What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? There seems to be a great deal of confusion about this simple term repentance and as a result some Christians spend huge amounts of time every day trying to remember every little thing they did that could be conceived as sin in order to repent of it. But is that what repentance is all about?
A Biblical definition of repentance simply means to change one’s mind. In Acts 26:19, 20 Paul is giving his testimony before King Agrippa and he has this curious thing to say to him, “Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.” (italics provided) Is Paul telling us that to repent we have to perform some action that proves our repentance? I don’t think so. Paul is simply telling us that we should repent, change our mind and the result of that change of mind will be manifested in our relationship to others.
But what is it that the Bible wants us to change our minds about? “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19
In Acts 11:18b we read in relationship to Cornelius and his household coming to Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, “And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.” Then there is this curious text in Acts 17:30, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent.” Paul speaking before the Ephesian elders states, “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21
What are we to make from these verses found in the book of Acts? First of all we see that repentance is an important component of the Christian life. To repent on the day of Pentecost involved being baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 repentance is the door to having our sins blotted out and the time of refreshing, the coming of the Spirit is manifested as a gift from the Lord.
In Acts 11:18 repentance is again associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit and the receiving of life. In Acts 17:30 repentance is not seen as an option of the Christian life but a necessity. And finally in Acts 20:21 we are told repentance involves our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think we can say that the deeds that Paul talks about in Acts 26 when he stands before Agrippa are not deeds of penance but for the King to change his mind about Jesus and accept Him as his Lord and Savior. Paul is trying to persuade King Agrippa to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and that means changing his mind, repenting about who he thinks Jesus is.
And how is that changed mind about Jesus to be worked out in “performing deeds worthy of their repentance?” Acts 2:38 simply tells us, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit will dwell within the heart. This is what Paul was telling Agrippa.
When we accept Christ, we turn from our rebellion and unbelief and allow God to dwell within our hearts. We open our lives to the filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:18) and we walk in the newness of life with the assurance that our sins are not only forgiven, (Acts 2:38) but also blotted out, (Acts 3:19) because we have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
To repent in relationship to salvation is simply to change your mind about Jesus and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. Biblical repentance is changing your mind from rejecting Jesus to accepting Him.
Now here is the really amazing and wonderful thing about repentance; it is not a work to earn salvation—it is a gift. Look at this text in John, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:44) And in the book of Acts we read, “God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance, to Israel and forgiveness of sin.” (5:31) (italics supplied)
How can anyone not love this text? Repentance is a gift from God through Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Notice the continual relationship in the texts I’ve quoted from Acts between repentance and the promise of the forgiveness of sins.
Repentance is all about faith and trusting in God to forgive our sins and reconcile us to the Father. How do we repent? We act upon the moving of the Holy Spirit in our life. When our conscience and heart is stirred that we are on the wrong path and not walking in accordance with God’s love and plans for us, we ask forgiveness and allow Him to gently put us on the right path again. “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (also see 2 Peter 3:9)
True repentance will be manifested in the evidence of a changed life. “Bear fruit that befits repentance.” Matthew 3:8 How do we bear fruit? “But the fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22, 23
Notice the fruit of the Spirit isn’t things that you do but what you become when you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus in repentance and allowed the Spirit to dwell within. Once you have accepted Jesus will your life be perfect and will the fruit of the Spirit always be bubbling out of you? No. Life is life and we will stumble and fall many times in our life journey, but we walk assured that when we do fall we may call out for help and God will be there to pick us up, forgive and continue to guide us without condemning or rebuke.
I absolutely love this verse from John 16, “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father.” (v. 27) How can we not repent of our indifference and rebellion against Him when the Father Himself loves us?
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…