The preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is never complete without a call to true repentance.
The Apostle Peter’s first sermon, which Luke also recorded in the Book of Acts, put a high priority on the necessity of repentance. “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
In his second sermon, Peter again preached powerfully on repentance. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Whenever I call for men and women to make a decision to follow Christ as Savior and Lord, I am careful to remind them that genuine faith must be accompanied by genuine repentance from sin.
One theologian defines repentance as “heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Biblical repentance, the kind that results in forgiveness of sins, means that we have a change of mind and heart about sin and about God.
We must, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, turn away from sin and turn in faith to Christ to receive the gift of salvation.
That means we must come to see sin and God in the light of God’s truth.
God hates sin. Jesus died for it on the cross, bearing its penalty and shame for you and me. It is not something we can tolerate or toy with. As the “kindness of God leads [us] to repentance” (Romans 2:4), we come to understand that sin is terribly wrong, confess our sorrow over it and come humbly to the Savior. “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
The spiritual life that begins with repentance and faith continues as we grow in Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us concerning sin and righteousness. We daily confess and turn from sin while putting our complete trust in Christ to sanctify us and give us victory over sin’s power.
We never become sinless, but we sin less and less as we rely on the Lord’s goodness and grace.
In some circles, repentance may seem old fashioned, but it is always a vital part of true, biblical, saving faith. It is the work of God and our work at the same time, and preaching faith in Christ without repentance is only half the Gospel. Repentance from sin, along with trust in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, is the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation.