“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” Acts 20:21 (KJV)
We live in a generation where the term “born again” seems to be common. It is understood by some, yet misunderstood by many, especially in the church. While some see it as an end, others whom the Lord chooses to reveal, see it as a means to an end, thereby pressing unto the goal.
It appears that Paul when speaking to elders of the church at Ephesus about his service to the Lord (Acts 20:17-21), closed with the message of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ (born again).
I reflected on his journey to salvation and wondered why it couldn’t stand on its own as a message? But then I realized that if his journey didn’t end in the good news of being born again, it would have been incomplete.
Paul broke down what it entails being born again and referred to it as that which is profitable (Acts 20:20). It is that which will unite a man with his maker, which forms the basis of the eternal blessings of God unto man. And which will stand the test of time when all fails; it will not be burnt when our works are being tried by fire.
Paul lived in salvation and taught publicly about it, not just to congregations but also from house to house. Not just to the believers, but to the unbelievers also (Acts 20:20-21). Without Repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ, no one can be saved.
A) “…Repentance toward God…”
Repentance is the first necessary step towards being born again. This is why it comes before faith in Acts 20:21. Not to repent of my sins means that I am still holding on and not fully believing in the finished work of Jesus. Could this be the reason for what we see in the church today? So many people are accepting Jesus, yet returning to their old ways. I am convinced that repentance is NOT being religious. The Pharisees and Sadducees, who were the religious leaders and custodians of the law, were confronted by John the Baptist to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mathew 3:1-8). They were in the church, occupied leadership positions, but had not repented of their old ways, thus the inability to
bring forth fruits of repentance. It is also NOT just being convinced about the existence of Jesus Christ. Nicodemus, a religious leader who was convinced about Jesus Christ yet, did not understand what it meant to be born again, and therefore, could not have repented. So many people in the church today are trying to be good by self-effort, feeling guilty about sin or having an intellectual knowledge of the Bible, but all these do not mean repentance towards God. Sin must, by repentance, be abandoned and forsaken. What repentance is, however, is to confess your sins before God (1 John 1:9), to hate sin with all your heart (Heb 1:9), and to put your trust and belief totally in the finished work of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (2 Cor 5:19 & 1 John 2:2, 12)
b) “…faith toward our Lord Jesus…”
While repentance towards God is good, in itself it is insufficient. Therefore, having faith in Christ as your redeemer and savior, and consenting to Him as your Lord is a must. There is no coming to God but by depending and believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ, your mediator. I’ve looked through the scriptures and all that it is required of me to have a living relationship, it is to believe and accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The scriptures also tell me that salvation, to be born again, is a gift. It is not to be earned, but rather received. All I need to do is to receive, to come as I am, to retrace my steps no matter how far I have gone in the wrong direction. The truth about heading in the wrong direction is that the desired destination will never be reached. Repentance looks towards God as our end; faith towards Christ as our only way of being united with God.
After passing through life and encountering so many problems, with each passing day, I learn to have faith in Jesus. Though a lot of changes may have taken place in our generation and it seems the word of God has been altered, I know that the Bible says, “…Without holiness, no eyes shall see the Lord…” (Heb 12:14). However, I am compelled daily by his unconditional love to carry my cross daily and to run faithfully in the race that is set before me. It doesn’t matter how spiritual I have been, and it doesn’t matter how far I have gone in the wrong direction. The question is after seeing from the scriptures what it entails being born again, can I truly say that I am indeed born again? Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus in John 3:16 was apt and clear. May God have mercy on us and grant us the grace to walk faithfully before him that we may enter into our rest at the end of it all in Jesus’ name.