After Jesus’ time of preparation through His temptation in the wilderness, He began His public ministry. Jesus settled temporarily in Capernaum, a town in Galilee (Matthew 5:12,13), fulfilling prophecy. The Messiah would be the Light shining out from that region. –
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:1,2).
Jesus began preaching from there, and in Matthew’s Gospel we are given the brief outline of His message. –
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, you repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).(The Greek word which is used for Gospel is euaggelion, (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on) which literally means “good news.”)
To the Jewish mind at that time, Jesus was announcing the coming of the Messiah. He did not blatantly declare that He was the Messiah to the masses initially. As it is a characteristic of God and the teaching methods He sometimes employs, Jesus would leave it to the people to seek and discern the truth based on His words and the confirming miracles that accompanied His ministry.
Jesus’ message of repentance was brought to the Jews first. In other words, judgment must first begin at the house of God, then spread to the Gentiles. Likewise today, judgment also begins with God’s church. - For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17).
To the Jewish mind the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven would mean the fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver His people. They interpreted this to mean a physical, earthly deliverance from their Roman oppressors. To God, however, the deliverance from their sin and the resulting spiritual liberty that would follow, was far more important. This would have to precede any future material deliverance.
When Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven had arrived, He was marching toward a hill in the distance where He would ultimately suffer and die for the sins of mankind. There the “Good News,” the Gospel of the kingdom, would be revealed as the only means by which humanity can be redeemed from death.
According to Jesus, who was proclaiming God’s Word to the people, repentance is required in order to receive that salvation. We can’t have a genuine salvation without a genuine repentance.
Repentance is a very beautiful, healing word, although sometimes we don’t view it that way. The word can invoke the image of a dark, mourning soul clothed in sackcloth and ashes. We don’t realize that repentance, the initial recognition that we are sinners and we need to change, is a spiritual step we must take in order to receive the treasure of eternal life and enter God’s kingdom. First we must believe that God’s kingdom has come and is true. We must believe the good news, recognize that Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses us from our sin, and in turn, this “goodness” leads us to repentance. - Or you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).
Repentance and the Gospel cannot be separated. They are two that are completely one as we shall see.
The Apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-4. –
For I delivered to you first of all, that which I also received, how that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53); and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.
“Messiah died for our sins.” This is where repentance makes its entrance into the Gospel message. The recognition that it was our sin that impaled Jesus on the cross is the first heart prick that should lead us to repent. Beholding Jesus’ tortured, shattered body, knowing that He sacrificed Himself willingly for us, for you, causes us to bow our heads and bring us to our knees. This is where it all begins, this is where repentance makes its entrance into our souls.
When we truly embrace the fact that Jesus allowed Himself to be brutalized and killed on our behalf, a sorrowing, cleansing, life changing repentance is the only response a genuine believer can make. Thus, Recognition is the first step of repentance. Revulsion is the second step. As we view the results of our sin, disobedience and rebellion against God portrayed for us so graphically upon Jesus’ tortured body, the hatred for sin and its ugliness washes across our beings. This revulsion is the heart condition that produces within a believer a willingness to renounce sin and change.
This process of recognition and revulsion is designed to produce in us the humility we need in order for God’s grace and forgiveness to be appropriated, because, “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble." –
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).
In this humility we recognize that there is absolutely nothing we can do to save ourselves, or to change our behavior on our own. We need help and lots of it. God takes this lump of clay that we are, and begins to form hearts that have been softened and made pliable by Messiah’s shed blood. Slowly God begins to work in us through His Holy Spirit to form us into the people He desires us to be. Using Jesus as this model, we are gradually conformed into His image. Repentance instigates the change needed to appropriate a better life free from the torment and bondages of the sin life.
Repentance is medicinal. Repentance says, “Be willing to turn from your sin, be healed and made whole. I’ve something so much better. I am the key that opens the Door to a better life. There is a God who loves you and is worth changing for. You will be rewarded in this life and far beyond the limited cage of this existence.”
The Apostle Paul continues the Gospel message in Romans 10: 8-11. –
The Word is near you, even in your mouth and your heart; that is, the Word of faith, which we preach; (8)
That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.(9)
For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.(10) – (belief through the inner workings of the Holy Spirit ultimately produces the fruit of righteousness.)
For the Scripture says, ‘whoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed’ (11 - See also - Isaiah 28:16).
Paul is reiterating the “Good news of the kingdom” proclaimed by Jesus in John's Gospel Chapter Three, verses 16-21. –
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (16).
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (17).
He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (18).
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (19).
For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (20).
But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God (21).
I can see Paul smiling and nodding his head in agreement as he says; -
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Jesus to good works, which God had foreordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:810).
In other words, a genuine repentance results in a changed life and a changed life is the evidence or fruit of a genuine salvation. We are not saved by our spiritual development. Our spiritual growth over time, is the result of our salvation.
The recognition that we have sinned, and that our sins necessitated Jesus’ death in order to remove them, coupled with a revulsion for sin, produces in a believer’s heart a willingness to change. This assertion is unified with the grace that is imparted to us by faith, which in turn works within a believer’s life to help him walk in a new life.
First we hear the Gospel, then we repent. Repentance is a work of grace and we really can’t have one without the other. They are married.
Jesus said that He came to bring sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13).
No one is exempt For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23).
When we repent, we have recognized that we have an illness that needs to be cured.
Repentance is the heart condition that “optimizes” grace. We can’t be saved without it, because again, if we are too proud to repent, or admit that we are sinners, then we are not humble enough to receive what Jesus has accomplished for us by His death and resurrection from the dead.
I repeat – God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
I imagine Jesus making His call to repent with a joyous smile across His face. He was bringing “Good News” and a message of hope to the people.
His proclamation of repentance echoed that of His predecessor, John the Baptist. John was ordained to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, but the tone of his declaration seems more somber. John didn’t use the word, Eveangelon, “Good News” in his words that have been recorded in the Scriptures. His announcement of the Messiah’s coming came with serious warnings. -
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12).
So we see the two sides of repentance illustrated for us in the words of Jesus and John. The two are one.
Repentance brings us to the recognition that we are sinners and that sin will be judged unless we are willing to turn from our sins, believe the Gospel and allow God to change us into the people He wants us to be; people who are conformed into the image of His Son.
While Jesus is joyfully proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, the entrance to that kingdom requires repentance where God threshes and removes the chaff from the wheat.
The church that is the bride of Jesus, is also called to follow the Biblical pattern. Like John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the coming Messiah, we have this same commission. As we await the second coming, we follow John and Jesus’ example. We preach repentance with joy and solemnity. The Good News of salvation walks hand in hand with the sobering realization that sin is heinous and repulsive in God’s eyes and it must be removed from those who desire to be embraced into God’s intimate presence when we die. We want to be able to stand before the Lord unashamed at His coming and clothed in the spiritual garments that have been washed white in the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.
The message of repentance has always been meant to be included along with the preaching of the Gospel. Unfortunately in this age of apostasy, the word “repentance” has been removed or downplayed in the vocabulary of God’s church. Children, it’s time to shake off the influences of modern day apostate theology and follow the example presented for us in the Scriptures.
Jesus sends His bride into the highways and byways of this life just as He sent His apostles in that first generation of evangelism. –
“And they went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12).
copyright 2016-2017 by H.D. Shively
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