Robert H. Farish
The items of the commission of Christ which have to do with the responsibility of those to whom the gospel is preached are belief, repentance, and baptism. This is a study of the second item of the commission—repentance.
Luke wrote that Christ said unto the apostles,
Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold I send forth the promise of my father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:46-49).
This passage teaches that repentance is a condition of remission of sins. It is among the things to be preached, by Christ’s authority, unto all the nations. This preaching of repentance and remission of sins was to begin at Jerusalem, when the apostles were clothed with power from on high. In the first chapter of Acts and the eighth verse, it is stated that the apostles were to receive the power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Christ calls it the promise of the Father and promises to send it forth upon them (Luke 24:49). In the fourth verse of Acts the second chapter it is stated that the apostles were “all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Thus we are informed that Christ sent forth the promise of the Father upon them. They are therefore “clothed with power from on high” and accordingly began witnessing for Christ. This preaching was to include repentance. A study of the sermon preached on this day will reveal that repentance is preached as a condition of salvation. Study the part of the sermon recorded in Acts 2:32-38:
This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we are all witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this which ye see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Here in the account of the first sermon preached under the commission of Christ we have repentance along with baptism announced as condition of remission — both are imposed in the name of Jesus Christ. So if there were those who think that baptism alone saves they should learn from this passage that they are in error in so thinking. Repentance is commanded as well as baptism end to contend that one is saved by baptism alone would be to flaunt the authority of Jesus Christ. It is equally true that those who contend for repentance alone are in grave error and should learn from this passage that baptism as well as repentance is for remission of sins.
One error would be as bad as the other. For to reject the doctrine of repentance and baptism for remission of sins is to repudiate “all authority in heaven and on earth.” Christ had all authority in heaven and on earth and backed by such authority is the doctrine of repentance and baptism for remission of sins. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that this is required.
What is Repentance?
Those who respect the authority of Christ acknowledge that it is necessary for one to repent in order to have his sins remitted by Christ, but what is repentance? What is involved? That men can repent is seen from the fact that God requires it of men. Not only is it required in this passage but we read in Acts 17:30 that God “commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent.” And to those of his day Christ said, “I tell you nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance is an essential act which men must perform in order to have remission of sins. These passages which have been introduced require repentance but do not define it, so other passages will have to be studied in order to learn what the action is or what is repentance.
With this subject, as well as with other Bible subjects, we need to get it clearly defined. Some would define repentance as sorrow, while others would say it is reformation. These are the two most popular misconceptions.
We shall first examine sorrow in connection with repentance. Sorrow is not repentance but is that which worketh or causes repentance. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Sorrow is the moving cause, repentance is the result. Sorrow worketh or causes repentance but is not repentance.
What about reformation and repentance? Here again we have two things which while closely related, are still not the same thing. The distinction between the two can be seen in the language of John the Baptist. In Luke 3:8 he says, “Bring forth therefore fruits worth of repentance.” Then in verse ten of the same chapter, the people asked him saying, what then must we do? John has told the people to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance and the people reply by asking what they must do. In other words what must they do to produce fruits worthy of repentance? The answer to this is learned by reading on in this same chapter.
And he said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that bath food, let him do likewise. And there came also publicans to be baptized, and they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? and he said unto them, extort no more than that which is appointed you (Luke 3:11-13).
These things that John commanded as fruits of repentance are the acts or deeds of a reformed life. From this we conclude that repentance and reformation are not the same thing. Reformation of life follows true repentance, yet it is not repentance: True it is, that there could be no reformation without repentance and that there is no true repentance which is not followed by reformation but this close and, essential relation- repented. The expression used is very significant… “But when he came to himself”—he had been beside himself in his thinking or mental attitude. Humiliation often has to come before repentance; such was the case with the prodigal son. He resolved to arise and go to his father and confess that he had sinned and was unworthy to be called a son. His request was that his father make him as one of the hired servants. True repentance does not make demands; it requests forgiveness.
Why don’t you repent while you can do something about your final destiny? God’s decree has gone forth, repent or perish.