Lesson Two, Part 2 – Repentance

The New Birth

Part 2: Repentance


Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:30, 31

The Greek word from which the word repent is translated in this scripture and also in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22 and 26:20 is METANOEO.  META suggests a change and NOEO connects this change to the mind; therefore, when we put it all together it means to have another mind.  The gospel message which is preached is what changes the hearer’s mind.  Since a change of mind is generally manifested by a change of behavior, we will study the changes of behavior of the people who repented in the book of Acts.  Their new behavior should tell us something about what was preached to them.  Paul told King Agrippa the message he received through a heavenly vision demanded “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Acts 26:20). 

After the preaching in Acts chapter two, those who repented performed deeds they were not willing to do before they heard the message.  Upon hearing the Person they had killed was God’s Son, and how He had ascended to the throne as king over God’s kingdom, they were willing to sell their property and possessions and share with the other believers (Acts 2:45).  The gospel did not contain a commandment to sell their possessions; therefore, their behavior was the result of a changed mind (Acts 5:1-4).  If they had not changed their minds about Jesus they would not have been willing to do those deeds.  They had been waiting for the Messiah and now they heard a message proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth was He.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah and the kingdom of God had a divine king (Acts 5:31).  They were willing to accept Him as Lord and do what He said.  They trusted Him more than their possessions.  They were not commanded to sell their property, but their change of mind, or repentance, about the value of the life in God’s kingdom caused them to perform those deeds.  Jesus had become the corner stone of their new life (Acts 4:11).  They were now continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

Both Peter’s and John’s confidence increased greatly as a result of their new understanding of Jesus and His kingdom (Acts 4:30).  They now understood the kingdom was spiritual.  They knew it would not be restored to Israel of the flesh (Acts 1: 6-8).  Peter’s change in behavior before and after he witnessed the resurrection of Jesus is marvelous to behold.  To see the difference please read Luke 22:54-61 and Acts 4:13-21.  In the account in Acts, Peter now believed in the resurrection of the dead; consequently, he no longer feared death from the Jewish leaders.  The church in Jerusalem manifested this same boldness (Acts 4: 23ff).

Stephen was able to emulate Jesus in his attitude toward those who killed him.  As Stephen was about to die from the blows of the Jews’ stones, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”  (Acts 7:60).  A young man named Saul, who, earlier, was ravaging the church, changed to the loving apostle Paul (Acts 8:3; 14:19).  A eunuch went on his way rejoicing after his conversion to Christ (Acts 8:39).  Dorcas abounded in deeds of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36).  Lydia opened her house to the preachers of God’s word (Acts 16:15).  The church, although persecuted, went about preaching the word (Acts 8:4).  It was a “times of refreshing.”  Consider the following scripture.

Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord:  and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.  Acts 3:19, 20

Their behavior was the result of their repentance.  Without repentance they could not return to God, but if they repented, that is, had a change of mind about true life, then they could return.  Their deeds are the manifestation of their changed mind.  If we believe the life we are living is as good as, or better than, the life in Christ, then we cannot repent.  Felix, the governor, had this problem (Acts 24:25).

The whole message of this life was preached to those in the temple to bring about repentance (Acts 5:20).  Jesus was presented as the Prince of life to the same Jews who disowned and killed Him (Acts 3:14, 15).  When the kingdom of God is preached, the life of that kingdom is also preached.  This life is translated from the word ZOE.  When we understand what this word really means, then we will have more insight into what was preached to convert people in the Acts of the Apostles.  See Part One, Lesson Three.   A decision to accept the kingdom is a decision sinners must make before their baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

The beautiful quality of life in the kingdom of God should bring sorrow into the hearts of those who abide in death.  When the children of Satan hear they were created to be children of God, they should be sorrowful about their great loss in life up to that point.  They should also be sorry about the way they were being disrespectful to their loving heavenly Father.  If they are made sorrowful “according to the will of God, as stated in the following scripture, this causes a lasting repentance.

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything though us.  For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  II Cor. 7:9, 10

Paul had expected the Corinthians had changed their minds about that which was not life, but he was afraid some had not.

I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.  II Cor. 12:21

The apostle John told the church they could identify those who had been begotten of God by their behavior.  In his first epistle, he said they were: “Everyone who practices righteousness (2:29); Those who love God (4:7); Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ (5:1); Those who overcome the world (5:4).”  This was the life they lived as Christians because they maintained a repentant attitude.

In summary, repentance, as it relates to the processes of God begetting us to Himself, is a new mind or a changed mind about life.  Our new mind has, as its object, a different type of life in our future, a life with God as our Father.  We were sorrowful about the result of our past lives when we understood that God created us to be His children.  This sorrow became a powerful influence for our repentance, a repentance which will not change if our sorrow remains.

We understand repentance does not change our relationship with God, or correct any wrongs we have committed (Acts 3:19).  Repentance is granted to believers only.  It leads to life (Acts 11:18).  Repentance has to do with our attitude toward the quality of life in God’s kingdom and God’s will for us (Heb. 6:1).  It is our initial decision to be disciples of Christ, to accept His covenant, to be sanctified in Christ and to be sons in God’s kingdom.  It is a decision to let God add us to the sanctified (Acts 2:47; John 17:19).  Repentance is our response to our faith.

The preacher must preach the gospel of life in the kingdom clearly so the lost people can have faith.  Sinners must be obedient to the faith which is now their faith.  It was indeed a glorious day when the kingdom of God was preached to the Gentiles and not the Jews only, because that includes the rest of us.  Peter stated:

“If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”  Acts 11:17, 18

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does God command all people to do?  Why?
  2. Give the basic meaning of the Greek word which is translated repentance in God’s word.
  3. What does the meaning of the word repent suggest about the message which produces repentance?
  4. How do we know that some, or all, of the three thousand people who were baptized in Acts two actually repented?
  5. How does repentance make Jesus Christ our Lord?
  6. What can keep sinners from repentance?
  7. What brings about repentance which is not repented of?
  8. What are sinners obedient to in their repentance?  Please explain your answer.
  9. What changes do we see in Peter after he witnessed the resurrection of Jesus?
  10. What good works did two Christian women perform after they repented?

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