Essentially, this is what Jesus did in the third chapter of Matthew.
“I baptise you with water for repentance,” said John the Baptist.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him. John pulled back, “I need to be baptised by You, and yet You come to me?” Jesus replied, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then John allowed Jesus to be baptised.
What is repentance?
Proverbs says that, “As a man thinketh, so he is.” Basically, you are what you think. Because this is so, salvation must come first at the level of knowing, and work its way outwardly. That is repentance.
Repentance is changing your mind, in a corrective sense.
Repentance is life
The first question to be asked, then, is if repentance is working its way out from the mind, how long will that be for? I love Martin Luther’s answer: ‘When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent,” He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.’ Repentance, quite simply, is the beginning, middle, and end of sanctification. That is, it is the process of you becoming like Jesus Christ. Have this mind amongst yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Keep changing your mind, and changing your mind, and changing your mind, until you become like Jesus Christ, the perfect mind.
Repentance begins at salvation, and lasts a lifetime.
We suck at repentance
Have you noticed (or is it just me?) that you repent about the same things? It’s no wonder Jesus had to repent for us; we suck at it. The depravity of sin came home to me about four years ago as I listened to Pastor Ken Chant deliver a sermon at the Seaton Christian Family Centre. It was one of the best messages on grace I’ve ever heard because it was so honest about the depths of personal sin, and the even greater depths of God’s grace. Ken preached that even as he was delivering the sermon at that very moment, pride circles the mind. He subsequently responded to his own altar call (kinda not even kidding).
Sin will be so ever present, even in our good works.
Jesus repents for you
The death of Jesus is not enough to save you. The cross takes away your sins, certainly, but merely sinless people do not enter Heaven. You need His life, or more specifically, you need His righteousness. His righteous baptism of repentance can be exchanged for our lousy ones, and in doing so His life becomes ours. This is amazing. This is all of Jesus, all of grace.
Salvation > Repentance
So what, then, is the whole point of repentance? If it does not save (repeat: does not save), why does the bible constantly attach it next to salvation?
It does not save you; it is the fruit of you having been saved.
A life that’s been saved by Jesus is a life that sprints, runs, jogs, walks, and crawls in repentance towards Him… and, in His grace, sometimes He just has to drag us.