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David's Commentaries

Luke 13:3, 5 ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.’

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This Week’s Focus Passage: Luke 13:3, 5

‘Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.’

    

    Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they have suffered these things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, think ye that they were offenders above all the men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all in likewise perish.—Luke 13:1-5.

This call to repentance begins at the beginning; ‘immediately’ from the lips of John the Baptizer. And then, conspicuously, this message is carried on by Jesus when He Himself begins His ministry. Therefore, from the beginning to the end of His ministry, repentance resounds to all. From the beginning of the Newer Testament, we find John Baptist calling men to repent [Matthew 3:2]; And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We find early in Mark’s gospel, Mark relating the message that Christ began declaring after the incarceration of John Baptist, [Mark 1:14-15], was the same call to repentance that John had uttered; Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. From the beginning of Jesus’ recorded ministry, to the near conclusion in the gospel of Luke, the command is continued in His closing words to His disciples just before He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. In Luke 24:44-48, we read:

And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things.  

We have just cited passages from the Word of God that inform us that the gospel that John the Baptist proclaimed; more importantly, the gospel that Jesus Himself declared, was ‘repent and believe.’ Indeed, in our focus passage, He has stated it as clearly; as unequivocally, as it could ever be stated, Except ye repent, ye shall perish. Yes, we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; but we must repent and believe, as Peter indicated in his response to that multitude of questioners as they reacted to his ‘Pentecost’ sermon, answering their query, What must we do? He told them plainly, and directly, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.’ Peter is not affirming that baptism is essential unto salvation; the Scriptures do not teach that—remember the thief on the cross. He uses, we believe, the term of baptism to bespeak the matter of belief, or faith, in Christ. It is a synecdoche, or metonymy; a word being used as a part for the whole. Baptism is a result of expressed faith in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior and Lord. And the connection between ‘believe and be baptized’ has been helpfully summarized by one contemporary writer:

“Repentance, baptism, and faith are theologically related. When the believer who repents is baptized he makes a commitment of faith. He accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and knows that through Christ’s blood his sins are forgiven.”—Simon Kistemaker. 

Therefore also, we may read of the grand response to Peter’s answer to their inquiry. These whose hearts had been pricked, we are told, subsequently;

They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.—Acts 2:41.

Yea, baptism is but one token of obedience to Christ; further obedience is well seen in the verses which follow that of their baptism, in verse 42, where we are informed:

And they continued stedfastly in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. While baptism is an expression of obedience, it is not an essential to our salvation. Repentance, however, is essential to salvation. This is that which our Savior is teaching here in this week’s focus passage; Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. We may truthfully assert on the basis of that sovereign statement of our Lord Jesus Christ, even as the writer/preacher of the book to the Hebrews emphatically declared in 9:22 of that precious volume, Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission, so may we declare that ‘apart from repentance there is no salvation.’ “Except ye repent, ye shall perish,” eternally. But the blessed offset to that truth, not surprisingly, is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Yes, repentance is commanded of those coming to God for salvation. And, yes, faith is required; we must believe on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior if we would be saved. But our sovereign, loving God has provided both faith and repentance to His children. Even as Paul taught the Ephesians, and ourselves, in Ephesians 2:8-9; for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory, so it is pointed out to us in Acts 5:31; where Luke has recorded the response of Peter and the apostles to the charge of the high priest, The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew , hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. Repentance is, even as is faith, a gift from God through Jesus Christ; gifts of the very grace of God.

Why, we may well ask, are there then so many churches that claim to be Christian churches; that claim to be the church of Jesus Christ, yet never preach the absolute requirement of repentance? Do we refer to it as an absolute requirement because we are ‘reformed’? Do we insist upon it as essential because the Puritans preached it regularly? Do we maintain its great need because Charles Haddon Spurgeon insisted upon it? No, never, not for any of these supposed or pretended reasons, but because Jesus Christ Himself taught that, Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. And because His faithful servant, Paul, preached this truth. We find him doing so as he himself reports to the elders from Ephesus, in Acts 20:21;

Paul’s gospel preaching was testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. These two things are absolutely essential unto salvation. Both faith and repentance are necessary. Again, this is the preaching of Jesus from the beginning, as we previously stated from Mark 1:15, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. Repent and believe! And, again, was this not the response of Peter at Pentecost when the multitude responded to his preaching of Jesus Christ as he had declared these words to them; Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. How can we not teach and preach both repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ? May God help us to be found faithful in doing so. 

 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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