01 October 2012

Repentance and Faith: The Two Cannot Be Separate

Photo: GTY
The Bible is clear: Repentance is at the heart of the gospel call. Unless we are preaching repentance we are not preaching the gospel our Lord has charged us to preach. If we fail to call people to turn from their sins, we are not communicating the same gospel the apostles proclaimed.

The Western church has subtly changed the thrust of the gospel. Instead of exhorting sinners to repent, evangelicalism in our society asks the unsaved to "accept Christ." That makes sinners sovereign and puts Christ at their disposal. In effect it puts Christ on trial and hands the judge's robes and gavel to the inquirer—precisely opposite of what should be. Ironically, people who ought to be concerned about whether Christ will accept them are being told by Christians that it is the sinner's prerogative to "accept Christ." This modified gospel depicts conversion as "a decision for Christ" rather than a life-transforming change of heart involving genuine faith, repentance, surrender, and rebirth unto newness of life....

Repentance is no more a meritorious work than its counterpart, faith. It is an inward response. Genuine repentance pleads with the Lord to forgive and deliver from the burden of sin and the fear of judgment and hell. It is the attitude of the publican who, fearful of even looking toward heaven, smote his breast and cried, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13). Repentance is not merely behavior reform. But because true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose, it inevitably results in a change of behavior....

...Repentance is not just a change of mind; it is a change of heart. It is a spiritual turning, a total about-face. Repentance in the context of the new birth means turning from sin to the Savior. It is an outward response, not external activity, but its fruit will be evident in the true believer's behavior (Luke 3:8).

It has often been said that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. That coin is called conversion. Repentance turns from sin to Christ, and faith embraces Him as the only hope of salvation and righteousness. That is what conversion means in simple terms.

Faith and repentance are distinct concepts, but they cannot occur independently of each other. Genuine repentance is always the flip side of faith; and true faith accompanies repentance. "The two cannot be separate."

- John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, (Thomas Nelson: 2000), 55, 56, 58.

Further Reading


  1. Pastor John MacArthur is becoming a rarity these days. How we need more faithful preachers like him who actually know what the Bible says and preach the word, in season and out. You have probably heard that the starving sheep of HBC were fed a water and cracker crumb diet of Craig Groschel via video this weekend. We are in such need of MEAT! Our church becomes weaker and more vulnerable to wolves every weekend. God help us.

    1. I went to a church for years and don't recall hearing much if ever anything on repentance. It wasn't until I was given a track from Ray Comforts "Living Waters" that got the ball rolling. To God be the Glory. I will never say you have to just except Jesus into your heart. Apart from repentance there is NO salvation. People are so confused. Now I know why..False Conversion. That was me! Repentance and Faith! God is so Good! The law shows us why we need a savior and what our sin is! Check out "way of the master" and learn to share your faith biblically and effectively.

  2. Thank you! I'm trying to help my children to know that it is more than just asking Jesus into their hearts. This so helped me.

    1. It's so wonderful to know there are parents who are taking steps to ensure their children rightly understand these truths, Natalie! If you've not read it, MacArthur's book may be a helpful resource for you, as he carefully expands on what I've quoted above.

      Blessings to you!


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