In answer to a couple of questions raised concerning two terrible events in which some had perished, Jesus replied, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). From this statement it is obvious that repentance is a very important subject. It was a part of both John's and Jesus' message as they began their work. They preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2; 4:17). When Jesus sent his disciples out under the limited commission, “they went out and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12). It was also included in the great commission as stated by Jesus: “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). Peter, in the first recorded gospel sermon following our Lord's return to His Father, preached repentance as an essential part of his sermon. When “they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). It was also included in the second recorded sermon on Solomon's porch (Acts 3:19). And it played a vital role in Paul's sermon on Mars Hill when Paul told them, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
But what exactly is repentance? First, let's eliminate a couple of views held by many. Repentance is not being sorry. Godly sorrow is necessary for repentance to take place, but it comes before repentance and is said to produce it or bring it about (II Cor. 7:10; Rom. 2:4). Repentance is also not a change of action. This change in our conduct comes after repentance and is said to be the “fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8) or the results of repentance.
The original word from which these words are taken is a compound word; the first word means “to change,” and the second one means “mind.” Thus repentance means “to change one's mind.” Thus, based upon what we have studied, a good biblical definition of repentance is this: repentance is a change of mind, brought about or produced by godly sorrow for sin, and which results in a complete change of conduct.
When you understand completely this definition of repentance, it is easy to understand statements like Paul made to the church at Corinth: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). See also Ephesians 4:22-32 and Colossians 3:1-10.
Now let's see it demonstrated. The younger son in Jesus' parable of the lost son demanded what was his, left home, and “wasted his substance with riotous living.” He wanted no part of home or his father's house. He wanted to enjoy himself without any obligations. But when his money ran out and his friends deserted him, “He came to himself, and said, I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:11-32). Quite a different attitude and action from earlier. This “coming to himself” is repentance and it resulted in a complete change of actions.
Is that a forgotten commandment? Repentance requires giving up of any thing that is sinful.This includes sinful actions, talk, or relationships. One who repents must stop his sinful activity, must cease from his sinful language, and must end any sinful relationships, i.e., adulterous marriages, homosexual activities, denominational churches, etc.
Have you repented of your sins? Are you living a life continually that demonstrates that repentance or as John called it, “fruits worthy of repentance”? It is repent or perish. There is no other alternative.
Paul M. Wilmoth