The Gospel of Repentance
Topic: Repentance Passage: Acts 25:22–26:23
Do you know the Lord? No, not “do you know about the Lord?” or “do you know what the gospel of Jesus teaches?” or “have you asked Jesus into your heart?”, but do you know the Lord? Knowledge without taking it and applying it to your life doesn’t do any good. So too, knowledge of salvation is of no use if you don’t apply it. So, is the application of the gospel of Jesus impacting your life? Paul here preaches the good news of the resurrection of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and the demand to apply that message through repentance (Acts 26:20). Paul’s message is two-fold: first that Jesus is the one that the Scriptures foretold and promised and that He was raised from the dead, and second that repentance from sin and darkness is the saving response.
Paul begins by saying to the Jews that they should by no means be shocked that God could raise a man from the dead (Acts 26:8). That leads him into his own eyewitness testimony confirming that is in fact what God did by raising Jesus from the dead. Paul is one of many apostles who had first-hand eyewitness testimony of encountering the resurrected Lord Jesus. From the New Testament we know at least 500 who were encountered by the resurrected Lord Jesus. Two things happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. First (an external sign), a blinding light caused him to fall to the ground (Acts 26:13). Second (an internal reality), the light of God shone in his heart, the Holy Spirit indwelt him, and he was born again. That was repentance. Jumping to Acts 26:22-23, Paul says that the historical resurrection of Jesus was fulfilling what the Hebrew Scriptures clearly taught and promised. That’s his gospel. The big question is: what of it? The answer in this passage is repentance.
Repentance is a turning of the whole person away from sinful patterns of living and turning to God. It involves a change of mind and change of behavior. It can never be separated from saving faith (though it is distinct). It is a change from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). This change of mind has nothing to do with your IQ. No matter how intellectual you may be, all are darkened (see Eph. 4:18, 2 Cor. 4:4) apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. In our fallen condition, none of us can see the glory and the beauty of Christ. Repentance is a change of mind, but it is so much more than that. Prior to his conversion, Paul absolutely knew that God is holy. But only after he was converted did he realize that God is infinitely more holy than he ever grasped. He thought his religious works qualified him for heaven. But when the light shone around him, he had the Isaiah 6 experience (Cf. Is. 6:5). He saw his sinfulness the way he never had before. His religious deception all came crashing down by a new sight (see 2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus told Paul that He was sending him to open eyes, that new sight would come as he preached the gospel.
Repentance is not just darkness to light, but also a change of masters: from the power of Satan to God. Every person is born a slave of Satan (see John 8:34, 36, Rom. 6:17-19). If a person has not experienced a change of masters from Satan and sin to holiness and God, then despite all their religious beliefs they probably don’t have saving faith. Biblical repentance flows out of a changed relationship with God. Before faith and repentance, we are all under condemnation (John 3:18). But when we come to saving faith, we are set apart and sanctified (Acts 26:18). Because of the joy of knowing God, repentance always involves a change in behavior.
Repentance is a turning of the whole person from sin to holiness, darkness to light, and Satan to God. So again, do you know the Lord? If you do, it will become evident in your desires as you battle your sinful nature. King Agrippa believed the Scriptures (Acts 26:27), but it made no difference in his life. Paul didn’t preach for intellectual agreement, but heart changed repentance. Paul preached, God calls, and the evidence of the call is a changed life. So we too are called to preach, that people might repent.
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