2 Timothy 2:25—Is repentance a gift of God or an act of man?
Problem: Paul speaks here of God “granting them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (cf. Acts 5:31). Yet in other places, repentance is considered a person’s own act. Jesus, for example, calls on people to “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Paul tells us that God “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). But doesn’t it have to be either an act of God or else an act of the individual believer?
Solution: There are two possible answers here, neither of which negates a person’s God-given responsibility to exercise free choice. First, repentance could be an actual gift of God, but like other gifts, it must be received to be enjoyed. On this view, God offers all who are willing the gift of repentance unto eternal life. Those who are not willing do not get repentance. In this way, God is impartial in His offer, but man is still responsible to accept or reject the gift of repentance necessary for salvation.
A second view simply notes the two different senses in which repentance is used in these seemingly opposed verses. One set of verses is speaking of repentance as an opportunity and the other as an act. The former is simply a disposition given by God, leaving the actual action of repenting to human beings. The former is a God-given provision, while the latter is a man-made decision. This view can be summarized as follows:
So understood, there is no contradiction in the diverse texts on repentance. Whichever interpretation is taken, one thing is certain, there is no verse saying God repents for us. Each free moral creature is responsible to repent for himself. The same can be said about whether faith is a gift of God or not.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.