Kingdom of God (pt. 2)
The very first mention of the kingdom of heaven was by John the Baptist in Matt. 3:2
“And saying, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mar 1:14-15)
Both these prophets of God were ushering in a new dimension of the Kingdom of God. Both of these men said that people were to “repent” because the kingdom of heaven is “at hand.”
The phrase “at hand” is an idiomatic expression for “near in time or position.”
Therefore, John and Jesus were saying that the kingdom was close by, or coming close to realization.
This concept gets more clearly developed later on in Jesus’ ministry.
The announcement of the nearness of the kingdom was coupled with a command to “repent.”
I do not know of a single word in the English language, other than an f-bomb, that has caused more difficulties for Christians and pre-Christians alike.
It is not a simple word.
Historically, it is a Middle English word from the mid-13th century that was borrowed from the Old French, which was taken from the Latin. It has as its basic meaning “to feel sorry for.” Hence, we have taken this biblical term and made “recognizing you’re a sinner” the sine qua non of getting saved, of being born again.
The phrase “born again” only occurs three times in the Bible, twice when Jesus was talking with Nicodemus in John 3 and once in Peter’s first epistle.
"Born again" is an important term (concept) and is foundational to the Christian experience.
If it is highly important, (and it is), and recognizing one’s status as a sinner is crucial to gaining that experience, don’t you think Jesus would have included that particular detail for Nicodemus?
Nowhere in the entire passage of the discourse with Nicodemus did Jesus indicate the necessity of repentance, of being sorry for sins and confessing them, or even admitting to one’s sinfulness.
Now, before you throw me off the cliff, please understand, I am NOT saying repentance is unnecessary.
It is a part of the first gospel preached after the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:14-39)
Here is where it gets sticky.
Take a moment to read through Peter’s entire sermon (Acts 2:14-39) and look for the word repent or the concept of repentance. You won’t find it until after his sermon was delivered.
Then the people were convicted and asked Peter what they should do.
That is when he said they needed to repent.
I will try to stumble through this and present what we have done with this.
We have taken a typically western approach, broken everything down into “steps to salvation,” and made a logical presentation that is designed to convince the listener to recognize their sinful condition before the Lord.
In sales language we either make a liar or a buyer out of them.
It was the sharing of the Word that brought the people in Jerusalem to a place of conviction so that they wanted to know what they should do.
Philip explained the meaning of the scriptures that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading and preached Jesus to him. Repentance never entered into the picture. (Acts 8:26-38)
My point is simply this—there is no need to present the concept of being a sinner until the person comes under conviction because of the truth you are sharing and then asks what they should do.
Otherwise, they end up with the idea that they have to repent in order to be born again.
“Born again” is the work of the Holy Spirit, by grace, and not the result of works of any kind. (Eph. 2:8-9)
On our side of the equation, the most important part is recognizing that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9)
Everything else flows from that. (Rom. 10:10)
I’ve now gone far afield trying to make this plain so that I can plainly deal with the word “repent,” and I am almost out of space, so I will be brief.
The English word “repent” translates the Greek word “metanoeo” [μετανοέω]. It is a compound word made up of “meta” and “noeo.” “Meta” means ‘with’ and “noeo” means ‘to perceive with the mind.’
Breaking it down for simplicity, metanoeo means ‘with thought,’ or ‘to change one’s mind.’
(I have provided links for students of the Word to follow so that they can see I am not making this up out of my own mind.)
Repentance, therefore, is simply changing one’s mind about the truth of Jesus.
Changing from being antagonistic toward the things of God to being favorable (1 Thess.1:9)
Feeling “sorry” for one’s sins is a by-product of turning to the Lord. Turning to the Lord is the true meaning of biblical repentance.
“Change your mind and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15b)
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