Repent and Believe
The authority of Jesus Christ given to us as disciple-makers is to be employed to evangelize “all the nations” (Matt 28:18-20). “Go therefore” is the translation of a participle meaning “in your going,” which clearly implies continual responsibility to take the initiative in using our delegated power to make worldwide discipleship a reality. Having embraced the gospel as a command, we need to realize that God has made us responsible for telling others of Jesus Christ because He has ordained that saving faith only be birthed through the vehicle of gospel preaching (Rom. 10:14–17).
The message that Jesus preached is “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), and Luke’s restating of the Great Command includes this important phrase: “that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). Repentance is the flipside of faith; they go together as two sides of the same coin, “Siamese twins,” or “inseparable graces,”—two concepts that must not be divorced. In other words, the saving faith of the Bible is a repentant faith. There is no turning to God without a turning away from sin. Repentance is essentially a change of mind but, like faith, it involves the heart of man in its entirety: intellect, emotion, and will. The word “repentance” comes from the Greek word metanoia: meta meaning “after,” or “change,” and noia, “to perceive.” Literally, it means “to change one’s mind or purpose … always, in the New Testament, involving a change for the better. The subject chiefly has reference to ‘repentance’ from sin.” Wayne Grudem defines repentance as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Clearly, biblical repentance is more than sorrow or regret over failing to meet God’s standard (2 Cor. 7:9); rather, it includes a decision to turn from sin toward a life of righteousness.
Like faith, repentance is not a work of man, but a gift from a merciful God (Eph. 2:9; Acts 5:31; 11:18; Rom. 2:4). According to the teaching of Paul, pastor-elders need to be able to gently correct those in errant doctrine so that “perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). Repentance is not the product of human effort, but the gracious work of the Holy Spirit preparing sinners to approach a holy God on His terms rather than their own. Neglecting the preaching of repentance downplays sin, which in turn cheapens the message of the cross, undermining the progress of the gospel. It is critical that we not view repentant faith as merely a one-time event in the life of a disciple, but rather as a constant necessity and a work of the Holy Spirit, bringing us to an ever-deepening awareness of the depth of our depravity and also firming up our faith-grip on the Savior.