Repentance must go with remission, and you will see that it is so if you think a little upon the matter. It cannot be that pardon of sin should be given to an impenitent sinner; this were to confirm him in his evil ways, and to teach him to think little of evil. If the Lord were to say, "You love sin, and live in it, and you are going on from bad to worse, but, all the same, I forgive you," this were to proclaim a horrible license for iniquity. The foundations of social order would be removed, and moral anarchy would follow. I cannot tell what innumerable mischiefs would certainly occur if you could divide repentance and forgiveness, and pass by the sin while the sinner remained as fond of it as ever. In the very nature of things, if we believe in the holiness of God, it must be so, that if we continue in our sin, and will not repent of it, we cannot be forgiven, but must reap the consequence of our obstinacy. According to the infinite goodness of God, we are promised that if we will forsake our sins, confessing them, and will, by faith, accept the grace which is provided in Christ Jesus, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But, so long as God lives, there can be no promise of mercy to those who continue in their evil ways, and refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing. Surely no rebel can expect the King to pardon his treason while he remains in open revolt. No one can be so foolish as to imagine that the Judge of all the earth will put away our sins if we refuse to put them away ourselves.
- The claim: Some people say that you can believe in Jesus as “Savior” but not as “Lord.” That is, you can believe in him but never repent of your sin. You can believe in him and be saved even if your life goes on just as it was before you became a Christian. Or so the claim goes.
- A further claim: Some people even claim that if we say repentance is necessary for salvation we’re adding works to the gospel. They claim that if repentance is required then we’re no longer saved by God’s grace alone, but by what we do as well.
- Scripture’s reply: But what does the Scripture say?
- Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32)
- Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:47).
- When the apostles preached in Acts, they called people to repent of their sins in order to be forgiven (See Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:32, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20).
- The apostle Paul makes it clear that those whose lives are characterized by sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Rom. 8:12-13, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5).
- Scripture’s lesson: According to the unanimous testimony of Scripture, repentance is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. Only those who turn from their sin, trust in Christ, and live lives that are characterized by righteousness will be saved on the last day.
- Further reflection: But then is repentance a “work” we must perform in order to earn our salvation? Not at all! Repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance is turning from sin. Faith is turning to, trusting in, and relying on Christ. Repentance is not a “work” anymore than faith is: we simply renounce our sin and rely on Christ.