The Whole Counsel of God

The Whole Counsel of God

Robert Wurtz II

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). 

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26–27 KJV)

There is hardly a day that goes by without news of Christians being backed into a corner someplace. The forces of hell work feverously to put a stop to the message of the Gospel and few seem to know what the solution is. Something is missing. We are inundated with technology and talent. We are moved by the pithy sayings of smooth talking hipsters and stupefied by endless – meaningless drivel that masquerades as “preaching.” While the world is growing darker by the day and becoming increasingly intolerant of what the NT calls “sound doctrine” — we are being pushed to a precipice in which our only option is going to be to surrender or charge!         

The church of the book of Acts had no trouble knowing what to do or what to preach in these situations. In fact, some of the most straight-forward preaching known to man comes right from the pages of the book of Acts. They met the people where they were in their heart and understanding. Not a single soul heard a seeker-friendly, preacher-safety, message like we hear today, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That message may be safe to preach, but it rarely saves anybody. If it does “save” someone they typically end up being the type of believer that thinks that real preaching is harsh and that calling sin -SIN is judging people. Can you see the kind of mess that’s been made?

When Peter stood up and preached in the book of Acts he told the people like it is. He knew what to say and he had the boldness to say it. It was not his words and it was not his boldness. When he received the Holy Spirit, he went from a man who cowered down to a woman who asked about his relationship to Christ — to a man who could face a firing squad for Jesus. He was a preacher of the Gospel and that Gospel contained the whole counsel of God. This means that he left nothing out. He called sin -SIN and he called the people to repentance and faith.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38–42 NKJV)

Micah the Moreshite prophet preaching to the Israelites

Peter first called the people to change their mind and come into agreement with God about everything He has revealed. This is the part where the crowd gets angry. This is the part where the preacher takes his life into his own hands. Anybody can preach gentle Jesus meek and mild, but people have got to repent. They have got to come into agreement with God or there is no way forward. We may as well pack up and go home if we won’t preach repentance. Some will gladly receive the word and some will angrily reject it. Whether its the proclamation, the teaching, or the good news… (kerygma, didache, or evangelica), the fundamental revelation is to repent, believe the Gospel, and receive the Holy Spirit.

When Paul was leaving Ephesus he reminded the leaders concerning the content of his ministry. He told them plainly, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27 KJV). This is a flashback to Ezekiel when God told the prophet to warn the people or that their blood would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8). Paul had been warned repeatedly that when he arrived at Jerusalem that chains and afflictions awaited him. Yet he still pressed forward and continued to preach to everyone until he was free from their blood upon his hands. He died in Rome under Nero — who obviously was not trying to hear his message.

In the face of demons and danger, Peter and the disciples knew that they needed supernatural power to proclaim the truth in a world that will not put up with it. We can echo with him the words, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). This is what we need today. First, we need to know and preach the full counsel of God. Secondly, we need the BOLDNESS to preach it without fear or favor.  They didn’t pray to preach in love or peace because they already had those fruit of the Spirit in their lives. What happened?     

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31 NKJV)

Self-Inflicted Bitterness

Robert Wurtz II

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

In the ancient world, unlike Romans Citizens, Roman slaves were subject to corporal punishment, torture, or the death penalty without the benefit of due process. This is the context of our passage. In the first portion of the verse, Peter makes a clear distinction between justly suffering from one’s own faults and suffering wrongfully. When a slave did wrong, their owner often responded by beating the slave for their error. However, there were times when slaves (and even people like Paul) were beaten for no good reason. When that happened, Peter informs us that it is as an offering to the Lord when we take the beating patiently.

 

In modern times legalized slavery such as the Romans experienced does not exist in the Western world, but the principle contained in this verse can still be applied. People still respond to bad behavior. God still responds to good behavior. Understand that there are times when we suffer (at the hands of others) as a consequence of our own bad choices or behavior. In those situations, we have no one to blame but ourselves. People are simply reacting to your bad behavior or choices. However, there are times when we are wrongfully accused or are simply mistreated for no good reason. If we accept that treatment with patience, God accepts it as an offering of sorts. 

 

The most challenging part of our passage is making a distinction between the suffering that we deserve and that suffering that we don’t deserve. Sometimes people behave in ways that are completely unacceptable to others. Rather than change their ways, they keep on doing it. These people are known to psychologists as sociopaths. Some are warped enough to pretend that their behavior isn’t bad at all, but (in their mind) the problem is with everyone else. They will blame everyone including Satan himself for what they call “attacks of the enemy.” 

 

It doesn’t matter who the person is (or who they think they are) who is acting out, bad behavior is going to solicit a negative response from the people who are subject to the bad behavior. It is common sense that there is only so much abuse someone can dish out before people start responding against it. The sociopath type, devoid of conscience, never sees the error of his/her ways. They paint themselves as the victim. Again, when they abuse people and the abused respond back, the sociopath types reckon it as persecution (or something similar). Nevertheless, it’s not persecution. It’s not abuse. It’s not mistreatment. What it is — is that people will not go on putting up with bad behavior forever. What happens? The sociopath type either changes or there are consequences. 

 

As Christians, we don’t move in an “eye for an eye” mindset. However, neither are we commanded to subject ourselves to perpetual mistreatment. If we treat people in a way we would not want to be treated –sooner or later there is going to be a backlash. And when the backlash comes, what will the response be? Will the perpetrator(s) get angry and bitter because people no longer tolerate their abusiveness? Will they accuse their victims of rebellion or some other cynical trait? Our passage challenges people who are “suffering at the hands of others” to ask themselves whether or not they deserve the treatment they are receiving. People are patient, but they will not allow bad behavior to go unchecked forever. 

 

The Solution

 

In my fifth grade class, way back in the 70s, we had a misbehaving student who was forever acting out. On one particular day, our teacher had had enough and she put her head down on her desk and started to weep loudly. Upon seeing and hearing her, the bad-mannered student ran frantically up to her desk shouting, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry.” The teacher raised her head and with blood-shot eyes growled out words that are forever etched into my consciousness. “Cody, I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’… I just want you to stop it!” He had no idea until that moment that his bad behavior had him hanging by a thread.

 

 

Some people go through life oblivious to how their bad behavior is affecting people until something tragic happens to open their eyes. For Cody, it was when the teacher broke down and wept. He didn’t blame the Devil. He didn’t blame any of us who looked on. He didn’t get bitter at the teacher. In that moment, he realized that he was the problem. If the problem was going to be resolved, Cody was going to have to change. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? Seeing her tears had the effect of a thousand beatings and detentions. At a young age, he learned that there is a limit to how far people can tolerate bad behavior. So when people “put their head down on the desk” (so to speak) it’s not the time to blame everyone else. While there is still hope… it’s time to stop it… whatever the “it” might be.  

 

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 ESV)   

Half-Way Healed

 

Robert Wurtz II

“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD. 

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:13–16 ESV)

It only takes reading the fact that everyone from the prophet to the priest was greedy for unjust gain to realize why they had only healed the sin of people slightly. They put feel-good bandaids over the festering sores of sin and compromise. It is characteristic of those who are given to monetary gain to cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. When money is the motivating factor among the people it is certain that the preachers (prophets and priests) will simply tell the people what they want to hear. 

As an ardent student of world and Biblical history, it is hard for me to think of a generation that has flouted law like this generation. Flouting God’s law, natural law, and man’s law has been normalized over the last decade. Rebellion is celebrated and rewarded. With conditions such as we live in in the twenty-first century, one would think that the pulpits of these lands would be pouring out a call to repentance in fire — but that is simply not the case. Preachers like A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill lamented their respective generations of the 40s-50s and 60s-80s. Today one of the most popular messages you will hear is on religious spirits. Rather than trembling before God at the wildly outrageous behaviors that are normalized in society and the church, the hip thing to do is to attack the precious few people who are left that are willing to stand for truth. That is how utterly pathetic and disgraceful things have become. 

Indeed, if a man-of-God preaches against sin he is labeled a religious bigot on a rant or a tirade. God, in His holiness, has been villainized as the imps of hell have been glorified. Where is the protest? Where is the outrage? From the pulpits to the pews… where is the voice of reason? Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Is it possible that we have gone long enough that only the elders know that the modern world is in a moral and spiritual freefall? If a person was born into this modern madness they don’t know the difference. What about those who can remember how things used to be?

God has a solution for those who grew up in the modern world, Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” The “ancient paths” for Israel referred to a time when the people were following God’s word — written and prophetic. God was front and center. The fear of the Lord was normalized. And for us, it is easier than ever. The average person in the West can access nearly all human knowledge from their smartphone. They can investigate what the ancient paths have been for the church and our nations. Are they researching? Do they care that this generation is off the rails? 

One of the saddest verses in all the Bible is when Jeremiah wrote, But they said, “We will not walk in it.” They either knew the truth or had access to it and yet they high-handedly rejected it. God commanded them to “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it…” But they refused to do it. He even offered them something they did not have, rest for your souls. These people were searching for rest and had no peace. Their “wound” (sin) was tormenting them. The prophet and priest, enslaved to the god of mammon, left them half-way healed of their sin problem, but God was saying to them directly… don’t listen to the false preachers, take it upon yourself to stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it. 

As professing Christians become more worldly and liberal by the day there is a temptation to throw your hands up and give up. But that is exactly what the enemy wants. He wants the few people left who actually preach righteousness to succumb to the onslaught of attacks from all directions. He wants preachers of righteousness to feel ashamed for preaching it. If he can shame the true prophets and priests into shutting up — he has won the battle! The brazenness of this generation begs for judgment. God told the Israelites through Jeremiah, Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown.” The servants of mammon (prophets, priests, etc.) are going to fall among the fallen. They preached about Jesus and Heaven but will be cast down with the enemy. Why? For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. 

The love of money has silenced many of our pulpits and allowed evil to run rampant in society. Leonard Ravenhill once said that if Jesus came back He would not cleanse the Temple He would cleanse the pulpit. Hordes of the half-way healed are marching towards hell without as much as a peep from these priestly pretenders. May God give us preachers who will work for no pay if necessary and will faithfully deliver THUS SAITH THE LORD. We need the full dose of the Gospel that brings a full healing to our souls.  

Preparing to Receive Christ

Robert Wurtz II

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:4-10 ESV)

After 400 years of prophetic silence, God broke into this present world with the voice of John the Baptist — who was foreordained to preach the message of repentance to the Jews in preparation for the advent of Messiah. At the risk of being labeled a “Preparationist” God neglected the basic premise of Reformed Theology by sending the greatest man who ever lived to preach one of the most important messages mankind had ever heard, “REPENT, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” He then arrested Saul on the road to Damascus and commissioned him to preach the same message. This was not the watered down, inert, twice dead version of repentance as it is preached today, but a fiery call to change the mind (agree with God) and turn from all known sin (repentance). At the risk of being shamed (or even corrected) by modern ministers and theologians, God was not afraid to expect people to bring forth real evidence of their change (fruits worthy of repentance). In fact, so vital is this message that when Paul went before Agrippa he told him that he preached this basic message to everyone no matter who it was ( Acts 26:16-23). This is a Biblical fact in spite of those who assail or resist it. The clear implication of the text is that had he not preached repentance, he would have been disobedient to the heavenly vision.

This was not a new message with John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle being its first preacher. God had been calling the people to repentance for centuries. A cursory reading of the Old Testament will establish this fact. Consider the message of Ezekiel to Israel:

When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:26-32 ESV)

During the diaspora and silent years, the Scribes and Pharisees rose to power. They supplanted the role of the priests whose job was to teach the people God’s word. God’s estimate of them (according to Stephen in Acts 7) was that they always resisted the Holy Spirit. When men take hold of God’s word in a state of resistance of His Spirit they are bound to err greatly. For they will devise many self-serving theologies that accomplish their desires rather than God’s will. It was not just the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus rebuked; it was their willingness to make God’s word of no effect by their traditions (teachings). In other words, they often taught the people the exact opposite of what God’s word said. Albeit, they had plenty of proof texts and commentaries of the ancient sages to buttress their beliefs. Jesus overthrew much of it with plain renderings of Old Testament texts and pure common sense.

For example, the Jews thoroughly believed in Unconditional Election (Predestination). It was the cornerstone of their belief system. They believed God predestined Jews to Himself through natural birth. If one was born a Jew then one was a child of Abraham. If one was a child of Abraham one was automatically, “saved.” No need to repent for the Jews — God had already declared them eternally chosen. In reality, their Divine calling and election was not to salvation; but to a grand purpose. They were elected by God to be a light to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, they erred thinking it was to salvation — so to them, repentance was optional. John the Baptist (and Jesus) slammed this doctrine by telling the people that God was able to make children of Abraham out of rocks. There may have been a play on words here because of the hardness of the people. The message of repentance was designed to soften them up (if you will) and prepare them to receive Christ as both their Savior and Lord. In fact, he told them that the ax is now laid to the root of the trees (not the Tree but trees plural) and that every tree (every individual) who does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Jesus (in flagrant disregard of the fact that the expectation of evidence will someday be deemed anathema) contrasted their works with the works of Abraham (John 8:39-40). He concluded that had they truly been of Abraham they would have done the type of works that Abraham did. In other words, their profession and the evidence did not agree.

The writer to the Hebrews takes up this theme as well:

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation (Hebrews 6:7-9 ESV).

The writer to the Hebrews speaks metaphorically of people being like land and the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Grace) being the rain. This is a picture of God dealing with people to bring about necessary change. God sends His goodness, His word, and the dealings of the Holy Spirit in order to bring about repentance. Figuratively and literally, thorns and thistles are worthless to anything but the fire. This is the plain meaning of the text. They make good kindling, but that’s all. The cultivator (God) expects the land to bring forth good fruit — just as would any farmer. If it does not the only thing to do is to apply fire. Clearly, this is a picture of eternal punishment.

It is a rare thing to hear the word of repentance preached in modern times; so as the old song says, “So you better listen close the first time.” You may never hear it again for the rest of your life. You may even buy into the modern notion that repentance from sin is unnecessary to salvation — in conflict with Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul the Apostle. In fact, it would do many of us well to read Acts 26 until we memorized it. Why? Because it is so easy to read the theologians and listen to the teachers who flagrantly contradict everyone from Moses to Paul on the subject.

Acts 26 is nearing the end of Paul’s recorded ministry. He had been warned prophetically on a number of occasions what was waiting for him when he arrived. He insisted on going. Paul testified in court before two Roman leaders Agrippa and Festus (witnesses) about what he preached and what his understanding of the heavenly vision was. There is no need to debate it after this court appearance. Agrippa and Festus wanted to know and we want to know. Paul, what did you preach? His opening is striking. He tells Agrippa, “I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews.” Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” (Acts 26:-3 ESV) I suggest that we also listen to Paul patiently.

He tells us that he was an exemplary Pharisee. He spoke of how the resurrection is not an unreasonable thing to believe in and that his life once consisted of trying to destroy the Church. He tells next of an extraordinary experience, “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:12–14 ESV) Kicking against the goads was a way of saying that Paul had painfully disregarded the dealings of the Holy Spirit — to his own hurt. He continued and then declared his commission and how he had carried it out. He begins with the words of Jesus.
“For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul then explains how he fulfilled (was fulfilling) this commission from the Lord:

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.”

Notice that the Jews tried to kill him for preaching a John the Baptist style word of repentance. That is, “Change your mind and turn in such a way that there is real evidence of the mind change.” Some people say they agree with God about sin(s) in general or personal but they never turn from it. Actions and words don’t match. Believing is when you do it — not when you give a mere mental assent to it. Clearly, the text implies that there is an expectation that sin be turned from. As the late great Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson noted: See Matthew 3:8 for similar language used concerning John the Baptist. Paul, the greatest of theologians, was an interesting practical preacher.” (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)

path

Paul started in Damascus which indicates that it was immediate. He didn’t wait… he started preaching it right then and there. Persecution followed. However, Paul continues, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”” (Acts 26:16–23 ESV)

I have sometimes said that if we can’t accept Paul’s word in Agrippa’s court room how can we claim to believe in the inspiration of scripture? All scripture is given by God and profitable for doctrine, etc. If we can’t receive the narrative in Acts 26 didactically we may as well rip the book of Romans out of the Bible too. Why? Because we can understand nothing of Paul’s ministry if we cannot accept what he said during that hearing with Agrippa. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” This is John the Baptist all over again.

In modern times we have a great number of people who want salvation and forgiveness, but they don’t want real repentance. Some even want to receive the Holy Spirit, but they don’t want true repentance. God sent John the Baptist (and Paul) to preach to the people so as to make their heart right (compare the Greek word euthus in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4 with Acts 8:21 to understand what “make his paths straight” means). Like Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:21, they have done many religious things, but their heart is still not right with God. Why? Because they have never been through the process of genuine repentance. We have empirical evidence that this was the way of the New Testament. How? The change that was wrought in the world. What about our world? How are our doctrines and theologies faring? Have we turned our world upside down? Many professing Christians are becoming more liberal by the day. They don’t agree with God. How can we say they repented if they refuse to agree with God?

If we are ever going to see significant change in our churches, cities, and country we have to begin where God began. We too have to come into compliance with the heavenly vision. It wasn’t just for Paul — it is for all of us.

Jesus Defines Repentance

Jesus Defines Repentance

Robert Wurtz II

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:32 NKJV)

There is a generation that heaps to itself teachers who tickle the ears saying, “Repentance does not mean ‘turn from sin’ it merely means ‘change your mind.'” In fact, Greek scholars debate among themselves as to the full extent of the word mετανοεῖτε (repent) and as time goes on the definitions become more self-serving. Yet, perhaps we can spare ourselves the debate and simply focus on how our Lord used the word in a well-known sentence. He stated, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:41) Our cognate passage is cited above as Luke 11:32. Jesus described the behavior of the Ninevites as having repented (metenohsan) at the preaching of Jonah.

Our Lord said that Nineveh repented. Clearly, He did not mean to say that they felt sorry for their sins or some other modern definition of repentance. To thoroughly understand our Lord’s concept of repentance (the only person whose definition matters) we must go back and study the book of Jonah. To understand what our response to the advent of Christ ought to be we must contrast the greatness of the man Jonah with the Son of God. If the Pagan Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, what ought our reaction to be to the preaching of Jesus Christ? That is the import of what is being said.

U turn road warning sign

When Pagans Teach Repentance By Example

Nineveh was one of two capital cities of the Assyrian Empire. They were brutal people beyond comprehension. In fact, the savagery employed by ISIS is a mere taste of the Assyrians atrocities. They celebrated their blood-thirstiness in murals painted on the palace walls. They were hated by their enemies with pure hatred. They had no Bible; no Sunday Schools; no churches; and no religious rituals that honored the One True God. In the words of God… they didn’t know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4:11). Yet they had sense enough to repent at the preaching of Jonah.

Time was running out for the Assyrians of Nineveh, but God still held out hope. He sent Jonah to preach to them… but his hatred was so great that He disobeyed God. He fled on a ship from the face of God rather than preach repentance to the people. God wouldn’t have it. He sent a storm that smote the nerves of all on the ship — until at last, at Jonah’s request, they threw him overboard. God put him through what may have been a death and resurrection to change his mind about preaching to the Assyrians. Three days with no air… he ended up on shore with a new revelation about the sovereignty of God.

Jonah entered the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4). This message offered no hope. There was no compassion in his voice… just a declaration, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. This is instructional. Can you imagine hearing this? Over and over again… Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. The result? So the people of Nineveh believed God. (Jonah 3:5a) This is essential to any persons’ repentance; they have to believe what God is saying. The people of Nineveh believed so as to proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. John the Baptist and Paul would have called this fruits worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20).
No “Pointers”

You will notice that they were not given a checklist of things to repent of. They were left to themselves to sort it out. This tells me that God knows that we know what is offending Him. There is no need for ministers to stand in a pulpit — listing off possibilities. People will sometimes pretend that they don’t know what they need to repent of, etc.; but apparently, God is not buying it. Nineveh is the example. They will rise up in the judgment against us if we pretend we didn’t know better. Very sobering. Can you imagine God calling the Ninevites to testify against the unrepentant? Jesus said it will happen.

The King Vacates the Throne

We have another facet to Nineveh’s example when we read, For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:6) Have you ever known of a person to do such a thing when they repented? They didn’t put on their “Sunday best” and go to church. They stripped off anything that could have exalted them. This is utter humiliation and sorrow.

Like the king of Nineveh, we have to come off of the throne of our own life and utterly humble ourselves before the true King. This is the key. This is more than outward things, it is an inward change of attitude. What else did they do? Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. (Jonah 3:9) There is the key component to repentance that is too frequently rejected or ignored… let them turn every one from his evil way. True godly sorrow (sorrow that is God-wards) for sin produces a turning from sin in which the person does not turn back (2 Cor. 7:10).

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:32 NKJV)