3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3–5, NKJV)
Judas did several things that often pass for repentance today. Each one falls short of “repentance from dead works” that is an elementary principle of Christ and must not be confused with genuine repentance (Heb. 6:1). 1) Remorse is not repentance. Judas regretted that Jesus had been condemned. Regretting the outcome of our sin is not repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Regretting unforeseen consequences caused by our sin does not mean we have changed our minds toward our sin. 2) Recompense is not repentance. Judas expressed his regret by returning the silver. Maybe he thought that would change the situation. Of course, it did not. We should, to the best of our ability, correct sinful wrongs we have committed. Repayment may salve the conscience but never address the intent and motives that led to sin in the first place. Repentance will do that (2 Cor. 7:11). 3) Reporting is not repentance. We can say, “I have sinned,” yet fail to have a contrite heart that changes before God and others (like Peter, whose bitter weeping led him to change his heart and life, Matt. 26:75). 4) Reciprocity is not repentance. Judas’ suicide was an act of despair. Repentance moves forward with faith and hope in Christ (1 Tim. 1:12-16).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10, NKJV)
Solomon gives counsel concerning how to live life (“under the sun”) to the fullest. In his conclusion he tells us by fearing God and keeping His commandments we fulfill our primary purpose of life (Eccl. 12:13-14). Within this context, the counsel he gives in today’s passage will help us live a contented life without regret. First, live joyfully (v. 9). Marriage is given by God as a joyful arrangement of man and woman. Surely, we should learn to rejoice together in it (Phil. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 3:7). Secondly, be thankful for “your portion in life” (v. 9). Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, count the blessings you have from God’s hand (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 1:3). Thirdly, do your work diligently (v. 10). Accept the tasks of life and meet them with dedication, not complaint (Rom. 12:11). Fourthly, live with the knowledge you are going to die (v. 10). Death comes to us all. Accept that and prepare for the judgment that follows (Heb. 9:27). How one chooses to prepare for death will mean the difference between a life filled with regret, or a life headed toward the eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Rev. 21:4).