Is repentance something we do?

Does salvation depend on our repentance and faith? It seems so in Acts 2:38, where it looks like repentance is something we must do before we can be forgiven. And again in Acts 3:19, that we must repent to have our sins blotted out, as though repentance is a condition we must fulfill before our salvation kicks in. Is repentance a work we must do, therefore, as a prerequisite to our salvation?

Repentance is a must, no doubt about that, but how can we – as lifetime enemies of God (Romans 5:10), with minds in captivity to sin (Romans 7:11, 23), and living to gratify the cravings of our sinful nature while totally under the sway of the devil (Ephesians 2:2-3) – repent?! Repentance is the last thing a human mind is capable of. Oh, we may feel remorse for doing bad things, but willingly turn one’s entire life toward God (Acts 3:19)? What human is capable of doing that?

No human is. Romans 8:7 tells us flatly that we’re hostile to God. The diabolical influence of our sinful nature has imprisoned us in a body of death that “does not submit to God’s law, NOR CAN IT DO SO.” In other words, we can’t repent. We’re so “weakened by our sinful nature,” verse 3, that even God’s law can’t change us. We are “by nature objects of wrath,” Ephesians 2:3. “But,” verse 4, “GOD made us alive even when we were dead in transgressions – it is power that HE has exercised for us believers.” It takes God’s power to enable us to repent, because we’re helpless and “dead in our transgressions.”  It’s the “goodness of GOD that leads us to repentance,” Romans 2:4, not our goodness or our noble desire. It is “GODLY sorrow that brings repentance that leads to salvation,” 2 Corinthians 7:10, not ours. “Worldly sorrow” – the only kind we’re capable of – “brings death,” same verse.

So why would Peter yell out to people to “Repent” when they couldn’t repent? Because, Acts 2:36, the crucified Jesus was now the glorified Lord and Christ, whose job it was from God “to bless you by turning each of you from his wicked ways,” Acts 3:26. WHO was doing the turning? Jesus was. Who was turning their minds away from self to God? Jesus was. Who was creating the Godly sorrow and Godly repentance they so desperately needed? It was the “one who has been appointed for you – even Jesus,” verse 20.

In other words, it was all Jesus’ doing, not theirs. Jesus was GIVING them repentance. It was all part of the great gift of salvation that God had given them in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Peter could yell “Repent,” because Jesus had given them the heart to repent.

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