Shelby G. Floyd
Preaching repentance was a prominent topic of Jesus and the apostles: Peter declared:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3: 19-21 ESV).
This statement was made by the apostle Peter, in a sermon delivered before the Jews, in Solomon’s porch, a part of the temple of God at Jerusalem. This passage emphasizes the prominent place that repentance held in the preaching of the apostles. The preaching of repentance was also a prominent topic in the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3: 1-2); of Jesus Christ (Matthew 4: 17; 11: 20-22); of the twelve who were sent out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mark. 6: 12.); and likewise to the seventy who were sent out to preach to the people (Luke 10: 1-16).
PREACHING REPENTANCE IS A COMMAND
The last words of Christ before he ascended back into heaven were, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and. remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24: 46-47). Thus the first and last words of Christ were the preaching of repentance.
When the apostles were sent out under the second or the great commission of Jesus Christ, they preached repentance. On the day of Pentecost, when the great crowd of people asked Peter what they should do, he recognized that they already believed the word that he had preached.; and therefore, his answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NKJV). When Paul stood before the great high court of Athens, near the end of his sermon, he said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Thus from this summary one can see that repentance held a very important place in the preaching of the apostles, and those who went before them.
GODLY SORROW PRECEDES REPENTANCE
Repentance then is necessary for the remission of sins, and eternal life. But what is repentance? Many people have a very obscure idea of what they are to do when they are commanded to repent. With many people repentance is a sorrow for sin. Matthew says that, “When Judas saw that he was condemned, he repented (metamelomai) himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matthew 27:3-4). Judas was sorry that he was condemned, but he was not sorry that he had betrayed Christ. He was not sorry to the point that he would change his life; for he went out and hanged himself, which indicated that his sorrow was of the world, and not a godly sorrow that leads to repentance: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7: 10).
Godly sorrow then, precedes repentance, and is that which works repentance; therefore, it should not be confounded with repentance itself. Neither is repentance to be confounded with a change of life or reformation.
A CHANGE OF LIFE FOLLOWS REPENTANCE
John the Baptist told those who came out to his baptism, to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. (Matthew 3: 7-8). The fruits of repentance refer to a change of life, and therefore, it is something that follows repentance. Therefore, repentance is something that is distinct from godly sorrow, and from a change of life. But what is it? On one occasion Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12: 41.) The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah: but Christ was greater than Jonah, and yet, the people to whom he spoke refused to repent of their sins. But what did the people do in repenting at the preaching of Jonah? When Jonah finally decided to go into that great city of Nineveh, a population of 120,000; he preached unto the people saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The people believed what Jonah preached to them and from the king on down to the lowliest person in the kingdom, they humbled themselves in sackcloth and ashes. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3: 10). The repentance of the people of Nineveh then, consisted in their turning from their evil way, which began in a change of will, and issued forth in a change of life.
REPENTANCE IS A CHANGE OF MIND
In the Old Testament we read of Jacob and Esau. Esau was the first born which meant that he had right to the larger portion of his father’s inheritance. On one occasion Esau returned from hunting, and was very tired. Jacob offered him pottage to eat on the condition that he would sell his birthright, which he did. When he later realized what he had done; he could find no place for a change of mind. “For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place for repentance though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb. 12:16-17).
Therefore, repentance is simply a change of mind, produced by godly sorrow, and leading to a change of life. God is not willing that any person should perish, but he gives all men the privilege to come to repentance. Life is the boundary line of repentance.
THE GOSPEL PLAN OF SALVATION
There are no contradictions between Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and his sermon at Solomon’s Portico. The gospel plan of salvation is simple and easy to understand! The following comparison will illustrate the perfect harmony on the two sermons:
repent-and be baptized-in Christ’s name-forgiveness of sin-gift of Holy Spirit
repent-and turn-sins blotted out-seasons of refreshing from the Lord’s presence
Therefore, they perfectly harmonize and become explanatory. The gospel plan of salvation from sin is that everyone in the name or authority of Christ is to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin. And as a result that person will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
Copyright © 2019 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142