The Opportunity for Repentance

"Please give me a second chance!" Many times this plea has been made by a person who has failed to meet expectations. He begs for another opportunity to succeed with the promise that he will do better the next time. He assures that he will give the necessary effort if allowed another attempt. He guarantees that he will not permit himself to be distracted and beset by the factors that led to his previous failure. He appeals to the mercy of the one who has the authority to grant him another opportunity to prove himself worthy.

Through Jesus Christ, God has given all of us a "second chance." The opportunity for salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8) is a second chance in that it provides the possibility of overcoming our past failures by forgiveness of our sins and allows us to start anew by repentance. This opportunity is granted solely by the mercy of God and not by our own merit. Even so, God grants us this second chance with the understanding that our subsequent performance must greatly exceed our previous efforts. Our former manner of life apart from Christ is unacceptable, for we must "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called" (Eph. 4:1). We accept this second chance with the commitment to God that through Christ we will do better, we will give more effort, and we will not be seduced by the world as we were in the past.

It is in this sense that the Scriptures speak of God "granting" repentance through Christ. The idea of repentance being granted by God may seem strange because repentance is something that we choose to do. However, our choice to repent would be of little value if God did not grant it as a condition of salvation through Christ Jesus. In other words, even if a sinner completely changed his behavior for the better, his efforts could not save him apart from God granting him repentance as a part of the gospel plan of salvation.

Consider a few passages of Scripture that describe repentance as an opportunity granted by God.

  • In Acts    5:31, Peter and the apostles spoke of Christ to the Sanhedrin, saying, "He    is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to    grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Here the apostles spoke specifically of    the second chance given to Israel through God's grant of repentance.
  • In Acts    11:18, when the Jewish Christians heard of salvation coming to the    Gentiles, they said, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance    that leads to life." As with the    Jews, God gave the Gentiles a second chance for eternal life through    Christ.
  • In 2Timothy    2:25-26, Paul instructed Timothy to gently correct those who oppose God "if    perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the    truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the    devil."

Notice that the fact of God's granting repentance does not imply that repentance is not our choice. Calvinists have errantly used passages such as those above to teach that a man cannot repent of sins unless God acts on him directly by His Holy Spirit to cause him to repent (the Calvinist concept of irresistible grace). However, the Bible teaches us that repentance is a commandment that we choose to obey or disobey. This is evident in Paul's message to the Athenians, for he said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, we see that God calls on all men to repent and gives all men the opportunity to do so in Christ, but He allows each man to choose whether he will take advantage of God's gracious offer.

Truly, the opportunity to repent is a great blessing that every soul should embrace. Thankfully, God has extended this opportunity by His patience and mercy as Peter indicates in 2Peter 3:9, saying, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." As God delays the promise of Christ's second coming, we should "regard the patience of our Lord as salvation" (2Pet. 3:15) and a greater opportunity for repentance to every soul in the world. Indeed, this is the "second chance" that all of us need.

Stacey E. Durham


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