Our only fair response is to repent and believe
Danny Giffen, Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Question 88 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?” The answer is two things: the dying away of the old things and the coming to life of the new. God was purifying the Israelites (His people), moving them from sorrow and remorse to joy and delight. A fruit of true repentance is an entirely new self that reorients our attitude, emotions, and confidence. Yet as we see throughout scripture, God still intervenes in the absence of our movement towards Him.
Robert Capon further states, “He forgave you before you repented. That’s crucial. See, that is why it is so outrageous. The gospel is really vulgar, crass, and immoral because it says God forgives the world before it repents. In the gospel, repent is always repent AND believe. It means turn yourself around from not trusting the forgiveness, and trust it. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that you earn it by repenting. You had it before.”
These themes of repent and believe are a single thread in each book of the Bible. The prophet Isaiah is challenging his people that the Lord of Lords desires to restore them through repentance. They have acted as a harlot and yet question God’s goodness as they despair. Their desire is for a righteous judge to free them from their enemies. God promises to bring them one that not only is good and fair but also is Himself righteousness incarnate. And God has planned this rescue before the earth was created. Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth gospel outside of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because it lays forth the hope of the Messiah, the Christ. The “rebels will be broken and the strong made weak.” As we see Jesus more clearly, our only fair response is to repent and believe. He removes our hope from ourselves and places it upon the One who wrestled sin and death and won.