Confessing Our Faith In the Culture – Chapter 15

Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation

Guilt is the inability to forgive oneself for a perceived wrongdoing. Perceived wrongdoing means that you believe you have done something wrong. The wrongdoing may or may not have had negative consequences for yourself and/or others. If others were involved, they may or may not still be angry or hurt by the wrongdoing. A perceived wrongdoing may be an action, a thought or a feeling. If the wrongdoing was an action, you probably think of it as a mistake. You feel guilty for the wrongdoing because you cannot forgive yourself for it. You cannot let it go. If you cannot forgive yourself, you will not overcome the guilt.

Cathleen Henning Fenton,


An emotional state produced by thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self and could have done otherwise.

Guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when the child realizes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. Typically, among American children, the violations include hurting another person, disobedience, or seizing of someone else’s property. A guilty conscience results from thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self. Guilt feelings may also inhibit us from falling short of our ideal again in the future. Individual guilt is an inner reflection on personal wrongdoing, while collective guilt is a shared state resulting from group—such as corporate, national, or community—wrongdoing.

Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence,

1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : SELF-REPROACH
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary,

1. Criminality; that state of a moral agent which results from his actual commission of a crime or offense, knowing it to be a crime, or violation of law. To constitute guilt there must be a moral agent enjoying freedom of will, and capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and a wilful or intentional violation of a known law, or rule of duty. The guilt of a person exists, as soon as the crime is committed; but to evince it to others, it must be proved by confession, or conviction in due course of law. Guilt renders a person a debtor to the law, as it binds him to pay a penalty in money or suffering. Guilt therefore implies both criminality and liableness to punishment. Guilt may proceed either from a positive act or breach of law, or from voluntary neglect of known duty.

2. Criminality in a political or civil view; exposure to forfeiture or other penalty.

3. Crime; offense.

Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English

A. What is repentance?

As the root implies in µ???????, metanoeo-, and µ???????, metanoia, (the most common words for repentance in the New Testament), it entails a radical and conscious change of view (the intellect), change of feeling (the emotions), and change of purpose (the volition) with respect to God, ourselves, sin, and righteousness. We acknowledge that we are sinners and that our sin entails personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness before God; we sorrow with a “godly sorrow” for the sins we have committed against the holy and just God; and we resolve to seek pardon and cleansing from God through the blood of Christ which alone satisfies the offended justice of God. So in turning from our sins in repentance we turn to Christ in faith for salvation. Robert Reymond, New Systematic Theology

1. change of view – intellect

An intellectual element. There is a change of view, a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness. It is designated in Scripture as epignosis hamartias (knowledge of sin), Rom. 3:20, cf. 1:32. If this is not accompanied by the following elements, it may manifest itself as fear of punishment, while there is as yet no hatred of sin. Berkhof, Systematic Theology

An intellectual and spiritual perception of the opposition between holiness in God and sin in man. It does not look at sin as the cause of punishment but abhors it because it is vile in the sight of God and involves in heinous guilt all who are sinners. J. P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology

2. change of feeling – emotions

An emotional element. There is a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy and just God, Ps. 51:2,10,14. This element of repentance is indicated by the word metamelomai. If it is accompanied by the following element, it is a lupe kata theou (godly sorrow), but if it is not so accompanied, it is a lupe tou kosmou (sorrow of the world), manifesting itself in remorse and despair, II Cor. 7:9,10; Matt. 27:3; Luke 18:23. Berkhof

It consequently includes sorrow and self-loathing, and earnest desire to escape the evil of sin. The penitent soul does not so much feel the greatness of its danger as the greatness of its sinfulness. Boyce

3. change of purpose – volition

A volitional element. There is also a volitional element, consisting in a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing, Ps. 51:5,7,10; Jer. 25:5. This includes the two other elements, and is therefore the most important aspect of repentance. It is indicated in Scripture by the word metanoia, Acts 2:38; Rom. 2:4. Berkhof

It also includes an earnest turning to God for help and deliverance from sin, seeking pardon for guilt and aid to escape its presence. Boyce

4. Example

“Thus far I was answered, that before we arrived in Ireland, I had a satisfactory evidence in my own mind of the truth of the Gospel, as considered in itself, and of its exact suitableness to answer all my needs…. I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament. Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing: I was no longer an infidel: I heartily renounced my former profaneness, and had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers. I was sorry for my past misspent life, and purposed an immediate reformation. I was quite freed from the habit of swearing, which seemed to have been as deeply rooted in me as a second nature. Thus, to all appearance, I was a new man.” Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton

B. Why is it a grace? mercy?

1. We are genuine rebels over our heads in debt.

We owe God a debt we can never satisfy. He is in no way obligated to do what is necessary to overcome our rebellion.

2. We deserve just punishment.

Rather than mete out the punishment owing to us, God withholds it from us in lieu of Christ’s atonement. This is true both before and after conversion. By giving us repentance God “restrains” us from piling up the debt of sin we naturally would if left to ourselves.

C. How can repentance help the world?

1. Nominal Christians

Walk should match talk. If the new life is genuine, there should be genuine evidence.

Faith in Christ brings about lasting change while faith in a prayer or decision does not.

The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance. …It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith.

Too frequently in evangelical circles and particularly in popular evangelism the momentousness of the change which faith signalizes is not understood or appreciated. There are two fallacies. The one is to put faith out of the context which alone gives it significance and the other is to think of faith in terms simply of decision and rather cheap decision at that. …The emphasis upon repentance and upon the deep-seated change of thought and feeling which it involves is precisely what is necessary to correct this impoverished and soul-destroying conception of faith.
John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

2. Non-Christians

Guilt is real as are guilt feelings. We can play the game and get rid of guilt feelings. There’s only one way to be rid of real guilt – someone legitimately able and authorized to do so must assume it in the place of the guilty individual. The one who is able to do that and also pays the just penalty for his assumed guilt is likewise able to offer genuine forgiveness.

We can assure the individual if he is truly repentant, he can be certain of removal of guilt and receipt of forgiveness.

Numbers 5:6-7 “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

Ezra 10:10-11 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”

Psalm 32:3-5 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Acts 19:18-19 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


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