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Q: How do we reconcile 2 Timothy 2:25 with Acts 17:30 in terms of God granting repentance & God commanding repentance?

“in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,” ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭17:30‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What can we learn of these 2 passages alongside one another?

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24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

The implication of this verse is that the possibility of God granting the opponents repentance somehow depends on whether they are gently instructed by the servant of Christ. This makes sense if we interpret verse 25 as

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance [through you] leading them to a knowledge of the truth,

I interpret this verse as saying that the best chance you, the Lord's servant, have of affecting godly repentance in an opponent is to instruct them gently.

God calls all men to repent. The best chance we, individual servants of God, have to effectively participate with God in bringing about within our opponents the repentance God commands is if we instruct them in the way of the Lord gently.

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    Well, I believe that we encounter God thru His Spirit & His word. The word also happens to be the sword of the Spirit. This is most routinely and quite effectively accomplished through the embodiment of His word within His images, the servants acting as delegates representing him to the world providing an image of God in both word and deed. In the Gospel plan, God's righteousness is revealed from faith for faith & so it is largely (but not exclusively) thru the community of believers God has intended those nonbelieving to encounter and come to the knowledge of Him in both word and deed.
    – Austin
    Feb 2 at 2:53
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    I was not thinking of Matthew 28, but that certainly works. 2 Cor 5 yes and Romans 1:16-17, and Ephesians 6:17-20. I think the idea of faithfully representing God is a core theme reaching all the way back to man's role as God's images (his ruling representatives) at the beginning of creation.
    – Austin
    Feb 2 at 3:25
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    Also, the comment about the opponent needing to be good soil is in reference to Jesus's sower parable in Matthew 13. The same word will have different effects on different soil. Because we don't know what's in the heart of each person we share the word with, it looks like chance to us whether or not they actually respond to God's word.
    – Austin
    Feb 2 at 3:44
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    ooo... good use of Romans 10.
    – Austin
    Feb 3 at 17:21
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    Thanks for the plus one.
    – Austin
    Feb 3 at 17:22
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By human logic these two verses seem to contradict. Someone may find a way to translate these two verses to lessen the seeming contradiction, but that doesn't eliminate the fact that the issue is limited human knowledge rather than contradiction.

See the following:

Exodus 9:12, How is it accepted that the LORD hardens the heart of Pharaoh, then Punishes him for that?

Dead faith, does James refer to the state of the faith or it never-was-a-living faith?

What does the word 'whosoever' mean in John 3:16?

1 Timothy 4:10; is the Will of the Father to save all Human beings?

Did the response on the servant in Matt. 18:26 indicate he thought he could earn salvation?

Isn't 1 samuel 19:20-21 a violation of freewill

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  • Besides the links you provided, you don’t think there is any didactic portions of scripture to resolve this??
    – Cork88
    Feb 1 at 16:53
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The verses do stand unreconciled, nor are they contradictory.

God commands all people everywhere to repent. He is just and sovereign to issue such a command.

But repentance is not uniformly granted to people just because they are commanded to do so.

I may tell my son to vacuum the living room of our house, and provide him the vacuum needed for the task, and show him how to use it properly, and make certain the power is working and paid for, but I will not hold his hand and basically do it all for him while he just goes through the guided motions.

No, he must obey my order to vacuum, he must listen carefully to the instructions on how to use the vacuum properly, and he must make certain the vacuum is plugged in. But the actual operation of the vacuum is all on him. I have provided him the means, but he must make use of the opportunity.

It is the same with repentance. God has told mankind to repent. He has given humanity everything they need to do so. But the actual repenting must be done by the individual human, with His gift, through His instruction, by His power.

If and when a person does so, and it is genuine, not going through the motions, repentance, it can be truly said that that person obeyed the command, and so, were granted repentance, that is, a change of heart and mind, a thinking differently after review and contemplation, a paradigm shift, a new sense of moral compunction, etc.

See: https://biblehub.com/greek/3340.htm

See: https://biblehub.com/greek/3341.htm

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  • When you said: “ It is the same with repentance. God has told mankind to repent. He has given humanity everything they need to do so.”. What do you mean? Are you referring to common ability to repent? 2 Timothy 2:25 seems more narrow than Acts 17:30.
    – Cork88
    Feb 1 at 17:01
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The answer lies with the biblical definition of repentance. Most of us know repentance as a turning from sin. This is a partial understanding of biblical repentance. Biblical repentance is truly a gift, it shows up with the exercise of faith.

Acts 5:31 (KJV)

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.

Acts 11:18 (KJV)

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

2 Timothy 2:25 (KJV)

25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

The gift of repentance is symbolized by baptism. John the Baptist did not preach “repent” for the forgiveness of sins; he preached the “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins”. You do not baptize yourself; in baptism something comes upon you. This is the picture of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:4

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Luke 3:3

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

In Acts 19:4, Paul defines the term, “baptism of repentance” as believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 19:4

Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

So in Acts 17:30, Paul is consistent in his definition of repentance. He tells the Greeks that God wants all men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charles P. Bayliss of Dallas Theological Seminary published a great article in the Michigan Theological Journal entitled REPENTANCE IN ACTS IN LIGHT OF DEUTERONOMY 30, explains that repentance is a “return” to a covenant relationship with God where God does all the work and we are just recipients of His grace. He cites Deuteronomy 30:6 as the place where God introduces the new covenant where God would “return” Israel to Himself and God alone would circumcise the heart of Israel. Dr Bayliss talking about Deuteronomy 30:6:

“The phrase ‘the LORD your God will circumcise your heart’ introduced the New Covenant. The New Covenant was a change which God would enact within man, as opposed to a change which man would accomplish on his own.* Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31 expanded Deuteronomy 30:6 further. Thus Moses' final sermon to the nation prophesied a time when Israel would return to covenant relationship, and God would change their hearts. It was one of the earliest, most specific references to the New Covenant. It is this return that is called ‘repentance.’5

Here is Dr Bayliss talking about the difference between Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 where he tells his Jewish audience to repent and “return” verses Peter’s second sermon in Acts 10 where he instructs the Gentiles just to believe.

“The first several chapters of Acts explain the reception of the New Covenant by a remnant of the nation Israel. Chapter 10 explains the inclusion of Gentiles into that promise. If "repentance" was a return to covenant relationship, then how was it that Gentiles might return according to Deuteronomy 30:1-6, when they never had a covenant relationship to which to return? It is one of the major purposes of Acts to explain the inclusion of Gentiles in the New Covenant.”7

Dr. Baylis cites Acts 10, where Peter has gone to the home of Cornelius for the purpose of explaining the Gospel message to the Gentiles.

“This message was absent of any accusations of killing the Messiah, since it was the Jews that had done this. It is also absent of any mention of the word "repentance" since Deuteronomy 30 was addressed only to Israel, and would have meant nothing to Cornelius as a Gentile. However, other than the substitution of the word "believe" for "repent," the elements are the same. Belief brought forth forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (10:44-45), the elements of the New Covenant. The sign of the New Covenant, baptism, was then administered to these Gentiles in 10:47.”8

http://thebiblicalstory.org/baylis/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/10624RepentanceArticle.pdf

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  • You said: "So in Acts 17:30, Paul is consistent in his definition of repentance. He tells the Greeks that God wants all men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." If God wants all men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then why does God only grant some people repentance? Can you clarify?
    – Cork88
    Feb 1 at 18:04
  • Repentance is a gift available to all. However, you must demonstrate you have received them. Remember the parable in Matthew 21:33-43 where the landowner gives the workers everything they need to grow crops. All the landowner requested from them was to give back the fruit at the time of harvest. The metaphor is clear; God has given us everything we need for salvation; all we need to do is to give them back to Him when He asks. Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him. Leave the covenant of the Law which is in our flesh and “return” to the covenant of the Promise to Abraham.
    – alb
    Feb 1 at 19:21
  • I’m confused still yet, you also said: “ The metaphor is clear; God has given us everything we need for salvation; all we need to do is to give them back to Him when He asks.”. While it’s true that God has given us everything we need for salvation; yet nobody in their fallen state gives anything back to God, I’m fact the didactic passage of Scripture in Romans 3 says nobody seeks after God: “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:10-11‬ ‭- Maybe I misunderstood you in some point?
    – Cork88
    Feb 1 at 21:32
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    Yes, it is true the there is none righteous, no not one and no one seeks after God, however, that is in our fallen state. No one in and of themselves can be righteous, we all fall short of the glory of God, therefore no one can attain heaven on their merits. That’s why we need Christ. Christ gives us His righteousness. So, by the leading of the Holy Spirit we respond in faith and repentance when we lay down our self righteous way of approaching God and accept His way of grace and mercy via the sacrifice of Christ.
    – alb
    Feb 1 at 22:39

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