As John came preaching in the wilderness, he was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). When some of the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to be baptized, he told them to “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8). He told the people, “I baptize you with water for repentance…” (Matt 3:11). This was all in pointing to Jesus.
Yet when Jesus came on the scene, he came “proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’ (Mark 1:14-15). Repentance was part of the gospel message from the beginning, and the disciples continued preaching it. For example, when Jesus sent out the twelve on a limited commission, He indicated that there would be those who would not listen to them. The text then says, “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent…” (Mark 6:12). Repentance is gospel.
Preaching repentance is not political. It is spiritual and moral. It is not a right/left, democrat/republican, liberal/conservative issue, for all need to repent. It is not about aligning ourselves with parties and factions, and those who do such must repent of that; it is about being reconciled first to God and aligning ourselves with His will. It is about a mindset that continually seeks renewal, forgiveness, and correction—which is why we need Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17).
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts 17:30).
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
Anytime we cast repentance in the shade of “it’s the other guy who needs it not me,” we are essentially nullifying the gospel insofar as we are concerned. We have become what we loathe: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). In the context of that statement, Jesus was directly pointing at Pharisees who were good at calling others sinners yet not thinking that they themselves needed to repent. If we don’t think we need repentance, then we won’t see the need for Jesus. If that is so, we are truly lost.
Let us not, then, call only one side of modern battles to repent, for we may soon find ourselves thinking that it’s all on “the other side” and we don’t need the Great Physician. If all took an attitude of repentance, then reconciliation will be fruitful. Self-reflection is critical: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5)
Repentance is Gospel?
We could reproduce many passages on repentance, but how is repentance to considered gospel? Isn’t “gospel” good news? Is it good news that we must repent? After all, a call to repent means that we have sinned, and sin is not good news.
Sin is not good, but the answer to sin is the good news! It is good news that we must repent because it is an indicator that God is offering something greater than what sin does to us. If God is telling us to repent, then it shows that He is willing to forgive and that there is a solution to the problem. Think about it in the context of Peter’s sermon in Acts 3.
Peter addresses those who were there when Jesus died. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:13-15). Peter said he knew they acted in ignorance, but God was also fulfilling what was promised through the prophets. Then Peter says,
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21)
God did what He said. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. If we wish to partake of the blessings of these “times of refreshing,” then we need to repent. Is that not good news? Let’s understand how important repentance is. We must continually be making course corrections, turning back to God and seeking His will and grace. Thank God He has given us such opportunity!