I was reading Wisdom today, and I ran across a really neat passage on repentance. (I’ll tell you below what the book of Wisdom is, why I read it, and why you should, too.)
But you have mercy on all because you can do all things;
You overlook sins for the sake of repentance. (11:23)
This is a beautiful picture of the mercy of God, one we all can love and have our heart warmed by.
God has mercy on all because he can do all things. He is not confined by some cosmic law of justice that forbids him to forgive sin unless he also obtains retribution. No, God can forgive, and because he can, he does. He is full of mercy.
I am purposely refuting the idea, taught in most evangelism programs, that God wants to forgive sin but cannot because he is just and must punish sin.
He does have a requirement. He has the requirement we all know is good.
He demands repentance.
“God will overlook sins for the sake of repentance.”
Really? Is that Scriptural?
Well, I’m going to make a strong argument that this is Scripture, but yes, the rest of Scripture agrees with Wisdom on this … over and over and over again.
Tell them, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord Yahweh, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live'” … “when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right … he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him: he has done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. (Ezek. 33:11, 14-16)
“Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!” (Acts 11:18)
(Paul speaking) [I] declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. (Acts 26:20)
That’s a mere beginning:
For you don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17)
“But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matt. 9:13)
Repentance is not contrary to faith. Repentance is a major part of faith.
I remind you again that belief in the Gospel is not belief in an event, but in a person. The event we believe in is truly a great event. It is the foundation and power of the Gospel. Jesus did die for our sins. Jesus did transform all of his creation by the great events of the crucifixion, but the Gospel is not belief in the crucifixion or his death for our sins. It is not belief in an event, no matter how great the event. It is belief in Jesus himself..
Events don’t issue commands. Events don’t call you to repentance. When Jesus rose from the dead to become Lord of the living and the dead (Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 5:14), he came to command. He came to demand repentance.
“The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked, but now he commands that all people everywhere should repent.” (Acts 17:30)
If you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, which is the central message of the Gospel, then you must know that he is God’s chosen King, Lord of all, and Judge of the living and the dead. Repent and follow him, and you will receive both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. You will become a child of God, and as you continue in that faith (Col. 1:22-23), the divine nature you receive from him will overthrow your old, earthly nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4), and God will make you like his Son.
Wisdom as Scripture
Some of you, I’m sure, have never heard of the book of Wisdom. It is also known as the Wisdom of Solomon. Roman Catholic Bibles have both the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Sirach in them.
Don’t get up in arms! You’ll be fighting against yourself if you reject this book. I’m telling you:
- You’re going to love it! Do NOT talk yourself out of reading it! (Chapter 2 has a prophecy of Jesus every bit as amazing as Isaiah 53.)
- If it ought not to be Scripture, it certainly has the best claim outside of the Protestant’s 66 books to be Scripture, and it has ALWAYS been recommended reading by ALL churches, even Protestant ones.
Here’s the brief history:
There are lists of what constitutes Scripture for Christians going back to close to the middle of the second century. We can tell by the books quoted in Christian writings that they agreed with this basic canon even before that time.
What we know is that there were a number of undisputed books, and then there books accepted by some churches and not by others.
I need to pause here to make sure you know that in the second and third centuries “some churches” is a reference to location, not denomination. The church in Ephesus probably did not read Hebrews. The church in Carthage almost certainly did. These were regional differences, not denominational differences.
Disputed apostolic books (i.e., NT books) included Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation. The rest, 20 books, were used by all churches.
Some books that were regarded as Scripture by some churches which are not in our Bible include 1 Clement, the Letter to Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas. These, in the end, were not rejected as heresy, but they were determined not to be of apostolic origin, so they could not be part of the Scriptures.
Eusebius discusses disputes over some books (all that I listed above) in AD 323. Augustine says that there are books accepted by some churches and not by others in AD 412. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that the 7 extra books that are in the Catholic Bible were in dispute throughout the middle ages and were not finally canonized until the Council of Trent in 1546!
The Eastern Orthodox churches, who are the descendants of the original apostolic churches throughout the eastern world, have generally accepted not just those seven books, but others as well, including, for example, 3rd and 4th Maccabees and 2 Esdras.
The book of the Wisdom of Solomon, as part of those 7 “deuterocanonical” books, have been at least attached to the Scriptures, if not fully regarded as Scripture, for the entire middle ages.
What about in the early churches?
Eusebius tells us that Melito of Sardis listed the canon of the Old Testament in AD 170. Wisdom is included.
Origen made a list in AD 240. He did not include it.
Augustine made a list in AD 397. He included it.
Interestingly enough, although Origen doesn’t include Wisdom in the list he made, he cites the Wisdom of Solomon with great authority, if not directly as Scripture:
Let us now ascertain how those statements we have advanced are supported by the authority of holy Scripture. [2 quotes from Paul here, then … ] Now, we find in the treatise called the Wisdom of Solomon the following description of the wisdom of God: “For she is the breath of the power of God and the purest efflux of the the glory of the Almighty” [Wisd. 7:25]. (De Principiis I:2:5)
I’m not telling you that you ought to add the Wisdom of Solomon to your Bible. I’m just suggesting strongly that you read it. You will NOT regret it.