I am increasingly appreciating the theological discipline of biblical theology. The pursuit of following a principle, pattern, or term throughout Scripture, noting along the way the foundation of thought and the progression that takes place which is built on that foundation, is truly an invaluable manner in which to study Scripture. The process as a whole provides a holistic view of what God has to say on a given topic and truly roots the individual in an in-depth understanding of word usage and application.
When it comes to a topic such as repentance, the temptation is to immediately investigate the New Testament text, almost as if repentance did not formulate itself as a necessary part of God’s people until post-cross. This is unfortunate, as we can see, if time and sufficient energy is taken, the foundation of repentance as revealed in the Old Testament, in particular what was expected of the people of God when they claimed they had repented.
Mark Boda, in his excellent study on this topic called Return to Me: A Biblical Theology of Repentance, walks the reader from the beginning pages of the Old Testament to the concluding pages of the New Testament with the express purpose of taking an in-depth look at what repentance is all about, the words associated with repentance, and perhaps most importantly, what repentance looks like in action.
This book is part of the ever expanding and very helpful New Studies in Biblical Theology series from IVP Academic. Each book I have read thus far in this series has been quite impressive and this entry is no exception.
After outlining his intended approach and establishing some ground rules and the basis for his discussion, Boda begins by looking at repentance in the Torah. It is notable that repentance first presents itself very early in the biblical corpus, namely in Genesis 4 in relation to Cain and Abel. Boda aptly comments, “This early story in the Old Testament highlights the importance of the inner affections to repentance. Its tragic outcome foreshadows the struggle of humanity in general and Israel in particular to embrace the agenda of repentance fully.”
Building even further on the foundation for repentance found in the Torah, Boda then continues his journey through Scripture. Along the way, he spends a good deal of time and rightly so working through key terms such as putting away, turn, return, and their various cognates. This type of word study may seem boring to some; however, grasping word definitions in context, their use, and application is absolutely vital to something such as biblical theology. In fact, it is essential for any interaction with Scripture or the desire to understand what God is saying through the particular terms chosen. Boda correctly notes that repentance was not only about making a statement that one was sorry for sinful behavior. While that is part of repentance, it is the turning away, that physical action or movement away from sinful behavior towards an increasing place of holiness that defines true repentance.
The portion of this book I appreciated most was the chapter on the theological implications of repentance. Again building on the theme that repentance involves active turning from sin, Boda rightly explains, “Repentance is not just the gateway into relationship with the triune God; it is the pathway for that continuing relationship.” He goes on to correctly state that “repentance at the outset of the Christian life restores us to relationship with God, and we (re)discover our true identity as children of the living God. But as in any relationship between parent and child there is the opportunity for growth in that relationship…Returning to and repairing our relationship with God with the spiritual resources that God grants us is part of the reality of life lived in this present evil age, and this is why the New Testament consistently calls a redeemed Christian community to repent.”
Since repentance is a necessary part of our daily Christian walk, having a solid understanding of the biblical message regarding repentance is essential to our spiritual growth. Mark Boda does an excellent job of walking the reader through the relevant Scriptural references about repentance while driving home in a practical and theologically consistent manner the importance of turning away from sin and walking in holiness with our Creator. This is a book I highly recommend and is one I will return to many times in the future as I continue to study the topic of repentance.
I received this book for free from IVP Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”