Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
The First Word Of The Gospel
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. His miracles confirmed He was the Son of God and they pointed men to the authority of the Son. The teaching of Jesus was simple in design yet challenged the foundation of Jewish thought in the first century. When the Lord finished His sermon on the mountain the people were astonished by his authoritative manner of teaching. It was clear, concise, and forthright in its simplistic yet powerful message. Jesus was a master teacher. When the Lord began preaching the word of His Father, His message was defined by the problem that man has faced since Eden: repentance. If there is a single idea that has plagued the will of humanity is the refusal to change their hearts to serve God. Satan challenged Eve in the garden deceiving her that she could do what she wanted regardless of the will of the Lord. The devil convinced her that her will was more important than the restrictive word of the Father. Eve succumbs to the wiles of the adversary because she was seeking her own wisdom. Repentance is necessary because it returns the authority of the will of God to the heart of man.
To repent is to perceive afterward, to have a change of mind or such a change as would reverse the effects of a previous action. It means to change from sin and turn to God. Jesus began His preaching ministry with the profound need of men to change their hearts. This was an individual need. One of the important aspects of Jesus’ preaching repentance was the appeal for the individual to regret their actions, change their hearts, and accept the will of God as supreme. It has been difficult for the pride of man to be set aside so the heart can accept the failings of the human spirit. The problem is that all men sin and all men require repentance. Jesus never sinned and there was never a need to repent. His message of repentance came from a pure life without the stain of sin directed to the failings of men. No man has lived that has not needed repentance except the teacher of repentance, Jesus Christ. He began His preaching by telling man his basic and intrinsic need: repentance.
The struggle with humanity has been the refusal to admit failure. Pride exalts the heart of man to believe he is his own god and can determine his own destiny. Denying that he is a creation of God, man exalts his wisdom above the word of God which ends in disaster and ruin. Jesus pointed out that all men need to change their hearts and accept they need the grace of God. As Creator, the Lord has the right to demand the will of man to repent. Good and evil are established by the hand of the One who made the world and established morality. Jesus taught men the first word of the gospel was repentance because that is the basic need before the grace of God can be received from heaven’s throne. Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness and without forgiveness no salvation. The heart must begin with repentance.
On the Day of Pentecost, the first words from the apostles of Christ to the multitude of those asking what to do to be saved was repentance. The message of the early church was for all men to repent. Paul preached that all must repent of their sins and turn to God and prove they had changed by the good things they did. The content of the early writings to the churches was for changes to take place in the heart of men from the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Everything found in obedience begins first with repentance. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ begins with repentance. If a man is unwilling to change his life at the beginning of the gospel there will be no change in the administration of the word of God on the heart as a child of God. The saints of the Lord are changed people. Christians are saved because they are changed. Repentance is the first word of the gospel because without repentance man has not accepted the rule of God. Every person who comes to Christ must change. Unless you repent, you will perish.