"The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it, 'As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance;' adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, 'Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity. Say to the children of My people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, I and though they be redder than scarlet, and blacker than sackcloth, yet if ye turn to Me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy people.'” (1 Clement 7)It is interesting to note that Clement obviously read the Septuagint version of the Old Testament scriptures rather than the Hebrew version that most of us, at least as Protestants, are more familiar with. This was because they were the only scriptures Clement had in his own language. It is also important to note how he refers to those who wrote about repentance in the Old Testament. He calls them "ministers of grace" and indicates that they spoke by the "Holy Spirit". Often, today, when we think of those who preach repentance we think of the "fire and brimstone" types of preachers. However, Clement saw those who announced God's offer of repentance as those who ministers His grace and favor. He spoke of preachers that came in a different spirit than many of our more famous, and in some ways, more caustic preachers. The message of repentance does not have to be hard, rather it must be seasoned with the grace and favor of God. God offers repentance, not because He is mad or angry with us, but rather because he loves us and greatly desires us to return to Him. It is because of His favor towards us that He extends to us the opportunity to repent.
"Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established [these declarations]." (1 Clement 8)So how should we respond to such a gracious offer?
"Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours, and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions." (1 Clement 9)Clement outlines our process of response. First is our response of obedience. It is God's glorious will that we repent and return to him, but often it is not our inglorious will. We must first respond in obedience, submitting ourselves to His glorious will. Secondly, we must confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness and for His mercy and loving-kindness. We must come clean with God and trust in His grace and His love for everyone and for us specifically. Thirdly, we must forsake our old lives. Repentance is not just about us feeling better. Repentance is a change of heart, a turning in our mind, a turning away from one thing or lifestyle and towards another thing or lifestyle. We must completely forsake and turn away from our old life; our life of sin, strife, and envy; a life that leads to death. And lastly, we must turn towards God. Repentance is not a process that we can do on our own, it is a process that is initiated, sustained, and perfected by and with God. We must not trust in our own strength of will or flesh, but we must trust in God's compassion and His strength in our lives. Compassion means to suffer with. As we go through the process of repentance we must realize that God is right there, going through it with us, and He is ever ready to strengthen us in our time of need. Repentance might be painful, but we are never alone in the process.