What is repentance? The word "repentance" in the NT comes from a Greek word that means, "to get a new mind." The word simply means a change of mind. From the very beginning of the gospel, the need for people to repent was taught with great force by every teacher sent by God
Read the following parable:"There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said `Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' `I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered,`I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" (Matthew 21:28-31)
The first son, after refusing to do as the father requested, later "repented, and went." That is, he changed his mind and did as his father told him to do. We can plainly see that repentance is a change of mind.
John the Baptist (or Immerser, baptist means immerser), who came to make things ready for Jesus, was the first of a long line of preachers to tell people that they had to repent in order to be pleasing to God. Matthew wrote: "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, `Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matthew 3:1,2)
Later, when John had done his work and had been put in prison, we are told: "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. `The time has come,' he said, `The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" (Mark 1:14,15)
After this, Jesus went about his work, preaching the gospel to the poor and doing good to all. He called twelve men to be his apostles. These twelve men were sent by Jesus to preach to others. "They went out, and preached that people should repent." (Mark 6:12)
Jesus harmed no one, but did only good for all with whom he came in contact. He tried to get all people to repent so they would be pleasing to God and God would be able to rule their lives. Wicked men, because of envy, misunderstood and refused Jesus. They demanded that he be put to death on a cross. The grave could not hold Jesus and on the third day after his burial, God released him from the tomb and he lived as a man again. He kept showing himself to many different people so that all would know and be sure that he was risen from the dead. Then he went back to heaven to take his place at the right hand of God and have the glory and the honor that was due him.
His followers who were still upon the earth were commanded to go into every land and tell every person to repent. Jesus said to these disciples, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46,47)
The book of Acts tells how believers in the first century obeyed Jesus and went everywhere preaching the word of God. Here are a few examples of how they preached and what they said:
- Peter: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38)
- Peter: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." (Acts 3:19)
- Paul: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30)
- Paul said that he had done this, "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." (Acts 26:20)
You can see from this how important it is for people to repent. If we do not repent, we cannot be with Jesus and God. If we do not repent, we shall die a spiritual death and will not be able to go into heaven. Jesus said, "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:3). This is very clear and easy to understand. Jesus taught that we will either repent or we shall perish!
We must know what repentance is or we will not be able to repent. There are many wrong ideas about what repentance is. Some think that when a person knows he is a sinner and feels guilty, he has repented. In chapter twenty-six of the book of Acts we are told how Paul preached to a certain king whose name was Agrippa. This king was a very sinful man. The apostle made him realize how evil he was, but he did not repent. King Agrippa, as far as we know, never did obey the gospel and receive forgiveness of sins.
Repentance is not fear. On still another occasion Paul preached to a governor named Felix. This man, too, was a bad man who did not fear God and who did many wrong things. He was guilty of murder, stealing, lying and adultery. When Paul preached to Felix, he " . . . discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, `That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'" (Acts 24:25) Felix was afraid, but Felix did not repent. No, fear is not repentance.
Repentance is not sorrow for sins. This cannot be true either. Paul wrote, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow comes before repentance. If godly sorrow causes us to repent, then they are two different things. Godly sorrow is one thing, and repentance is another thing.
It may help us to understand what repentance is and what we are to do when we repent if we know what causes repentance. The NT tells us that two things cause or help us to repent. They are:
1. The goodness or kindness of God - "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)
2. Godly sorrow - "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Here is how it happens. We are all sinners. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. Paul wrote, "What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin" (Romans 3:9). He also wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the> glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Every person sins. Just think of your own life and of the things you have done. Stop and remember. Can you think of things you have done that you know are wrong - things you should not have done? Have you hurt a friend? Have you told a lie? Have you been drunk? Have you been guilty of fornication? Have you failed to do things that are right and that you should have done? We can all think of things in our past life that we are ashamed of and we ought not to have done.
On the other hand, think of the fact that God loves you and wants the very best for you. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Think of that! God loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for you. God wants you to be happy. God wants you to be saved. God is good. He sends us the sunshine and the rain and causes the golden harvest to bless us with food and clothes and houses. Everything good we have we owe to God.
We see that God is good and has done many wonderful things for us and that we are sinful and unworthy of his gifts. God's goodness - his rich gifts to us - should make us sad that we have failed him and that we ought to be full of sorrow. The godly sorrow we feel should cause us to change our minds about the way we have acted and lived in the past. Our sorrow should make us decide to quit doing what is wrong and start doing what is right. That decision to change is repentance.
Repentance makes us better people. It makes us live in a way that will please God. John the Baptist (Immerser) told the people to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). It is not enough for us to know that we are sinful and that God is good. Such knowledge should cause us to make such a strong decision to live righteous lives that we cannot fail to make whatever change is in order. Godly living follows true repentance. A change in mind brings a change in life.
Repentance has to do with the human will. We are stubborn and it is hard for us to admit that we have been wrong. But once we think about our own sins and considers the goodness and patience of God, we will decide to change our ways and be the kind of person God wants us to be. The person who has done this will not hesitate to obey the command of the NT to be baptized (immersed) in order to have one's sins removed. If our mind, our heart, has changed, God promises to wash away our sins in the act of baptism (immersion). (Acts 22:16)
That is God's plan for us. That is what God wants you to do. We ought to obey God because one day the Lord Jesus will be revealed . . .
" . . . from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
"Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 2:2-9)
The call of God is to repent, to repent or else . . .