A Fresh Look at Repentance: Part 1

By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.

Think about it. Rebellion against God is how the indictment reads, and every living person is guilty. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have no plea to make; indeed, we can never do enough works of righteousness even to mount a defense. The Law makes clear we are guilty as charged. All we can do is take our penalty, die in our sins, and face the judgment of eternal punishment in hell, with the record of our sins kept forever on the court ledger.

How desperately we need help, and if we don’t get it, we will be lost for eternity.

The book of Galatians is all about the gift of salvation and peace in our relationship with God that follows repentance and comes solely by grace through faith. Nobody can do enough good works to earn salvation; 1500 years of Moses Law proved that. And, no one deserves forgiveness by God. Instead, Jesus as an act of grace died for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Yes, the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, clearly demonstrated what our redemption cost God.

God’s forgiveness cannot be bought with money, as Simon the sorcerer learned (Acts 8:20).    That alone tells us the blessings of the gospel simply cannot be bought. Who would be so foolish as to say to God, “I’ll pay you a billion dollars for a mansion in your heaven, when the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with gold?  Even a trillion dollars would not begin to cancel the wickedness of the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, and certainly would not even make a down payment on the scourging or the first of the three nails that led to Jesus’ death.  

Solomon sacrificed 142,000 animals at the dedication of the temple. We can wonder after the festival was over if the great king had the thought, ‘Did I do enough?’ Herein lies the issue: when you are working for your salvation, you never know when you’ve done enough. This is true because there is no such thing as enough good works to enter heaven. The agonizing death Jesus died shows just how worthless good-deeds’ salvation is.

The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to announce prophetically God’s invitation because the grace of God revealed at Calvary made salvation free: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost (Isaiah 55:1).

Only grace took Jesus to Calvary because of “His great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4, KJV). Jesus paid in His own blood as the coin currency of the realm the ‘wine’ and the ‘milk’ in limitless supply.

Who can stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross, watch the agony of His death as His blood slowly dripped on the rocks below, and smugly say to Him, “Jesus, you owed it to me?”

Even a lifetime of good works under the Law is not enough to pay Jesus, the sinless Son of God, for the mega-cruel death He died for you and me. Calvary can only be understood as a gift of God to all who repent of their sins against God and confess Jesus as the Son of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).

Martin Luther viewed this simple statement as the heart of the gospel. It was foundational in his developing the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone that launched the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Expressed another way, “If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (Galatians 3:21). Moses, law had 613 commandments and no one could keep all of them all the time.

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