A few weeks ago, I talked about forgiveness.
Tonight I would like to talk about the flip side of forgiveness: Repentance.
The basic text for this lesion will be Acts 2:38
This text is well known in the churches.
It is a text that the middle part is taught almost exclusively and the beginning and ending thirds are almost exclusively excluded from deep consideration.
Well tonight, we are only going to consider the first third of this text.
First we must understand how the Greeks of old used the word “and” in relationship to the text of Acts 2:38 if we are to understand just how important the first third of this text really is to the whole of the text and to our salvation as Christians.
I am convinced that the second two thirds of this text will never really happen in our lives as God intended if the first third of the text is not fully understood and complied with.
It is my hope and prayer that tonight’s study will bear this thought out as an absolute fact for the salvation of every person.
If you will recall back to the lesson on forgiveness, we talked about the importance of taking a personal inventory as Paul commanded twice in his letters to the church in Corinth.
The reason for these inventories was to discover all areas where we are in error in our attitudes, conduct, speech, thoughts, or actions.
We cannot and will not seek a plumber to repair a leaky pipe until we know we have a leaky pipe.
That is what Paul is telling us and why he has commanded us to look at ourselves. You see it is impossible to seek forgiveness until we know we need forgiveness. In other words, it is impossible to repent if we do not know why we are specifically repenting.
In the text, the Jews were repenting of:
- Killing Christ the Son of God.
- Not believing Christ was the Son of God who came in the form of man to reconcile the world back to God. (We know this from 1 John)
The word “and” as use by the Greeks in the text means something very important to understand and which is very vital to our baptism unto salvation.
In the Greek, the word is “kai” and connects values, terms, or words that hold equal importance and value to the subject discussed. (Strong’s and Thayer’s) It means emphatically that one is of no less importance than the other that the word and is connecting.
Therefore, in Acts 2:38 where Peter states “repent and be baptized” is saying that repentance is just as important and the baptism is in God’s eyes and to our salvation – No more and no less.
Now that we understand the use of the word “and” in the text, we must look at what repentance really is.
Most preachers like to say that repentance is “Godly sorrow.” However, what is that really? What does “Godly sorrow really look like?
Some common religious definitions I have heard over the course of the last five years include:
- Godly sorrow
- Feeling honest regret for offenses committed and asking for forgiveness
- A turning with sincere regret from a past method of action
- A feeling of truthful sorrow or guilt for doing wrong or living wrong
- A change of thinking and/or action to get forgiveness
- Absolute remorse for your past behavior
- Shifting where your heart lives
- Moving from the world’s camp to God’s camp
Webster’s defines repentance as “The action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings”
12 Step recovery programs define repentance as a “spiritual awakening” meaning a character change generous enough to bring about an extraordinary and noticeable change with the personality of an individual.
All of these definitions are very similar to some degree with each other. They all speak of deep a personality change taking place resulting in a notable outward behavioral change within an individual.
All imply that there was a true understanding of some sort of wrong committed on the persons part prior to the repentance being made and an understanding of that wrong by the person prior to the repentance being made.
Therefore, it would seem that true, honest, and sincere contrition in the Bible draws closer to first a personal inspection of a persons miss deed (perhaps of a private nature) that result inwardly to produce a profound outward corrective response to a life of wrongful behavior by the individual.
The New Testament appears to indicate that this change or turning from wrongful ways is to turn to Godly living.
Best Known Biblical Example of Repentance:
Prodigal Son – Luke 15:14 “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” (NIV)
Other Examples Concerning Repentance in the New Testament:
Tax collector – Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (NIV) A profound outward response.
Peter – Luke 22:61-62 “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (NIV) A profound outward response.
Paul – Acts 26:17-20 “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 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.” (NIV) Paul preached a message of profound outward corrective response.
The Corinthians – 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it– I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while– yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (NIV) A profound outward corrective response.
The Thessalonians – 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia– your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead– Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (NIV) A profound outward corrective response.
The Jews – Acts 2:37-41 “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off– for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (NIV) A profound outward corrective response.
Therefore, Biblical Repentance is:
Repentance entails an individual’s transforming response to faith in God. True repentance demonstrates a profound change in motives, attitudes, and response behind an individual who has altered their way of life for righteousness.
True faith always precedes true repentance. True repentance is an action that is visible in the way an individual believes and becomes vigorously energetic because of their belief.
True repentance is much more than simple sorrow concerning conduct or attitude or lifestyle. True repentance sets in motion an alteration in an individual’s perspective of truth where God is concerned in relationship to the individual’s personal character.
True repentance effects a change in a person’s acceptance regarding Godly right and wrong thereby producing a direct change in a person’s standard of living and behavior towards God and people within their life.
Guy Lewis, Payson, Arizona: November 18, 2010