‘Repent’ or Perish?

After about 400 years without a prophet in Israel, John the Baptist appeared on the scene with a simple message:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Luke 3: 1-3

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:4

The Gospel of Mark records the following concerning the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry:

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” – Mark 1:14-15

You could say that the command to repent is the first word of the gospel message. Later during his ministry, Jesus spoke again of repentance, this time to

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:1-5

Jesus spoke of repentance again after his resurrection, this time to his disciples:

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” – Luke24:45-47

What is repentance and what is its connection to salvation?

The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. The action is a turning away from one thing and toward another. Concerning salvation it is a turning from sin and toward Christ. To believe in Christ means to believe that he bore our sins on the cross in our place. Therefore repentance is inherent to the concept of believing in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. To desire forgiveness for sin begins with changing one’s mind about it, else why would one ask to be forgiven? Jesus stated in Luke 13:1-5 that lack of repentance from sin results in perishing, or condemnation. We also know that the sin of unbelief results in condemnation (John 3:18). Do you see the inescapable connection between repentance and belief?

How does a person come to a place of repentance? Is it a human or divine work?

Repentance is not a work of man, but a gift from God. When Peter and his small band of Jewish believers were at the home of Cornelius the Gentile and heard Cornelius story of having been instructed by an angel to find Peter and bring him, we are told:

“When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” – Acts 11:18

When the Apostle Paul was teaching young Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul instructed him:

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Tim 2:24-26

Relevant questions.

If repentance and belief in Christ go hand in hand, why is it that we hear so little about repentance from our pulpits and megachurch stages? Why is it that in our little evangelistic 5 or 6 steps to Jesus, the term ‘repent’ is not found? Instead we begin by telling people God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them, a phrase not to be found in scripture.

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