Except Ye Repent
February 25th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 13: 1-5
2-25-68 7:30 p.m.
On the radio turn with me to Luke, the Third Gospel, chapter 13, and we shall read together the first nine verses. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Except Ye Repent. Every Sunday night we preach from the life of Christ; every Sunday night, following through the life of our Lord. And we have come to this passage in the thirteenth chapter of Luke, and all of us out loud reading the first nine verses together. And if on the radio, WRR, you are listening to the radio of the city of Dallas, turn in your Bible and read it out loud with us. Luke, the first nine verses of chapter 13, together:
There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
That is like John the Baptist was preaching in the anthem that was sung. "Bring ye forth fruits worthy, meet for repentance" [Matthew 3:8]. The tree, dig around it, fertilize it, and if it does not bear that fruit, cut it down [Luke 13:8-9]. It has no place in the kingdom of God. But if it bear fruit, then may the Lord bless it, prosper it. May it flourish like the proverbial green bay tree.
Fruits for repentance: Except Ye Repent. Now the text. There were present there, standing around the Lord at that time, some that told Him of the Galileans [Luke 13:1]. There were a group of Galileans that were sacrificing there in the temple. And while they were pouring out the blood of sacrifice, Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, in an incident that we do not know in secular history, but referred to here – Pontius Pilate sent his soldiers, who descended upon them and slew them and the blood of the worshipers were mingled with their sacrifices [Luke 13:1]. You can tell the blood of the men that was spilled out from the blood of the animals that were offered unto God. And, of course, the reporters and the interrogators had certain things to say about it. Then there were others standing there who in the same vein of thought spoke to the Lord about those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them [Luke 13:4]. And the reporters had certain observations to make about that. And it was out of that that the Lord spake these words in reply [Luke 13:4].
Well, what was it that the interrogators and the reporters were saying about these Galileans whom Pilate slew while they were in the act of worshiping God? And what about these eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell? What were the reporters and the interrogators and the observers and the philosophers of that day saying about that?
Well, this was what they were saying. They had a little syllogism. It followed the same kind of premise that Job’s comforters were saying to poor old Job as he sat in his agony and his misery in an ash heap [Job 2:7-8]. They said to Job, "You must be a great sinner because these afflictions have come upon you" [Job 4:7-8]. And that’s where you get the entitlement, Job’s comforters. "You must be a great sinner because these things have fallen upon you."
Now they followed that syllogism. It was this, a very little simple thing: suffering is caused by sin; you are greatly suffering, therefore you are a great sinner. So they brought to the Lord these Galileans whom Pontius Pilate slew: they were great sinners. They must have been, to have fallen into such an evil estate. And these eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell, they must have been evil, iniquitous, wicked men for them to have fallen into such an estate."
All right, they had one other deduction to bring from it. Now watch their reasoning: "We were not slain by Pontius Pilate when we were worshiping God, therefore we are not great sinners. And those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell, they were great sinners, or the tower of Siloam would not have fallen upon them. They would not have fallen into such an estate." Their deduction, that "The tower of Siloam has not fallen upon us, therefore we are not great sinners." Simple as that.
And in each instance the Lord answered in the same way:
You suppose that they were sinners above you and all other men because Pontius Pilate slew them there?
I tell you, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
And you think these men on whom the tower of Siloam fell were sinners above you and all the rest in Jerusalem?
I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Isn’t that a marvelous come-to-pass on that part of our Lord? That is Jesus. He avows and He says that sin is a common denominator with all men everywhere, and there is no difference whether one be a Jew, a Greek, a Gentile, a Roman citizen, a provincial, a barbarian; all alike, all of them, all alike. The preaching of the Lord was this: That God is no respecter of persons and God has no favorites, none at all [Acts 10:34].
That’s why He infuriated that congregation in the synagogue at Nazareth in the first sermon that He preached. He said to them, "Were there not many starving in the days of Elijah and the Lord God sent Elijah to no one except to a widow in Sidon, in the town of Sarepta, and fed her" [Luke 4:25-26]. And He said, "Were there not many, many lepers in Israel when Elisha healed Naaman, who was a heathen and a Syrian?" [Luke 4:27]. There are no respecters of person with God. There, here, yonder, you, our compatriots, people, we are all alike. We are sinners lost in the sight of God. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:3]; all of us, all of us.
And that was why Israel rejected the preaching of John the Baptist. He threw outside of the covenant all men, including the Jew, and they were highly offended. John the Baptist said all men everywhere, the harlot, the publican, the Pharisee and the Sadducee, all alike must repent. He threw the entire nation outside of the covenant of God, everybody, and preached, "Repent ye. Get right with God, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" [Matthew 3:2]. And His winnowing fan is ready to drive out the chaff and the axe is laid at the root of the tree [Matthew 3:10]. And every tree that bringeth not forth fruit meet for repentance will be cut down and will be burned in the unquenchable fire" [Matthew 3:10, 12]. "Repent ye," said John the Baptist. And the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the leaders of the nation lifted up themselves in contumacious pride and said, "We, we – why, we have Abraham to our fathers and have no need for repentance" [Matthew 3:2].
And John the Baptist said, "God is able with these stones to raise up children unto Abraham [Matthew 3:9]. You are no more favored than anyone else. God is no respecter of persons. You have sinned. We have sinned. All humanity has sinned. And we must repent and get right with God" [Matthew 3:2].
And the Pharisees, placed in the same category and in the same class with the publican and the harlot, was highly offended [Matthew 3:9]. And that is the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God universally, patternly. There is no exception to it. Wherever it is preached, that is it. That is where it commences. That is where it starts.
In the first chapter of the Book of Mark in the fifteenth verse it says, "And after John was cast into prison, Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom and saying, The time is fulfilled . . . repent ye, and believe the gospel" [Mark 1:15].
And that was the preaching of Simon Peter when he opened the doors of the kingdom of God and the blessedness of His church when at Pentecost he said, "Repent ye. Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 2:38].
That was the preaching of the apostle Paul as he stood in the Areopagus in Athens. He said, "The times of this past ignorance God overlooked; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" [Acts 17:30]. That’s what he said he preached in the great, marvelous revival at Ephesus that turned all Asia towards God. He said he preached by the space of three years, day and night, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 20:31, 21]. There is no difference. That is the message of the Christian faith. Repent ye, turn ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand [Matthew 3:2].
Now there are three things to be said about it. First: there is no salvation apart from repentance. You cannot be saved unless first you repent of your sins. And Jesus said, "I tell you except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:3]. And He emphasized it in these same words, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:5]. Salvation has to do with sin.
In the little book I have written for these children, that first chapter, and the questions and answers there are these. If Jesus is a Savior, He must save us from something. The first question: "From what does Jesus save us?" And I’ve never had a child yet but that answered immediately "From our sins" [Mark 2:1-11; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7]. And what is sin? The second question. "Sin is disobedience to God, breaking the law of God, doing wrong before God." And the third question: "And what is the penalty of our sin?" "Eternal death in hell, separation from God" [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23]. Then the other question: "And who can save us from this so great a death?" And the answer, "Jesus Christ our Lord" [Acts 16:30-31].
My mother could not have saved me. My father could not have saved me. All the dear friends I know who love and pray for me in this world cannot save me. When I die, all they can do is bury me out of their sight. Who can stand on the other side of the grave, and receive us to Himself, having saved me in this life and now having provided for my entrance into glory and the life that is to come? Who can do that? No one but Jesus [Acts 4:12]. That is why He is a great Savior.
The Christian faith has to do with our sins. And that has to do with Jesus. And I come to Jesus by confession, by repentance, by turning, by asking God to forgive me [Romans 10:9-10]. That’s how I am saved.
Number two: faith is impossible without repentance. You cannot have a coin with just one side to it. It has to have two sides if it is a substantive piece. You cannot have it without it. So it is, you cannot have faith in Christ without repentance. Repentance makes possible faith.
Listen to the Word of the Lord: "John came unto you," said the Lord Jesus, "in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye" talking to the leaders of Judaism, "and ye, when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you may believe" [Matthew 21:32]. You cannot receive Christ unless you repent, confess your sins, asking God to forgive you. Repentance makes possible faith. "And ye, when you had seen, repented not, that you might believe him." We must repent in order to accept Christ as our Lord.
I wish I had an hour to expatiate on that. I will take two instances out of the whole Bible, and it’s all alike. It presents the same message. Wherever there is faith, repentance is always present, and never without it; never without it.
My first illustration out of the Book; in the third chapter of the Gospel of John and verses 14 and 15, our Master said to a learned Judean, to a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus, He said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" [John 3:14-15].
Repentance is implied and without it there is no faith, none at all. "Well, how do you know that? For the Lord just said that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" [John 3:15]. Why, I know that from the illustration that He used: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness" [John 3:14].
Why, don’t you remember? The people because of their transgressions and sins, the people were dying, dying, dying. The Lord had sent tenuous, fiery serpents, and they bit the people and the people were dying. And the Lord said to Moses, "Raise up on a pole in the midst of the camp a serpent cast in brass, a brazen serpent. And it shall be that if a man is bitten and is dying, if he shall look, he shall live" [Numbers 21:4-9].
Less could not have been required; more by some could not have been offered, for they were dying. And those people under the condemnation of sin and bitten by the serpent and dying, I can see them. As the word came, "If you will look, you will live. If you will look." And the man, almost dying, raises his head in expectation and in hope and in forgiveness that God will keep His word.
And he looks and he lives. That’s why the glorious song:
There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee,
Then look sinner, look unto Him and be saved
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
["There is Life for a Look at the Crucified One," A.M. Hull]
Dying, bitten by the serpent, the judgment of sin and transgression. Looking, accepting God’s grace, believing God’s word, looking and live.
I have a message from the Lord. Hallelujah.
It is only that you look and live – Look and live, my brother, live. Look to Jesus Christ and live –
‘Tis recorded in His word. Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
["I’ve A Message From the Lord," William A. Ogden]
To admit I have been bitten by the serpent: "I am dying, Lord. I believe by faith, looking to Jesus."
I take one other illustration out of the Book. When the Philippian jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and said, "What must I do to be saved?" [Acts 16:30]. Paul replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved. Believe" [Acts 16:31]. There it is again. Faith in Christ saves us. But always there is attendant that confession of sin and that repentance from sin.
Now how do I know that? Because when that Philippian jailer had received those two prisoners, he treated them meanly, viciously, hard. He put them inside of an inner dungeon and he fastened their feet in stocks and weighted down their hands in chains [Acts 16:23-24]. And he was the attendant to watch and to see that they didn’t escape. That was the jailer.
But when God came down, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing and shook that jail and opened the doors and that jailer looked upon what had happened. He fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. What a difference; asking what he could do that he might be saved [Acts 16:25-31].
And then the Book says he washed their stripes [Acts 16:33]. He wasn’t washing their stripes before. Though their bodies were caked and covered in crimson, he had thrust them rudely, mercilessly, ruthlessly into an inner dungeon and fastened them fast in the stocks [Acts 16:23-24]. But now he is washing stripes [Acts 16:33]. He is washing stripes. What a turn. What a change. He is another man. He is washing stripes.
And he is setting food before them that they might be refreshed. And he is assembling all of his house together that they might hear the Word of God. And he is baptized with all of his family [Acts 16:32-34]. Repentance; there is no place in God’s Word where faith, saving faith, is not preceded by a humble confession of sin and a turning to Jesus.
I have one minute left. It is, again, a gift from heaven. Repentance is a gift from God. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter recounted the story of the conversion of the Gentiles at Caesarea in the household of Cornelius, when the church at Jerusalem heard it, look: "When they heard these things they glorified God saying, Then hath God to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" [Acts 11:18]. It is something God puts in your heart. It is something God makes you feel. It is something God makes you want to do. It’s from heaven.
When a man says, "I am going to Jesus. I am going to lay my whole life, dark and all, sin and all, wrong and all, I am going to live before Him, and I am going to ask the Lord to make me a new man, to wash me and cleanse me and purify me and save me," that is a gift from heaven. It is something God does for us. He puts it in your heart. He makes you want to come. It is His Spirit opening the door, inviting, wooing, come [Revelation 22:17]. Come. Come to Jesus. "Then hath the Lord granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life" [Acts 11:18]. It is a gift.
While we sing our hymn tonight, you, somebody you, coming to Jesus; in this balcony round, down one of these stairwells, at the front and back on either side, and there is time and to spare, come. Come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, preacher. I am coming tonight. I am looking to Jesus, asking Him to forgive my sins, opening my heart that He might live in my soul. I am asking God to save me tonight, and here I come. Here I am." Or a family you to put your life in the fellowship of our dear church; or a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing this appeal, prayerfully, sweetly, earnestly, come. Decide now. Do it now. And on the first note of the first stanza, come. In a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. That first step God is in it. "I decide, and here I come." And God’s Holy Spirit will attend you every step of the way. Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.