Repentance is to turn. In an evangelical sense, it is the rejection of sin (Matt. 21:28-29; Rev. 2:20-23; 9:21), and the desire to be delivered from its power and penalty. Faith is to trust. Saving faith is the confidence we place in God to forgive our sins and grant us eternal life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (Lk. 23:39-43). It is the belief that God rewards us in direct relation to the promises he has made in his Word. Therefore, conviction of truth initiates repentance and faith, and repentance and faith validate the reality of the Holy Spirit’s convincing work. For how can we turn from sin, to a God we are not convinced can help us? Or yet, how can we say we have accepted the Lord, when we reject his holiness, by minimizing the necessity of contrition for our sin against him. True faith is always marked by repentance, and true repentance is always exercised in faith. They are inseparable truths. They are yoke fellows, bringing the lost to Christ, and the believer into a renewed and joyous fellowship with him. When we turn to God in faith, from what do we turn? We turn from sin and from idols. Is this not repentance? When we turn from sin in repentance, where do we turn? Is it not to Christ Jesus the Lord? Is this not faith? Does the sinner turn twice? Or, does the singular exercise of turning encompass both faith and repentance? To truly exercise one (faith or repentance), is to exercise the other; seeing they demand one another to be complete. Faith and repentance are not independent truths, but are codependent, equally essential Scriptural responses to divine revelation.
Now some would conclude that we make repentance a work, because we say (and we believe the Bible does, too), one must reject their sin and turn to God. Thus repentance cannot be a part of salvation, but must come after. However, if turning from sin (repentance) is a work; then believing on Christ (faith) must be a work, since both require a concurrent and congruent act of turning to God (I Thes.1:9). If faith is not a work (and it is not – Eph. 5:8-9), then neither is repentance (Acts 26:20).
Which side of a coin is most valuable? Are they not both necessary for the coin to be authentic? We don’t speak of a coin or a piece of currency in that way, because we recognize both sides are important parts of the whole. They cannot be divided or separated in any sensible way without destroying their individual value or the worth of the whole. Salvation has two intrinsically inseparable aspects – faith and repentance. When we try to separate the two, diminish the necessity of either, or esteem the value of one over the other, we destroy the doctrine of God’s salvation.
Is it possible to accept part of Christ’s person, while at the same time rejecting the portion of his nature, titles, and attributes that conflict with our lifestyle? Can we embrace him as Savior, and despise him as Lord? Is Christ divided? At salvation are we not yoked together with the entirety of his person? The Bible says in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Is it not true, that the promise of comfort and rest is obtained by being yoked (bound) to Christ? A yoke is not crafted to promote individual expression. Rather, it is designed to conform our will and purpose to that of the Master. Would Christ command us to take his yoke upon us, if he did not want us to recognize that his offer of salvation is also a demand of submission to his Lordship?
The Scriptures call us to be reconciled to God. Reconciliation is the restoration of the union, favor and friendship with God that was lost by the fall of Adam through sin. Our sin separates us from God, and Christ’s sacrificial, substitutionary death, and his subsequent resurrection is the only payment acceptable to the Heavenly Father. The Bible tells us that our Savior was named “JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21). Would anyone be so foolish to believe that we can dissect God’s gift of salvation in such a way, as to receive his forgiveness and deliverance from the deserved punishment for our sins, but ignore or reject his deliverance from the power of sin? If we truly desired deliverance from sins power, and not just its penalty, did not our repentance and faith gladly embrace him as Lord?
Are any so presumptuous as to accept the gift of the love from a spouse in holy matrimony, but never desire to be faithful to them; and reject offering sincere vows of commitment? Does this sound ridiculous to you? “I love you so much. I can’t wait to spend my life with you. But, I’m afraid I can’t reject the other loves of my life.” In that same vein of thought, can you hear the absurdity of the following prayer to the Lord? “Oh God, I know you are a holy God. I realize you hate sin so much, that you sent your Son Jesus to die for all the wicked things I have done. I understand you love me and have offered me eternal life. I love you, and appreciate you sacrificing so much for me. I’ll take your gift of living forever, but I’m not quite ready to reject my sinful lifestyle and allow you to control my life. I know you want to change me, and have the power to deliver me from sin. Maybe in a few years I’ll allow you to have full control of my life. Thanks for the gift. I’ll see you later.” What mockery! When our evangelism dissects and dilutes God’s salvation message, we end up with no salvation message at all. If we do not count Christ worthy to be our Lord, he will not sacrifice his holiness on the altar of our lusts to be our Savior.
In Luke chapter 19 we read about a publican named Zacchaeus who climbed a sycomore tree because he sought to see Jesus. When Jesus told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house,” Zacchaeus immediately came down, and made a public commitment to the Lord. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Do you see Zacchaeus’ heart? He acknowledged his wrong, and turned from it. This is repentance. The Lord recognized it as repentance too, for he said, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Again, some would say this is works salvation. But, may I remind you that Zacchaeus had not given one penny to the poor, nor restored one thing taken by false accusation. However, the Lord saw that his heart had turned from sin to God, and he saved him that very moment. That’s the demand of salvation; a change of heart about sin, and a turning from it to God. Jesus recognizes and rewards repentance and faith today, just as he did then. The great question for our generation is, “Do we recognize and value it?”