As I reflect on repentance and how it played such a critical role in hearts where God planted the seed of the gospel, my thoughts turn back to the Book of Acts. The first day of the church at Pentecost was remarkable. Not only had the Spirit come and filled the hundred and twenty who had been praying for ten days, but there was another special gathering in Jerusalem. “There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation [ethnos – people groups] under heaven” (Acts 2:5). I doubt there has ever been before or since a gathering like this.
As these “men from every nation” witness the effect of the Spirit coming and filling individuals who composed the church, they question what is happening. This attitude of curiosity opens the door for Peter to preach his first sermon. Empowered by the Holy Spirit who had just filled him, the effect is clearly the working of God. These “men from every nation…when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (2:5, 37).
There is no hesitation with Peter. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). To “repent” means “to change one’s life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness” (Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages). Three thousand immediately obeyed, were baptized and added to the church. As this message is later preached to Gentiles (Acts 10-11), they also are “granted repentance that leads to life” (11:18).
What place does repentance have in our preaching the gospel of grace? Power for life change comes through a “complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness.” This was and is the work of the Holy Spirit.
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