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What is the Doctrine of Repentance?


Truth Seeker Series

Phil W. Neilson

August 2006


What is the Doctrine of Repentance? What actions are required of new converts concerning the step of “repentance” in the gospel plan of salvation?


It is commonly reported * that in the church of Christ, there is a group of brethren who defend a core doctrine of repentance encompassing one or more the following concepts:


1. Alien sinners (Gentiles) are not subject to God’s law(s), so they are not guilty of such sins as adultery. Therefore, new believers need not repent of adultery as a candidate for baptism.


2. The only transgression alien sinners have is that of not obeying the gospel, therefore they do not need to repent of any other evil deeds.


3. At Pentecost A.D. 30 when Peter told God fearing Jews to repent, he meant a ‘general repentance’. General repentance is a sense of remorse for such actions as that of agreeing with those who crucified Jesus.


4. The narrative in Acts chapter 2 does not specifically show the apostles asking the 3000 believers any questions about their martial status before baptism. Therefore our practice should be don’t ask because it doesn’t matter how many times a candidate for baptism has been married.


5. God does not recognize the marriage of non-Christians so whatever marriage condition/status a newly baptized convert is in is sanctified by God as a real marriage at the time of baptism.


6. When one is baptized into Christ, they become a new creature and all things are passed away. This means that if they are living with their second unto fifth spouse that relationship/marriage is made ok. Since baptism remits all past sins, then any adultery is forgiven and the current marriage is to be accepted by the church as legitimate.”  


* These statements are a compilation of issues and doctrines presented over the past 50 some years by church members to justify divorce and remarriage.


First, we want to study what the Bible says about the ’doctrine of repentance’ and then we will answer the ’general repentance’ doctrine being defended.

Real Repentance as defined by the Old Testament


The concept of real repentance is very specific in the Old Testament. This concept was clear to any student of the scriptures including the first 3000 converts in Acts 2.


The word of the LORD came unto Ezekiel stating that the person who sins will die.


Ezek 18:20-32

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?

26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.

27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.

28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.


This concept is reported in chapter 33. The pronouncement to Israel is turn ye, turn ye!


Ezek 33:11

11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?


God’s message of repentance is illustrated in his statement to Solomon.


2 Chr 7:14

14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.


An example of repentance accepted by God from a non-Jewish community is recorded by Jonah.


Jonah 3:4-10

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6 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.

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8 But 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.

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.


In Ezra’s time there was a mass restoration of repentance. Where is the Ezra of today? What gospel preacher, church leader would dare proclaim such a stand at a camp meeting in our time? Where are men of courage in this matter?


Ezra 10:1-4

1 Now when Ezra had prayed and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very large congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept sore.

2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel , one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, we have trespassed against our God , and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.

3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

4 Arise; for this matter belonged unto thee; we also will be with thee: be of good courage and do it.



Repentance was a requirement of disciples in preparation for the coming Kingdom as stated by:


John the Baptist


Matt 3:1-2

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.





Matt 4:17

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.


Mark 1:14-15

14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.



The twelve Apostles


Mark 6:12

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.



As a fulfillment of prophesy


Luke 24:46-47

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.


Why was there a need to preach repentance as a key factor of the gospel? Did Christ put a generic general repentance as a cornerstone of the great commission or was it specific?


Repentance was a key ingredient of the first gospel sermon by Peter.


Acts 2:36-38

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.


It is evident that those Jewish hearers were already remorse for their actions but, they were told to specifically repent. This was more them a ‘general repentance’ and more then being sorry for their actions. Many of these had heard John the Baptist sermons on what true repentance was to be. He told the religious leaders that they had to repent and do specific acts.  


Luke 3:2-19

2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;

16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,


Mark 6:18

18 For John had said unto Herod, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife’


Herod who was not a Jew by birth or by practice; yet he was still subject to God’s marriage law. John was beheaded because of his pronouncement against adultery by a person who was not subjected to the law of Moses. God’s law of marriage from the beginning applied to all peoples!


The following references show Herod’s non-Jewish status.




            The Herodian dynasty made its way into Palestine through Antipater, an Idumean by descent. The Idumeans were of Edomite stock as descendants of Esau. Antipater was installed as procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome, in 47 B. C. He appointed two of his sons to ruling positions. One of these was Herod, known as "Herod the Great," who was appointed governor of Judea.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)




            1. The Family Descent: The Herodians were not of Jewish stock. Herod the Great encouraged the circulation of the legend of the family descent from an illustrious Babylonian Jew (Ant, XIV, i, 3), but it has no historic basis. It is true the Idumaeans were at that time nominal Jews, since they were subdued by John Hyrcanus in 125 BC, and embodied in the Asmonean kingdom through an enforced circumcision, but the old national antagonism remained <Gen 27:41>. (from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft)


Some may ask, “when John the Baptist told the Jews that they must bring forth ‘fruit’ meet for repentance , what did he mean by ‘fruit’ (Matt 3.8)?”


Matt 3:4-8

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:


This passage has three elements: repentance, meet or worthy of, and fruit.

            The Greek verb that is translated “repent” means “after thought”. It suggests the idea of thinking about a deed after commission in retrospect. It is more then feeling ‘sorry’, it entails a resolve to cease wrongful conduct and to replace it with godly living. Thayer declares repentance to mean,” the change of mind of those who have began to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deed’ (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958,p.406).

            The expression meet or worthy of has to do with objects of equal weight. The chance in life style has to correspond with the gravity and nature of the offense in order to be real repentance.

            Finally, actual fruit is required of real repentance. It is not a generic concept but, requires where possible an attempt at restitution. It does not allow a bank robber to keep the money he stole. Neither does it allow any one to enjoy or keep the fruit of their crime.

(For a more in-depth study on this passage see, “What is the ‘Fruit of Repentance’?” by Wayne Jackson at christiancourier.com)


Also, many of those gathered at Pentecost had heard Jesus’ teachings on the meaning of ‘Real Repentance’.


Luke 5:30-32

30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.


Luke 13:1-5

1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

4 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?

5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

That ‘except ye repent’ was to Jews for their sinful actions before Jesus was crucified. 


Luke 14:26-33

26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.


Did Christ say that to be a disciple of his, some might have to forsake the spouse they are now living with?


The true meaning of repentance is restoration. It does not allow us to keep any thing wrongly acquired.


Luke 19:5-10

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.


It appears that anyone like John or Jesus who makes real repentance as a condition of discipleship will be ridiculed and lies spread against them.


Matt 11:18-21

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.

19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.



Matt 21:28-32

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.



Repentance as a part of the gospel plan of salvation-


Gospel preachers and teachers list on the chalk board as one of the five steps of the gospel plan of salvation: repentance. Vine helps us to understand the real meaning of this third step:




A. Verbs.

            1. metanoeo ^3340^, lit., "to perceive afterwards" (meta, "after," implying "change," noeo, "to perceive"; nous, "the mind, the seat of moral reflection"), in contrast to pronoeo, "to perceive beforehand," hence signifies "to change one's mind or purpose," always, in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always, except in <Luke 17:3, 4>, of "repentance" from sin.

The word is found in the Synoptic Gospels (in Luke, nine times), in Acts five times, in the Apocalypse twelve times, eight in the messages to the churches, <2:5> (twice), <16,21> (twice), RV, "she willeth not to repent" (2nd part); <3:3,19> (the only churches in those chapters which contain no exhortation in this respect are those at Smyrna and Philadelphia); elsewhere only in <2 Cor. 12:21>.

In the NT the subject chiefly has reference to "repentance" from sin, and this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God. The parable of the Prodigal Son is an outstanding illustration of this. Christ began His ministry with a call to "repentance," <Matt. 4:17>, but the call is addressed, not as in the OT to the nation, but to the individual. In the Gospel of John, as distinct from the Synoptic Gospels, referred to above, "repentance" is not mentioned, even in connection with John the Baptist's preaching; in John's gospel and 1st epistle the effects are stressed, e. g., in the new birth, and, generally, in the active turning from sin to God by the exercise of faith <John 3:3; 9:38; 1 John 1:9>, as in the NT in general.”

(from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

(Copyright (C) 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)


The first gospel sermon shows that repentance was more then a feeling of remorse.


Acts 2:37-38

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.


This concept of repentance being more then feeling sorry is plainly illustrated by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians.


2 Cor 7:8-11

8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.


Now to understand the kind of repentance required by the first 3000 Christians, we note the following:


Acts 2:5

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.


There was no need for the Apostles to address the martial conditions of these first Christians. Besides being God fearing they were among those who were obedient to their religion to the point that they traveled long distances to arrive at Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They knew from the Old Testament scriptures and from the teaching of John previously sited and from their interaction with Jesus (John 8 and Mathew 19) that Adultery was wrong. They knew that from the beginning that God instituted marriage as one flesh and this union was not to be broken by man’s wishes.

To further prove that the first principle of repentance required a change of action the writer of Hebrew’s says:


Heb 6:1

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,



Heb 6:1

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,



Peter and John went to the temple to preach to Jews and their message called for repentance.


Acts 3:18-19

18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;


When the apostles were brought before the council they declared:


Acts 5:31

31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.


Some preachers claim that Gentiles are not subject to God’s laws so the only sin they have is that of not obeying the gospel. The proof text is as follows:


2 Th 1:8

8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:


This verse is used to justify non-repentance of Gentiles couples living with second spouses while their first is still living. By making the sole infraction of non-believers as that of not obeying the gospel certain preachers make repentance a doctrine not taught upon. The choice to avoid this issue has caused many problems and is contrary to sound doctrine.


Paul says all (Gentiles and Jews) have sinned. Without this understanding God’s grace could not have worked.


Rom 3:23

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;


To the Greeks in Athens, Paul explains repentance is required for everyone.


Acts 17:30

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:


Peter tells us the same thing.


2 Pet 3:9

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


To the people at Crete, Titus was to remember that grace teaches a turning from and a turning to:


Titus 2:11-12

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;


When the first Gentile converts were accepted; repentance was part of the theme of their acknowledgement :


Acts 11:18

18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.


Paul and Barnabas’ sermon to the pagans of Lycaonia was that they needed to change from their evil practices:


Acts 14:15-16

15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.



Paul’s farewell sermon to the Ephesians bishops summarized his gospel preaching:


Acts 20:20-21

20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,

21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.


In his court defense, Paul in the same sentence shows real repentance was preached to both Jews and to Gentiles . He list three facets of the gospel he preached. First that hearers were to repent (change of mind); secondly they were to turn to God (this was an additional step to repentance); and thirdly they were to do works meet for repentance (a real change in what they had been doing to the extent of a complete renovation from evil activities and a new way of life).


Acts 26:19-20

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.


Earlier at the church conference with the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, it was determined that the requirements of new Gentile converts would not be circumcision but would be among other things the abstaining from sexual immorality. In other words they would have to not continue in inappropriate sexual relationships. Therefore if fornication was off limits then so were adulterous marriages.


Acts 15:19-20

19 "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

20 "but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.



One of the scriptures used to justify divorce and remarriage is 2 Cor. 5:17. Proponents teach that a new convert who is living with their second, third, fourth… mate (previously divorced and remarried) have their current relationship sanctified by baptism. According to this doctrine baptism washes away the sin of adultery and makes the marriage new or sanctified


2 Cor 5:17

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.



Let’s analyze this doctrine and put it to the acid test. Let us see if it will stand up to the light of the truth. I want to consider some possible cases to see if they would be tolerated in the body of believers as couples we could fellowship as to concerning the status of marriage in this ‘new’ status. Examples to consider are as follows:


1. The first marriage of one of the partners was not dissolved by divorce, so by the laws of the land they are living in bigamy. Does baptism forgive this sin also and they need not comply with the powers that be?


2. A missionary in Africa converts a local chieftain who has multiple wives from a joint ceremony. Does this new believer have to give up his polygamy? Which of the group does he keep as his true wife? Would it be the one standing on his right side?


3. A newly baptized couple had been living as common law husband and wife. Is there marriage sanctified? Is their marriage accepted by church leaders in states who do not recognize common law marriage or do we have to follow local state laws?


4. What do we do with a newly baptized couple who were just living together without the benefit of a marriage ceremony? Does baptism make them married, if not why not? The same questions would be asked about an under age partner.


5. Now if we teach that marriage including divorce and remarriage recognized by the laws of the state is sanctified also by God at baptism, then we would have to sanctify same sex marriages in some states and countries.


Taking 2 Cor. 5:17 out of context or using it by it’s self to prove a doctrine of divorce and remarriage does not correlate with other teaching on this issue. We must research what has to happen for one to get into Christ; what does it take to become a new creature; and what is the procedure of making old thing to pass away. The process is more then immersion.



 The gospel of Christ according Paul to Ephesians’ Gentiles was taught, heard and learned. It told them that truth in Jesus required putting off their old walk of lasciviousness, uncleanness, and lusts. It also required a renewed spirit of mind and a putting on of the new man. They were required to put away such practices as lying and stealing. They were required to put off concerning the former conservation the old man. Does this mean that this putting off (repentance) applies only to certain sins but not to the sin of adultery? 


Eph 4:17-28

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour:  for we are members one of another.

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil.

28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.



The principle of being in Christ; of the old man passed away; and of what a new man means is illustrated by Paul:


Col 3:2-10

2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:


To be in Christ requires a putting to death sins of the flesh and putting away the old self. It requires a real repentance which is a change of walking in sin to an image renewed in knowledge. This is a new way of life that has put away deeds of the old man.



Reasonable service to God requires a change of mind from what was worldly to what is good. The transformation comes about by a change of mind (repentance) to conform not with the world but with the will of God.


Rom 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.


Baptism puts a believer into Christ. It puts us into his death. This process requires the crucifixion of the old man. This destroys sin but it does not allow us to continue to remain or serve any of those sins.


Rom 6:4-8

4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:


Paul further shows that there must be a change (repentance) from uncleanness. New converts can not continue to serve in sin.


Rom 6:19-21

19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.


The scriptures are clear that some Christians were adulterers before they were washed (baptized); that this action of baptism sanctified them and justified them. Does this mean that baptism sanctified their adulterous marriage? Does it mean that this sin of adultery did not require specific repentance and that God justifies the current marriage status of couples by the application of water only?



1 Cor 6:9-11

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.


Remember that the congregation at Corinth was composed mainly of Gentiles.


Let’s look at the sins baptism makes a person washed from:


1. Fornication - does a couple who are living together have to stop this act when they get baptized? Yes!


2. Idolater - does a person have to put away their Buddha images, their shrines of Mary and other Catholic saints, their Hindi images and all worship of other gods?  Yes


3. Effeminate - does a homosexual have to stop their practices? Yes


4. Abusers - do prostitutes have to stop their trade? Yes


5. Thieves - do bank robbers get to keep their loot? No


6. Covetous - can new converts continue in practices of greed? No


7. Drunkards - do new converts have to give up the bottle? Yes


8. Revilers - do new converts have to stop their slander speech? Yes


9. Extortioners - can new converts continue to rip off others with their financial schemes? No


If all these can not continue their sinful way, then why are adulteries an exception. Why do preachers make adultery a different situation. This is a question that needs an answer. Why do we teach new converts must ‘put away’ their other evil practices? 


Now let us go back and answer the defense-doctrine concerning not requiring disciples to repent and prove their repentance by deeds. The teaching that God now allows divorce and remarriage is wrong.  The doctrine of general or generic repentance teaches a false concept when one rightly divides the word of truth.





1. Alien sinners are subject to God’s laws, including not committing adultery. Disciples must repent before baptism. Obedience to the gospel requires a change of mind from past sins and a change of direction toward God and good deeds.


…said to Herod , It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife (Mk. 6:18)


All have sinned (Rom. 3:26)


…And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30)


…but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)


Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18)


…then to the Gentiles that they should repent and turn to God, and to works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20)


walk not as other Gentiles walk…put off concerning the former conservation the old man … (Eph. 4 :17 & 22)


…That our old man is crucified with him (Rom. 6:6)


…As such [adulterers] were some of you: but ye are washed (I Cor. 6:11)


2. When Peter and the other apostles preached the gospel , they required real specific repentance. This repentance was more then feeling sorry or a so-called general repentance. True and real repentance involves a change for the better, an amendment. This change of mind involves both a turn from sin and a turning to God. It produces actions of renewal equal to the previous evil actions.


….cast away from all your transactions

… and make a new heart and a new spirit…(Ezk. 18:21)


…. They were pricked in the heart…

…Peter said…Repent …(Acts 2:37 & 38 )


…for godly sorrow worketh repentance…(2 Cor.7:10)


….foundation of repentance from dead works (Heb. 6:1) 


…. Do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20)


3. God’s marriage law was given to Adam and Eve in the beginning. This one flesh consisting of a man and a women glued together for life is universal. God has always required repentance for transgression of his marriage law. He did not make an exception of the sin of adultery as one that did not have to be put away.


…let us turn every one from his evil way [king of Ninevah]

And God saw their works, that they had turned from their evil way…(Jonah 3:8 & 10 )


…have trespassed against our God and have taken strange wives

put away all the wives and such as are born of them. (Ezra 10:2 & 3 )


…bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance(Matt. 3:8)


So likewise whoever be he of you that forsaketh not all that he hath he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)


…the grace of God…appeared to all men…Teaching…denying ungodliness and worldly lust. ( Titus 2: 11 & 12)


…Repent and be converted… (Acts 3:19)


put off the old man with his deeds

put on the new man (Col. 3:9 & 10)


….and which were some of you… (I Cor. 6:11)


What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? (Rom. 6:21)


The apostle John records Jesus’ pronouncement against the church at Thyatira. He was speaking primarily against spiritual adultery, but the principle holds true that we can not tolerate physical adultery in the church either. The Jezebel here is most likely a figure of speech. Any one who teaches Adultery is to be tolerated takes up her mantel.


Rev 2:20-24

20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22 Behol , I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches will know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira as many as have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.


What we need today is some one who is courageous enough to take a stand against those who tolerate divorce and remarriage and who teach real repentance is not required.


Malachi the prophet said in verses 16 and 17 of chapter 2:

For the LORD, the God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away [divorce]:….

Ye have wearied the LORD with your words, Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, …


The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were quick to condemn him for breaking bread with sinners while he was calling them to repent. How much greater condemnation might be due to a group who justified the doctrine of non-repentance. It we continue not to take a stand on this issue, then what kind of a religion will our grandchildren find in the church of Christ?

Will they wait until after they have married a person with a living spouse before they are baptized?


In light of all the passages that clearly show real repentance* is specific and is required before baptism; how can we dare take a chance on justifying remarriage after divorce? You may make a test of fellowship on a whole list of traditional issues, while the angel of Jesus puts the sexual immoral as those who will be outside of the New Jerusalem

(Rev. 22:15 NKJ and NIV).


* See also R. H. Boll,  Real Repentance in Soul-Stirring Sermons (Louisville, KY: Word and Work,[1944]) -Restoration Movement internet.


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