The Message of Christ: Faith and Repentance
by Ryan Biese | November 21, 2014This week in Wednesday Night Bible Study we considered Chapter 15 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: Repentance unto Life. Repentance is integral to the Christian life; Martin Luther wrote in 1517, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
In fact, repentance was at the heart of the message Christ proclaimed on earth. The very first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark concern the necessity of both repentance and faith (1.14-15): “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
In spite of its central place in the teaching and proclamation of Jesus, many who claim to follow Jesus give little thought to the idea of repentance. Truly, repentance is not only one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in our day, it also one of the most unpopular truths of the gospel.
Repentance, in short, means “turning” and particularly a turning from sin and to God for grace and mercy as he offers it in Christ. Sin, as you know, doesn’t just include murder, adultery, burglary, and sodomy, but also very much includes gossip, laziness, selfishness, arrogance, pride, bitterness, lust, gluttony, and a host of other socially acceptable thoughts, attitudes, and activities.
Repentance is not simply expressing regret for some action you may have done and/or been caught doing. Anyone, even a sociopath, can express regret! Repentance means actually turning away from sin because of a new love and affection: Christ in the gospel.
When a person is brought to repentance, he or she, because of the New Birth and the working of the Holy Spirit, has gained a real hatred for sin and so he or she actually is able to sincerely strive for new obedience to God’s Law.
It is important to recognize that, just like faith, repentance is a gift from God. Because of our own sin, we can’t just decide or resolve to stop sinning and start loving God. The Bible describes us as being “in bondage to sin” (Rom. 6) and “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2). As with every other grace, we are entirely dependant on God to grant the grace of repentance. Do you pray regularly for the grace of repentance? As with faith, even though it is a gift of God, repentance is something that we do actually do and is truly ours.
Faith in and Repentance toward God are inseparable. A person that has true saving faith will indeed live a life of repentance. Faith and repentance defined Jesus’ own preaching and He commanded both be preached to every nation for the salvation of sinners (Luke 24.47-48).
Is your own repentance visible for all to see in your life?