The twelve disciples were sent by Christ to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. A vital part of their message was the need for repentance. The disciples “went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12). The Bible closely connects repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Consider for example Peter’s words to the people at the temple gate: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). No-one may expect pardon if they are not penitent. We should ask ourselves, Have I really turned from my sins?
Repentance is an essential note in gospel preaching. This is seen in John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). The first recorded words of our Saviour as He began His public ministry were: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). This theme was reinforced by Christ after His resurrection (Luke 24:46,47) and by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:38).
The call to repent is not merely good advice but an exhortation to duty. “God...now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). A minister of the gospel is an ambassador for Christ, the King of kings. Through His servants Christ makes a royal proclamation and lays a solemn obligation upon all who hear. He is coming again to judge the world and to punish the wicked. In the light of this great event we must repent of our sins! Is this not so often a missing note in preaching today?
Repentance is also an essential note in true spiritual experience. A n awakened man gets a sight and sense of his sin which shames him. He is awed by the holiness of the Most High God. Then he learns a wonderful thing: this same God is rich in mercy to all who repent! This melts him and produces a brokenness. By grace he gets strength to turn from his sin.
We need repentance in coming to Christ. Faith without repentance is merely intellectual; it is not true faith at all. There is much of this in the church! We see many ‘converts’ who do not seem to have a godly sorrow for sin and a hatred of it. There has been no radical change in the course or conduct of their lives. But saving faith and repentance are like the two sides of a coin: they may be distinguished but must not be separated.
We need repentance too in continuing with Christ. We are called to a life of repentance, for sin will remain in our hearts until our dying day. From glory the risen and ascended Lord calls upon His people to repent of their sins (Rev.2:5,16; 3:3). Our comfort as believers is that Christ has paid the penalty we deserve for our sins and has reconciled us to God forever.
Finally we should see that God also requires repentance of us as a people. Britain is sinking under the weight of her national sins. Having rejected Jesus Christ as Lord we are being chastised by God with the spread of immorality and false religion, especially Islam. Sadly our present politicians are wilfully blind and are part of the problem, not part of the solution. What is the remedy? It is in these encouraging words of Scripture: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2Chron.7:14). May God grant that it shall be so.