Repentance and Abuse: Real Repentance Bears Fruit

(1 Peter 1:1-2  ESV)  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Elect ⇒ according to foreknowledge ⇒ in sanctification ⇒ for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with His blood.

In these few words, the Apostle Peter debunks any notion that a person can be a Christian yet not pursue holiness or obey Jesus Christ. The whole chain is linked and flows together. God the Father in eternity past loved His own people (that is what it means to “foreknow.” It doesn’t mean looking into the future and seeing who would believe), and out of that love elected and chose them. For what? That they would be sanctified by the Holy Spirit. That means set apart as God’s own holy people. Made into a holy priesthood. In accordance with that election and sanctification, they are a people whose purpose is to obey Jesus Christ, being a people cleansed by His own blood. What then is a Christian? A Christian is a person who has been chosen by God, who has been and is being sanctified by God, who obeys Jesus Christ and who has been cleansed and forgiven by Christ’s death upon the cross. That’s the whole package.

And this, once again, is why we insist that a person who is dominated and characterized by a mentality of power and control, of entitlement to what is essentially worship, who without conscience can enforce his power and control over others through the use of wicked means, is not and cannot be a Christian. You can be sure that where there is no fruit of repentance, there is no repentance. And where there is no repentance, there is no salvation. The fruit borne by real repentance and faith always evidences itself in increasing holiness of life and in obedience to Jesus Christ as evidence of having been cleansed by His blood.

How does a person know if he or she is elect? Follow the chain. Do you see sanctification working itself out in you? That is to say, do you see the Spirit of God leading you into increasing holiness of life? Not perfection, mind you. We don’t believe in perfectionism in this life or in some supposed second work of the Spirit that claims to give a state of sinlessness. No. But do you sense and see the results of a great battle having begun within you between the sinful flesh and the leading of the Spirit in you. Paul says (Romans 8) that if we are led by the Spirit and if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we can be sure that we will live. And do you see a heartfelt desire to obey Jesus Christ and an increasing pattern of doing so in your life? If so, then you can be sure that you are one of God’s elect ones. And sure enough, this is the very thing that Peter says in his second epistle:

(2 Peter 1:5-11  ESVUK)  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We have heard of pastors who tell abuse victims that they must regard their abuser as being a Christian, even though the abuser shows no repentance and his life is characterized by habitual evil. Being baptized or having said a prayer to accept Christ or being a church member does not necessarily make anyone a Christian. If it did, then the Bible would have pronounced Esau to be a most eminent saint. Instead, this is what we read about Esau —

(Hebrews 12:15-17  ESV)  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

And is this not the very thing that so many of our readers have seen and had their fill of in the case of their abuser who claims to be a Christian? Sexual immorality, despising of the grace of God, yet seeking, even with zeal and tears, to be pronounced by God and everyone else to be a true Christian? Such actions alone only qualify a man to be an Esau and nothing more. So let’s not be deceived by a counterfeit repentance that bears only rotten fruit.

We conclude with these great words from J.C. Ryle on Repentance (Old Paths, Banner of Truth, 1999, Chapter 16) —

True repentance, such as I have just described, is never alone in the heart of any man. It always has a companion — a blessed companion. It is always accompanied by lively FAITH in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wherever faith is, there is repentance; wherever repentance is, there is always faith. I do not decide which comes first — whether repentance comes before faith, or faith before repentance. But I am bold to say that the two graces are never found separate, one from the other. Just as you cannot have the sun without light, or ice without cold, or fire without heat, or water without moisture — so long you will never find true faith without true repentance, and you will never find true repentance without lively faith. The two things will always go side by side.

And now, before I go any further, let us search and try our own hearts, and see what we know about true repentance. I do not affirm that the experience of all penitent people tallies exactly, precisely, and minutely. I do not say that any man ever knows sin, or mourns for sin, or confesses sin, or forsakes sin, or hates sin, perfectly, thoroughly, completely, and as he ought. But this I do say, that all true Christians will recognize something which they know and have felt, in the things which I have just been saying. Repentance, such as I have described, will be, in the main, the experience of every true believer. Search, then, and see what you know of it in your own soul.

Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of that precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money. Wherever there is a valuable grace, the devil will put in circulation counterfeits and shams of that grace, and try to palm them off on men’s souls. Make sure that you are not deceived.

[December 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to December 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to December 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to December 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (December 1, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

14 thoughts on “Repentance and Abuse: Real Repentance Bears Fruit”

  1. Thank you, Jeff. Excellently done. This is a very clear explanation of how and why remorse is not repentance.

  2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


    Most of the church has been gaslighted to believe the opposite of what Jeff expounded above. Or worse, to believe the propositional truth of what Jeff said, but have that disconnect between propositional truth and lived-out experience that makes so many churches so shallow and anaemic.

    So good to see two male Christian leaders who agree and are spreading the word. (Larry and SpeakingTruthInLove.)

    1. The tragedy is that the thing is generational too. False faith and false repentance produce a progeny of Esaus. Professing Christians complain about people on welfare producing children who grow up expecting welfare, and that is true. But false faith and false repentance do the same. That has to be why we are seeing increased acceptance of evil in our “churches” today. It is time for us to deal with those “hard” Scriptures that talk about coming out from among them and being separate; not keeping bad company; not even eating with a so-called brother who lives in a course of sin and the world. We will be judged as harshly judgmental for it, but our Lord commands these things.

    2. For sure, Barbara, there is a disconnect between doctrine and application. I shudder to contemplate the reasons why.

  3. So, can someone describe what the sin of the converted looks like, compared to the sin of the unconverted. For example, I know lots of people who are kind and take care of their families and don’t drink, smoke or cheat or abuse their spouses or children; they are very moral, but not Christians. I have personally heard “we are all sinners!” and “what makes his sin any worse in God’s eyes, than your own” so much, that it confuses me as to what the difference is. He abuses, says “he is sorry” and I guess I am supposed to move on. But when I think of my sin, such as not believing him when he says he is sorry, or taking my anger out on someone else even though I don’t mean to or want to, I start to wonder to myself if what they say isn’t true; “What makes his sin worse than yours.” I know that there are differences in sin and their consequences. Is this what makes it different?

    Paul said that he did the very thing he hated; the very thing he wished he did not do. Abusers say this too (“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to….”), so can you describe the difference. It is hard to discern when you have lived with false repentance for so long.

    1. Anonymous — first consider this passage:

      (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV) (17) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (18) They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (19) They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (20) But that is not the way you learned Christ! — (21) assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, (22) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (23) and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, (24) and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

      A Christian can commit sin. Sometimes very serious sin. And yet there is a fundamental difference between the Christian, when he sins, in contrast to the unbeliever. The unregenerate person has given himself up to sin, as Paul states here. There is no battle within him. He is simply being who he is. And he will continue to be who he is, in spite of even very seemingly intense claims of repentance.

      Not so with the Christian. The Christian is indwelt by the Spirit and cannot persist in walking in sin without repenting of it. He has been taught by Jesus and is indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit is constantly working to lead the Christian to put off the old self and embrace the new creation in Christ. This is a process that is totally foreign to the unsaved man.

      Oh yes, many unregenerate people appear quite moral. Think of the Pharisees for instance in Jesus’ day. But they never practice their morality out of a motive to glorify God. They do it only for self and for the gain that it will get them from the world, which they love. Some even choose the facade of religion — of Christianity — and yet it remains only that, a facade. In reality, the unregenerate heart is hostile toward God and cannot obey His Law, no matter how pious he may seem outwardly. The Christian, in contrast, is grieved over his sin because it is disobedience to the Lord whom he loves and is in opposition to the Law of God which has been written upon his heart. Thus, the Christian will always repent when he sins. The unregenerate never will. Like Esau, he may weep and wail and seem to show intense remorse, yet is it all motivated by a love for self. Esau only grieved because he gave away something he did not value at all, but was sorry that it cost him being first.

      No matter how much of an act the abuser puts on, it remains only that — an act. He is always motivated by self-love, and that makes his sin as different as night and day from the Christian’s sin.

      And, of course, the Christian’s sin has been taken by our Lord Jesus Christ, borne upon the cross, paid for full and finally. The unsaved man is still dead in his sin.

      1. I am a little confused. So are you saying that a real Christian cannot be an abuser? Are you saying that anyone who is an abuser can’t actually be a born-again believer? I’m not saying that him BEING a believer has any bearing on what to do about his abuse, I am just trying to wrap my brain around the idea that if he is abusing me, it is proof that he is not saved.

        My husband has a testimony. It is a specific time and place and I believe it was real repentance and real salvation. However, he is an abuse victim from childhood so where does that fit in? Just because you are born-again doesn’t mean you still don’t have healing that needs to take place. I am not arguing the point here! I just need some clarification. My husband has shown ONE of the 9 fruits of the spirit for 28 years (fidelity) and that is wrong, but it seems a huge leap for me to assume he is actually unsaved. And if that is the case (“no abuser is saved”) then wouldn’t that prompt women who are still in the cycle to STAY because now it’s a salvation issue and nothing is more important than for that unbeliever to be saved. It wouldn’t make a difference for me because I am far along in my knowledge and strength base but if I had heard something like this a year ago, wow, it would have made me STAY.

        Thank you for this blog site!! Lots of helpful and new information that I can’t believe I didn’t understand before….

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      2. Debby – an excellent and common question. It is mind-boggling, isn’t it? I mean that a person can put up such a convincing facade of being a Christian, so much so that we even doubt ourselves if we start to question their salvation. Nevertheless, we must look at the measure of Scripture, not the person. And God’s Word says that a genuine, regenerate person (though not perfect and though still battling the flesh) IS now a NEW creation in Christ. His very identity has changed. The defining aspect of who he is as a person has changed. His heart’s desires have changed. See Romans 8 on this (every believer is led by the Spirit), Galatians 5:16ff (every Christian wants to walk in the Spirit); 1 John 2 and the repeated truth there that a person who says they love God but hate (abuse) their brother is a liar. And on and on we could go.

        Remember, and this is vital, how we are defining abuse here. The abuser is a person who has a mentality of a profound sense of entitlement to power and control and who sees themselves as fully justified in using evil tactics to gain and keep that power and control. This is who the abuser IS. And what I am saying is that the Bible necessarily precludes any possibility that such a person is a Christian.

        As to pointing to the abuser’s troubled childhood – that is no excuse. Many people have come out of abuse as children but they are not abusers. The Lord will never say to an abuser “oh, ok, you skate on the day of judgment because you were a victim as a child.” Nope.

        Now, in regard to the idea that the abuser being unsaved would motivate a victim to stay – I think you have that turned around right opposite to what is really the case. If you as a victim see yourself on a mission to “fix” and “save” your abuser, then you are not approaching things rightly. That is wrong thinking. Understandable, but nevertheless it’s wrong thinking. It is an error to maintain “nothing is more important than for that unbeliever to be saved.” You need to let go of that notion. It isn’t true. You are not your abuser’s savior. Abusers are not in need of healing. The Bible never teaches that the wicked need to be healed because they are victims of childhood abuse of some kind. Nope. The wicked are in need of repentance, and if they will not repent, they are in need of God’s judgment.

        Furthermore, there is indeed something more important — it is the glory of God. God is glorified in His protection of the oppressed and in His judgment of the oppressor. God is glorified when abusers are confronted, when they must suffer consequences of their evil, and when victims come out from among such wicked people.

        It takes us all time to sort these things out, doesn’t it? I encourage you to keep coming here and reading and interacting, and growing.

      3. Debby, here are a few more thoughts that might help you.

        When the Bible talks about ex-communicating people who profess belief in Christ, it talks about treating them “AS” unbelievers (as publicans and Gentiles, Matthew 18:17) and handing them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Corinthians 5).

        Treating them “as” is not quite the same thing as saying I know for sure for sure that this man is not saved and never was saved and never will be saved. It is a functional judgement — one we are called to make for the health of the church. It is not like we are placing ourselves in the position of God who knows for sure for sure who He will save and who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell.

        Another thing is the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) and the seeds that fell on rocky ground. Remember how they sprang up and looked like they were healthy and thriving at first? But later, when tested by having to endure tough times, they wasted and shrivelled and died. That is how some abusers seem to be. My first husband was like that. He had what seemed (at the time) to be a genuine conversion experience. But then it all gradually died away and he reverted to his former abusive ways and in the end he became more wicked than he’d been before his ‘conversion’.

        That parable is in the Bible for a good reason.

  4. Thank you for that detailed explanation. It seems that where I am in getting aid for the abuse, the lines are so blended and smeared together, and there is no desire by the ones “helping” to actually make a distinction, but your pen (keypad) made a clear and defining line that now makes it very easy to see what the truth is, and I thank you! Satan loves to keep the lines blurred and the victim confused, but God’s truth always distinguishes everything, perfectly. Your words here make it so much easier for me to see, by God’s grace and the Spirit teaching me truth, that I am able to now distinguish something very vital for my family’s well-being. I needed very much to have that explanation. I love those times where everything just falls into place and “clicks”. This is one of those times.

  5. I’ve been in a battle for over two decades, since I found my husband’s porn addiction 6 months into our marriage. I forgave a one-time incident after [several] years. After [almost two decades], I realized nothing was working because he was not a Christian, though he was highly offended at that, and many pastors and counselors treated him as if he was. You would think they would have asked tougher questions like, “If you don’t have any power to change, maybe you don’t know Him? If the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us of sin and you’re not being convicted, maybe He isn’t there? If you can’t stop lying and hiding, you can’t confess or repent, something must be wrong with your relationship with God!”

    The whole truth finally came out after I gave him an ultimatum. He then “confessed” there were multiple incidents with prostitutes, and I saw some real change after what appeared to be brokenness for a couple of years, but it didn’t last.

    Our late-teens [child] asked if he’d cheated, and he said “yes”. That was the turning point he was afraid of losing the love of his children, so he pulled out all the stops and began to turn them against me (who loved me and I’d always been the safe place for them). Calling me crazy, driving me to hysteria in front of them, then blaming me — psychological guerrilla warfare.

    After two decades I finally broke down and was bedridden for weeks. I was dissociated in a catatonic state, staring, pale-faced, could not speak, could not move, could not lift my arms, emotions stopped, could not take care of my children, had a dangerously low heart rate (bradycardia), hypoventilation (shortness of breath caused by too much carbon dioxide when the brain can’t regulate breathing), and extremely low blood pressure. VERY scary! Like a hunted animal that’s collapsed and about to die. The trauma of remaining in fight or flight had compromised the frontal cortex of my brain, nervous system, and heart (and more) — actual brain damage! I experienced hot / cold sweats [many] times a night so I never slept. I was in menopause with complex PTSD, utterly exacerbated.

    And then at my weakest point, he gained the support of my prayer warrior friends who knew our story, and somehow decided after [almost two decades] they believed HIM! They told our kids I was the problem because I just wouldn’t forgive, and that my escalated rage (at my husband from loss of executive function and self-control in the brain) was child abuse. (Mind you, my children had never seen this until I finally broke down physically and emotionally. Not saying that was okay!)

    SURELY, God did not mean for His daughters to become so abused that they can’t get out of bed to take care of their children! SURELY, we shouldn’t stay in a relationship for decades with someone whose “repentance” is not in deed, but word only! And when the women went to the church as the widows went to the priests when they had no other help, they were revictimized and given unbiblical, biased counsel. I know there are men who’ve experienced this, too, but for the most part, it seems predominantly women. I believe the church is still living under the curse in Genesis 3 that says, “Her desire will be for her husband, but he will rule over her” [Paraphrase of Genesis 3:16.] Women are under Old Testament Law while men are under New Testament cheap grace.

    I’ve searched the Scriptures myself, and if there is NO GOOD FRUIT, the tree will be cut down and cast into the fire. If there is habitual sin, there is no regeneration of spirit, and they have not seen or KNOW Him. They cannot be deceived that they are a child of God!

    The Christian life should be progressive, and have EVIDENCE of growing from glory to glory. How else will the world distinguish us from anyone else? If there is no GROWTH, we need to ask harder questions. Why not?

    I also do not believe a person is saved who lacks a conscience toward God, or others they repetitively and carelessly wound, with no sign of empathy. Failure is sure in the sanctification process, but it’s their attitude toward failure that is key. If there is no sign of brokenness over their sin, only superficial apologies, that should concern us. We have to stop allowing grace and forgiveness to be abused. Even God doesn’t forgive us if we don’t confess and repent! Why would He expect US to do something HE doesn’t do! At some point, God calls ALL men into account.

    Luke says:

    ….IF he repents, forgive him. [Luke 17:3, capitalization done by the commenter.]

    I wonder why he said IF in that scenario. Maybe even GOD knew it would be impossible to forgive “from the heart” if the abuse never stops. A child constantly being raped in his home is not able to forgive a perpetrator until he is away in safety. We need to stop with the religious, performance stuff and get them out of danger so they CAN forgive.

    [Details airbrushed for safety and protection. Editors.]

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