Summary: Repentance for our sins — that’s not a popular subject in many of today’s church pulpits. But the requirement to repent was the first command in the very first recorded preaching of both Jesus and John the Baptist. And when the apostle Peter preached his first post-Pentecost sermon and the hearers asked, “What shall we do?” Peter’s first answer (like Jesus and John) was, “Repent!” (Acts 2:37f).
The Lord Jesus Christ, the prophet John the Baptist, and the apostle Peter are three of the towering figures of the New Testament. All three of them, in their very first biblically recorded public sermons, focused on the divine requirement of repentance for sins. The late scholar George T. Kurian, in his Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary (p. 654), defined repentance as: “Contrition, the acknowledgment and condemnation of one’s own sins together with a turning back to God… it includes sorrow, confession, and a determination not to sin again.” Let’s begin by seeing in Scripture how important repentance was to John the Baptist, Peter, and most importantly, to the Savior Jesus Christ.
The great apostle Paul too laid great emphasis on the need to repent of sin — to confess our sins to God in godly sorrow and to turn from them back to God. A very central part of Paul’s Gospel preaching was that his hearers needed to “turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). That’s the very heart of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, which the apostle Paul wonderfully summarized in these few verses:
Paul clearly taught by the Holy Spirit’s sure guidance that the salvation of our souls comes from our twofold response of (1) repenting of our sins along with (2) having sincere faith in the crucified and resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ. To repeat, as Paul summarized it in Acts 20:21 (KJV): [Paul was preaching] “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The biblical teaching is clear — faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His death and resurrection for our sins is necessary for salvation. He is the one and only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5) and the one and only road to salvation — “…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12, KJV). With that as a bedrock truth, let’s move now to our topic of focus today — the need for repentance and how important that was in Jesus’ teaching.
Turning from sin is at the heart of biblical repentance. We don’t know all the nuances of what was in the woman’s heart. But Jesus’ clear instruction to her, after He had forgiven her sins, was to turn from her sins: “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
After His resurrection and before His ascension back to heaven, Jesus spent some time with His disciples and commissioned them to further ministry on His behalf. One of Christ’s main commands to His disciples — still valid for His Church today — is that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). And that’s exactly what the early Church did in obedience to Him.
In His 3-1/2 years of earthly ministry before His crucifixion, Jesus again and again taught on the necessity of repentance. It is not an option! In Luke 4:1-5 Jesus gave two startling examples. First He referred to the story of some Galileans whom Pilate had ordered killed. Referring to that, Jesus said, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (vss. 2-3). The Lord made it very plain that “all” who would refuse to repent of sins would perish.
Then he went on to say (vss. 4-5), “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Once more, the repent-or-perish alternatives were spoken by Jesus to “all.”
There is an anti-biblical doctrine that, sad to say, occasionally creeps into Christian circles. And that is the false teaching that goes something like this: “Once you’re saved/born again by repentance for sin and faith in Jesus, you
Further proof that repentance is needed whenever a believer finds himself or herself in sin is in the very “Lord’s prayer” that Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven … forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:2,4 - KJV). Billions have come to God the Father in saving faith through Jesus His Son. And many believers pray daily the wonderful prayer Jesus taught: “Our Father…forgive us our sins…” My fellow believers, if you find yourself in sin, quickly bring it in godly sorrow and repentance to God the Father and Jesus the Son. You’ll find immediate relief as “the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This will happen because (vs. 9) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
We see in the Bible that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Once we are saved, we should pursue a life of holiness, since as “new creations” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) we have been “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). However, if we believers do sin, we have a solution as noted above in 1 John 1:7-9. Confess that sin(s) to the Lord in godly sorrow, and Jesus will forgive you and cleanse you from that sin(s) by His sanctifying blood.
Our lives as Christian believers should be dedicated to living in ways that are pleasing to God. Two of the seven local churches Jesus spoke to in Revelation chapters 2-3 received only praise from Him. That should encourage us! Let’s strive to be like them. However, for one or more sinful reasons, the other five Christian churches in those two chapters received some rebuke from the Lord Jesus and were commanded to repent (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21f; 3:3, 19). Believers, the Lord Jesus then and now tells us to repent of any known sins. And if we do so, we can be assured of His gracious forgiveness! Remember the promise of Luke 24:47 (ESV), that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name.”
In closing, let’s take a quick look at what various Bible versions call “the elementary teachings about Christ” (NIV), the “principles of the doctrine of Christ” (KJV), “the basics about Christ’s word” (CEB). They are listed in Hebrews 6:1-2 as foundational, basic truths of Christ. And from the bedrock of those truths we are told (vs. 1) to go “forward to maturity.” It is noteworthy that the very first elementary, foundational teaching listed of the doctrine of Christ is “repentance from acts that lead to death.”
It is “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21, KJV) that bring us into God’s gracious salvation in the first place. And as we go forward to Christian maturity, let’s remember the gracious words of the apostle John — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness …  and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:9,7).
To remove any lingering doubt that perhaps some may have, let's finish with this clear teaching of the Bible: "...God is now proclaiming to mankind that all people everywhere are to repent" (Acts 17:30, NASB).
Perhaps some reading this today have realized that you haven’t yet come to Jesus by the biblical path of faith in Jesus and sincere “repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). You can do that right now! The late, respected evangelist Billy Graham has left us a brief, excellent teaching and prayer that will lead you directly into the Lord’s great salvation. Take a look here at his Peace with God: the Secret of Happiness.
Subscribe (always free)
Shortcuts to Major Topics:
Doctrine & Theology
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Hearing from God
Holy Spirit | Pentecostal Topics
Power of God
Various Topics Not Listed Elsewhere
Victory over the Devil
Word of God
Sharing is great!
If this message has blessed you,
please share it with your friends.
Email them the browser link. Or
you can post the link on your social
media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Thank you for sharing God's Word!
©2022, James H. Feeney.
and Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.