The Gift of Repentance

2 Tim 2:24-26
24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The reference to God giving repentance in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 seems to suggest that man does not have the ability to repent by himself. That God gives this ability to unregenerate man so that he can apply it to salvation. This would be analogous to a blind man given the ability to see.

It is not realistic to suggest that man does not have the ability to repent apart from God. The lost demonstrate repentance regularly. Pharaoh repented a number of times during the plagues upon Egypt. This is not to propose that he became saved. Only in a narrow application of the word repent does it refer to salvation. The word itself is merely a reference to a changing of the mind (such as when God repents). Man has the capacity to repent.

It seems that a different kind of repentance is offered by God in 2 Tim 2:25. Refining our understanding of repentance might lead us to say that God gives the ability to repent unto righteousness or salvation. The only way we can do this is to read into the passage something that is not there. This would require finding the principle elsewhere in Scripture.

We don’t have to go very far to discover that giving the ability to repent unto righteousness is not what is intended at all by the phrase give them repentance. There are two other passages where this is used as a figure of speech to indicate that God gives the opportunity, or room for repentance.

Acts 11:17-18
17Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Acts 5:29-31
29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

In Acts 11, granted is translated from the same word as given in 2 Timothy and Acts 5. Repentance was not merely given to some Gentiles. It was given to a whole class. Since not all Gentiles are saved, the only thing one may conclude is that, as the context shows, the opportunity for repentance was available to the Gentiles. Peter and the other Jewish members of the church became apprised of the fact that the Gentiles were able to be saved apart from any legalistic consideration.

In Acts 5, we have the same situation, only here with respect to the Jews. Not all Israel was saved as a result of being given repentance as a class. They, of course, had other times for repentance in their history. They were, as a class, being given another opportunity for repentance.

The phrase to give repentance is to be understood as a figure of speech. It is not that some new ability to repent is given, but that a new opportunity is given.

There is one more consideration to give to this passage. The scope of the intended recipients includes both lost and saved – it is given to all men. If only the saved are meant by all, then God would have to be giving repentance over and over again. If it truly includes all, then the same problem still exists. Man has the ability to repent, God gives room for repentance.

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