Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.
Some believers are confused when it comes to the word: repent, and therefore have doubts about salvation. The confusion stems from our misunderstanding of the meaning of repentance as it’s used in the Bible. The Greek word metanoeo is translated into English as repent and it literally means to change one’s mind about something. When this word is used in the New Testament, it means to change our mind about sin and the need for a Savior.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2).
When John told his listeners to repent it was a warning. He was trying to get them to change their minds about their need for a Savior. John knew that Messiah was soon to begin His ministry, and he knew that he was the one chosen to alert the Jews that Messiah was near.
“As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of the one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths strait’” (Luke 3:4).
Jews felt that the Law could save them, and they worked very hard to obey it. The problem was no matter how much they tried to follow the letter of the Law they failed. Not because they were just bad people. No, they failed because everyone sins. The Law was meant to teach them what sin is and that they needed God to save them. John told them to change their minds about it…to repent. They had to recognize they couldn’t save themselves, nor could the Law save them. They needed to change their minds about their need for a Savior.
Peter was a man who failed, but he repented and became everything Jesus knew he could be. He had walked and talked with Jesus, but still ran scared when Jesus was arrested. Later we see him as a man of God who gave his life to serve Jesus. He lost his fear and spoke boldly regarding Christ.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Peter was speaking to Jews here and explained to them who Jesus was. He convinced them of their need for a Savior. Peter persuaded them to change their minds about who Jesus is.
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:38).
Peter’s words made them realize they needed more than the Law. They needed the Savior and they had crucified Him! What were they to do?
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Before anything, they had to change their minds about Jesus and about sin.
Often non-believers don’t believe that they’re sinners and therefore don’t feel the need for a Savior. They don’t even know what sin is. What is sin? It is rebellion to God. It is doing things that God says not to do. People don’t automatically understand what sin is. So, if we have a friend who isn’t a Christian and lives with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that person doesn’t realize that they are sinning. Or a person who has chosen a homosexual lifestyle can only be convicted of the sin of that lifestyle after they learn what sin is.
Only after they understand that they sin in general will they understand their need for saving grace through Jesus. Once that grace is accepted they will become aware of specific sins and repent…change their minds. The Holy Spirit brings us new understanding. Over time the change of mind regarding Jesus and the brokenness over specific sins have become so intertwined that we commonly but incorrectly define repentance as involving both.
In Scripture we don’t see that a person has to confess every sin they have ever committed before they can be baptized. We see examples of people being baptized immediately who change their minds about who Christ is. They aren’t schooled first or taught some sort of catechism. Philip was told to go to a certain road that went from Jerusalem to Gaza. He obeyed and there he encountered a man from Ethiopia. This man was reading from Scripture:
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8).
Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading and the man said no.
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:35).
Philip didn’t hammer him about his sins, but he “preached unto him Jesus.” The man was convicted. When they came to some water he asked to be baptized and Philip baptized him. He didn’t grill the man on sin or the doctrine of a denomination.
“And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:37-38).
The Ethiopian eunuch just needed to change his mind about Jesus…about his need for a Savior.
Another incident involved a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. He had a vision of Peter coming to him, and Peter had a vision of unclean things being lowered in a sheet. Peter wanted no part of these unclean creatures.
“And the voice spake unto him again the second time, what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15).
Three times the sheet was lowered and three times Peter couldn’t understand why these unclean things were seemingly approved by: God. But when men came from Cornelius and asked Peter to go with them, Peter went. When he came to Cornelius’ house he was told:
“Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33b).
Did Peter begin by listing off sins that they needed to repent of? No. Once again the sermon was all about Jesus. He ended by saying:
“And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:42-43).
The Jews, including Peter, were astonished that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit. After all, they were not schooled in the Law, so how could they even understand what God considered sin?
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48a).
Some use the visible signs of brokenness and contrition as evidence that a person is sincere in asking to be saved. Others include behavioral change as evidence of repentance. But as you can see from studying the book of Acts, both are man’s inventions that can’t be supported Biblically.
In the above examples those who believed did not repent of their sins. Some didn’t know what sin is. They were told about Jesus. They changed their mind about Him. The only clear precondition for salvation the Bible gives us is belief.
“Then said they unto him, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).
The first deaths in the Bible were those of Adam and Eve. They were immortal before Adam sinned but fell to mortality (death) at the moment of their sin.
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
God gave us free will. He wants us to love Him by choice. He gave one “rule” to Adam and Adam chose to sin. Adam had a beautiful relationship with God, lived in Paradise, was immortal, and everything he needed was easily within reach. Then he chose to sin. Suddenly the relationship he and Eve had with God was broken. Suddenly he was spiritually dead. Suddenly his mortal body began the long process of physical death.
Through many years Adam watched as sin became more and more prevalent. Adam lived a long life and easily could have known Noah’s father. Adam watched the world become so sinful that God had to destroy everything. Do you think he was repentant? I do. But there were still many things to happen before the gap between God and man could be restored. Being repentant over sin is one thing, but understanding the need for a Savior is another.
The first actual shedding of blood was in the preparation of clothes for Adam and Eve. When they realized they were naked they made a covering out of fig leaves. Have you ever felt a fig leaf? This is typical of man’s attempt at covering sin…fig leaves are very rough and they would be painful to wear.
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
God was teaching them that it was by the shedding of innocent blood that they would be covered before Him, not by the works of their own hands. It symbolized that our righteousness (covering) would be imputed to us by the shedding of innocent blood (the Lord’s) not by our own works.
After the Flood, Noah’s sons and their wives repopulated the earth. Once again sin flourished. God called Abraham and the chosen children of God were established. Eventually the Jews went into captivity in Egypt and Moses was chosen by God to lead them out. On Mount Sinai the Law was given.
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
Adam and Eve had one rule that they couldn’t keep, The Law listed all of what God sees as sin and gave a list of sacrifices to be offered as a covering for sin. It was just a temporary covering and very rough – like the fig leaves.
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
No matter how repentant a person was, the animal sacrifices were only a covering over of sin.
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). (Thank You, Jesus.)
When a person is presented the gospel, there should be conviction. The question arises “What is the gospel?” Literally the word means “good newsbut to understand the good news one needs to understand the bad news. Everyone is separated from God because of sin.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
There is nothing we can do on our own to bridge the gulf to God. That’s the bad news. The Good News is that God Himself bridged the gap when He entered His creation and became our once for all sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. We must change our minds about our need for a Savior…about the only way to God.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Once we realize that we sin and change our minds about the need for Jesus Christ in our lives we then begin the lifelong process of sanctification. We will begin to see sin in our lives and repent. With God’s help we can remove anger from our lives, or lust or little white lies. Sins: big and small are all covered by the blood of Jesus.
Do you need to change your mind about Jesus? Do you know someone who needs Him in his or her life? Now is the time to make a decision. Now is the time to change your mind – repent – and accept Christ’s sacrifice. Then, begin to understand sin. God will help you remove it from your life one sin at a time. Each time you fail He will forgive you when you confess your sin to Him alone. He loves you.
God bless you all,