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Past Tense

“and he said to them, ”Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47)

One of the many words that is misunderstood in today’s world is repentance. It was an important word to Jesus. He said without it you will be lost (Mark 2:17; Luke 13:3,5). It was important to Peter. He said it was a requirement that precedes baptism (Acts 2:38). And it was important to Paul.

Paul’s discussion of his own changed life was on public display. He made no attempt to conceal the tragic sins he committed against Christians and against the Lord.

“... I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence...”(1 Tim 1:13 NRSV* all citations for this article).

”Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; ... I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death." (Acts 26:9-10).

But Paul did not continue to live as he did before. He changed. He repented. And the fact that he changed was a shock to many who knew him. “All who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21).

Repentance does not mean saying you’re sorry. That’s making an apology. Repentance means changing the way you act. Paul knew what he had been. But he also knew what he had become because of his conversion to Christ. He often spoke of the difference. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.” (Titus 3:3). “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.”(Eph 2:3).

Paul also knew the meaning of repentance. “And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11). Repentance means putting sinful things in the past..

-Tim Orbison


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