God Grants Repentance that Leads to Life
News reached Judea that the Gentiles “had received the word of God.” You would think that this would be cause for rejoicing, and I’m sure it was, except for one group of men called, “the circumcision party.” We assume that these were Jewish Christians of a Pharisaic background. It seems from other texts that they taught that “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (15:1). Luke refers to these as constituting a “party” within the Church. It is most unfortunate that parties should exist in the Church of Jesus Christ, but they often do and usually to her detriment. Our Lord, who is the head of his Church, demands our unity and calls us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). Granted, heresies arise and when they do the saints must contend for the faith (Jude 3). But a party spirit destroys unity.
So Peter rehearses the events that happened, from his vision in Joppa to his preaching in Cornelius’ house where the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentile listeners. Of course, he related his own vision of the sheet let down from heaven filled with “unclean” animals, and God’s rebuke to Peter, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Peter adds that the Holy Spirit commanded him to accompany the men from Caesarea, “making no distinction.” And when the Holy Spirit was given to these Gentiles in the same way that he was given to the Jews, Peter exclaimed, “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” And when they heard this they fell silent, glorifying God and saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Did you hear that: God grants repentance that leads to life. Faith, repentance, the Holy Spirit—all of these are given by God as gifts that we may be saved; we do not give them to ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith and this is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Repentance has a double aspect: 1) when we are saved and receive from God that initial turning away from the world and to Him in hatred of sin and love of righteousness; and, 2) that daily discipline in which we repent anew every day, dying to self and living unto Him (Colossians 3:5-17). But ultimately, all is of God. And it is because God grants these gifts that 18th century hymnist, Augustus Toplady, could pen these words: “Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s commands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save and Thou alone.” Praise God that He has granted repentance that leads to life unto you.