“So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” Mark 6:12
The proclamation of repentance has been God’s central proclamation since the Fall of mankind. Every prophet, apostle and preacher (including the greatest preacher, Jesus Himself) has proclaimed this message. Appropriately, as recorded in Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus sends out preachers who proclaimed that people should repent.
Repentance begins with the command to turn from sin, and sin can only be recognized by the proclamation of God’s Law. God invites and empowers turning from sin through such command and through the preaching of the Law. However simply turning from sin is not the full message of repentance; it does not bring salvation. When sin and its opposition to God is realized in an individual this is called contrition, and such a person is said to have a contrite heart, but this does not bring salvation. Repentance in its fullest sense points the contrite heart to Christ, in whom there is full forgiveness. Those contrite folks who lived before Christ died on the cross looked forward to and believed in this coming Savior. Those contrite sinners who live after Christ are shown exactly how He atoned for sin by His propitiatory death and how we are justified in His resurrection.
After Christ’s death and resurrection, Holy Baptism is then God’s means by which individuals realize they have been united with Christ’s saving death and resurrection. From this sacrament the contrite know they are truly forgiven, born again. Thus on Pentecost, when God made the sinful Jews contrite by the proclamation of His Law, they rightly asked, “What shall we do?” Peter responded, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself [Acts 2:38-39].” Be baptized. In this Holy Washing the contrite receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Such a promise is for the adults who can understand this (for the reasoning mind must be appealed to in such matters), but it is also for their children who cannot yet understand. Such an application of Baptism—that it is even for infants—demonstrates the realization that it is God who causes a person to turn from sin, and it is God that brings people into union with Christ. Salvation is for you and for your children. God creates repentance through His Word.
With today’s Cross Words essay I have appended a link to a Facebook video, put out by the German press, about a Confessional Lutheran pastor who is reaching Muslims with the Word of Repentance. Dr. Gottfried Martins, German pastor of our partner SELK, spoke on immigration at our Synod convention, and we were asked not to publicize his presentation, because such publicity could bring persecution. Now that his work has been made public, President Harrison has informed me that this video can be shared. Realize this video was recorded during Covid-19 restrictions, and normally the church is full on a given Sunday. Observe in this video the boldness of Rev. Martins in the proclamation of Christ, and the desire of those instructed in the Faith to be baptized.