KEY THOT: Repentance in Greek is metanoia, from two roots meta (change) and nous (mind). So, repentance is primarily a mindset change that aligns our thinking and worldview with God’s truth. When the mindset change is brought about by the truth of God’s word, faith arises as a gift of God and our hearts are prepared and ready to accept Christ as Lord. This mindset-behavioural change is what salvation is about—saving us from our sins (cause), not just from hell (consequence): “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
Both repentance (mindset change) and faith (trusting in God’s truth) are works of the Spirit. But it is a secret work of the Spirit and cannot be controlled or manipulated by human actions. Jesus told Nicodemus: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit… The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." We may be able to see the outward behavioural change ("sound"), but we do not know when the mindset change takes place ("where it comes... where it is going") because it is an invisible work of the Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost, after listening to Peter's message, the people were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37) by the Spirit regarding Christ, sin, righteousness and judgment (mindset change). Their outward conduct change reveals an inward mindset transformation already taken place: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized…'” Without first a mindset change of faith in response to God’s truth, they would not have asked the behavioral question, “What shall we do?” And Peter's call to "repent and be baptized" would be ignored--just like the Jews during John's call for baptism of repentance.
Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin and both are fruits of the Spirit acting together with God’s Word upon the hearts of the people. Water baptism completes the conversion birth process that started when the Spirit imparted faith and repentance (mindset change) in the hearts of the people as a result of their hearing God’s word (Gospel).
We need to focus on proclamation of God’s Word (Gospel) without which no mindset change (faith and repentance) can occur. The Spirit’s work is invisible like wind, but we can see the effects in behavioural transformation. So Paul agrees in Romans 12:2, “be transformed (behavioral change) by the renewing of your mind (mindset change)”. The Spirit and the Word of God is prerequisite to repentance and faith that brings salvation. Baptism wraps up this birth process in the final identification with Christ in his death and resurrection and the receiving of the Spirit as a child of God. The birth process begins at conception (regeneration, the invisible work of the Spirit), resulting in faith and repentance, but it is completed at baptism. Like the birth of a newborn, baptism completes the birth process, but conception/regeneration has already occurred long before that moment of birth (nine months for physical birth) at the hearing of God's Word through the invisible work of the Spirit.
We need to preach God’s Word to effect mindset change (faith and repentance), not just among pre-believers but also among believers. Personal transformation is dependent on mindset change: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Mindset change depends on accurate and anointed teaching and preaching of God’s truths. Those who handle God’s Word has a great responsibility to ensure that they are imparting truths, not just facts. I define facts as dry academic knowledge. In contrast, truths are Spirit-inspired and life-transforming. Truth is based on the wisdom and revelation that come from the Spirit. As much as faith and repentance are work of the Spirit in response to God’s truth, so the communication of God’s truth must also be Spirit-initiated and Spirit-inspired to complete the communication feedback loop.
Father, what a privilege and joy it is to teach and preach Your Word. Fill us daily with Your Spirit and grant us opportunity in our daily situation to share Your truths by words and by our life with others. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.