THE TRUE MEANING OF REPENTANCE
Let us study a few passages to see what repentance is. Acts 2:37-38 says, "And when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What should we do, brothers? And Peter said to them, Repent and each one of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." When some read these verses, they may say that faith is not even mentioned. All that is mentioned is to repent, to be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and to receive the promised Spirit. Faith is not mentioned at all; instead, only repentance is mentioned. But this was not what was spoken prior to this. The apostle did not begin with repentance, baptism, forgiveness of sins, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This was not the day of Pentecost. It was not the first word that Peter preached. It was the last word Peter spoke after he gave his message. Prior to this, Peter had said, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man shown by God to you to be approved by works of power and wonders and signs, which God did through Him in your midst, even as you yourselves know—this man...you, through the hand of lawless men, nailed to a cross and killed; whom God has raised up" (vv. 22-24). Peter was saying, "This is our testimony. God has even exalted Him to the heavens and has made Him Lord and Christ. This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. God has sent us, the apostles, to testify to the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Holy Spirit has been poured out, giving the one hundred and twenty the gift of tongues. This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, testifying that the Lord Jesus has been glorified." There are two testimonies here. The apostles testify of resurrection, while the Holy Spirit testifies of glorification. The apostle Peter preached to them the word of God and showed them what they had done to the Lord Jesus and what God had done to Him. Verse 36 says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you have crucified." The word of God had been preached, and the apostles had shown them what God had done and what they had done.
Please remember that slightly more than a month before Pentecost, the same group of people were shouting, "Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!" (John 19:15). They were instrumental in His murder and crucifixion. Formerly, they considered the Lord Jesus as worthy of death; they shouted to crucify Him and to release Barabbas instead (Luke 23:18). What had happened? Acts 2:37 says, "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What should we do, brothers?" This is to believe in the word of God. The word of God was preached, and they received it. They realized that what God had done to the Lord Jesus was very different from what men had done to Him. Moreover, the Holy Spirit was also there testifying. They could not refuse that testimony. Hence, they spoke this pleading word, asking what they should do now that they had crucified the Lord Jesus. If they had not crucified the Lord, there would still be the chance of restitution. But once the Lord Jesus was crucified, what should they do? They accepted the apostle’s testimony. As a result, the apostle told them that they had to repent. They had to repent because of their concepts and view concerning the Lord Jesus. In addition, they had to be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ. To be baptized is to receive Him, to believe in Him, and to confess Him. The meaning of being in the Lord’s name is to believe in the Lord. When they do this, their sins will be forgiven, and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)