Q. I am currently reading through the book of Acts, and something struck me as I read the first 10 chapters. In the early church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the new converts, there is nothing mentioned about brokenness or repentance for sin. Can you explain this as these feelings were a significant component of my experience and I’ve come to understand repentance to be a precondition for being born-again.
A. The confusion stems from our misunderstanding of the meaning of repentance as it’s used in the Bible. The Greek word metanoeo is translated into English as repent. It literally means to change one’s mind.
When John the Baptist told his listeners to repent and be forgiven (Luke 3:3) he was trying to get them to change their minds about their need for a savior.
In Acts 2:36 Peter was persuading his listeners to change their minds about who Jesus is.
Often non believers don’t believe that they’re sinners and therefore don’t feel the need for a Savior. Only after they change their minds about sin can they become receptive to the idea of being saved.
In many cases the brokenness we feel actually follows the salvation experience as the Holy Spirit brings us new understanding about ourselves. But over time the change of mind and the brokenness have become so intertwined that we commonly but incorrectly define repentance as involving both.
Some use the visible signs of brokenness and contrition as evidence that a person is sincere in asking to be saved. Others include behavioral change as evidence of repentance. But as you can see from your studies in Acts, both are man’s inventions that can’t be supported by Scripture.
The only clear precondition for salvation the Bible gives us is to “believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28-29). He has already taken care of everything else.