Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
— Luke 24:45-47
Luke is my favorite Gospel writer. It may be primarily because Luke wrote the Acts sequel that amplifies the main themes of his Gospel account. His two-volume work of Luke-Acts comprises 28 percent of the New Testament. I find that to be significant.
There are other significant New Testament percentages related to Luke that also get my attention. For example, Luke emphasizes repentance more than any other New Testament author. Of note is that over 40% of the New Testament's use of the term for repentance occurs in Luke-Acts.
Repentance for the forgiveness of sin in Jesus' name is a main theme throughout Luke-Acts. With boldness, these two volumes take this theme to the extreme by also communicating that no one is excluded from Jesus' demand to repent.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus addressed a public gathering reflecting on two contemporary tragedies that resulted in many innocent deaths. Jesus took this occasion, only mentioned in Luke's Gospel, and starkly warned the people that "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:5).
In Luke 24:46-47, the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples before ascending into heaven. Jesus gave them a mission statement with a message to proclaim: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."
Making the transition from Luke's Gospel to Acts, we see delivery of this repentance message modeled both in the preaching ministries of Peter and Paul.
In response to Peter's first message, those who heard on Pentecost "were cut to the heart" and asked "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter succinctly responded to each individual within the sound of his voice: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38). This response of 3,000 individuals in Jerusalem birthed the church and also charged them with the same mission statement and message to proclaim.
In his second message to those who saw the lame beggar healed at the temple gate, Peter told those gathered: "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19-20).
As the proclamation of this repentance message went out to all nations, Acts shows a shift in the targeting from Jewish listeners to the Gentiles. Even though Gentiles had no grid or reference to understand the concept of repentance like Jewish listeners, the repentance message was not lessened to accommodate the Gentiles. The later part of the 17th chapter of Acts demonstrates this unity of message with Paul's speech to an assembly of Greek philosophers. This Athens speech is noteworthy as it is the most complete speech that we have of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul's speech to the Athenians is one of the most strategic and symbolic proclamations to the Gentile world recorded in Scripture. Paul's words from this speech still resonate even today. In Acts 17:30-31, Paul concluded his Areopagus speech in this direct manner: "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Our Father in Heaven, thank You for giving Your Church a mission statement and a message to proclaim for every generation and for every location. Even today You are still commanding all people everywhere to repent. I pray that in our generation repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in Jesus' name to all with boldness. I pray that we would not lessen this direct and simple message to accommodate for the philosophies of our day.
Associate Vice President, Christian Union Universities
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