The preaching of repentance is not often heard today even though Jesus has given a special command concerning it. After He had arisen from the dead, He told His disciples: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations - beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46,47). Every generation should continue the preaching once begun by the Apostles. "All everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30). But just what is this repentance that must be preached to everyone, and is necessary for everyone? We can learn the answer to this question by observing how the Apostles preached repentance.
Peter preached repentance in this way: Jesus "ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:42,43).
Paul preached repentance like this: "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses" (Acts 13:38,39).
The heart and core of this preaching was forgiveness of sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Savior, you see, commanded that repentance be preached for the "forgiveness of sins."
Repentance is: 1) The conviction of one's own unworthiness before God, accusations and terrors of conscience, guilt because of sin; but not only this; it is also 2) trust or faith that God is merciful to us because of Christ and forgives us all our sins through His atoning blood.
Repentance is therefore sorrow for sin and faith.
It is often thought that in essence repentance means to improve one's life. But our old Adam does not improve. It must be crucified daily in penitance and faith. The Greek word for repentance means change of mind, turning around and returning to God.
A better life is a result of repentance. In other words we receive forgiveness of sins just as we are. Forgiveness is not based on our works, but on Christ's work of reconciliation. God justifies the ungodly.
Fighting against sin, forsaking unrighteousness and evil are indications that a person has returned to God. It is all a result of faith, "fruit in keeping with your repentance" (Matt. 3:8). God also want to see this in us. Strength for this comes from the assurance that our sins have been forgiven.