Repentance and the Gospel
Many years ago I went to visit an uncle in the hospital. My uncle had not attended church for many years and showed no interest in spiritual matters. When I arrived in his hospital room I found that a local minister whom I knew was already there visiting with him. I listened as the minister told my uncle that he needed to ask Jesus into his life. After that the minister said his goodbyes and turned to leave.
I spoke up at that point and said that I certainly agreed with what he had said about my uncles need for Christ, but I wanted to add something to what he had said. With the minister still present, I then told my uncle that the Scriptures also tell us that we need to repent of our sins. True acceptance of Christ involved a heart of repentance.
I remember the look on the ministers face. He looked stunned. That look surprised me more than the fact that he had failed to ever mention repentance in his presentation of the Gospel of Christ to my uncle. I believe the shocking thing in all this is that a minister of the Gospel would attempt to present the Gospel and never mention the need of repentance from sin. Such a presentation is at best a truncated Gospel and a distortion of the true Gospel, because there is no salvation without heart felt repentance. Without repentance there is no forgiveness and there is no Gospel.
Below are just some of the things we read in the Scriptures about repentance.
Lets look at the Old Testament first.
Eze. 14:6 --Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
Eze. 18:30 --Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
We find this same need for repentance in the New Testament.
Matt. 3:1-3 --In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Matt. 4:17 --From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Mark 1:14,15 --Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Mark 6:12 --And they [disciples of Jesus] went out, and preached that men should repent.
Luke 13:2-5 --And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Acts 2:37-38 --Now when they heard this, 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 3:18-19 --But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Acts 8:22 --Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Acts 17:30 --And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 26:20 --But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. [Notice true repentance is also tied to works]
The point is, if we present the Gospel and don't call the person to whom we are speaking to repent of their sins, then we have , in fact, not presented the Gospel at all. We have, at best, only presented part or some of the Gospel. There is no salvation without a repentant heart.
What is repentance? What does the Bible mean by calling all men to repent. The following definition from Easton's Bible Dictionary is, believe, adequate. It says:
Evangelical repentance consists of (1) a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5,6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.
John the Baptist, Jesus and His Apostles all called men to repent of their sins. If someone has not heard the call to repentance, than they have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.