The act of repentance is a wonderful avenue of forgiveness that Christians are given by God. For those who have sinned after they have been baptized, they must repent. However, is praying for forgiveness or having someone else pray for your forgiveness the only thing necessary to do in order to be truly repentant?
The act of repentance must first take place prior to baptism. All who wish to be baptized for remission of sins must do so by following the Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation involves 5 steps which include: hearing the Word (Romans 10:17), believing the Word (Mark 16:16), repenting of past sins (Acts 2:38), confessing that Jesus is the Son of the Living God (Matthew 10:32), and being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:17-22). These are the steps to become a Christian and to be added to the church of Christ by the Lord Himself (Acts 2:38, 47). Then, upon becoming a Christian, a person must remain faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). Once you complete all of these steps and become a Christian, you have many blessings and benefits that non-Christians do not have.
One benefit is that you have an ability to speak to God through the avenue of prayer. We are commanded to pray to God every day, and for any need that we have. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). We should send prayers unto God many times a day, thanking Him, praising Him, and asking for His Help in times of need. If we are faithful, then He will answer our prayers. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). We should also give thanks through prayer before we eat our meals (I Timothy 4:4). All prayers must be uttered in Jesus’ Name, because He and the Holy Spirit intercede for us in our prayers to God (Romans 8:16, 34).
It is through the avenue of prayer that we, as Christians, receive forgiveness from God for our sins when we repent of those sins and confess those sins through what is known as the “second law of pardon” (Acts 8:22, I John 1:9). If we have committed a sin that is only known to us, we can pray a private prayer unto God for forgiveness. If we commit a sin that is public and therefore known to others, then we must ask for the prayers of the church for forgiveness so that others know that we are remorseful for the wrong we have done and are turning back to God, thereby making a change.
However, once we have repented and have prayed ourselves or had others pray for our forgiveness, our duty to God doesn’t stop there. Once we have received forgiveness of sins through repentance, we must bring forth the “fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). This means that, although we have prayed for God to forgive us of our sins, we are not truly sorry or repentant of those sins if we do not make efforts to change and show others that we have changed. For example, if we have done someone in particular wrongfully, we must repent and go to that person and apologize. If we have stolen something from someone, we must repent and return that thing which we have stolen. If someone has committed murder, then that person should repent and go to the victim’s family to apologize and to offer help in any way. If a person chooses to get an unscriptural divorce from his or her spouse, then that person must repent and make attempts to reconcile with that spouse. If the spouse agrees to reconcile, then the couple should remarry. If the spouse refuses to reconcile, then both spouses in the unscriptural divorce would have to remain single for the rest of their lives, since in God’s eyes they are still married. Showing others that you have changed is vitally important. This step cannot be ignored!
It is essential for Christians to realize that true repentance is not just going up to the front pew during worship service and asking prayers for forgiveness. It is not just having someone pray for your forgiveness of sins, and then you’re done. No! True repentance is showing change! It is showing that you are taking the steps necessary to make reparations for whatever wrong you have done. So, true repentance is more than a one-step process. True repentance involves showing God and others that you have changed, and making every effort possible to make all of the wrongs you have done right again with others! “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20).
"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Luke 3:8