The idea that repentance is the way into covenant with Jesus, and thereby the means of becoming born again, has been mentioned several times in many previous postings on The More Sure Word. Now it is time to dive more deeply into this topic. The New Covenant way to enter the kingdom of heaven, i.e., to become born again, is to enter the covenant Jesus fulfilled. Jesus didn’t come to fulfill a covenant just because He was looking for something to do. There was a reason God sacrificed His only Son to fulfill the covenant. And judging from the price paid, a painful and shameful death on a cross, the reason was colossally important. Anything important enough that the life of Jesus was required had to be important enough to last more than a few days, weeks, months or even centuries. It had to be eternal. It’s no accident that God’s covenant with Abraham, the covenant Jesus fulfilled, is called the eternal covenant. (See Hebrews 13:20) Why did God go to such extraordinary lengths to fulfill a covenant that would stand forever? So every woman, man, girl and boy in the world would forever be able to become united with God by repenting so as to enter the eternal covenant with the man Jesus Christ, the Savior of the whole world.
A covenant has regulations that set parameters of the behavior for those in the covenant. The regulations of the Old Covenant are God’s laws, commandments, statures and ordinances. One of the reasons God made a covenant with Abraham was to provide a framework for him and his descendants to live their lives on earth.
The people of Israel were in the same covenant as Abraham because they were all his descendants. Jesus, Himself a descendant and therefore in the same covenant, was sent to fulfill this covenant. His work was completed with His death and resurrection. With fulfillment, God’s covenant with Abraham changed from being local to global, from a physical to a spiritual entity. Just as with the Old Covenant, the New Covenant provides a framework in which God’s people can live, not only on earth, but in the kingdom of God.
This covenant should be important for all people today because Jesus died to fulfill it. With His fulfilling act, this covenant that started with God and one man became the final authority for the entire world. It is the framework by which all people everywhere are to live their lives. The result of this is that the regulations of the fulfilled covenant are also the standard for all judgment by God. All behavior is judged, whether good or evil, based on the commandments of the eternal covenant. Because of this, we would all do well to be certain we are on the correct side of the covenant. That is, that we are in right-standing with God, born again and inheritors of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
The truth is that this covenant that God initiated more than 4,000 years ago is completely relevant today. It remains in place today in its spiritual form as it will for the remainder of time and beyond. The good news is that it is now possible, thanks to Jesus Christ, for any and all who so choose to enter into this covenant with Jesus Christ and through Him with the Father.
The way into the eternal covenant is to follow Peter’s directive to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, when he said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Interestingly, Jesus began His ministry with the following words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) Before Him, John the Baptist made the same declaration, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)
The Greek word translated ‘repent’ in the above verses is metanoeó (met-an-o-eh’-o). It literally means to think differently after a change of mind. Since there is a change in thinking, there also is to be an expected corresponding change in behavior. Therefore, the idea of repentance is that of a total, 180 degree turnaround. A total turnaround is just that, a total turnaround. It includes the way you talk, think, respond to situations, treat your spouse, forgive, confess, minister to others, help those in need, and on and on. It is a total life change, a total makeover, if you will. Paul said it this way: “Therefore if anyone is in [covenant with] Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) In other words, your life following repentance is a completely new life.
When Paul was presenting his case before King Agrippa, he said:
19 “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,
20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20)
We see here that the idea that turning to God is linked to repentance. Also note that the expectation is that the repentant person is to perform deeds appropriate to repentance. That means the new person should act in a way that is consistent with his or her new nature and character.
Further, repentance is not just for a select few, or a certain people group, or those who hold to one religious belief or another … it is for everyone.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man [Jesus] whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him [Jesus] from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
That repentance is necessary and available for all people everywhere is presented to us throughout the Bible. The obligation falls to us to understand as much as possible of the all important practice called repentance.
We continue on with our discussion of repentance in the next article, Entering The Eternal Covenant: Part II.