Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Why does man pay so much attention to repentance? This is because man’s mind has the poison of the law and works remaining in it. Salvation is free, but because man’s mind is full of the law and works, he never considers that God would give salvation to him freely. He never thinks that God would freely bear man’s burden. He always thinks that he has to do something good before he can be saved. Whether it is the keeping of the law, the performing of good works, or the need for repentance, man always thinks that he has to do something. It seems as if man is never willing to be an unconditional beneficiary. He never wants to stand in a position of receiving. Although he realizes that it is impossible to do everything, he thinks that he must at least do something. It is precisely this doing that has twisted the biblical meaning of repentance. It turns repentance into our repentance.

Please remember that the repentance mentioned in the Bible and the repentance that we talk about are two different things. What is repentance according to man’s mind? According to the human concept, repentance is improvement. According to his mind, repentance is not something for the past, but is something to deal with the present and the future. Formerly, I was sinful, fallen, degraded, and weak. Now I want to be saved. Hence, I have to improve myself from today on and make myself look better.

The Chinese word for repentance is hwe-gai. Hwe means to feel sorry, and gai means to change. Some have invented a new doctrine, unknown to the New Testament, based on this Chinese word, saying that some people only hwe but do not gai. Hence, they say that it is not enough just to feel sorry; there must also be a change. Why does man pay so much attention to change? It is because man’s thought is full of works. This is why he emphasizes works so much. He says that since everything he did before was wrong, he must no longer be wrong. He realizes that he was bad and that he was a sinner, but now, he should not be bad and should no longer be a sinner. Formerly he sinned, and before God he was clothed in rags; he had squandered all of his Father’s possessions. How then can he be accepted when he returns home? Surely he has to do business, and make some money. Surely he should have on the best robe and a pair of shoes before he can return home. Man’s thought is that he needs a certain degree of improvement before he can return home. If his clothes are not proper and he looks the same as before, perhaps the Father would not accept him. If he would improve somewhat, although there is still no assurance whether the Father would accept him, at least there is a better and greater chance. Man never considers that it is possible to go to God and receive salvation in his present condition. He always wants to improve himself. He admits that he cannot be perfect in his conduct. But he thinks that he still has to have something and trust in the Lord for the rest. To him, it is like gambling; he has to place a bet before he can gamble. This bet which he places is the repentance that man talks about.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)