Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Need to Repent

The Bible repeatedly promises salvation and eternal life based on faith, or believing (a form of the same word in the Greek and Hebrew) (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5, John 3:16-18; Acts 16:31). But there are also Biblical passages that mention repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 15:7; Acts 2:38; 17:30). If repentance is a second added condition, then God's promise of salvation based on faith in Christ is void. How then should we fit them together?

Faith is faith in Christ, that He is the One who saves us from our sins (Romans 3:21-26; Colossians 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). This presumes that people realize they have sins to be saved from (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). It  is helpful here not just to mouth the idea that we are all sinners, but to recognize we have specific sins we need to be saved from. This is, I am convinced, what the Bible means by repentance. What it does not mean is for us to decide to turn over a new leaf. We cannot change our lives without the work of the Spirit in our life to change us (John 15:5; Romans 7:14-18; 8:8). Therefore, the resolutions of the natural man are meaningless. Now I do hold that when a person comes to Christ they will change as a response to God's love for them (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-13). But this is the result of the work of God in us, not any decisions we made as an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3). Further, we must be careful of expecting perfection in this life, since Lot and Samson, for all their defects, are stated to be saved men (2 Peter 2:7,8; Hebrews 11:32).

But what about recognizing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9,10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11)? Now Jesus is Lord, and all will one day recognize this. But the fact that I am a sinner implies there is a Lord, someone I should be obeying. (I do think the main emphasis of "Jesus is Lord," is that Jesus is Yahweh; that is, Jesus is God, Lord being the Greek equivalent used for this Hebrew word. But if Jesus is God, certainly He is Lord, the One to be obeyed.) It follows that, because Christ has redeemed us, we now belong to Him and should live for Him (1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). But this is not produced in us all at once, but is a result of growth over time (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14).

Now God knows the heart; He knows if we have a real and genuine faith or are just kidding ourselves. Also, if person has a genuine faith in Christ, it will, however haltingly and imperfectly, have an effect on their life. But it will not be because of any resolutions they make to change as a condition for their salvation. 


  1. Perhaps repentance is simply the natural result of faith?

  2. A changed life is certainly a natural result of faith. I would see repentance as the recognition of sin leading up to faith, but this could be just a matter of semantics.

    1. I think at some level most of us know that we are sinners - even if that just means that we could be better than we are. I love that the HS convicts us of that (sometimes through people) and that the message of God's goodness (sometimes through people) leads us to repent. Not that it is a formula. ツ

    2. I also do not want to reduce things to a formula. Different people come to Christ in different ways. But while I agree most of us know to some degree, we are sinners, I think it is common to make excuses to to avoid having to turn to God's goodness. If I try a little harder. If I am a little better than the next guy. If I can blame it all on my upbringing. Then I will not have to turn to God.

      As I said in the post I think the call to repent is most often addressed to those who thought they had it all together. The Philippian jailer, who probably knew he was not that morally perfect was just told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.