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March 25th, 2007

“…repent and believe in the gospel”

(Mark 1:15)

John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4). The apostle Paul explained John’s ministry in Acts 19:4—“And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus”. In Mark 1:15, Jesus equates the nearness of the kingdom of God with the gospel, and then urges that men “…repent and believe in the gospel.” Notice, here, that repentance and belief stand together.

We may ask, what is repentance? Whatever it is, John and Jesus made it a requirement. If it is a requirement, and it certainly is (see Luke 13:1-5), how may we better understand and appreciate repentance for what it is?

1. It assumes that men have the capacity and ability to repent. This appears to stem from the continuity of Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6)—where man is declared to be made in the likeness of God. The Bible suggests that God has, himself, at various intervals of sacred history repented (see Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:35). Although, it must be remembered that a change of mind (or, reversal of a former decision) does not negate God’s unchangeable nature (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6). Some modern philosophies of determinism do not accept the above proposition that man can repent. Rather, many today are being told that they are not responsible and therefore repentance is not necessary: Environmental Determinism; Genetic Determinism; Theological Determinism.
2. Repentance is more than sorrow and religious ritualism
(2 Cor. 7:10; Matthew 3:1-12).
3. Repentance produces fruit (Matthew 3:8).
4. Repentance is rewarded in this life and the life to come (Acts 3:19-20).

-Robert M. Housby

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