“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, ‘In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!’ So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12/09).
Notice the central message that the twelve apostles preached on the limited commission; they preached that people should repent. I doubt that those were the only words which they said, but their primary message was one of repentance. Like John who was the forerunner of Jesus, their mission was one of calling people back – back to the Holy Covenant of God as it was recorded in the Old Testament scriptures. In this regard, their mission was virtually the same as all the Old Testament prophets including such notables as Elijah, Isaiah, Amos, and Moses himself! Our study today will take a brief look at what many have called the most difficult commandment in the Bible, the commandment to repent!
Time could be spent on definitions, but we will make this short and sweet; repent in the context of the focus passage simply means to change one's mind and hence one's allegiance as it relates to the will of God. For someone walking away from God, it simply means to make the mental resolve to do an about face and begin walking toward God. After all, this was the messages of the prophets, of John, and even of Jesus Himself. It should come as no surprise that the apostles simply carried on the efforts which had recently been centered in John and then Jesus.
Why repent? Jesus put it as succinctly as it can be put when He told a group of sinners, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13.3). As if to emphasize the necessity of this very difficult command, He repeated the exact same words only two verses later; “... unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
It is also noteworthy that the command to repent did not end with the Cross and the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. It was an integral part of the first recorded gospel sermon as delivered by Peter on the day of Pentecost. When convicted of their wrongs, the people asked him what they should do. Peter's response was a model for then and it is a model today. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2.38-39).
Although repentance is a conscious act of the will, there is also a sense in which repentance is an attitude. There is no question but that we all sin. However, especially in the matter of repentance, one's attitude (concerning repentance) certainly determines altitude (concerning God). The message of the apostles is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. People should repent.
1. What is a simple definition of “repent”?
2. What was the alternative to repentance as stated by Jesus in Luke 13.3,5?
3. Who told people to repent and be baptized? What was the historical context?
4. What is an “attitude of repentance”? How would such an attitude appear in a person?
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