The Need for Repentance
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22–23).
Jeremiah 18:7–8 tells us that God will not pour His wrath upon a people if they turn from their wickedness. Therefore, had the Sodomites repented of their evil, the Lord would not have destroyed Sodom.
The call to abandon sin is integral to the Gospel; we cannot read the Bible and miss our need to turn from evil. John the Baptist and Jesus both call the people of God to repent (Mark 1:4, 14–15). Peter and the other apostles always implore their hearers to leave their sin and trust in Christ after speaking the good news (Acts 2:38). The apostolic writings found in the New Testament repeatedly implore us to repent (for example, 1 John 1:8–9).
Unfortunately, this accent on repentance is often missed today. Many who have professed belief at an “altar call” or have said the “sinner’s prayer” consider themselves Christians even if there has been no change in their lives. In our drive to make the Gospel palatable to non-believers, we sometimes promise all the benefits of heaven without demanding repentance. Thus we have celebrities who “love Jesus” while reveling in immodesty and immorality, and many others who think themselves to be saved even though they never darken the door of a church or love their neighbors.
This is damnable error, for the passages we have already cited argue that there is no faith without repentance. Christ reiterates this point in Matthew 7:21–23. If we confess faith and yet fail to do the Father’s will, which includes that we repent, we have not possessed faith and will be considered lawless by the final judge, Jesus.
Metanoia is the Greek word behind “repentance,” which originally meant a “change of mind.” However, while biblical repentance includes changing our mind about the identity of Christ and acknowledging Him as Savior, it is also much more. To repent means that our lives are turned upside down. We have fled from sin only if the world ceases to be the standard for our behavior and we yearn to follow Jesus in all things.
Repentance does not eliminate the struggle with sin and make us perfect immediately. But it does result in a marked change of thoughts, words, and deeds whereby we do not love our former lusts as we once did. If we turn from sin, we will seek to be Christ’s disciples, feel sorrow for sin, and cease from lawlessness. Ask yourself today whether you can see the fruit of repentance in your life. If you can, be assured of your salvation. If not, turn from your sin today.
Passages for Further Study
- Lam. 1:8–9
- Ezek. 18:25–32
- Mark 6:12
- Acts 17:30