Packer’s 5 ‘R’s of Repentance


A recent conversation with a friend directed me to J. I. Packer’s book, A Passion for Holiness. It’s a long while since I read it, but thumbing through it convinced me I need to revisit this little treasure. One helpful nugget is toward the beginning of chapter 5 in which Packer unpacks the nature of true repentance in 5 ‘R’s as follows:

  1. Recognition that one has done wrong and failed God
  2. Remorse at the dishonour one has done to God
  3. Requesting of God’s pardon and cleansing
  4. Renunciation of the sins in question and resolve to live right for the future
  5. Restitution to those who suffer material loss through one’s wrongdoing

What is clear here, to state the blindingly obvious, is the God-ward direction of repentance. Packer is clear that repentance and reconciliation needs to operate on the horizontal, but first and foremost it is God whom we have wronged, and it is God that we need to come to in repentance. As a result of this, we will seek reconciliation with others. The second thing that struck me in Packer’s brief outline was the thorough and practical nature of repentance. It’s not enough to say a silent sorry in solitude. Renunciation, resolve, and restitution are part of the Packer package. Packer closes his summary with one final reminder regarding the ongoing nature of true repentance:

“Such is repentance – not just the initial repentance of the adult convert, but the recurring repentance of the adult disciple.”

As another friend in our conversation said, I think I need to repent of my repentance!

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