Is repentance toward God an absolutely essential element to receive salvation or is faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ sufficient, since sometimes we hear: Repent and believe (Mark 1:15) and other times just believe? (Acts 16:31)
Before we answer this question, let’s first define biblically what repentance and faith really are:
Repentance comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means a 180-degree change of mind. In other words, repentance means a thorough change of heart from sin and towards God. When you repent you decide to stop to be in charge of your life, instead you want God to be in charge.
Faith, on the one hand, is a concept. It is having the certainty of “what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (see Heb 11:1).
On the other hand, faith is a person. Let me explain.
1 John 5:4-5 “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” NIV
John clearly explains that those who overcome the world are those who have the faith. He then defines what that faith is: It is “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” In other words, faith in the New Testament is not only a concept, it is a person!
Gal 3:23-26 3 “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” NIV
The apostle Paul writes here “before this faith came”. In other words, there was a time when that faith was not here: “Now that faith has come”. How has that faith come? “Through faith in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the One who brings that faith. He IS that faith!
If your faith is weak, depend on Jesus. He will make up that faith! He will perfect it. It is promised in God’s Word:
Heb 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NIV
Why? Because Jesus is that faith and He is now living in you! 1 Cor 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” NIV
B. Some facts about Faith and Repentance
Faith alone is the only condition for salvation. Eph 2:8-9 “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.” NIV
Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.” NIV
However repentance is bound up with faith and cannot be separated from it. Let me explain.
Without faith, no one can truly come to repentance. It is only when a sinner realizes the gravity of his situation and how immeasurable God’s grace is towards him and accepts Jesus’ offer through faith that he can come to repentance.
Without true repentance there is no saving faith. The sinner has to not only believe in Jesus, he has to want to change his life from a self centered individual to an individual giving glory to God, thanks to the power of God’s Spirit.
Repentance includes the following:
1. A genuine sorrow towards God from the sins committed.
2 Cor 7:9-10 “Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” NIV
Ps 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” NIV
2. A desire to forsake sin.
Matt 3:8 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” NIV
Acts 26:20-21 “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” NIV
3. A humble surrender to God’s will.
Rom 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” NIV
Mark 3:35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” NIV
Acts 9:5-6 “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” NIV
Repentance leads to a transformed life by faith in the Lord.
Rom 6:16 “Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits.” (from THE MESSAGE)
Rom 6:5-7 “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” NIV
Rom 6:4 “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.” NIV
So faith and repentance are interconnected and cannot be separated without weakening the true meaning of both.
C. The Parable of the Sower
Let us remember also Rom 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” NIV If someone’s accepts the Message, that person has to have faith.
Now let us go to the parable of the sower and discover the importance of repentance and faith in someone’s life.
Matt 13:3-9 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.” NIV
This is a powerful illustration given by Jesus Himself. When Jesus later on gave it’s explanation to His disciples, He referred to 4 groups of people:
- Matt 13:18-19 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”
Those who hear the Message, but do not understand it are those who do not have the saving faith that leads to repentance.
- Matt 13:20-21 “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.”
Those who hear the Message and have faith receive it with joy. However, in this mentioned group, no repentance is evident, for as soon as “trouble or persecution comes” they fall away. They have no root. They didn’t let Jesus make a 180-degree change of their lives. They didn’t let Jesus take control of their lives!
P.S. The root is Jesus, who is the only one who can make a difference in someone’s life: Rom 15:12 “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” NIV
- Matt 13:22 “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
This group of people also had faith, and they also received the Message. However look what happens when “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” cause in the life of this people: it chokes the Message, “making it unfruitful.” The fruits of repentance never got the chance to germinate in this group of people.
- Matt 13: 23 “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” NIV
This last group are those who received the word by faith. They had the saving faith. They did repent from their sins and let God’s Spirit take over control of their life, as evidenced by their fruit.
Their fruit does not save them, nor are they saved by their repentance. Their faith is what saves them as confirmed by Eph 2:8-9.
Are you tired of leading a life with sin? Are you tired to be enslaved by habits that you don’t seem to get rid off? Come to Jesus and accept Him into your life. Not only will you become victorious in defeating these harmful habits by the power of God, you will also be able to experience true freedom! Come to Jesus by faith and repent. Come experience true life in the Messiah. Answer the Saviour’s Call.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
“But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
The Bible goes on and on for the need of repentance in our life. As Matthew 11:20 tells what would happen if they didn’t repent. Romans 6:23 reads “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you sin and do not repent you must pay the price. Sin is defined as a willful transgression against God.
Three men are at a coffee house. The first man brings up the subject of Michael Jordan. He begins to tout all of his accomplishments from college all the way up to the pro’s. He adds that Michael Jordan is not only a brilliant athlete but also a marketing genius, having such a great second career in endorsements. He goes on to say that he’s rich, successful, competent, courageous…
The second man interrupts, “Well I don’t like the guy, I think he’s overrated and arrogant. I just as soon turn off the tv as to watch him!
The third man sits quietly.
Lo and behold, within fifteen minutes Michael Jordan himself walks into the coffee house.
“Look, look, it’s him, it’s Michael Jordan”, states the first man. “Wow, he’s even more impressive in real life.”
“I didn’t know he was so tall” claimed the second man.
The third man got up from his seat, walked over to Michael and said, “Michael, how are you? Do you remember me? We met at the golf course in LA on a Tuesday afternoon last year when you were playing with your nephew. My name is…”
“Your name is Gregory, right?”
“Yes it is.”
“I do remember you, you wore those funny pants.”
“Yes, that’s me. I just wanted to say hello again.”
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Jordan offered.
“Why sure I’d love that. Thank you. Would you buy one for my friends as well?”
“No, I’ve never met them.”
The point of the story is this: the first two men knew of Michael. One of the them were enamored by his works, and the other was repulsed by them. Regardless of their opinion, neither of those men could claim they “knew” Michael Jordan, because they had never “met” him. The third man had established a relationship with Michael, regardless of how menial it was, because he had met the man!
The word ‘repent’ means to change one’s mind or to change one’s direction. We see this often in the Old Testament where the Lord repents. He obviously wasn’t feeling remorse for sin, he was changing his direction or his decision. Jonah.3 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? Exod.32 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.  And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
So based on this understanding of repentance being a change in direction, let’s look at some examples.
If you put out your hand to meet me and I did not shake your hand and turned and walked the other way, you could testify in a court of law that though you tried to make my acquaintance, I had departed and you never knew me.
Scientists have studied the subject of coincidental meetings between two people and have identified that we as humans have what we call a sixth degree of separation. In other words, it is most likely that you know within 6 people, someone who knows me. These people between you and the target person are called intermediates. It is really quite amazing how short the link is between the average person and many famous people. Nevertheless, Christ is our intermediate to God. He is the ONLY intermediate (referred to as the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, I Timothy 2:5) and it is necessary to have a one-to-one degree of separation from God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, you must KNOW him. So, somewhere along the way, to have stopped and recognized him for who he is, turned around and met him constitutes having repented. You were a child of death, you immediately became a child of life. You were in darkness, but now you are in light. Going back to the M.J. illustration… you were a nobody and now you are an acquaintance of a huge celebrity.
Exactly how much sorrow for sin is necessary to measure this act of repentance? I see nowhere in the Word of God where this defining line is qualified. I sure hope that I was sorry enough for my sin to be worthy of Christ accepting me into his promise. I sure hope that when he met me, he really liked me and didn’t think I had something against him, otherwise I might not be saved. The bottom line is we all have something against him… or flesh crucified him and continues to crucify him each time we sin. Didn’t he pay for all sins? Past and present? Then how can we possibly quantify repentance as a remorse for sin, when we keep on sinning?
Christ paid it all on Calvary so that the only thing we would need to do is partake. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. Luke 19:10. If we qualify ourselves as worthy of his grace by laying claim to the remorse of sin in our hearts, we are in effect adding to the cross with works of righteousness. But the Bible says in Titus 3 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; So there can be no added works unto salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a familiar verse on this subject… Eph 2: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast. And there is Gal.3: Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
All Abraham did was believe.
The definition of a Saviour is one who rescues another from harm. All a rescuer ever needs is for the victim to be willing to be rescued, nothing else.
Jesus said that the fields are ready to harvest (John 4:35), so there are plenty to be saved and that none seeketh after God Romans 3:11., which means that no man is seeking to be sorry for his sin, but plenty are seeking to be rescued from it.
If I am arraigned before a judge and found guilty of larceny and a man approaches the bench and offers to take my punishment, I have a choice at that point and that is to either accept him as my replacement or deny his graciousness and pay the penalty myself. It’s already been established that I am guilty, so now it’s just a matter of choice. Whether I am willing to lay down my pride and receive the gift or not. Salvation is the gift of God.
If someone throws me a life preserver after I have fallen into the chilling waters of the Atlantic Ocean and death is near my doorstop. Is it necessary that I feel remorse for the ignorance of my falling overboard or is it just necessary that I grab hold of the lifeline to be saved?
The Bible says that we are without excuse and that this salvation we have is great. , Heb 2:  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; Salvation draws the line in the sand. You either accept it or reject it. I believe it’s God’s way of ensuring that pride never enters heaven. This is what caused Lucifer to fall. Salvation is a way of coming to him through the humility of acceptance rather than the damning of our own imaginations.
In Exodus God represented salvation for us.
Numbers 21: And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. And he referred to it again in the New Testament: John 3: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  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.
Looking to live is an act of faith. Faith is what puts the plan of salvation into action. It’s the activator in the plan. Sure, sorrow for sin will lead one to that door. After all it’s a narrow path, so remorse and pain are always good at giving direction towards pain relief. And I am 100% for talking to people about their lost condition before getting them saved. I am all about leading them down a path of conviction so as to make plain the audacity of FREE salvation through Christ. But if I teach them that they must feel sorrow for their sin, I am placing restrictions upon that which Christ already paid for free and clear. Most people, even Christians often have a hard time experiencing remorse for their sin, oftentimes we even go back to it. No, God said here is the cure Moses, just tell the people to activate the cure by exercising faith. Tell them to LOOK and they shall live. To avoid a drawn out discussion on faith, I’ll just say that faith is what connects God and his power to man and his needs. Elijah required the poor woman in Zarapheth to make his dinner first and then the miracle of God’s provision would come. Why? Because some faith was needed to make the miracle happen. So God sets this eternal life out there, backed by his promise, fortified and purchased by the blood of his son, demonstrated by other believers, and available to every man, he being not willing that any should perish. All we have to do is take it! No wonder faith as small as a grain of mustard seed can move mountains. The tiniest bit of faith releases the blessings behind salvation. It’s the smallest measure of faith a person can exercise, but it produces the greatest results! It’s kind of like the little boy with his finger in the dike. Behind that massive wall is an abundance of water, it just takes a small crack to release the whole thing.
We are babes in Christ upon receiving salvation. From there we discover the doctrines of the Bible and we follow in good works to grow in grace and become strong Christians. All along the way there we find new seasons of remorse for our sins and we take that burden to the Lord and cast it upon him. But to expect a soulwinner to judge when a person has sufficiently displayed a great enough burden of sorrow for his sin before introducing him to Christ will discourage the soulwinner in no time because for the most part this kind of remorse requires a greater knowledge of grace.
Does Michael Jordan expect everyone he meets to be able to dribble a basketball. God forgive me for comparing Christ to Michael Jordan, but the analogy seems to fit.
I documented a personal soulwinning experience in a story at the following link: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level2-previous.php?id=817
I titled it “I’ll Take That!” Because it perfectly demonstrates the clean cut decision of a person’s heart to accept or reject the gospel. And yes, I did give them what money I had on me before I left. I do understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the importance of feeding people physically as well as spiritually. (You’ll understand if you read the story.)
Anyhow, this is a brief representation of what I believe the Bible means by repentance with respect to salvation. The Bible is full of reasons why we only need to believe and receive. Look for them as you read it and you will find many more proofs that Salvation is rich and FREE!
We are told in the Bible, Romans 4:5: “To the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:16 (NIV) says, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace, and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring.” But although it is by faith alone he also states:
Jesus said to the prostitute, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” (v. 11). Let those words soak in. “Neither do I … ” “Neither do I condemn you.”
Jesus tells us to turn from our sin and sin no more. So we need to be repentant at something that we’ve done that we know the Lord dislikes. But salvation truly is by faith alone. If one has this faith in Jesus Christ we want to be repentant of our bad doings. We don’t want to go on continuing to hurt the Lord.
Belief in Christ’s atonement on Calvary is essential to salvation. Since repentance means a complete turn around, that is the proof that one is truly saved. John 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; etc.
Yours, because of Calvary,
Delmer G. Lawson
We must repent before we can receive forgiveness or salvation.