Friday, May 27, 2011

Ezekiel 33 and Simple Repentance

In the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XV, Section 2, we find this profound statement regarding repentance: "By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments." We find almost identical wording in Question 76 of the Larger Catechism.

I love these expressions, and I am grateful to God for the wise men who summarized the teaching of the Bible on this subject in such succinct but profound words.

However, there is also a precious simplicity and child-like joy in the expressions of Scripture on the same matter. Consider the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:11), "Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Here we see the turning to which the Westminster Standards refer, but notice the appeal in them. Jehovah doesn't simply lay out the nature of repentance, but strenuously urges the elect to avail themselves of it.

And verse 19, "When the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this." This is more of the dictionary-style definition we see in the Standards. As if God lays out for us precisely what repentance is, to ease our finding of it in our hearts.

And here, both in the words of the Standards and the words of God Himself, the nature of what He requires is laid out as simply as possible. Therefore, He adds this promise (verses 14-16), "though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live." Is the very promise of Jehovah Himself enough?

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