How are we to describe the connection between repentance and faith? Very carefully. On the one hand, we don’t want to stray from the gospel of salvation through faith alone. On the other hand, we need to take seriously the radical and transformative nature of faith and conversion. To that end, here are some key Bible verses, insightful quotes, and summary truths to help us talk about the connection between these two terms.
10 Key Bible Verses
- “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
- “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
- “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
- “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” (Luke 13:3)
- “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)
- “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38)
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
- “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21)
- “I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.” (Acts 26:20)
- “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
5 Insightful Quotes
- “Repentance is inseparable from faith, being the negative aspect (faith is the positive aspect) of turning to Christ as Lord and Savior.” (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology)
- “Repentance … is not simply the repudiation of the act of sin; it is the repudiation of self as evil and sinful.” (W.T. Conner, Christian Doctrine, p 191)
- Repentance is … not equivalent to a demonstration of change in a person’s pattern of life. Repentance, like faith, is an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and a hatred of sin), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience instead.)” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, pp. 309-310)
- “When we turn to Christ for salvation from our sins, we are simultaneously turning away from the sins that we are asking Christ to save us from.” (Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 310)
- “Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.” (Baptist Faith & Message, Article IV on salvation)
2 Summary Truths
- Salvation is entirely a work of God’ grace.
Our good works do not contribute in any way to our salvation; salvation is a gift. So when we say sinners must repent and believe, we do not want to imply they must stop sinning in order to be saved. If that’s the case, then no one can be saved.
- Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
God’s grace gift demands a response. Repentance and faith are the ways we talk about the human side of conversion—our response to God’s grace and initiative. In some Bible passages (see above), faith alone is named as the requirement for salvation. In other passages, repentance alone is named. Some passages name both. In yet other passages, different terminology altogether is found, such as “deny yourself” and “take up your cross.” Always, the reality is the same—conversion involves a turn from sin to the One who came to save us from sin.
Mike Livingstone works at LifeWay Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible resources.