The Doctrine Of Repentance In Salvation
The Biblical doctrine of Repentance is probably the most neglected element in the evangelistic preaching you may hear around our country. The tragic fact is that many preachers do not even understand the real meaning of repentance (metanoia – “to turn from sin”)
Every Sunday, in churches all across America, lost sinners are invited to “accept Jesus”; “make a decision for Christ”; “give your heart to Jesus”; “pray through”; “ask for forgiveness”; “walk the aisle” or “get right with God”. While all of these can be used as synonyms for salvation they do not properly address the full scope of issues involved in “coming to salvation”.
Christ Preached Repentance
“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.’.”
When the Son of God appeared upon the scene in His public ministry, He came preaching the doctrines of repentance and faith. If Jesus felt compelled to preach such a message to a lost and dying world, so should we.
Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that there is only one gospel, and if any gospel message leaves out the doctrine of repentance or faith or both, you can be assured it is a false gospel.
The Meaning of “Repentance”
The words “repent”, “repentance” and “repented” are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and confusion over what the word repentance means.
When the word “repent” is used in the Word of God, in the context of Biblical salvation, it is referring to a Holy Spirit led change toward God about sin.
[Paul] “Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)
The greatest need for any sinner is to have his sins forgiven by God, but a man will never receive the pardon of sin while he is in love with his sin. There must be a hatred of sin, a loathing of it, a turning from it.
Repentance is not something one does with his hands, but rather, it is an inward attitude of the soul. Sin must become, in the eyes of the sinner, exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:12-13).
All Sinners Are Condemned
Everyone knows that they are not perfect, but for most sinners that is consolation, not condemnation. But the Bible declares all sinners are not only guilty but also condemned already.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be save. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)
The problem is that “all have sinned and come short of the glory (holiness) of God” (Romans 3:23). Man, in his lost, sinful, condemned state, has failed to glorify God. Until a person comes to see himself as sinful and in need of a Savior, he will never see his need to turn from sin and trust Christ.
Ephesians 2:1 says man is spiritually dead.
Romans 3:10 tells us that no one is righteous before a holy God.
Romans 3:19 says all of mankind stand guilty and condemned before God.
Ephesians 4:18 declares all sinners are separated from God, whose hearts and minds are blinded so that they can not understand God or the things of God.
Repentance basically involves two facts:
1) The fact of sin and
2) The fact of God’s grace.
If a person were not a sinner, he would not need to repent, and if God were not the God of grace (unmerited favor, undeserved goodness), it would do no good to repent. Repentance implies sin, sorrow for it, and a changed attitude towards God about it.
It should also be stressed that the need for repentance is revealed by the Holy Spirit of God to those who are under the influence of the Word of God.
“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
“Him [Jesus] hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31)
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, ‘Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.’” (Acts 11:18)
“In meekness instruct…those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (2 Tim. 2:25)
The Nature of Repentance
In true Biblical repentance, there will be three things to occur as God does a work of grace upon the sinner’s heart:
1) Conviction – where sin is admitted. Man must see himself as a lost, ruined, guilty, desperately wicked sinner without hope or help, in danger of hell. In repentance, a lost sinner not only sees himself as a sinner, but he recognizes the fact that he has sinned against a righteous and holy God. The message that the apostle Paul preached was: “…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In repentance, there will be confession of sin to God. (See Psalm 32:5 and Psalm 51:1-4)
2) Contrition – where sin is abhorred. When one sees himself as he appears before God, he is brought to a place where there is godly sorrow for his sin and he hates his sin because it is an offence against God.
a. “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:18)
b. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
James says that, “…whosoever …will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) To love God is to hate sin. In true repentance, there is not only the desire to escape the consequences of sin, but to be rid of sin itself as a thing displeasing to God.
3) Conversion – where sin is abandoned. Repentance involves the forsaking of sin.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Repentance is not only a heart broken for sin, but also from sin. We must forsake what we would have God forgive.
It should be stressed that it is not enough just to turn away from sin; one must also turn to God for salvation:
“…to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins….should repent and turn to God…” (Acts 26:18, 20)
In true repentance, there is conviction, contrition, and conversion as one turns from his sin to Christ for salvation. Salvation is deliverance of a person from his sin, not merely from a sinful environment. Jesus Christ is the Savior from not only the penalty and punishment of sin, but also the power of sin.
Why Did Jesus Come?
“…I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:13)
The reason Jesus came to this earth was to call sinners to repentance. Those who did not see themselves as sinners, deserving God’s wrath, were not candidates for God’s salvation. The sinner must reject his own righteousness, because Jesus did not come to call the righteous, not even the self-righteous. The only way a sinner will come to reject his own righteousness is by coming face to face with his own wickedness. Only those to whom it is revealed (by God’s Holy Spirit) that they are lost, depraved, ungodly sinners will respond to the call of the Savior in salvation.
All Sinners Are Commanded To Repent and Believe
Jesus soundly declared the message in His day: “repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Repentance and faith are inseparable and occur simultaneously; you cannot have one without the other. The order as given in the Bible is repentance and faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; 26:20; 2 Tim. 2:25).
Repentance is turning from sin; and faith is turning to Christ. Repentance comes about through the convicting power of the Spirit of God using the Word of God to cause a change.
Saving faith is trust in and reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior. Saving faith is believing with your heart; it is coming to Christ, receiving Christ, looking to Christ, calling upon Christ to save your soul.
Yes, Jesus said you must repent and believe the gospel, because the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes (Rom. 1:16). The gospel, the good news for every sinner, is that Christ died on the cross for our sins, as our Substitute, and shed His precious blood to wash away our sins, and arose from the dead on the third day in order that we might have the forgiveness of sins and have eternal life through Him. Salvation of one’s soul is the most important thing in this whole world.
But repentance without faith is nothing more than remorse or regret. And faith without repentance makes Christ nothing more than a fire escape. The Word of God must be working a peson toward repentance and faith before salvation can become a reality. This turning is caused by the working of the Holy spirit who takes the Sword of the Spirit and slays the sinner’s self-righteousness, self-goodness, self-decency, self-esteem, and causes him to cry out: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13) and “what must I do to be saved?”