Some groups believe that repentance isn't to be preached or taught. However, repentance was preached by John the Baptist in Mark 1:15, it was preached by the apostle Paul in Acts 20:21; 17:30-31, it was preached by our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 13:3, and by Peter in Acts 2:36-38; 3:19. In fact, Jesus wanted repentance to be preached, Luke 24:46-47. We have repentance being proclaimed before, at and after Pentecost.
Some say that we are saved by faith, without repentance, so we need to understand what repentance is, and how we receive it. We will then have the answer as to whether we can be saved without repentance.
Repentance is not a reformation, but a change of mind, a change of mind that results in a change of actions. We might say that it means to turn away from sin, but that would be a reformation. Repentance isn't doing something, as an act, for no one is saved by giving up something. One can turn away from their sins and still not be a christian.
Repentance is not contrition. It is not a remorse, or agony, of the soul because of sin. Not all, but most, of those in jail are not sorry for their crime, but sorry they got caught. There are some few that are sorry for their sin, but being sorry for their sin isn't repentance, but it can lead to repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:10. We can see from this passage of scripture that repentance is an outcome of sorrow. While sorrow over one's sin is a step in the right direction, sorrow, in and of itself, is not true repentance.
Repentance is not a change of opinion, but means a change of one’s attitude towards sin and God. It is a change of mind that will turn us from sin and to God. It is a change that will lead to a change of action, or direction. Repentance isn't just behavior reform, but involves a change of heart and purpose that results in a change of behavior. Repentance can be seen in a change of intellect, feeling, will, and action. However, we must remember that it is possible to have a change of action without a change of mind. We receive repentance through the goodness of God, Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9, through the gospel of God, Acts 2:37-38, Acts 2:41, and through the teaching of scripture, 2 Timothy 2:24-25.
Repentance, a change of mind about sin and God, must come first, then faith. Repentance is bound up in faith and cannot be separated from it, and we can't have repentance without some measure of faith. The essentials of repentance are, a genuine sorrow because of ones sins (2 Corinthians 7:9-10), an actual inward dislike of sin, which is followed by turning away from it (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20; Hebrews 6:1), and by surrendering ones self to the will and service of God (Acts 9:6).
Repentance and faith go together and as stated above, they can not be separated. Saving faith has the following elements:
First, we must have knowledge before we can have faith. Where do we obtain the knowledge for that faith? That knowledge is found in God's Word, the Holy Bible. Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Therefore, we can have knowledge of faith by reading, or hearing, the Word of God.
A second element of faith is belief. Once we have that knowledge of Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, we must accept it as truth, Romans 12:3. Even though you believe there is a Savior by the name of Jesus Christ, and that He can save, this isn't saving faith. You must apply this belief to your own heart.
Next, is the element of trust. Now that we have knowledge of the salvation provided by Christ, we believe in Christ, that He died, was buried, and resurrected to pay for our sins, we must now trust in Christ. Trust is essential in saving faith. We must surrender our lives to God. You might know that Christ died, and believe it, but it is quite another thing to trust Him for salvation.
To illustrate saving faith, let's take the example of a chair. First we have to know it exists. Secondly, we must have faith that it will hold us up. Third, even though we have faith that the chair will hold us up, that faith isn't exercised until we trust the chair by sitting in it. Likewise with Christ, we not only have to have knowledge of Him, we have to have faith in Him and exercise that faith, by completely trusting in Him, surrendering our lives to Him. The end of saving faith is salvation by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8-10.
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