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The Church of God, International reaches out to a worldwide audience, advancing the Good News of God's coming Kingdom and heralding salvation by Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Repent, ” urged Peter, “and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7: 88). These divinely inspired words, spoken on the Day of Pentecost, the annual holy day that became the “birthday” of the New Testament church, show that repentance is the first prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. “Repent” was the first command issued on the day the church was “born, ” the first word used to answer the all-important question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? The importance of this essential doctrine is underscored by the fact that New Testament narratives specifically mention repentance in their summaries of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 8: 7), Jesus Christ (Matthew 9: 7), and the apostle Paul (Acts 75:

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76). A correct understanding of repentance is absolutely fundamental to biblical Christianity. The candidate for Christian baptism must know what repentance means, what to repent of, and how to distinguish between real and counterfeit repentance. He or she should also have a solid understanding of how repentance relates to Godly sorrow, divine grace, and saving faith. Paul informs us that “these times of [past] ignorance God has overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 67: 85). Repentance, then, is a subject deserving of careful study. The admonition to repent is for all man of all races and nationalities, and is an essential component of the good news of the Kingdom of God. As New Testament scholar David A. DeSilva, Ph. D. 6566). It is our hope that this booklet will help many come to a good understanding of this “divinely appointed means” of reconciliation, and apply it to their own lives. The ten facts that follow, if carefully studied, will supply the reader with a solid foundation of knowledge about this important subject. To repent means to change, or “have a change of mind. ” W. E. Vine states, “In the N. T. The subject [repentance] chiefly has reference to repentance from sin, and this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God” ( An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.

958). This change of mind is a change of attitude and mental perspective, which results in a change in behavior. It means turning from the way of life that is contrary to God’s law, and turning to the way of life that is defined by God’s law, which consists chiefly of the Ten Commandments, but includes other commandments, statutes, and judgments, as well. Repentance means to surrender one’s life—one’s whole being, both mind and body—to God’s will as expressed in His revealed Word. Negatively, repentance means turning from sin, which is defined in 6 John 8: 9 as “the transgression of the law” (KJV). On the positive side, repentance means turning to righteousness through a life of faith and obedience, the opposite of sin and disobedience. Most of the commandments of God’s law are negative (they begin with “You shall not…”), but each one has a positive side, as well. ” The commandment forbidding taking God’s name in vain means “Praise His name, and bring honor to His name by your good example. ” The commandment against murder means “You shall cherish the gift of life. ” And on it goes. Repentance entails putting away the sinful activities defined by the commandments, and adopting the wholesome attitudes and behaviors of the positive side of God’s law. Repentance begins with a change of mind and results in a change of conduct. In Acts 8: 69, Peter urges his hearers to “Repent…and be converted ”—or, turn and be changed! Turn to God by accepting His terms and provisions, and then follow through with action. When certain self-serving hypocrites came to the Jordan River where John was baptizing, John challenged them to show proof of their repentance: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, ” the Baptist said, adding that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 8: 8, 65, NIV). Luke’s account includes examples of the fruit of repentance:

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“So the people asked him [John], saying, ‘What shall we do then? ’ He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none and he who has food, let him do likewise. ’ Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do? ’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you. ’ Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do? ’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages’” (Luke 8: 65–69). John, whose ministry focused on repentance, and whose baptism is even called a “baptism of repentance” (Acts 69: 9), knew that those who were truly repentant would prove their repentance by their actions. Repentance is change, not only change of mind, but change of behavior, as well. Paul’s understanding of repentance was the same as John’s. Like John, Paul knew that the inner state of repentance, if firmly rooted and nurtured, would inevitably express itself through outward works. When a person confesses repentance but has no change of behavior—no “fruit in keeping with repentance”—then there is one of two possibilities: either that person’s repentance was “short-circuited” by the cares of this life or unforeseen circumstances (see Matthew 68: 6–9, 68–78), or it never truly existed in the first place. The internal and external qualities of repentance are so interwoven that one cannot be separated from the other. Behavioral science informs us that just as our attitudes influence our actions, our actions influence our attitudes. In other words, the internal quality we call repentance (an “attitude”) influences the way we behave. It motivates us to obey God’s commandments and accept His provisions for salvation. Similarly, putting God’s instructions to practice influences our attitudes it encourages the mental disposition, or “attitude, ” we call repentance.

As mentioned previously, John the Baptist, the divinely chosen herald of Christ’s first coming, came preaching a message of repentance: “Repent, ” he urged, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 8: 7). Jesus, too, called for repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 9: 67). The apostle Paul went to the Jews and Greeks alike “preaching the kingdom of God, ” a message of “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 75: 76, 75). Notice how, in each case, the call for repentance is linked to the message of the Kingdom of God. Note also that the statements above are summaries of the things John, Jesus, and Paul preached. This is most revealing. It tells us that the call to repentance is at the heart and core of the Kingdom message. Jesus touched on many important subjects in His famous “Sermon on the Mount, ” and illustrated truths about the Kingdom of God through scores of parables. Yet, interestingly, Matthew summarizes Jesus’ preaching ministry with a single line: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. ” In truth, all that Jesus taught relates to repentance and the Kingdom in one way or another. Heirs of the Kingdom are called upon to acquire these qualities, but obtaining such qualities is not possible for the impenitent. Repentance is required. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount concerns the question of what one must do to enter the Kingdom of God. Such qualities of character are rarely seen in today’s world.

They are the fruit of the radical commitment known as repentance. Many of Jesus’ “Kingdom parables” (parables that illustrate the Kingdom of God through some common activity or situation “the kingdom of heaven is like…”) focus on the necessity and true nature of repentance. In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 68: 79–85), the Kingdom is compared to “a man who sowed good seed in the field. ” The story involves a man who sows a field with wheat, and an enemy who comes by night and sows tares among the wheat. When the grain sprouted and produced a crop, it was discovered that tares were mingled with the wheat. The owner of the crop instructed his servants to let the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest, at which time the wheat will be gathered into a barn and the tares will be burned. He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 68: 86–98). The “tares” are those who “offend” and “practice lawlessness. ” Lawlessness means “without law. ” The tares disregard God’s law. They display a spirit diametrically opposite of repentance.

The “wheat, ” on the other hand, represents the “righteous. ” The Psalmist declares, “For all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 669:677). The righteous, then, are those who keep God’s commandments.

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