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It Is Biblical to Call Sinners to Repent

The Evidence Study Bible

From The Evidence Study Bible

While the world would say that David was an unfortunate victim of his own moral weaknesses, the truth is that he was a covetous man. He was a devious liar, a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer. He dishonored his parents and he caused the name of the Lord to be blasphemed by the enemies of the God who had lavished His goodness on him. So Nathan was commissioned by God to reprove the king.

“The work of the Law is written on the heart of every sinner, so we must therefore use the Law to bring the knowledge of sin.”

There is great significance in the order in which the reproof came. Did Nathan begin by saying, “There is a God-shaped hole in your heart”? Of course not. What would that have to do with anything? David was a criminal who had violated God’s Law. It is easy to see sin in others, but not in ourselves. There was a huge log of sin in David’s eye so that he couldn’t see clearly. So Nathan gave David (the shepherd of Israel) a parable about something that David could understand—sheep. He began with the natural realm, rather than immediately exposing the king’s sin. He told a story about a rich man who, instead of taking a sheep from his own flock, killed a poor man’s pet lamb to feed a stranger.

David was indignant, and sat up on his high throne of self-righteousness. He revealed his knowledge of the Law (see Exod. 22:1) by declaring that the guilty party must restore fourfold and must die for his crime. The work of the Law is written on the heart of every sinner (see Rom. 2:15), so we must therefore use the Law to bring the knowledge of sin.

When going through the Ten Commandments with sinners, you will find the same thing—they will not look at themselves with the same moral measure with which they look at others. For years I had a hurdle I couldn’t seem to get over. I would ask people, “Do you think you are a good person?” “Yes.” I would then say, “Well, let’s look at the Ten Commandments to see if that’s true. Have you ever told a lie?” “Yes.” Then I would try to personalize it by saying, “What does that make you?” and I would frequently hear, “Well, it doesn’t make me a liar.” So I would say, “What would you call me if I told lies?” and they would quickly concede, “A liar.” However, I’ve found a better way. Instead of asking, “Have you ever told a lie?” I now ask, “So, how many lies do you think you have told in your life?” People would immediately say, “Many.” That made it so much easier to get them to concede that a person who has told lies is a liar.

“The Law should always precede mercy, because it is the Law that necessitates mercy.”

Notice how Nathan personalized David’s sin. He didn’t dilute the king’s guilt by saying, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He didn’t generalize his transgression. He knew David must be made to know that his sin had angered God. David had despised “the commandment of the LORD.” Nathan exposed the king’s sin of taking another man’s “lamb,” saying, “You are the man!… Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?”

Consider how Paul similarly personalized the Law: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” (Rom. 2:21–23).

Imagine if Nathan, fearful of rejection, glossed over the personal nature of David’s sin, and instead told David, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. However, there is something that is keeping you from enjoying this wonderful plan; it is called ‘sin.’” David’s reaction may have been, “What sin are you talking about?” rather than to admit his terrible transgression. Think of it—why should he cry, “I have sinned against the Lord” at the sound of that message? Instead, he may have, in a sincere desire to experience this “wonderful plan,” admitted that he, like all men, had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If David had not been made to tremble under the wrath of the Law, the prophet would have removed the very means of producing godly sorrow, which was so necessary for David’s repentance. It is “godly sorrow” that produces repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). It was the weight of David’s guilt that caused him to cry out, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The Law caused him to labor and become heavy laden; it made him hunger and thirst for righteousness. It enlightened him as to the serious nature of sin as far as God was concerned.

Only after David acknowledged his personal transgression did Nathan give him the “gospel” (the good news). When David admitted he had sinned against God, the prophet then gave him grace and said, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” The Law should always precede mercy, because it is the Law that necessitates mercy. In David’s wonderful prayer of contrition in Psalm 51, notice how the Commandments made sin personal (note how many times David says “I,” “me,” and “my”): “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”

We are called to walk in the steps of Nathan—to preach the Word, to convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (see 2 Tim. 4:2). Preach Law before grace and you will see similar results.

Order The Evidence Study Bible today.

The Evidence Study Bible
1. Why Even Top Scientists Are Doubting Evolution
2. What Does It Really Mean to Know the Lord?
3. It Is Biblical to Call Sinners to Repent
4. Answering Common Questions About Creation
5. The Difference Between Biblical and False Prophecy

Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters, a bestselling author, and has written more than 100 books, including, The Evidence Study Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program Way of the Master, which airs in 190 countries.

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