Acts 13:23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus—after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
Paul, speaking to the congregation of the synagog in Antioch of Pisidia, reminds them that God promised to raise up a Savior from the line of David and then Paul tells them that Savior was Jesus. Just as Stephen had before done, Paul is sharing the gospel with this Jewish congregation by taking them through the history of Israel. Paul then brings them up to more recent history and to John the Baptist, whom it seems this congregation must had heard about. He tells them that it was Jesus whom John had pointed to as the Savior, John having prepared them for His coming by the preaching of repentance.
Repentance is a word that is used a lot in Christian circles, but as with other things Christians may read about, hear of, or even talk about, there is a chance we may not understand what it is. Repentance quite simply is changing one’s mind about God and changing one’s mind about sin. Where repentance involves turning from sins, it involves sorrow over sin, confession of sin, forsaking of sin, making restitution where needed because of sin, and all this by the work of the Holy Spirit. Where Repentance involves turning to God, it is by faith and obedience, demonstrated by actions, according to the work of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, regarding repentance, we should understand that repentance is not a one time thing, it’s both at salvation and after salvation. Repentance is also not a bargaining chip that we use with God to get what we want (“Lord if You will do this thing, I will stop doing that thing.”) Repentance absolutely never comes out of pride, and true repentance is not something we can take pride in, because we are humbled in it. Repentance is not the Way to salvation. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, yet repentance means changing our mind about God, so without repentance we will not receive Jesus, so repentance is important in salvation. Repentance is also not something that we bring about by ourselves. There is no man alive who will repent apart from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is not a work we do that brings us into fellowship with God, scripture is plain that salvation is by grace through faith, yet because repentance is changing our minds about God, without repentance we will not confess Jesus. This is why John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance came at the introduction to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit to convict a sinner to repentance, no man can receive Jesus as Lord. So, it was important that John’s preaching and his baptism come before Jesus.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 12:3 (NKJV) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
There is nothing about us that is altogether desirable and there is no good work that we’ve done that overshadows the bad things we’ve done. But Jesus receives us as we have come to Him and then He gives to us out of the abundance of His own righteousness. Repentance is a function of salvation that is both pre, with the drawing of the Father by the work of the Holy Spirit and post, carrying over after justification, for without Jesus there is no possible way we can turn from our sins. The fact that repentance is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit and is also function of salvation is a good reminder to us that when we come to Jesus, we bring nothing to the table.
So, we come to Jesus in repentance, convicted by the Holy Spirit of un-righteousness, and we continue in repentance as we follow Jesus, convicted by the Holy Spirit to righteousness. It is from that relationship with Jesus that all things then are made new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.