Repentance into Forgiveness
Luke 24:44-53 (ESV) [Jesus said to the apostles], “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
The ultimate disaster would be to die without your sins being forgiven, which would lead to eternal damnation in hell. Thanks be to God that Christ Jesus suffers the punishment that our sins deserve, so that now repentance “for the forgiveness of sins” is “proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Lk 24:46–47).
In fact, “for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 24:47) could be translated “into the forgiveness of sins”; that is, forgiveness of sins is already an accomplished fact that we repent into.
How is it possible that God’s forgiveness of our sins has happened even before we have repented? Consider the following passages:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–21)
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:23–25)
It is a great mystery, but also the greatest joy for the Christian: we are forgiven of our sins and justified even before we have repented. Of course, this does not mean that we receive the benefits and comfort of this forgiveness and justification without repentance, since repentance always includes faith, and God put forward Jesus “as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom 3:25). A propitiation is something that turns away the wrath of another, in this case “the Man” Jesus Christ, who by His holy, precious blood and innocent sufferings and death has turned away God’s wrath against the whole world.
For our sake, God made Christ “to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), which means that the sinless One suffered in our place to win “the righteousness of God” for us. While “all have sinned,” at the same time “all are justified by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23–24). Since God’ has reconciled “the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” we now have “the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19) to receive and enjoy by faith—and to proclaim as the gracious promise of God that all sinners can repent into.
Prayer: Most merciful God, You desire everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Grant that by the preaching of Your Gospel we may be given the wisdom that leads to salvation. By the working of Your Holy Spirit keep us attentive to all the teachings of Your Word. Enlighten our minds, control our wills, and purify our affections. Let Your Word be a light for our path that neither the pleasures nor the honors nor the pains of this life may turn away our thoughts from the fullness of life that is found only in You. Enable us in sincerity of heart to follow You, the only true God. By Your holy Word enlighten all who are in error, doubt, or temptation with the sure and certain knowledge of Your truth that all who live in sin may be led to repentance. Show mercy and grace to all those suffering any distress, to those who are sick or hospitalized, and to those facing death. Let them know the sure comfort of Your holy Word. We commit ourselves and all for whom we pray to Your fatherly care and benediction. Be gracious to us and defend us by Your power. Direct us by Your Spirit that we may daily grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior until we shall stand before You in the joy of everlasting glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.