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John 3:3-5 & Acts 2:38

"I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent. . ." (Acts2:38).

Repentance is described as death to sin and the old nature. Repentance is necessary for the new birth and it must accompany the baptism of water and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).

There must be a death before there can be a new birth. This confirms both our identification of repentance with death and our identification of the new birth with water and Spirit.

Repentance Defined:

According to the Webster's Dictionary, to repent means 'to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the
amendment of one's life; to feel regret or contrition; to change one's mind."

A.     The Greek word is metanoeo, which literally means "to perceive afterwards" and hence signifies to change one's, mind or purpose. In the New Testament, this word always indicates a change for the better.
B.     Basically, then, repentance is a change of mind, heart, and direction.
C.     Many Bible references affirm this. God chose Paul as a preacher to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18). Paul fulfilled this by preaching that everyone "should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20). One of the fundamental doctrines of the church is "repentance from dead works" (Hebrews 6: 1).
D.     In the context of biblical preaching, then, repentance is a turn from sin and a turn to God.
E.     Most passages, however, use the word in a more restricted way to mean the first step away from sin and to God, prior to baptism of water and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).

In this sense, repentance is a radical transformation of mind, attitude, conviction and direction. It is a voluntary act of man in response to the call of God. It denotes an active turn, not just a feeling of regret or an apology. It is more than a moral resolution or reformation; it is a spiritual decision and a spiritual change.

A.     Before someone can repent from sin, he must first realize he is a sinner. Jesus said, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).
B.     All men have sinned, so Jesus actually came for the whole world. However, His statement points out that He will save only those who recognize their sins.
C.     Repentance can take place only when man recognizes his sins and acknowledges his need of God.

Confession of Sin

A.     Once someone realizes he is indeed a sinner, he must confess it to God. God already knows everything, but He requires honest confession to self and to Him. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them she have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).
B.     When people received John's "baptism of repentance," they went into the water "confessing their sins" (Mark 1.4-5). If one sins after conversion, confession is still part of repentance
(I John 1:9).
C.     We confess sins directly to God, for He is the only One who can forgive us of our sins (Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7). We do not need an earthly mediator because the man Jesus is our mediator and high priest  (I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:15-16).
D.     Moreover, there are times to confess to one another, such as when we seek prayer on our behalf or when we have wronged someone and seek his forgiveness (Luke 1 7:3-4;
James 5: 16).

Contrition for Sin

A.     With confession, there must be contrition, which is a genuine sorrow for sins committed. The sinner must feel regret for wrongs done, and his heart must be broken over his sins. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite head, 0 God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
B.     The sinner must feel in himself a taste of God's displeasure, not just a human sorrow or regret. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (11 Corinthians 7:10).
C.     Many people are sorry for their sins but have not genuinely repented. They regret sin's consequences but they fail to turn from sin. Sometimes sin places them in terrible situations and they are sorry they got caught in them. However, when given a chance to escape those situations, they will continue to live in sin.
D.     Sometimes people cry at the altar because they feel sorry for themselves and are upset about their predicament, but they are not willing to give their lives totally to God. These are examples of worldly sorrow, which cannot bring repentance. True repentance stems from Godly sorrow, which will cause a person to be sorry for his sins, decide to change his sinful lifestyle, and have no regrets about making the change.

Decision to Forsake Sin

Proverbs 28:13 says we must both confess and forsake sin in order to obtain mercy. There must be an actual turning from sin and to God. Repentance is more than sorrow for sins; it also includes a determination to do something about those sins. Repentance is more than confession of sins; it also includes forsaking sins by the help of God.


A.     As part of forsaking sin, the truly repentant person will seek to correct the impact of his past sins upon others to the extent possible. This is called restitution. For example, if he has stolen money, he will repay it (Luke 19:8). If he has wronged others he will seek their forgiveness. If he has harmed someone by lying or gossiping, he will seek to repair the damage done and set the record straight.
B.     Jesus taught, "if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 6:23-24).

The Command to Repent

A.     Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation; the Bible commands everyone to repent. When Adam sinned, God questioned him and expected a confession (Genesis 3:9-13).
1.     In Noah's day, God destroyed all but eight souls because mankind would not repent, He spared the wicked city of Nineveh only because its inhabitants repeated in response to Jonah's preaching.
2.     Jesus proclaimed, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5).

What Happens at Repentance?

A.     At the moment of repentance, man begins to let God work in his life. Man decides to turn away from sin to God, and he allows God to turn to him.
B.     As part of the turn from sin, God enables man to break away from sinful habits and desires. As part of the turn to God, God allows man to start a personal relationship with Him.

Repentance and the Christian

A.     If we sin after the new birth, we still have an avenue of forgiveness by confession of sin to Christ (I John 1:9; 2.- 1).
B.     There is no need to be baptized again because there is only one baptism and it is effective for all sins repented of, whether committed before or after baptism. There is no limit to God's forgiveness in this life as long as we genuinely repent. God expects us to forgive the truly repentant without limit, and He will do no less for us (Matthew 18.-21-22; Luke 17:3-4).
C.     The important thing is that we sincerely regret our sin and honestly determine to do better with God's help.


Repentance is a turn from sin and to God. It is the first response of faith to the call of God. Repentance includes recognition of sin, confession of sin, contrition for sin, and a decision to forsake sin. It is death to sin, and it opens up the possibility of a permanent relationship with God.
Repentance alone is not the complete work of salvation. Water baptism makes the turn from sin permanent by burying the old man, and the Spirit baptism makes the turn to God permanent by imparting a new nature with power to overcome sin daily.

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