In these articles, we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Recently, we’ve been looking at the mediation Christ makes for his church and what that mediation entails. We saw that part of Christ’s mediation is the justification and adoption of God’s people. We’ve also learnt that Christ’s mediation brings sanctification, which is an act of God’s grace by the Holy Spirit to make us holy through the application of Christ’s death and resurrection.
But is there anything else that the Spirit does to make us holy? Another act of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work is to give repentance to God’s people.
Repentance is essential to salvation. When Jesus preached the gospel on earth, Mark recorded the following: ‘The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”’ (Mark 1:15). Repentance and faith always go together.
But how do you repent and believe? It is only by the Spirit sanctifying the Christian’s heart and granting him repentance.
In Acts, we learn that the apostle Peter preached to some Gentiles and many of them became Christians. When Peter is questioned about this by other Jews, Peter says: ‘”As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” (Acts 11:15-17).
Luke also records the response of the other Jewish Christians to this news, ‘When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life”’ (Acts 11:18).
The last sentence clearly states that repentance is granted by God. It is a gift. And such repentance is accompanied by the Holy Spirit, as indicated by the earlier verses.
Similarly, when Peter is hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin to account for his preaching about Christ, Peter affirms that Jesus gives repentance to his people. Peter says: ‘The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead– whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”’ (Acts 5:30-32).
Once again we see that it is God who brings repentance to his people and the Holy Spirit is involved in that work.
Sadly, the Sanhedrin doesn’t react well to the teaching. We read: ‘When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death’ (Acts 5:33).
How are you going to react to God’s teaching on repentance? If you have never done so, ask God for his Holy Spirit, that he would sanctify you and grant you repentance. Then you can be forgiven of your sins and enjoy God’s salvation.