Dear Pastor Charles: I have a question concerning repentance from sin. Is it necessary for a person to repent in order to be saved? Wondering…
Dear Wondering: Thank you for your question. The answer is yes, to be saved you must repent of the known sin in your life. The Bible clearly and consistently teaches that no person can be saved, regenerated and justified before God without repentance. Most preaching today overlooks this biblical truth because it has become unpopular to our modern itching ears. Please understand that repentance does NOT earn salvation and the forgiveness of God because salvation is a gift and cannot be paid for by any action or work of man. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” A person is not saved by repentance, however it does place a person into a position in which God, on the basis of the work and worth of the Lord Jesus Christ, is free to pardon their sins and make them a child of God.
A natural question regarding the doctrine of repentance might be, “Does that mean that I have to clean up my life before I can come to God?” The answer to that question is NO YOU DON’T! You can come to God just as you are and He will accept you. This sounds confusing and contradictory on the surface but please bear with me while I attempt to explain. Repentance literally means a changing of your mind and implies an alteration of course or direction. In other words, what you have been doing that is wrong, you decide to do no more. Jesus gave an example of repentance while addressing the hypocritical Pharisees in the “Parable of the Two Sons” in Matthew 21:28-31, “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard. ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
You see, repentance involves a deep, Godly sorrow for sin. It is seeing yourself with the veil of self-righteousness removed and realizing that, in your own flesh, you fall far short of the glory of God, that you are hopelessly lost and that Christ is your only hope. When the Apostle Peter preached to the gathered crowds at Pentecost that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins and raised from the dead, the results are recorded in Acts 2:37-39, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Modern theology seems to be headed down the road of what I call “easy believism”. The desire of some evangelical churches to pack in the crowds sometimes leads to the false teaching that all we must do is make a public profession of faith in Christ and be baptized in order to be saved. After this, we can go on with our lives as if there were no consequences for sin. No! No! No! When a person has a true conversion experience there will always be an accompanying change in behavior. This may take a little time but the truth is that God’s Holy Spirit will not dwell in a dirty house. He will convict a person of sin and that person will desire to give it up. If there is no conviction of sin, there has been no conversion. That is a Biblical fact. The Apostle Paul said in Col. 3:5-10, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Dear friend, While God desires to make us a new creation in Christ Jesus, we cannot simply shrug off our personal responsibility in recognizing and turning from sin. Paul said in Romans 6:1-4, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
I sincerely hope that I have answered your question sufficiently. My prayer for you is that you will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you as you search the Scriptures which are able to make you wise.