“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5 NKJV) In a recent post I attempted to explain saving faith. I unashamedly preach that salvation is by grace through faith. I suppose I would fall into the category of ones who preach” faith only” for salvation. I will gladly confess to that, but only if I am able to define the faith. Repentance is linked to faith almost like conjoined twins; one’s life depends on the other. Faith without repentance in the Bible is never implied or taught. The consistent message of the Bible is that sinners must repent. This truth is especially true of the New Testament. John the Baptist preached “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” His baptism was one of repentance. That is those who were baptized by him identified with his message of changing one’s mind about his sins and were saying to onlookers, “I have turned away from my sin to God”. Jesus then came with the same message, “Repent, for the kingdom of
God is at hand”. The disciples went about demanding repentance. Peter’s invitation after his great sermon when he and the others were empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was “Repent and be baptized.” God commands “All men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NKJV) While the Bible is replete with passages demanding repentance, repentance never stands alone. No sinner can by himself repent in a way that is acceptable to God. Just as faith is given by God to the sinner who hears the word of God (Romans 10) so repentance is also given by God to the hopeless sinner. When the believers learned that the Gentiles had been saved by faith (Acts 11:17) they exclaimed in the following verse “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life”. So they understood that those who are saved by faith by necessity must also repent. Then in II Timothy 2 Paul said these words, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” Notice carefully what he says. First he hopes God “will grant them repentance”; Secondly “that they may know the truth”; then thirdly “that they may come to their senses”. A man is given by God the ability to know the truth and then to come to his senses. There is no repentance without knowledge of the truth about God and the sinful condition. A sinner hears the good news and God the Holy Spirit “pricks” his heart as in Acts 2. Then that man is able to repent. It is impossible to repent without saving faith and it is impossible to have saving faith without repentance. When one turns to God he must at the same time turn away from sin. The heart turns from its own sinful way toward God and throws itself upon Christ’s mercy and grace.
Repentance without faith will only produce self righteousness. And, faith without repentance will only produce a hypocrite. Neither is fit for heaven and is surely bound for hell. Repentance is not being sorry for our sinful condition. Godly sorrow can lead one to repent but sorrow is not repentance. Trying to make amends for wrongs done is also not repentance. Restitution is Biblical and ought to be carried out but that alone is not repentance. Reforming one’s life is also not repentance. I remind you that the Pharisees lived righteous lives, as well as anyone of their day. But Jesus said that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees you will perish.
In I Thessalonians chapter one Paul greeted the believers and praised them for their faith and their faithfulness to get the gospel out to others and in verse 9 he says about them “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”. They turned from idols to God. That is faith and that is repentance. Those who put their trust in Christ alone for salvation and forgiveness of sins will at the same time “come to their senses” and change their minds about their way of living. How could a person possibly turn toward God and not turn away from sin?
Our message of the saving sacrifice of Jesus will likely fall on deaf ears until the hearer knows there is something to be saved from. Unless a person knows he is lost what would be his motive for coming to God for mercy. We must always allow God the Holy Spirit to do His blessed work in the lives of those we hope to win. He alone can do the work in the heart of wicked sinners that must be done before they come to their senses and put their trust in Jesus.
Next post: Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized; 5 steps or conditions to be saved. Isn’t it interesting that not one preacher in the Bible taught any group of people, at any one time, that they must do these 5 things to be saved? If it is the Bible plan of salvation why did they not preach it?