In the things-which-God-cannot-do category is this: God cannot do our repenting for us.
In our efforts to magnify grace we have so preached the truth as to convey the impression that repentance is a work of God. This is a grave mistake, and one which is taking a frightening toll among Christians everywhere. God has commanded all men to repent. (Acts 17:30) It is a work which only they can do. It is morally impossible for one person to repent for another. Even Christ could not do this. He could die for us, but He cannot do our repenting for us.
God in His mercy may “incline” us to repent and by His inworking Spirit assist us to repent; but before we can be saved we must of our own free will repent toward God and believe in Jesus Christ. This the Bible plainly teaches; this experience abundantly supports. Repentance involves moral reformation. The wrong practices are on man’s part, and only man can correct them. Lying, for instance, is an act of man, and one for which he must accept full responsibility. When he repents he will quit lying. God will not quit for him; he will quit for himself.
When stated thus frankly everything seems obvious enough, and we may wonder how reasonable persons could expect someone else to relieve them of their personal obligation to repent. In practice, however, and under the pressure of strong religious emotion, things are not so plain as one might suppose. The fact is, the “all has been done, you can do nothing” emphasis has caused no end of confusion among seekers everywhere.
People are told they must surely perish because of what they are, not because of what they do; what they do does not enter into the picture at all. And furthermore, they can do nothing in the direction of salvation; even to suggest a thing is to offend God: is not the horrible example of Cain enough to prove that? So they are tossed helplessly between the first Adam and the last Adam. One did their sinning for them and the other has done everything else. Thus the nerve of their moral life is cut and they sink back in despair, afraid to move lest they be guilty of sinful self-effort. At the same time they are deeply troubled with the knowledge that there is something seriously wrong with their religious lives.
The remedy is to see clearly that men are not lost because of what someone did thousands of years ago; they are lost because they sin individually and in person. We will never be judged for Adam’s sin, but for our own. For our own sins we are and must remain fully responsible until they have been brought for disposition to the Cross of Jesus. The idea that we can delegate repentance is an erroneous inference drawn from the doctrine of grace wrongly presented and imperfectly understood.