But what exactly is repentance? And why does it matter?
By definition, repentance is turning from sin. It is an acknowledgment that past ways have not been in line with God’s way of life, and a desire to live in the light. This is the way that God described repentance when He urged Israel to put away their sin and return to Him:
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:30-32
The apostle Paul makes this same association with repentance:
“I declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” Acts 26:20
This is crucial — sometimes you may hear people attempt to say that God meets us where we are, and that’s true. But then they may go on to state that God continues to love us and forgive us — even if we never change! That is completely untrue! Indeed, God loved the world, so much that He gave His son so that the world could live (John 3:16). But, despite that love, God does not tolerate blatant sin — God looks for those who feel ashamed of their sins and who then repent of them, meaning that they attempt to turn away from their sinful way of life. He recognizes that we will not always be able to do this perfectly, and that’s why forgiveness exists. But forgiveness is not available to those who aren’t willing to try.
The first step in this attempt to live differently — in this process of repentance — is one outlined by the apostle Peter to the Jews. Note the process:
“‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’Now 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?’” Acts 2:36-37
Here was the shame. Then, note what happened next:
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 2:38
Thus, baptism was the outward expression of repentance. The same was seen with John the Baptist — the people confessed their sins and were baptized (Matthew 3:1-6).
So in this journey of forgiveness, baptism is what happens next. it is the first step in repenting — of turning away from our sinfulness and turning toward God.
— Jason Hensley