When those gathered on the Day of Pentecost almost 2000 years ago heard the Apostle Peter preach, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,” they were “cut to the heart.” Being convicted of their sin, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was clear and direct: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:36-38).
The words repent and repentance have pretty much fallen into disuse in today’s society. But the concept of repentance is of extreme importance when it comes to one’s salvation. Jesus said, “"Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). The overall importance of repentance is further stressed in Acts 17:30 where the inspired writer affirms: “But now [God] commands all men everywhere to repent.” These two verses reveal that, in God’s plan of salvation, repentance is an essential element. In other words, if one desires to obtain salvation found in Jesus Christ, repentance is not optional.
The Greek words translated repent and repentance are defined as: to think differently [with regard to sin] (Strong); to change one's mind [and purpose] (Thayer); to turn from evil, and to turn to the good; (Baker). Easton's Bible Dictionary expounds:
"Repentance consists of (1) a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments."
“For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sorrow for sin serves in leading one to repentance, but genuine repentance involves more than merely being sorry. In Acts 26:20, the Apostle Paul provides us with an excellent working definition of repentance: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (NIV-1984). To repent then, is to make a conscious, deliberate decision to turn from sin, to God, and to confirm this decision by one’s actions, through a changed behavior.
While modern man is often oblivious to the concept and fails to give it adequate thought, mankind’s repentance is of immense importance and great interest to Almighty God. Scripture reminds us that God’s kindness leads one toward repentance (Romans 1:4), and that our Lord’s patience means salvation (2 Peter 3:15). “He is patient (longsuffering) with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV-1984).