By Pastor Albert Tiangco
Perhaps the greatest need of the hour among believers is genuine repentance. The symptoms abound, the need is undeniable. Inquiring about the general life status of an unfaithful believer yields the answer, “Ok lang po ako.” A child of God who evades worship, refuse service, and embrace the world cannot be “ok lang.”
More than ever, believers must heed the words of James, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” Indeed, many believers who are “comforted” need to be troubled.
Lack of true repentance among Christians can be traced back to their lack of high view of God. Man will not see the need for genuine repentance unless they come face to face with the full magnitude of God’s awesome majesty and glory. There is no repentance of sin because there is no respect of God.
In Acts 19, the Ephesian believers show that whenever God’s people come to an exalted view of God, true repentance inevitably follows. Luke records that these Christians “confessed and shewed their deeds” and that “many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men” (vv.18-19).
Seeing the greatness of God moved the believers at Ephesus to repentance. Several related reasons contribute to their high view of God. First, these believers were saturated with God’s Word. Paul spent two years with these disciples, teaching them God’s Word (vv.9-10). The more Christians know God’s Word, the more they see God’s greatness and His worthiness to be feared. Therefore, constant exposure to the Scriptures is critical to the believer’s growth in the fear of God. Those who fail to repent as they should do not view God accurately because they are not in God’s Word as they ought to. A high view of God comes from being exposed in the Word.
The second reason for the Ephesians’ high view of God is that they have seen God’s great works. These people witnessed God’s awesome power in two instances. First, they have seen God performed extraordinary miracles through Paul; pieces of cloth that touched Paul’s body became instruments of healing from diseases and deliverance from demons (vv.11-12).
Second, they have witnessed the power of the Lord Jesus through an incident with demon possession. Unbelieving Jews invoked the name of Jesus in attempting to cast out evil spirits (v.13). These unbelievers were identified by Luke as “itinerant exorcists,” referring to their apparent success in casting out demons. Satan, the master deceiver, employs his own to cast out demons in order to further delude people away from the truth.
But to the surprise of the Jewish exorcists, the result was different this time. Instead of leaving its host, the evil spirit spoke to them. Perhaps with a deep and terrible voice the demon acknowledged the name of Jesus and Paul His servant and asked the pretenders, “Who are you?” (v.15). This incident ended violently, as the demon possessed man attacked and overcame the pseudo exorcists, exposing them to shame. Luke records the immediate results—“fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (17).
Witnessing God’s great works promotes a high view of God. One may argue that lack of miracles in the present church prevents believers from having an exalted view of the Lord. The answer is that we have an entire book, the Scriptures, that without error narrates to us the awesome deeds of God. Hence, for present day believers, being saturated with the Word and witnessing God’s great works are inseparably linked; believers are primarily reminded of the great works of the Lord by constantly gazing upon the Scriptures. Again, lack of God’s Word in one’s life results into improper appreciation of God, which then results into the absence of genuine repentance.
Acts 19 also show two qualities of genuine repentance. Genuine repentance, first of all, does not focus on people’s reaction. Amidst the grossly pagan surrounding, the Ephesian believers renounce their sinful practices “before all men” (v.19). Often, the fear of man prevents believers from repenting from their sins. But if God is regarded as supreme, fear of Him overcomes fear of man.
Another characteristic of genuine repentance is that it does not focus on the cost of repentance. Often, genuine repentance has a price. The believers at Ephesus surrendered their wicked books, which cost 50,000 pieces of silver (v.19). If “silver” refers to a day wage called drachma, the present value of the books amounts to at least 20 million pesos. Genuine repentance for some believers means breaking off a romantic relationship with an unbeliever. For others, it may mean experiencing shame as a consequence of sin. Whatever the price of repentance maybe, a person who has a high view of God is convinced that there is no price too high to pay.
Believers who do not respect God will never be able to demonstrate genuine repentance. If we want repentance, we need pure theology that does not only pass through our minds, but that also dwells in our hearts. As believers, we must seek to know our God and behold His glory in the Scriptures, so that like Isaiah, who has seen the glory of God, we may say, “Woe is me! For I am undone!”
Reading, learning, growing. God calls us to be changed through His Word. At BJMBC, our goal is to speak truthfully and clearly about that Word, while we prepare a future generation of students to proclaim it.