Repentance and forgiveness
Repentance is a necessary step in salvation (Lk 13:3-5, Acts 2:38). Repentance is not an emotion, but a decision. There can be emotion, especially godly sorrow, in the process, but it is not essential (2Cor 7:10). What is essential is that we turn from sin to God (2Chr 7:14, Acts 14:15, Acts 26:18-20). It is a change of direction. It is not a momentary event. It is a commitment to a change of lifestyle. It should show some immediate impact (Mt 3:8, Acts 26:20). However, it is a commitment to a permanent lifestyle change. It does not make us perfect overnight, but it sets us on the path toward it (1Jn 1:5-2:4). Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Rom 2:4, 2Tim 2:25). God initiates it, and we choose to respond to His invitation. It is more than being sorry for the circumstances our poor choices have created. It being sorry that we sinned against God and damaged our relationship with Him.
This may seem strange, but repentance and forgiveness are two different things, although they are to go together:
1. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mk 1:4).” The word for means “into, unto, to, towards, for, among”
according to Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Lexicon. It is a preposition which “shows direction, location, or time, or introduce an object. They are usually followed by an object — a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun”. Repentance points us toward salvation, but does not complete it in itself. Neither does faith if defined as a mental assent or
verbal acknowledgement. Faith leads to action (Heb 11, Jam 2).
2. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Lk 24:47).” Repentance and remission are two different words. Repentance means “a change of mind, as it appears to one who
repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done” according to Thayer’s Lexicon. Remission means “forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty” according to Thayer’s Lexicon.
3. “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).” As in Mark 1:4, the word for here does not point backward to sins repented of, but forward to water baptism and the remission it provides.
4. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).” The word converted means “to turn to, to cause to turn, to bring back” according to Thayer’s Lexicon. The phrase blotted out means in its original use “to anoint or wash in every part, to besmear: i.e. cover with lime (to whitewash or plaster)” according to Thayer. In its application here it means “to wipe off, wipe away, to obliterate, erase, wipe out, blot out” per Thayer. In this verse, Peter is describing three parts of a single process - repentance, turning to God from sin, and sins being blotted out.
5. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give
repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).” Forgiveness here is the same word which is translated remission in other places. Again, we see an indication of two things.
6. “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine
heart may be forgiven thee (Acts 8:22).” Peter told Simon to repent and pray for
7. “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20).” Here again are three parts of the one process.
8. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2Cor 7:10).” The word to is the same word as for in Mark 1:4.
Some may say that these scriptures are describing the same thing in different ways, thus making repentance all these things in one. That is clearly not the case by context or grammar. Some think salvation is one event. It is not. It is a process. When Peter was asked what men ought to do in response to the gospel he said, “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).” There are three parts to the response. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:1-4). Our response to the death of Christ is to repent and die to sin (Rom 6:1-2, Rom 8:13, Col 3:5). Our response to the burial of Jesus is to be baptized by immersion in His name for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-7, Acts 22:16, Rom 6:3-4, Col 2:12). Our response to the resurrection of the Lord is to receive the Holy Ghost, the same Spirit that rose Him from the dead (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-7, Rom 8:9-11). This is not the end of the process. This is our initial response to the gospel that happens in three parts. After our initial response we are to continue in the faith.
The difference between repentance and forgiveness has been illustrated this way. A child asks his father if he can go outside and play. The father says no because they are already dressed for church and will be leaving shortly. Dad does not want him getting his clothes dirty. The boy promises to be careful, so the father reluctantly agrees. Sure enough, the boy gets dirty. He comes in and apologizes. The father forgives him based on his apology, but he is still dirty. He must wash with water and get cleansed of his dirtiness. Likewise, when we repent of our sins, God offers us forgiveness, but we still must obey His command and be washed the way He said to, which is water baptism. That is the difference between repentance and forgiveness. Repentance is our response to the initiating of God in our conscience of the process which leads us to a decision. Remission or forgiveness is God cleansing us from sin through His chosen method and command of water baptism. That is when the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to us through His name for remission (Mt 26:28, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 22:16). If you have not been baptized, you are being asked the same question Ananias asked Paul: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).” If you have been baptized some other way, then follow the precedent of the disciples of John who were baptized by a man of God by immersion for the remission of their sins after they repented, but were re-baptized in order to have the name of Jesus Christ specifically invoked in the baptism (Acts 19:1-7). If you were baptized correctly previously, but you have fallen away or sinned, there is not scriptural precedent for you to need to be baptized again. All you need is to do is to repent. If your conscience is troubling you anyway, you should discuss that with an apostolic minister. If you have obeyed the gospel and are currently walking in the faith, then continue to do so and lead others to repentance and forgiveness of sins.