The Necessity of True Repentance (Mark 1:1-4)

The Necessity of True Repentance (Mark 1:1-4; John 1:19-31)


Last week we had our introduction to the gospel of Mark by first looking at his person in the Word. The life of Mark is certainly a reminder of God’s love, mercy, grace, and patience.

Today we will take time to look into the very first topic he presents us with. Realize Mark is writing 30 years after the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. He is writing to a believing Roman audience who is experiencing heavy persecution under Emperor Nero. His goal is to encourage them in the midst of their suffering by pointing them back to Christ: The Suffering Servant, and Son of God!

Mark 1:1

The first point I want us to see is this: There is but one gospel of Jesus Christ!

Mark 1:1

Do we know it? Do we rest in it? Do we teach it?

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not begin the gospel account with a genealogy. Why does He not show Christ’s family history? Familial background is of no use to a servant, and that is how he is going to show us Christ.

Will we see Christ’s deity? Yes.

Will we see Christ’s humanity? Yes.

Will we see Christ’s Kingship? Yes.

Mark, however, is going to emphasize the Servant-hood of the Eternal God and King Who:

“…emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and…being made in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”[1]

Though Mark does not come out and directly call Him King or Lord He does point to an event that will do both.

Mark 1:2-3

We are quickly taken back to the Old Testament. As we study Mark we will see he is a man of action moving swiftly through his narrative. He presents two Old Testament prophecies:

1.) “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.”[2]

2.) “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’”[3]

As a brief note this demonstrates the crucial relationship between the Old and New Covenant. It is impossible to teach the gospel without laying down certain fundamental Old Testament truths: God, man, sin, righteousness, judgment, substitution, propitiation, atonement, reconciliation and redemption.

Do you need to teach the entire Old Testament to cover these fundamentals? No, you do not. In fact, I would argue every one of these is either addressed directly or indirectly foreshadowing in the beginning three chapters of Genesis. Through the rest of the Old Covenant, God will provide a clearer glimpse of His gospel.

It has been suggested there are 333 Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the Messiah. Beginning with Genesis 3:15 and working through Malachi God, reveals more of His redemptive plan within the Old Covenant. Not only did He provide a prophetic description of the coming Messiah, but He provided prophecies of a man to point to His coming. Prior to this man’s birth it was told his father that he would prepare a people for the Lord.[4]

Mark opens his gospel account with the fulfillment of these two prophecies in John the Baptist. John’s mission was to point the people to Messiah. Do not let it escape our notice the context of the prophecies declares the Messiah’s deity:

Ÿ “Behold, I am (God) going to send My messenger, and he (John) will clear the way before Me (God).

Ÿ”A voice is calling (John), ‘Clear the way for the Lord (Yahweh) in the wilderness…”

Mark’s account also infers the Kingship of Christ:

1.) It was customary for a person to go before the king and herald him into a city. We see John doing that with Jesus.

2.) The use of the word gospel. It was interesting to discover that “gospel” was not an exclusively Christian word. The Romans used it to bring “Joyful news about the emperor”.

Who was Mark writing to? The Romans.

Who was their emperor? Nero.

In the midst of the persecution what does Mark remind His hearers? The gospel of Christ, Who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

John prepares the way for this Eternal One. Jesus Christ, God and King!

That is exactly what we see in Mark. Listen to what John the disciple states; who was originally a disciple of John the Baptist:

John 1:19-31

His mission was to point to the coming Christ. Our mission is to point to the same Christ Who came and is coming again.

We are getting to the focal point of the lesson. Remember, there is but one gospel of Christ.

What was John’s message to prepare Israel for the I AM? You must repent!

Mark 1:4

This draws up the question:

Is repentance necessary for salvation? Absolutely! If we avoid the teaching of repentance then we avoid the true gospel.

Listen to the teaching in Scripture:

1.) Peter to the crowds on Pentecost, “Now when they heard this (The gospel), they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent…’”[5]

2.) Paul to the Romans, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”[6]

3.) Christ Himself declares, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”[7]

These are only three examples out of the sixty times the Greek word for repentance, Metanoia, is found in the text. To remove repentance from the gospel would require us to seriously distort the Word of God, and definitely the message of God.

Now, there are some who would say what I have taught is works based salvation, which would make me legalistic, and ultimately a heretic.

I fear, however, that is because many do not understand genuine repentance. If you think repentance is merely stopping bad works and starting good ones you are thinking of the fruit and not the tree. I want us to understand the tree that produces such fruit. Turning away from our sin and yielding ourselves as instruments of righteousness is only the product of genuine repentance. The heart of true repentance is an inward action. It is a complete and total change of heart and mind towards God.

True repentance is when one is radically altered by the reality of the Holy God, their depravity before him and inability to deserve His love and grace. This alteration will produce fruit.

Listen to what John the Baptist says to men who wanted to identify with his message by baptism:

“Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance…”[8]

Paul as well testifies before King Agrippa:

“But kept declaring…they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”[9]

True repentance will never leave a person unchanged, because Christ makes new creatures. In other words there is no such thing as a “no-fruit Christian”. All believers will produce some degree of fruit.

The Scripture commands us to continually examine whether or not we are in the faith:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”[10]

When you look at the fruit of your life, what do you see?

1 John provides examples by which we can examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. This is not talking about sinless perfection. Repentance is to be an active part in our lives.

Is Christ working in your life litmus test:

1.) Are you filled with the love for the true God causing you to love man, or do you harbor hatred?[11]

2.) Do you genuinely put your love into action, or is it merely a show or just talk?[12]

3.) Do you live in obedience to the Word of God out of love for Him and what He has done for you?[13]

4.) Is your life continually dominated by constant sin without the slightest increase in right living?[14]

5.) Are you being purified by the hope of the future glorification that awaits those in Christ?[15]

6.) Are you receptive and teachable by the Word?[16]

7.) Are you walking in the light of Christ?[17]

8.) Do you have a full understanding of the gospel?[18]

Recognize no man has the authority to tell you whether or not you are in Christ. Only the Scripture has such authority.

Repent and believe the gospel, for the Eternal  and Holy King has already come and He is coming again!


[1] Philippians 2:7-8

[2] Malachi 3:1

[3] Isaiah 40:3

[4] Luke 1:16-17

[5] Acts 2:37-38

[6] Romans 2:4

[7] Luke 5:32

[8] Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8

[9] Acts 26:20

[10] 2 Corinthians 13:5

[11] 1 John 2:9-11, 3:14-20, 4:7-8,12,16,20; 5:2

[12] 1 John 3:17

[13] 1 John 2:3-5; 3:24

[14] 1 John 1:29; 3:6-10; 5:18

[15] 1 John 3:3

[16] 1 John 4:6

[17] 1 John 1:5-7

[18] 1 John 5:13-20

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