Extracts from a Sermon by Mr. S. Delves on Luke 24. 47.
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”
Here we have the sum and substance of the fundamental principles of the gospel and of salvation, and not so simple but that they need to be continually expounded, even “repentance and remission of sins.” This is that which is to be preached in the name of the Lord Jesus. The preaching of it began at Jerusalem, and then it gradually spread as the apostles were directed by the Holy Spirit in their missionary journeys, and it has continued to spread and will do, until before the end of the world this gospel shall be preached unto all nations.
“Repentance and remission of sins,” is to be preached; it is one of the most vital and essential things to be preached. But what is preaching? And in what way is repentance and remission of sins to be preached? Preaching means to expound, to proclaim and to set forth. The expression “preaching” means “heralding.” The idea is of the herald proclaiming in another’s name what he is commanded to publish. I do not regard preaching as being in the nature of submitting things to people, or offering things to them, but proclaiming with an authority that is of the Lord those things that He will have to be spoken. To preach means to expound, to explain things, to bring out their true nature and their meaning and their import – not merely to state things but to make them clear as to their nature. Preaching, then, is proclaiming and expounding.
There is another feature that characterises preaching and that is to enforce, in a right way, what is spoken upon the hearts and consciences of men. It rests entirely with the Holy Spirit to make the Word effectual, but preachers are not to say, “Now that is the scripture, that is what it means, now take it or leave it.” That is not preaching, that is not the way to speak to souls that are bound for eternity, an eternity of heaven or hell. The apostles did not preach in that detached way; they spoke with an energy and ardency of spirit. Their desire was to be the means of saving souls. To preach is to proclaim, to expound, and to endeavour to bring the truth of the word to bear upon the hearts and consciences of those who hear it. We can do no more. We cannot with any power of our own make the word to enter into the heart. If people will harden their hearts and close their ears against the solemn things we preach and expound, and endeavour with all the faithfulness and affection that we have to impress upon their minds, if still they turn away their ears from the truth, their blood is upon their own head.
Repentance is to be preached, and all down the ages, the word of God to men has been that they should repent and turn to Him. Ever since man by sin turned away from God, God has sent His word to man to call him to repentance. In varied ways God has spoken, but always to the same point and the same purpose – to call men to repentance; and notwithstanding that there have been so few who have responded to that call, and so many who have disregarded it,
still God calls men to repentance by His Word. Whatever may be the secret purpose in the heart of God with regard to individuals, yet He calls all men to repentance. Trace it through the scriptures. If you go back no farther than to the days of Noah – Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and he was a preacher of righteousness in an exceedingly loose and licentious generation. They were wanton, they were wicked, they cared for nothing but to eat and drink and to revel in the things that gratified the lusts of the flesh and of the mind. But Noah was a preacher of righteousness. What did he preach? What could he have preached but repentance towards God and to call men to turn from their wicked and sinful ways while there was time, before the Flood came and took them all away. And if you go on to the Book of Proverbs, you will hear a word like this: “Unto you O men I call, and my word is to the sons of men. O ye simple, how long will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in your scorning and hate knowledge? turn ye at my reproof. Behold I will put my Spirit upon you and I will give my words unto you.” What is that but the word of God calling men to repentance? Then, pass on to Isaiah’s beautiful words: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteousness man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” What is that but the word of God calling men to repentance? Pass on to Hosea’s tender, exceptionally tender prophecy, and you find a word like this: “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou art fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously.” What is that but the word of God calling men to repentance?
During all that period God sent His word to the nation of the Jews, and the Gentile nations were for the most part left to their ignorance and their idolatry.
But with the coming of the gospel that was not to be so any longer; repentance and remission of sins was to be preached now among all nations – no nation excepted – for God would command all men everywhere to repentance – all men everywhere, because He has appointed a day when He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He has given unto all men assurance in that He hath raised Him from the dead.
What then is it to preach repentance? Well, to begin with to preach repentance means to preach the necessity of repentance, for it is absolutely essential. I know that in the experience and exercise of it, it has gone much more deeply with some than with others. I know that some have been brought to repentance very early in life, and when it has been so, so very much the better for them. I know that some have been brought to repentance very late in life. It has been with the calling of men to repentance effectively like it was in the parable of the labourers, some were called in the early hour of the morning, some in the late hour of the afternoon, some at the eleventh hour of life’s day, but they are called effectively to repentance. Whether early or late in life, whether in deeper or lesser degree of feeling, there has never, never been a soul reach heaven without first
repenting – never. It is essential, it is so essential that it would be a very solemn thing for any minister not to preach the essential nature of repentance. He would mislead his hearers, grossly mislead them and deceive them if he did not put it to them plainly and clearly that ‘except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” All – without exception. Repentance is essential and that which is essential should be the very thing chiefly to engage our hearts and minds.
Are you sure there has been repentance in your life? Can you trace anything of this operation of grace? Have you been brought to turn unto the Lord? Because no matter how many ministers might encourage you to believe all is well, all is not wel, except you repent. The thief on the cross is an outstanding example of repentance at the last hour or two of life – but it was real repentance.
Repentance is essential when you consider the state of every man in his fallen condition. It is apparent that he is alienated from God, that he has no love to God or godliness, that he has no desire to serve God and enjoy Him. It is apparent that his mind is entirely set on his own ways and to gratify his own desires, however sinful and gross they may be; he takes not God into his account. . . . Now for such persons to be reconciled to God and be at peace with Him and for ever to enjoy Him. it is as clear as day that there must be a great change in the spirit of their minds with regard to God and godliness. And what is that change but repentance? To preach repentance is to preach the necessity of it. I wonder if this is preached? I wonder how much in this district today repentance is being preached and congregations are being faithfully and clearly and solemnly warned that except they repent there is nothing at all but for them to perish, and that there is no substitute for repentance, no substitute whatever? There are works meet for repentance but not as substitutes for repentance, they are the effects of repentance, and they must come from repentance.
Again, if repentance is to be preached in the Lord’s name, the nature of it must be preached; for to what purpose is it to say in a loose way “You must repent” and leave it at that? Why, to preach repentance is to show what it is to repent. The term, of course, is fairly well known by those who take pains to understand the meaning of scriptural terms; it is a change in the mind. But then it must be understood that it is a change in the mind of a very special nature and character; it is not just that the mind is changed in its outlook, but it is changed in its character. It is not that the mind turns to God, but it turns to God in a gracious and in a special way, a humble, penitent, contrite way. That is repentance – it is not just a change in the mood and in the spirit. “And a certain man said to his son. Son go and work today in my vineyard. And he said, I will not, but afterwards he repented and went.” You see, there is a change of his mind; his rebellious spirit was broken and softened down. That is often how repentance shows itself in the mind and in the spirit. For the most part, I believe – not necessarily in every case – but for the most part there is a period in life when there is a strong disposition to break away from the ways of God and from His truth and from His worship, and everything pertaining to godliness-there is a tendency to break away from it. There was with me – a very strong tendency – and if it
had not been counteracted by the grace of God I should have broken away from it. “Go ye out today in my vineyard, and he said, I will not:
I will not.” But afterwards there came a change to him. The word “repentance” also means an afterthought. He thought. Well, this is not a right attitude for me to take to my father, to be rebellious like this, to hurt his feelings, and to break his heart, and reject his word;
he is my father. What a wretched thing it is for me as his son to say to him ‘I will not go’.” His spirit began to change towards his father: he relented, he felt differently about it, and it was not only that he went but that he repented and went. He went back penitently, he was sorry that he had ever acted and spoken like that and showed such a spirit to his father.
Repentance often works in the heart like that. The first disposition is to throw off restraint, to meet the word and the way of God with an “I will not”, but afterwards where repentance is granted – and effectually – there is a relenting, a change in the mind towards God and godliness, and a turning of the heart God-ward. For repentance, in the nature of it, is not only a change of heart and spirit toward God, but it is a change in the nature and character of the spirit itself. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” A right spirit is a penitent spirit; it becomes those who have sinned against God in many ways, and although there is so much in themselves that is grieving in His sight – they have broken His word and His laws-it becomes them if they repent to repent with sorrow of heart. And the same Holy Spirit that works the repentance imparts the sorrow to repenting hearts.
That is the repentance that I preach, and I believe the Lord will have to be preached; a repentance that is of a spiritual and gracious and a heart-affecting and life-affecting character. “Repentance and remission of sins.”
To preach repentance is not only to preach its absolute necessity and its gracious character, but also to preach its blessedness. Some might say, “I never thought of repentance in the sense of the blessedness of it. I thought of forgiveness as being a blessing and pardon and the like, but I never thought of repentance in a sense of the blessedness of it.” Well, believe me there is a real blessing in repentance. Let me put the one against the other. There is a curse in sinning; and there is a blessing in repentance. Those who know what repentance is in the experience of it agree that it is a blessing. It is certainly a repentance that is never repented of. And where does the blessing come from? It comes from Jesus Christ. He is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins unto His people; it comes down from heaven. Whatever comes down from heaven, brethren, whatever comes from Jesus Christ is a blessing. Nothing ever came from Jesus Christ really, but it was a blessing, and nothing ever came from Jesus Christ to me but it was a blessing. Everything that comes from Jesus Christ is a blessing, and therefore if He is exalted to give repentance, and if repentance comes from Him, it is a blessing indeed. Amen. _______