The Gifts of Forgiveness and Repentance
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1–2
suggested further reading: John 8:1–11
The gospel message consists of two parts: forgiveness of sins and repentance. Matthew relates the first of these to the kingdom of heaven. We may thus conclude that people are in a state of deadly enmity with God. They are altogether shut out from the heavenly kingdom until God receives them into favor.
Though John, when he introduces the grace of God, urges men to repentance, yet we should remember that repentance is just as much the gift of God as inheriting the heavenly kingdom. As God freely pardons our sins and delivers us by his mercy from the condemnation of eternal death, so he also conforms us to his image so that we may live unto righteousness.
As God freely adopts us as his children, so he regenerates us by his Spirit in order that our life may testify that we do not falsely address him as our Father. In like manner, Christ washes away our sins by his blood and reconciles our heavenly Father to us by the sacrifice of his death. As a consequence of “our old man being crucified with him and the body of sin destroyed” (Rom. 6:6), he makes us “alive” unto righteousness.
The sum of the gospel here is that God through his Son takes away our sins and admits us to fellowship with him, so that we, in denying ourselves and our own nature, may “live soberly, righteously, and godly.” We may thus conduct ourselves rightly on earth while meditating on the heavenly life.
for meditation: Inheriting the kingdom of God is a great gift that involves both forgiveness and repentance, as Calvin says. These two are to be distinguished but never separated. Examine yourself today: are you both forgiven and penitent? If so, thank God today for these priceless gifts that lead to eternal life. If not, flee to Christ immediately.