A couple of weeks ago I cited several historic confessions from the 16th and 17th centuries that specifically addressed the concept of repentance. This week I want to take a closer look at the doctrine of repentance as it is revealed in Scripture, it’s implications on the Gospel and Christian living, the etymology of the word, and what theologians and scholars have believed throughout the centuries as it pertains to repentance. I will do this in a sort of question and answer format to make it more systematic and comprehensible.
Is repentance necessary for salvation?
Yes, repentance was an essential theme in John the Baptist’s preaching as well as Jesus and the Apostles.
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)
46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:19)
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (Acts 17:30)
21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Just from these few verses we can clearly see salvation is obtained through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Two great graces graces essential to a saint in this life are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven.” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 7)
“There is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears. Repentance is required as a qualification. It is not so much to endear us to Christ as to endear Christ to us. Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 7)
“Moreover, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while, on the other hand, wherever there is true faith , there is also real repentance.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th Edition, p. 487)
“Scripture puts repentance and faith together as different aspects of the one act of coming to Christ for salvation.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 713)
“No message that eliminates repentance can properly be called the gospel…” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 182)
“The manner in which faith and repentance are coupled together in Scripture plainly shows that, as faith is implicitly present in repentance, so repentance is implicitly in faith.” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, p. 606-607)