Q.  What is repentance unto life?

A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, #87.

Two observations:

One, the motive for repentance is not only sorrow for sin but also a sense of the mercy of God in Christ.  We have zero motivation to repent, unless we see the mercy of God awaiting us.  Not the slap of God, but the embrace of God.  Repentance is not just turning from sin, not even that primarily.  Repentance is primarily turning to God, moment by moment, because he has promised his mercy to the penitent.

Two, the outcome of repentance is not a restored status quo, getting back to “normal,” getting back to where we were before we sinned, evading the consequences of sin.  The outcome of true repentance is new obedience, unprecedented obedience, perhaps unheard-of obedience.  Newness of life.

True repentance is hope-inspired and newness-creating.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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