That is part of the message that the apostle Paul preached to the people in the ancient city of Athens. As he preached to them about the one, true God of heaven, Paul told them, “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Yes, God commands all men in all places to repent. What does that show us about God? First of all, it shows us God’s authority. He, as the Creator and Giver of life (Acts 17:24,25), has the right to command people what to do. You know as well as I do that some people strongly dislike authority. They despise the idea of anyone ever telling them what to do. For some, they carry that same attitude from other areas of life into the realm of religion. They make no secret about it: they do not want God “trying to run” their lives, and they do not want any “self-righteous, church-going fanatics” telling them that they need to repent. Men might laugh at God’s command to repent, they can try to ignore it, and they can even raise their voices and say that you will never find them accepting God’s authority. All of those tactics change nothing: God’s command to repent stands. It changes not.
In addition, the fact that God “commands all men everywhere to repent” not only shows God’s authority to issue commands, but it also shows the universality of His authority. His rule is over all people of all races, of all tribes, of all nations, and of all locations. There is nowhere to run in this world to escape God’s authority!
Third, God’s command for all men everywhere to repent also shows God’s universal knowledge. He knows what is going on in all places. He sees the need for all people to repent. Remember, “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
In addition, we observe that since God commands all men everywhere to repent, then this shows that God cares for all people in all places. If the Lord did not care, then He would just allow people to do their own thing and continue their march toward hell without a word on His part. The Bible tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Let us now look at the human side of things. God commands people of all locales to repent. What does that show us about mankind? First, there is something about man that makes him stand in need of repentance. If there were no need for people to repent, then the Lord would not command such, right? The problem is sin. All people have sinned (Romans 3:23), and that of which people must repent is sin (Acts 2:38; 8:22). The command to repent does not apply to babies and toddlers. Why? Because they have never sinned.
They have never violated the will or law of God (1 John 3:4; 5:17). The command to repent is for those that have sinned, and sin is the one and only thing that can separate a human from the God of heaven (Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:1).
Furthermore, the fact that God commands all men everywhere to repent proves that all men are amenable to God’s law. That is, all people are obligated to obey God’s will because it applies to them. If God’s law did not apply to a lost sinner, then God’s command to repent would have no punch to it. In fact, if God’s law did not apply to sinners, then He would not even command them to obey Him in the first place! Jesus charged His apostles to go preach the gospel to every person in order that every person might be saved (Mark 16:15,16). Saved from what? Saved from sin. But, what is sin? Breaking God’s law, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4). So, those outside of the Christ sin when they violate God’s law, which brings us back to our point: all men in all places are amenable to God’s law.
Now, here is a thought. Do you suppose that the Lord wants all people in all places to know that He wants them to repent? Jesus told His followers that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). So, yes, since the Lord wants the message of repentance and remission of sins preached to all people, then He wants every person to know His will about these topics.
That raises another question. How do you suppose people are going to learn about their need to repent? Does our God have a plan for people to hear about His command to repent? He does, indeed. There are certain people upon whom God has placed the responsibility to teach the gospel, including what it says about repentance. Those people are called “Christians.” Yes, brothers and sisters, you and I, we are the ones in whom God has entrusted the task of telling the world of His salvation and their need to submit to His will, including the necessity of their repentance.
Like the apostle Paul, we must tell folks “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Like the apostle Peter, we must tell lost people, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “But people won’t like it if we tell them that they need to repent.” What does that have to do with it?! God commands them to repent, and He expects you and me to tell them about that command.
— Roger D. Campbel
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.