I have written before about the tension in the Bible over God’s supremacy over all things, and the responsibility of man to obey the commands of the Lord. Many times we see in the Bible that God commands us to do things that we are unable to do. My view is that this tension should not lead us to dismay or rebel against the Lord, but to depend upon Him more intently. We should say with Paul “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
Currently I am re-reading When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy, by John Piper. He pointed me to this truth yet again as it relates to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:24: And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
I understand Paul to be saying:
(1) These are the things the Lord’s servant (a pastor) must do in order to bring about repentance among His people.
- don’t be quarrelsome
- Be kind to everyone
- be able to teach
- endure evil with patience
- correct your opponents with gentleness
(2) Then He says perhaps God will grant them repentance. This throw’s a monkey wrench into the equation. Normally in an equation a + b = c. But Paul is saying a (the pastor’s attitude and ability to faithfully teach) + b (the pastor’s endurance of trials , evil and loving response to those teaching falsely) = NOTHING. You see, repentance comes from the Lord! Only when God grant’s repentance do the people have knowledge of the truth and escape the snares of the devil.
Now, if pastors were to say “Why should I do a and b if God brings about repentance?” The answer gets at the heart of evangelism. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the words of Christ.”–Rom. 10:17. Where does faith come from? Jesus said “the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”–John 3:8. Faith comes from God.
We share the Gospel and pray that God would open the hearts of our listeners. The same relationship exists between a hard heart and the command to repent. They are at a standstill until the Spirit of God pierces through and brings about life-giving change. Therefore, we must preach the Gospel and repentance and pray that God would bring it about.
He is sovereign; we are responsible. Result: “To Him is the glory forever, Amen!” (Rom. 11:36)