Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Scripture puts repentance and faith together as different aspects of the one act of coming to Christ for salvation. It is not that we first repent and then trust in Christ, or trust in Christ first and then repent. Rather, repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus occur at the same time.

When we turn to Christ for salvation from our sins, we are simultaneously turning away from the sins that we are asking Christ to save us from. If that were not true our turning to Christ for salvation from sin could hardly be a genuine turning to Him or trusting in Him.

Repentance and Faith Must Come Together

Repentance may be defined as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”

This definition indicates that repentance is something that can occur at a specific point in time. It is not equivalent to a demonstration of change in a person’s pattern of life.

Like faith, repentance is:

  • an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong).
  • an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (sorrow for sin and a hatred of it).
  • a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead).

Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Repentance and faith are simply two different sides of the same coin or two different aspects of the one event of conversion.

One who genuinely turns to Christ for salvation must at the same time releases the sin to which he or she has been clinging and turns away from that sin to turn to Christ. Thus, neither repentance nor faith comes first; they must come together.

Paul summarizes his gospel ministry as one of “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

Genuine Repentance Involves Faith in Christ

Yes, sometimes faith alone is named as the thing necessary for coming to Christ for salvation. We see this in scriptures such as John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:8-9.

These are familiar passages and we often emphasize them when explaining the gospel to others. But what we do not often realize is the fact that there are many other passages where only repentance is named. Simply because it is assumed that true repentance will also involve faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

The authors of the New Testament understood so well that genuine repentance and genuine faith had to go together. Thus, they often simply mentioned repentance alone with the understanding that faith would also be included. It’s because genuinely turning from sins is impossible apart from a genuine turning to God.

When we realize that genuine saving faith must be accompanied by genuine repentance for sin, it helps us to understand why some preaching of the gospel has such inadequate results today. With no mention of the need for repentance, sometimes the gospel message becomes only, “Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.”

Preaching the need for faith without repentance is preaching only half of the gospel. It will result in many people being deceived, thinking that they have heard the Christian gospel and tried it, but nothing has happened.

Genuine Saving Faith equals Genuine Repentance

Faith and Repentance Must Continue

It is important to realize that faith and repentance are not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. They are rather attitudes of the heart that continue throughout our lives as Christians.

Concerning faith, Paul tells us, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13). He certainly means that these three abide throughout this life, but he probably also means that they abide for all eternity.

If faith is trusting God to provide for all our needs, then this attitude will never cease, not even in the age to come. But in any case, the point is made that faith continues throughout this life.

Although initial saving faith and initial repentance indeed occur only once in our lives, when they occur they must constitute true conversion. The heart attitudes of repentance and faith begin at conversion should continue throughout our Christian lives.

Each day, there should be heartfelt repentance for sins that we have committed. Also, faith in Christ to provide for our needs and to empower us to live the Christian life.

Reflection and Challenge

Many people say they believe in God, like Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. Although the attributes of these gods are all different. Who is right? They all cannot be right.

I know based on the authority that the Bible is God’s word to humanity. Acts 20:21 proves that Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are all false religions.

Acts 20:21 also proves that God is knowable and personal, which is the opposite of all far east religions because they have impersonal gods. Why repent to something you cannot know personally? God has revealed Himself to humanity by becoming a man: the God-Man; the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 1:1, 14 says that “the Word was God, was with God, and became a Man.” That is the Trinity in a nutshell. Muslims hate even the mention that God became a man and is Triune. Not to mention, Islam teaches a works-based salvation. But repentance implies surrendering and admitting our inability to save ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

I have heard Calvinists accuse Baptists that repentance is a work. That is just not true. Repentance is just humbly surrendering and admitting our inability to change ourselves and believing Jesus can change us.

This verse even refutes the worldview of dualism. If God is good and evil, why repent to someone no more righteous than we? Obviously, Acts 20:21 is teaching God is holy and righteous. We cannot earn salvation; it can only be given to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Many times, I wonder how many Christians are even truly born again. If we all truly humbled ourselves and surrendered our will, our desires, and choices to God, why don’t we listen and apply God’s word to our everyday lives?

Too often biblically solid sermons are heard but are never applied to our lives because we are too proud to think we need to live like God’s Word is true. Nobody is as humble as Jesus, because nobody else is God.

Are we all willing to repent of our pride and request for more humility?


Reference:

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem 

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Do you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Did you know that God wants to prepare you during this life to live in heaven with Him? Does your purpose for life evade you?

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