What is the result of true repentance? Acts 2:38 and 3:19 show us that the result is a reformed life. Repentance is not turning from sin. It is the decision to turn. Repentance is not a reformation of life but it produces such! Faith changes our affections; repentance changes our will; baptism changes our relationship. Deathbed repentance upon the part of an erring Christian – if genuine – would be acceptable. Only God knows, however. It takes more than repentance on the part of one out of Christ to remit sins (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16). Too many people squander a lifetime of opportunities and then call on God when it is too late. We read in 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Have you complied with this command yet? John the Immerser would not baptize men until they manifested their repentance (Matthew 3). This thought magnifies the importance of a genuine attitude toward God’s holy will. May we always strive to have a humble, penitent nature. The preaching of John the Immerser was glorious because he put truth ahead of responses. In our age of emphasis upon numerical growth instead of spiritual strength we need to remember that Jeremiah bewailed the fact that Judah went into Babylonian Captivity because they were “strong in the land – but not for truth” (Jeremiah 9:3). What a tragedy it is when brethren today get caught up in shallow concepts that put a premium upon external show rather than spirituality. When we remain loyal to the Scriptures and allow God to give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:1-7), we will be wise. The great forerunner of Jesus was so discerning that he even refused to baptize some who would not “bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.” Is it possible that we have over-emphasized baptism to the exclusion of proper stress upon repentance? Unless one sincerely changes his mind in regard to sin (Matthew 21:28-30), it is mockery to immerse him (Acts 2:38, 3:19). Nothing was so valuable to the heart of John as folk honestly taught who would thoroughly embrace the powerful message he set forth.
[“Of all the gifts I crave, if I had my wish, the first would be that I might have the power to bring men to repentance by my preaching.” — J. W. McGarvey, 1910]