Exodus 13:17 — “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt…”
Notice that in this verse, God does not want the people to repent. The question is repent from what? It is very important to remember that if one is to repent, something must be repented from or repented toward, or both. The act of repentance must have an object.
Sometimes we, as Pauline dispensationalists, are accused of not teaching repentance, or teaching against repentance, or some similar accusation, but that is not the case. I, for one, have never been against teaching repentance, just against the unscriptural teaching that the so-called “lordship” salvationists teach, which ultimately puts the sinner’s salvation back onto himself.
The Bible will explain itself. Like so many other words onto which we sometimes force a meaning, repentance is explained by its context and has an object. It could mean to turn from sin, and it could mean to change your mind about something else. In the Gospels, the thought is almost always similar to Jeremiah 7:3 “amend your ways and your doings” and to turn back to the proper covenant relationship in which the people of Israel were in already. John the Baptist was called to “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17), so his message was “repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat 3:2).
In Acts 17 when Paul tells the Athenians that God is now commanding all men everywhere to repent, he is not telling them to turn and renounce all sin, he is telling them to change their thinking about what God is like, and gives a warning about the coming judgment of the world in righteousness. In other words, they were ignorant, now they are not. They know the truth, so now act on it, and there are consequences if you do not.
To any who may be reading who have not come to terms about their condition under sin and the offer of forgiveness available to them, as it is available to all, by grace through faith in the death of Christ on the cross for your sins, and His resurrection to make full justification available to all who believe in Him — this is what you need to come to terms with and embrace:
1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4 — “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
Romans 3:21 – 26 — “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Acts 16:31 — “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”