This past Sunday I had the opportunity to co-preach with a good friend and co-laborer in Christ, Scott Hamilton, at our home church of Northern Hills. They graciously give me the opportunity to preach once every 2-3 months and this past Sunday I preached on repentance. For those of you who haven’t been a part of the ongoing disucssion, check out the previous blog I wrote about on the subject. The following is the explanation I gave on repentance as part of the sermon. Thank you Rob Kelly for pouring such amazing insight and wisdom into this sermon! And thank you Greg Stier for encouragement in preaching this sermon!
What does it mean to repent? The Greek word metanoia means a complete change of mind. With regard to salvation, the lost sinner needs to change his mind about:
- Sin – seeing sin as an offense to God, not just some moralistic failing.
- Salvation – no one can save themselves by any means. (Ephesians 2)
- Savior – only by trusting in Jesus substitutionary death on the cross can a person be saved
Repentance is not just telling God that you are sorry for what you have done; remorse; simple confession; blame; minimizing; excusing; a promise not to sin anymore, or a demand to stop sinning. Repentance is a change of mind. A change of mind ultimately results in a change in behavior, but the word repent looks at the change of belief, not the change in behavior. Repentance is the root; change in behavior is the fruit. If we see repentance as a turning from sin instead of a change in mind (that leads to a change in behavior) then we jump onto the slippery slope of thinking we can earn our salvation.
Adding works to the Gospel is like telling a kid who comes in from playing outside that is dirty and sweaty to get cleaned up before he takes a bath. That’s the point of the bath, right? The same is true of the Gospel of Jesus. The point is to come to Him as we are, completely messed up, so that he can restore us!
Charles Ryrie wrote: The only kind of repentance that saves is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. People can weep; people can resolve to turn from their past sins; but those things in themselves cannot save. The only kind of repentance that saves anyone, anywhere, anytime is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. The sense of sin and sorrow because of sin may stir up a person’s mind or conscience so that he or she realizes the need for a Savior, but if there is no change of mind about Jesus Christ there will be no salvation. (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ (Wheaton, Illinois, 1989), pp. 94-95)
It is impossible to believe without repenting and it is impossible to repent without believing. Necessarily involved in repentance is faith. Charles Spurgeon said, “I do not believe in the faith that is unaccompanied by repentance…. Repentance and faith are twins; they are born together and they will live together, and as long as a Christian is in this world, both will be needed” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit vol. 54, “Heart-piercing,” Acts 2:37).
Peter does not tell them to “believe in Jesus”, but we know that they already did because they are called believers in verse 44. It is impossible to repent without believing, for to turn from sin and the old way of thinking entails turning to God and a new way of thinking. You can’t “change your mind” about Jesus without doing both together. As we will see in the future, sometimes the apostles say, “Repent and believe” or just “believe” or just “repent”.
Robert Lightner wrote: The word repentance means a change of mind.… There is no question about it: repentance is necessary for salvation. However, Scripture views repentance as included in believing and not as an additional and separate condition to faith. All who have trusted Christ as Savior have changed their minds regarding Him and their sin. Repentance in Scripture has to do with a change of mind. Evangelicals agree no one can be saved who does not change his mind about himself and his need, his sin which separates him from God, and about Christ as the only Savior. (Robert Lightner, Sin, The Savior, and Salvation: The Theology of Everlasting Life. (Nashville, Tennessee), p. 167)
The Gospel of John is the only book in the Bible that states that its purpose is to convert its readers. John writes (John 20:31 NLT) …these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
So it is somewhat surprising to discover that the words “repent” and “repentance” do not make an appearance in the book at all, not one single time. In twenty-one chapters of evangelistic material there is not so much as one reference to repentance. While the words for repent and repentance do not occur in the Gospel of John, what it does say almost one hundred times is that one must believe in order to have eternal life. If repentance is required for the forgiveness of sins, then for John repentance must be included in believing. If repentance were required as a separate act from believing, it makes no sense that John would never have made reference to it.
Once the audio is up online I’ll add a link so you can check out the full sermon that Scott and I preached.