From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the things that we tend to do with words is to adapt a word to use for our own meanings. As a result, that particular word may mean something different to us than to others in our culture. For example, carbonated beverages may be called coke, pop or soda depending on what part of the USA you are from. You will probably defend your term as being the only correct one and be able to explain how the others don’t mean the same thing.
In the Bible, there are several words that are unique to God and His people. Other people may use the word and fail to appreciate its spiritual meaning. If we would understand God then we must learn the language. Let’s look at an example that’s important both to the New Testament world and to our world today:
The Greek verb metanoeō (usually translated repent) means changing one’s mind and reflects how you understand something afterward. The word is rarely found in Classical Greek because the Greeks never pictured a radical change in life as a conversion or turning around. In fact, the concept of conversion is pretty much foreign to Greek thought.
God, however, uses this word, repent, to mean a whole lot more and we cannot afford to miss His meaning. Instead of a passive simple change of mind, God redefines this word to mean a radical, moral turn of the whole person from sin and to God.
John the Baptist preached Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2). His message clearly points out a change from sin to living a new life. Jesus explains this message as repentance to believe in the Good News (Mark 1:15). And Peter further explains (Acts 2:38) that this change of life direction precedes baptism into Christ.
Think about that for a moment. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins is a pledge, a determination to change our lives and follow Jesus would result in a new person, free of sin. Baptism WITHOUT CHANGING, but immediately going back into sin, is not really baptism! Note that this is exactly the situation described by Peter in 2 Peter 2:20-22 and is, of course, completely contrary to the whole purpose of conversion to Christ.
Peter also illustrated this failure to radically turn from sin to a new way of life in Christ to Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:22 when he told this new Christian to repent of your wickedness. Being freed from sin only to sin again is foolish, counterproductive and, worst of all, a failure to really be saved at all.
Without repentance, without change and a plan to keep to the right path in Christ, there is no purpose to forgiveness. Thus Peter’s instructions of Acts 2:38 combine both repentance and baptism as necessary to salvation.
Recall that many people today preach a message of accepting Jesus into your heart as the ultimate method of salvation without any need for repentance or baptism. Equally popular is the fake admonition to pray the sinner’s prayer that somehow magically saves you.
One of the beauties of the truth of God’s word is that sincere people can study and learn the truth in spite of human corruption and false teaching. Today a surprising number of denominational and former denominational preachers and teachers are admitting publicly to the false doctrine of salvation without repentance and baptism. Any so-called gospel that does not preach repentance is not from God! God still commands that all people everywhere must repent (Acts 17:30).
Remember that sin is the issue, and repentance is therefore at the core of salvation. Repentance is God’s language for the only correct response to sin. Jesus came for the purpose of saving us from sin. God’s patience in holding back judgment is for the express purpose of more people having the opportunity to repent and have their sins washed away (cf. Romans 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9).
While baptism is a one-time cleansing of sin that puts us into a new relationship in Christ as children of God, repentance is an ongoing part of that new life. Whenever we make mistakes, whenever we get it wrong, whenever we stray from the right path, we are called to repent that we might restart that right life in Christ. Jesus warned the churches in Revelation to repent that, as Christians, they might return to the right way (Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19).
No, the world of the New Testament and the world of today do not understand or appreciate repentance. But God still demands it! Our lives must undergo a radical transformation from the old earthly sinful being into the loving, faithful, holy child of God.
Are you truly a child of God? If not, it’s time for the right change that comes through repentance.
— Lester P. Bagley