Tag Archives: repentance

“Unless you repent, you will…perish” Part 3

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)

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“Unless you repent, you will…perish” Part 2

I want to begin by providing several citations from some of the most notable Christian confessions and historic church documents that discuss the concept of repentance. Although Historic creeds and confessions are not the ultimate standard of orthodoxy, they do provide helpful insight as to what the Scriptures teach on a particular doctrine, and they also teach us what the early church fathers, in whose shoulders we stand on today, believed in regards to key aspects of doctrine, theology and Christian living.

The Augsberg Confession (1530)

Article 22:

Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

The Westminster Confession faith (1646) & The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)

Of Repentance unto life:

I. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

II. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

III. Although repentance is not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ, yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

IV. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy;  so he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

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“Unless you repent, you will…perish”

“Unless you repent, you will…perish.” (Luke 13:3) Wait, did Jesus forget that we are saved solely by our faith in Him? What is this notion of repentance? One of the essential doctrines of the Reformation was the concept of salvation by faith alone (sola fide). But why did Luther assert in his 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance”? This sounds more like faith plus repentance; hence, faith is no longer alone, but it is accompanied with repentance. So is salvation contingent on repentance rather than on faith alone?  What exactly is repentance and what does it mean? What role does repentance play in how a person obtains forgiveness of sins and eternal life? I will be writing several blogs throughout the next upcoming weeks addressing many of these questions and more, as it relates to the doctrine of repentance.

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A life worthy of His calling

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” -Ephesians 4:1

In an age of easy believeism, name it-claim it theology and self help gospel presentations, the call to holiness and a sanctified life is constantly being obscured by many so-called evangelical leaders. Is believing in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection just simply our ticket to Heaven? Is the Gospel only about what Jesus can do for us? Does being saved by grace through faith nullify the need for continual repentance and holiness in one’s life? Let’s look to the 4th chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus for the answer.

From chapters 1 through 3 Paul sets the context for what he is about to say in chapter 4. He reminds his readers that they are chosen by God, made alive in Christ, have every spiritual blessing, saved by grace through faith, etc. The doctrines of grace permeate through the first 3 chapters. With all of that as the backdrop Paul begins chapter 4 with these words, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…”

Some translations render the word implore as urge, beseech or to beg. With a sense of urgency Paul begs his readers to live in a way that is worthy of the calling they have received. In other words, live in a way that is consistent with the fact that God chose you to be the recipient of His grace inspite of your deadness in sin; that you are justified by faith alone in Christ alone; and that you have been reconciled to God through Christ’s substitutionary atonement and not by your works. In light of all this, live your life in a way that reflects these wonderful truths, which he goes on to give examples of how this is manifested in the following verses and chapters.

The whole act of redemption beginning with the Father choosing us, the Son ransoming us, and the Spirit regenerating us should create in us a desire to live a life of righteousness and holiness. It is In Christ alone that we are freed from our bondage to sin. In 1 Peter 2:24 Peter echoes this same truth when he says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness ; for by His wounds you were healed.” We sometimes forget this as we proclaim the Gospel. We are not calling people to a one time act of repentance and faith; rather we are calling people to live a life characterized by continual repentance and faith. Jesus Christ died for our sins not just for our justification but also for our sanctification. If you are claiming that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to you through faith in His name, yet there is no evidence of a constant mortification of sin, then I would suggest that your faith in Christ is suspect at best or you are failing to live a life worthy of the calling you which you have been called.

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Easy Believeism

There are many in the evangelical church today that have adopted the idea that since we are justified by faith alone there is no need to mention sin or repentance in the Gospel presentation. The Gospel is presented as simply an acknowledgement of Christ and acceptance of the free gift of salvation. There is no mention of sin, submission to the Lordship of Christ, sanctification, etc. The Gospel message has always been a message of “repentance and faith.” Jesus’ first word spoken in his teaching was repent!(Matt. 4:17)  John the Baptist came preaching “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”(Matt.3:2) And this was the heart of the apostles’ message (Acts 3:19, 20:21, 26:20). I believe this is the reason why a lot of so-called Christians make empty professions of faith and their lives bear no fruit, or their lives are characterized by sin and disobedience and  eventually apostasy. It may very well be that they have never heard the TRUE & SAVING Gospel. A Gospel that reveals how utterly and desperately sinful we are before and infinite & holy God, a Gospel that shows us that we are all dead in our trespasses and sins(Eph. 2:1), a Gospel that strips us naked and bare before a righteous and just God, a Gospel that requires us to forsake and abandon all for the sake of Christ, a Gospel of repentance and faith, a Gospel that truly allows us to see that we need to be rescued from our sins and that is only found in Jesus Christ, a Gospel that captures our heart with joy and praise at the fact he takes worthless and rebellious sinners like me and grants them eternal life and transforms them to saints, the Gospel that truly is good news! In order to understand the grace and mercy found in Christ we must first understand why we need his grace and mercy. And once we are justified by faith alone we will begin to produce fruits in keeping with repentance. Martin Luther explained it this way, “we are justified by faith alone but that faith is never alone.”

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