Repentance: The Forgotten Word in Positive Preaching

Title: Repentance: The Forgotten Word in Positive Preaching
Category: Pastoral Issues
Subject: Preaching; Repentance
Repentance: The Forgotten Word in Positive Preaching
Acts 17:30-31
Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey

“Repentance has been called the forgotten word in positive preaching. Dr. Don M. Boone, pastor of First Baptist Church, [Vancleave], Mississippi, has written a helpful book titled What Happened To Repentance? in which he says, "There are many today who preach faith without repentance. We have filled our churches with people who claim to know Jesus Christ in power and full salvation, and yet there is no sign of repentance in their lives. What happened?" 1

Preaching to those in the Areopagus in Athens, Paul boldly declares: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

The apostle Paul tells the Ephesian elders: “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

I. The Necessity of Genuine Repentance

Charles G. Finney published his Lectures of Professing Christians in 1837 with one of his lectures titled “True and False Repentance”. While we may not agree with all of Mr. Finney’s theology we must admit that repentance is much more than a cheap “I’m sorry,” and it involves more than merely saying, “I have sinned.” A good Bible concordance will allow you to trace this phrase through the Bible. We see the necessity of genuine repentance in the following passages: (Ezekiel 14:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Luke 13:1-5 and Luke 24:46-47).

II. The Nemesis of Godly Repentance

A nemesis is a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent.

Every believer has three nemeses, namely the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Paul addresses the third nemesis, the world system, in the following words: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

After his denial of our Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Peter illustrates this godly repentance, while Judas Iscariot after his betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ, illustrates an ungodly repentance.

III. The Neglect of Granted Repentance

Paul tells Timothy about those in the church that are not right and he makes a very informative statement: “if perhaps God will grant them repentance” (2 Timothy 2:25). In Revelation 2:21, John writes about a woman called Jezebel, that Jesus said, “I gave her time to repent”. This is the language of opportunity. In addition, we read in Hebrews 12:17 about Esau, who found no place of repentance though he sought it diligently with tears. When a man asks a woman to marry him if she rejects his offer, it may never be offered again. It is an opportunity that might pass by forever.”

The Puritans often spoke of “the gift of tears” referring to repentance.

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest (December 7): “Strictly speaking, a man cannot repent when he chooses; repentance is a gift of God.”

Evangelist J. Harold Smith preached a sermon titled “God’s Three Deadlines” in pulpits all over America. Solomon dramatically explains this theme, when he writes, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, / Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). In Hebrews 3:7-4:10 we find a warning against hardening our hearts and to respond immediately to the voice of God. God’s overtures can be resisted and rejected.

Paul writes in Romans 2:4: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”


Dr. Kerry L. Skinner has written an informative book titled The Joy of Repentance. The following comes from the book description: “A shift has occurred within our contemporary Christian culture a departure so contrary to Scripture that an alarm must be sounded. The Joy of Repentance rings that alarm with a truthful, loving, and restorative call that illuminates the heart of every believer and prompts the church to rehabilitate its intimate union with Christ. In many ways, the Body of Christ has forsaken the biblical mandate to repent, defining the process as negative and burdensome. But in reality, sin produces a yoke of bondage and consequence, while repentance provides a roadway of reconciliation. The suffering Christian, soiled with the residue of this world, is only a repentant prayer away from resolution and healing. When Scripture is followed, potential is restored, and God is magnified. The Joy of Repentance is a message of hope, structure, and biblical teaching that provides a framework for personal revival.”2

Mordecai Ham once said that until we get some of God’s people right, we cannot hope to get sinners regenerated.

When Dwight L. Moody went to England the first time he preached the grace of God. When he went the second time he preached repentance. He had become convinced that unless there is a genuine turning away from know sin in life and thought, there could be little permanency of change.”

May we return to repentance: the forgotten word in positive preaching!

1Franklin L. Kirksey, Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice (North Charleston, SC: BookSurge, An Company, 2005), p. 72 [Also available on the WORDsearch 8 Preaching Library DVD-ROM from WORDsearch Corp., Austin, TX]

2Available from: Accessed: 01/25/08

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor
First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort
30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice
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