Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Does Jesus Require Everyone to Repent?

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.

Matthew 3:1-2  In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Acts 2:37-38  When the people heard [Peter’s Day of Pentecost sermon], 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…”

Matthew 4:17  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

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:

1 Corinthians 15:2-4  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

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… [12] 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.

John 8:3-11  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery… [4] and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … [7] [Jesus replied] “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” … [10] Jesus…asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

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.”

A similar charge was given to a lame man that Jesus healed. Later that same day Jesus spoke to Him and said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

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 never again need to repent for sins.” That is entirely false Scripturally! Acts 8:9-24 tells of a sorcerer named Simon. He heard the Gospel preached, and he believed and was baptized (vss. 12-13). But when he saw some fellow believers receiving the baptism with the Spirit (15-19), Simon sinned by offering money to “buy” the power to do that Holy Spirit-imparting ministry. The apostle Peter rebuked him soundly because Simon had “thought [he] could buy the gift of God with money!” (20) The solution Peter commanded was: “…your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that He may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart” (21f). The Bible in this instance makes it clear that a baptized, sinning believer (Simon) needed to repent of sin.

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 … [7] 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.


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Pentecostal Sermons
and Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.