Whatever happened to repentance? You rarely hear the word mentioned in most churches today. Pastors seldom call for their congregations to mourn and grieve over wounding Christ by their wickedness.
Instead, the message we hear from many pulpits today is, “Just believe. Accept Christ, and you’ll be saved.” The text used to justify this message is Acts 16:30-31. In this passage, the apostle Paul was being held in jail when suddenly the earth shook and all the cell doors opened. The jailer immediately thought all the prisoners had fled, which meant he faced execution. In despair, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul and Silas stopped him, assuring him no one had escaped.
Seeing this, the man fell down before the apostles and cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31).
As we read this passage, it is important to remember that the jailer was on the verge of suicide, with sword in hand. He was already at a point of repentance—on his knees, broken and trembling before the apostles. So his heart was truly prepared to accept Jesus in genuine faith.
In the gospel of Mark, Christ tells His disciples, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). It is clear from what Jesus says here that salvation is found in simply accepting Him and being baptized.
However, Jesus prefaces His statement with this word: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (verse 15). He is saying, in essence, that before people can believe in Him, the gospel must first be preached to them.
And what is this gospel Jesus refers to? It is the gospel that Jesus Himself preached—the gospel of repentance!
Think about it. What was the first message Jesus delivered after He emerged from the temptation in the wilderness? Scripture says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).