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A Bible Study on Repentance
from Good News magazine


1. Mark 1:14 - 15 states: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel." Was Jesus' call for repentance something entirely new? See Psalm 7:12; Isaiah 30:15; Jeremiah 3:12 - 14; 26:2 - 3; Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30 - 32; flosea 5:15 - 6:2; and Jonah 3:4 - 5.

2. Some people say Jesus' primary mission was to heal the sick. Others claim His central message was that all men should love one another. According to Mark 1:14 - 15, from the time Jesus began his ministry, what was his central message? Read John 17:20. How do you know that Jesus preaches repentance to you now with the same words He preached to the people during His earthly life?

3. According to Matthew 19:16 - 20, especially verse 20, why did people in Jesus' day find our Lord's message irrelevant and unnecessary? How is your attitude often like that of the rich young man? In what sense is your situation like the prisoner shown in this magazine on pages 12 - 13? Read and discuss Jesus' parable in Luke 18:10 - 13.

4. It is a very dangerous and deadly mistake to remain indifferent and unconcerned over a physical infection. If left unattended, seemingly insignificant wounds can become deadly. How does the devil tempt you to remain unconcerned about the seemingly harmless spiritual infection of sin? Read Ezekiel 33:9; Acts 28:27; Hebrews 2:3; 12:25. Might Jesus be describing your attitude in Luke 5:29 - 32? In what way do these passages show the effects of leaving sin unattended? To more fully understand why Jesus is calling you to a life of daily repentance, read Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Ezekiel 18:4. Then discuss whether you have a mere spiritual infection or whether you have inherited a terminal spiritual disease.

5. In His call to you for repentance, Jesus does not leave you in despair. He also includes His words of healing and new life when He says, "Believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Read Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; and 1 Peter 3:18 - 22, especially verse 21. Read and discuss Titus 3:3 - 7, especially verse 5. On the basis of this Life-giving Word from God, what miraculous gift has Jesus given you to save you from your inherited terminal spiritual illness? If, as Bible scholars point out, the benefits of Baptism that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19 are the same benefits as John's Baptism in Mark 1:4, what does God's miraculous gift of Baptism do in your life? Look at the example of the water wheel on pages 8 - 9. How does God graciously turn your water wheel of repentance and how does He want you to be involved in its day-to-day turning?

6. After Jesus finished His public ministry and returned to heaven, what happened to His message of "Repent and believe in the Gospel," as explained in Acts 20:20 - 21; 26: 19 - 20; 2 Peter 3:9? In his Pentecost sermon, how does Peter say Baptism and repentance are related (Acts 2:38)?

7. When Martin Luther (the greatest preacher and church reformer in the last 500 years) called Christ's church back to God's Word, he launched his reform by nailing 95 Theses to the church door. The first of the his 95 Theses said: "When our Lord's master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent Ye,' He makes it clear that the whole life of the believer is to be constant or unending repentance:' If you are a Christian, how does your daily life compare to Martin Luther's call for repentance in the first of his 95 Theses?

8. St. Paul warns that the incorrect understanding of God's clear Biblical teaching of repentance can lead to very serious consequences. Read 2 Corinthians 7:9 - 10. How serious are these consequences?

9. Read Matthew 27:3 - 5. How does the record of Judas' sorrow relate to St. Paul's explanation of true and false repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:9 - 10?

10. When the first Lutheran Christians were forced to make a public statement of their faith, they quickly realized that their concern for a clear definition and understanding of Biblical repentance was not shared by the church leaders of that day. To Emperor Charles V, in whose hands their fate lay, the first Lutheran Christians said of the Roman Catholic leaders of that day, "they deny that faith is a second part of repentance." By this, Lutherans meant that the Lutherans fully accepted Jesus' two-fold call: to repent and to believe; or, to feel sorrow for sin and turn to Christ for salvation, However, the Roman Catholic denial of "the second part of repentance," meant that simple faith in Christ was not enough. Sinners, Rome maintained, had to do acts of reparation to help pay for their sin, thereby saying that the death of Christ had not been enough. St. Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 7:9 - 10 that understanding repentance is absolutely crucial to the Christian faith. Do you think most Christians know there are different types of repentance, one leading to life and the other to death? Did you know that God explains this crucial difference in His Word? Why do so many people seem to be unaware of this life-and-death difference?

11. People who hear Jesus' command to "repent" often say, "I would like to repent, but how do I do it? What do I have to do to please God through a life of daily repentance?" If you feel a similar frustration, you might be like those described in John 6:28 - 29 who came to Jesus and said, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Why was the answer Jesus gave to their question so unexpected? Why are Jesus' answers often confusing even today? How does St. Paul echo Jesus in Philippians 2:13?

12. How does God want to work in your life? With what power does He desire to work within you to bring about your repentance and believe in Christ? Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

13. Study the water wheel on pages 8 - 9 and discuss what special gift God uses to turn your water wheel of repentance. After God uses His special gift to start your water wheel of repentance turning, how does He involve you in keeping your water wheel of repentance turning?

14. How does Luke 15:7 show that repentance is very important, even to the angels in heaven?

15. Read Acts 17:30 - 31 and 2 Peter 3:9. Is understanding God's revealed will regarding repentance something you can delay indefinitely?

16. Why is Mark 1:4 a problem for those who claim that God's miraculous gift of Baptism has no life-giving power?

17. How does 2 Kings 5:1 - 14 help those who have a difficult time accepting the Bible teaching that Baptism has the power of repentance and forgiveness of sins?

1. Even before sending His Son Jesus, God was using Old Testament prophets to call His people to a life of daily repentance.

2. From the time Jesus launched his public ministry until He died on the cross, the central message Jesus proclaimed was, "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Jesus intended His words of life that He spoke to His disciples to be passed on to each new generation. Therefore, Jesus is now urging you also to live a life of daily repentance.

3. Many Jews in Jesus' day were deceived by the devil to believe that they could please God by following His Law. This same devil surely tempts you also to believe that, compared to your friends and neighbors, you live a pretty good life and, therefore, God should surely find your self-righteousness acceptable to Him.

4. Most people consider their natural and sinful condition little more than a minor spiritual infection and certainly not a terminal disease.

5. In His Word, God says you are saved through His gift of Baptism: "Baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21). Through His miraculous power of Baptism, God initiates and continues (Philippians 2:13) His gracious work of repentance in your life (Acts 2:38). God invites you to feed on His Word so that you will be enabled to live a new life of daily repentance pleasing to Him (Romans 6:4 - 5).

6. After Jesus ascended into heaven, Sts. Paul and Peter "kept declaring" to all whom they met that day, "Repent and turn to God." In other words, the apostles repeated and echoed the central message Jesus taught, "Repent and believe." In his Pentecost sermon, St. Peter said, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" and both of these together are "for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38).

7. We often think of repentance as something we do only after we commit a serious sin; or maybe we see repentance as something we do once, when we become converted. But few people see the repentance that God's Word teaches as an ongoing, daily act in the life of a Christian, something as necessary as eating and breathing. When correctly translated from the Greek, the language Jesus spoke, in Mark 1:15 Jesus is saying, "Be repenting," or, let your life be one of continuous repentance.

8. The wrong understanding of repentance results in death, eternally.

9. Matthew records that Judas was truly filled with sorrow when he saw he had betrayed Jesus. This type of sorrow, however, without trust in Jesus as the Savior, is a deception of the devil, a deception that ends in eternal death, as St. Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7:9 - 10. Discuss pages 14 - 15, which show Judas hanged. continued

10. Facing persecution and the threat of death, the 16th Century Reformers were forced to defend their teaching of the faith before the rulers of Europe. This led Luther and his followers to see the importance of understanding the Biblical teaching of repentance which states that repentance has two parts: sorrow for sin and faith in the sin-atoning work of Jesus Christ. The reason many are neither aware nor concerned about this crucial understanding is because they get many of their ideas about faith and religion from the culture and not from God's Word. The sole purpose of God's Word is to make us "wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15).

11. The people in John 6:28 who asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" expected Jesus to set forth rules, or steps, or guidelines to follow. As with most people today, the answer they wanted from Jesus would have permitted them to continue to believe that they were "in charge" of their own spiritual life, their daily repentance, and their salvation. Jesus sharply reminds them and reminds us that, when it comes to spiritual matters, we do nothing and God does everything. Just as a newborn child receives a gift and it becomes immediately his, so also we receive God's gift of repentance and salvation. Through this gift of repentance, God enables us to live a life of daily repentance. In Philippians 2:13, St. Paul echoes Jesus' teaching that God does everything when he says, "it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

12. God works His gift of repentance and faith in you through His living Word. Paul says this living Word of God is "at work in you" just as some foods, such as yogurt, have living enzymes in them; and just as certain medicines go to work on you when they are inserted into your blood stream, so also the living Word of God - when it enters you through your eyes, ears, and mouth through preaching, reading, and the Sacraments - goes to work on you to create daily God-pleasing repentance. Discuss how God's Word enters you and works on you as shown on pages 16 - 17. God's Law (Hebrews 4:12) makes you aware of the deadly seriousness of your sin (John 16:8). But God's living and life-giving Gospel heals you (Psalm 107:20). It takes away the guilt of your sin and declares you fit to stand before God in perfection and righteousness.

13. The water wheel demonstrates that God, through His gift of Baptism, starts our water wheel of daily repentance turning. When you receive into yourself each day His living, cleansing, healing, and forgiving Word, God keeps your "wheel" of repentance turning. In other words, by the power of His Word, God creates in you a desire for His Word (Psalm 42:1 - 2; 119:8) and, thus, also enables you to be responsible to hear the Word of God preached each Sunday, to receive God's Word in the Sacraments, and to participate in Sunday school and Bible class. Reading and hearing God's Word is what will keep the repentance water wheel turning in your life in a God-pleasing way. And God does it all. "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

14. Luke 15:7 says, "I tell you . . . there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." All of heaven bursts forth in excitement as God, through His gift of repentance, brings another person into His presence eternally.

15. Acts 17:30 - 31 says, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." 2 Peter 3:9 states, 'The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

16. Those who reject God's power of life-giving baptismal regeneration (Titus 3:5) also reject the clear Biblical teaching that John's Baptism also resulted in repentance and forgiveness. They also reject Christ's command to baptize for new life (John 3:3 - 5). Bible scholar R. C. H. Lenski writes: "This Baptism which John proclaimed and administered was connected with repentance and resulted in remission of sin." He continues, "Jesus Himself continued John's Baptism (John 4:1 - 2) and eventually instituted this Baptism for all nations. In essentials, John and Christ's Baptism are the same. The remission [forgiveness] bestowed on those who were baptized was the same."

17. 2 Kings 5:1 - 14 tells how Naaman didn't believe Elijah's command that simply "washing" in the Jordan River would cure his leprosy. After displaying his anger and disbelief at God's promise of healing, Naaman "went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."

Even though many today deny the power of Baptism for repentance and remission of sins, through His Word and water of washing and regeneration (John 3:3 - 5; Titus 3:5), God washes you clean of sin and prepares you for a life of daily repentance. This may not sound logical nor reasonable. But, as with Naaman, God does the miracle of healing and giving new life JUST AS HE HAS PROMISED.

You have just completed a brief study of God's wonderful gift of repentance. Rejoice that God so graciously desires to work repentance and new life in your heart, Continue to study the Scriptures. The living and life-giving Word of God will transform your life (Romans 12:2). The old will pass away, and all things will become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This article was used with the permission of the copyright holder, Good News magazine. You can receive the latest edition of Good News by calling 1-800-778-1132.

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