To Repent Or Not To Repent - Part IV
Here is part four of the series To Repent Or Not to Repent - Part IV.
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By TJ Pennock
Sinners do not suddenly one day decide to repent, to turn from unbelief to belief, from rebellion to redemption. No Scripture anywhere says unbelievers can muster up their own repentance. It's not something they can well up within themselves. It's not self generated. In fact, the Bible draws a rather bleak picture of unsaved sinners. They are dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), unrighteous (Ro. 3:10), unconcerned (Ro. 3:11), natural (1 Cor. 2:14), darkened (Ro. 1:21), reprobate (Ro. 1:28), foolish (Titus 3:3), disobedient (Titus 3:3), deceived (Titus 3:3), and unregenerate (John 3:3,5). The description goes on (Mk. 7:21-23; Ro. 1:29-31; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Titus 3:3), but the point is clear.
Though there are numerous incentives to repentance (Acts 17:29-31; Ro. 2:4), the ultimate cause is the Holy Spirit. Apart from His conviction ministry (John 16:7-11), a work that reaches the inner sanctum of sinners, there can be no repentance. He and He alone convinces men of sin, opens their eyes, and enables them to repent. Only He can empower spiritually dead sinners to receive Christ. To be sure, Jesus is the Light of the world; and it's the Spirit's ministry to enable the lost to see that Light (Acts 26:18; cf., 2 Cor. 4:4).
Here are several passages describing the Spirit's conviction ministry in sinners. The first is the chief text. We also give two "draw" passages, believing they, too, speak of this peculiar work of conviction. (John 16:7-11; John 6:44,45; John 12:32)
Let's be clear about the Spirit's conviction (John 16:7-11), for it's the taproot of genuine repentance, and the salvation of all sinners rests with it (John 6:44,45). When we speak of conviction, we are talking about the Spirit's influence in the hearts of unbelievers that enables them--apart from regeneration--to see, feel, and understand their need of Christ.
Conviction is not regeneration, as some would hold. Nor is it always efficacious, as some would wish (Gen. 4:6,7; Mt. 22:3; 23:37; John 5:38-40; Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 6:1; Gal. 2:21; Heb. 4:6; 10:29; 12:15). Rather, conviction is just that, conviction--the work of the Spirit in the hearts of dead sinners (Eph. 2:1) that convinces them of their unbelief and need of Christ and enbles them to embrace the gospel. That's conviction. And apart from it, "No man can come to [Christ]" (John 6:44).