Last week our objective was to wrestle with the idea that there is something sinful man needs to do to find hope. We began this quest by considering the question posed to Peter and the other apostles in Acts 2:37, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Before we look at a part of the answer given, it is important to note what has already happened. Remember, these were Jews who have for hundreds of years sat in synagogues listening to the written word speak of the coming Messiah and His resurrection. The Old Testament scriptures would be declared fulfilled in the man they call Jesus (Acts 2:25-28, cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:34, cf. Psalm 110:1). The heartbreaking verse is Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (emphasis mine). That must have been horrifying to come to such a realization! We read that they were “cut to the heart” or as the ETRV says, “…they were very, very sorry.” The very fact that they asked the question we are considering means they believed what they were being told. Faith was present. The conviction was undeniable. So, how can we make things right? Well, you can’t, but Jesus can and here’s how.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent…” (Acts 2:38)
Over the years, I have come to find the “steps to salvation” that is often used to be a little mechanical. Still, there does seem to be a sort of process that takes place. One part of that process is called repentance. Exactly what is repentance? The word used in Acts 2:38 is defined by Strong’s as to think differently or afterwards, i.e., reconsider. Thayer’s adds another layer to this saying it is to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. One person simply defined it this way, “A change of heart and will.” Okay, is that something you do? If we have free will, then the answer has to be yes.
Concerning the Jews in Acts 2, we see the need to repent, but of what? The answer to that question is because they judged Jesus falsely! They saw Him as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65). Their minds were so poisonous that, as He hung on the cross, the chief priests, scribes and elders said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42). Those who passed by as He hung on that cross blasphemed Him (Matthew 27:39). I can understand why many of them felt cut to the heart, grieving over what has happened. The apostle Paul would state that “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2nd Corinthians 7:10). Now grieved by their actions, they needed to repent; that is, change their minds about Jesus. They had to accept that they were in some way responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. They had to change their minds about the One they mocked and come to realize that he was who He claimed to be, both Lord and Christ.
Okay, so repentance is necessary. But how crucial? To my knowledge, there is no argument about the essential nature of repentance across the Christian community. Part of John the Baptist message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2) At that time, such repentance would be evidenced by their actions, “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Jesus Himself taught that “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Clearly, the role of repentance in God’s redemptive plan is critical for those coming to believe in Him. But it is also vital for those who once placed their faith in Him. Once again, we consider 2nd Corinthians 7:10 which says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted…” Sometimes repentance is needed by a believer who has wandered from His grace and once again embraced sin in their lives. For salvation to return, repentance is once again necessary.
It seems apparent that the importance and essentialness of repentance is part of God’s redemptive plan. When people come to realize the good news, or are reminded of it again, they become convicted, cut to the heart. What must one do? A good place to start is with repentance.