First, let’s always remember that salvation is by the grace of God alone. Only God can forgive sins and declare a sinner justified. Because that is true, some have claimed that repentance is a work and it cannot be any part of our salvation.
Secular Definition of Repentance
Repentance is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally involves a commitment to personal change and resolving to live a more responsible and humane life.¹
Repentance: deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like. Regret for any past action.²
Repentance — a turning away from sin, disobedience, or rebellion and a turning back to God (Matt. 9:13; Luke 5:32). [Unger’s Bible Dictionary https://bit.ly/3nOaggT, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary https://bit.ly/3FEMF8u]
In a more general sense, repentance means a change of mind (Gen. 6:6–7) or a feeling of remorse or regret for past conduct (Matt. 27:3). [Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, https://bit.ly/3FEMF8u]
True repentance is a “godly sorrow” for sin, an act of turning around and going in the opposite direction. This type of repentance leads to a fundamental change in a person’s relationship to God. [http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/repentance]
Repentance, also called penitence, is the God-granted attitude of having sorrow for personal sin and the turning away from it towards a new life. [http://www.theopedia.com/Repentance]
Repentance and Faith
Trusting in Christ involves turning from self and turning to Christ. That is repentance.
Theologian and Apologist Norman Geisler (1932-2019) illustrated this with, “Faith and repentance are inseparable, in the same way that the command to come here cannot be fulfilled without leaving there.” [https://www.bibles.net/topic/what-is-repentance/]
We are Called to Come to Jesus
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Coming to Christ begins with His calling us, but it also involves an action our part. It’s a choice we make in our hearts and minds to turn from our self-sufficiency and put our trust in Jesus. That’s biblical repentance — a turning from self to Jesus. And, it’s not an outward work. Rather, it is an inward desire of the heart.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:10)
Coming to Christ involves a turning from darkness to light. That turning is biblical repentance. Paul understood this well. He was commissioned to turn (epistrepho) people, to convert (epistrepho) people. This is not salvation. This is a preparation of the heart for coming in faith to Christ.
Acts 26:17-18 . . .I [Jesus Christ] send thee [Paul], To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Coming to Christ involves a turning from the old so one can come to Christ and be made new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Is repentance REQUIRED for salvation?
We’ve established that repentance is a turning — from self and to Christ. It precedes salvation. And, It prepares the heart to believe and trust in Jesus. And it is the heart God judges.
Rom 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Old Covenant Repentance vs New Covenant Repentance
God told the people of Israel repeatedly to remember who He is, to repent of sin, and to return to Him. The people of Israel were not redeemed by the blood of Jesus, they were only sanctified by the blood of animal sacrifices. And they repeatedly forgot their God and wandered far from Him into grievous sin. Repentance was an important part of their returning to a right relationship with God.
The same is true under the New Covenant. Repentance was an important part of our coming to Christ. And it remains an important part of our communion with Christ. We must continue to turn from the darkness of sin and turn to the Light of Christ.
Repentance is important and necessary. While it is not part of our being saved — because salvation (regeneration) is by the grace of God alone– repentance does prepare the heart to come to trusting faith in Jesus.
Thank God that you turned from sin and self and turned your heart, in trusting faith, to Jesus. Always remember that repentance is an ongoing way of life for the Christian. We all continue to sin and we are to confess our sin and turn our faces to look upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and turn our heart’s affection toward Him (Philippians 3:20, Colossians 3:2). Our God is loving, gracious, and faithful to cleanse us from all sin. (1 John 1:9)
Be Ready Always...
to give a reason for the Hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When you can’t share the gospel with your words, share it by leaving tracts that tell people about God's grace.
When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray for the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, even a small tract can help in turning a broken, sinful person from darkness to light.
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