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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 23 2024

What is repentance?

Jesus taught our most important priority should be to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), and He stressed repentance as an integral part of reaching that goal. "... Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:17).

Repentance begins with God's calling, when He opens our minds to understand His Word. God's Word is the only trustworthy source by which we can determine how we need to change, by comparing our beliefs, behavior, traditions and thoughts to what the Bible teaches. We must pray for His help and begin studying the Scriptures.

Down through the ages God's prophets have preached the same message of repentance: "And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets… but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, 'Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings ...'" (Jeremiah 25:4-5).

It takes time to come to repentance and learn how the Bible applies in your life, to admit the ways you have disobeyed God, and change your life. The word “repent” itself refers to regret producing a turnaround in one’s life. The Apostle Paul refers to a godly sorrow that produces genuine repentance and a worldly sorrow that does not produce the right result (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The New Testament Greek word often translated “repent” is metanoia, referring to a change of thinking. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term shuv, meaning “turn” or “return,” is often used for repentance (the noun form being teshuvah). Repentance requires not just turning away from sin. We must also turn to God and strive to live as He expects us to live.

John the Baptist urged those who came to him for baptism to “bear fruits worthy of repentance(Matthew 3:8), which involves not only changing our actions, but also our inner thoughts and motivations that give rise to what we do. Showing our repentance by our actions doesn’t mean we are attempting to earn salvation. Only Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can pay the death penalty we have earned, and atone for the sins we have committed.

Coming to repentance is unnatural to the corrupted human mind (Romans 8:7; 2 Timothy 2:25). “The kindness of God leads…to repentance” (Romans 2:4), and to turn our life around spiritually, we need the additional help of God’s Holy Spirit. Baptism and the laying on of hands by a minister of God to receive God’s Spirit is the next step after repentance (Acts 2:38), as outlined in the previous article Baptism: Beginning Of A New Life.

From the beginning God’s servants have been sent with the same message: "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:30-31). Jesus told His disciples that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47), and warns us: "unless you repent you will all ... perish" (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9).

Be sure to ask God to grant you repentance. Eternal life in the Kingdom of God is only available to those who repent of their sins. There are no exceptions, because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).