly become obsolete in our sad day, some falling into fatalism and deeming any form of exhortation as something that belongs to the Arminian camps; while others mutilate this precious heritage by shamefully misconstruing it to authorize them to recruit the militant fold of baptized believers. Yet God’s way stands unaltered, immovable as the Rock upon ‘which it is built, saying plainly, “that he may run that readeth it,” “Feed My sheep, feed My lambs;” “feed the flock of God;” “exhort the brethren.” — selected from Old Faith Contender, Vol. 36, 1958