Bible Question:

Could you please explain how if we are saved by grace that we need to repent. Isn't repentance a work? Repent is the first word of the gospel, but I am struggling with how the two compliment or coincide with each other. Thanks.

Bible Answer:

Scripture is clear that we are saved by faith and faith alone. A careful examination of New Testament passages reveals that at least twenty-seven passages clearly state that salvation or eternal life states that simple faith is required and nothing more. If repentance and baptism are so essential for one to have eternal life, why are they not included more often? Repentance is mentioned only once in Acts 2:38 and baptism is mentioned four times. A careful study of the passages reveal that when repentance and baptism do appear they are mentioned as things that accompany true salvation. For example in 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance leads one to salvation, but it is not something that earns one salvation or eternal life.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor. 7:10 (NASB)

Here we are told that repentance provides sorrow or regret. In response, the person will seek forgiveness from God and it will eventually result in salvation. Repentance is not a work but it is part of saving faith.

Since Jesus Christ died to forgive our sins (1 Cor. 15:3), it is contradictory to think that God would forgive anyone who was content and at peace with their sins and unrepentant. That was Jesus’ message in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. In that parable Jesus contrasted a religious leader, a Pharisee, who thought he was a godly man and ready for heaven with a tax-collector who was mourning his sin and begging God for mercy (Luke 18:9-14). The tax-collector was in sorrow and repentant. Jesus went on to say that the tax-collector was justified or forgiven because of his attitude but not the religious leader. Two other passages that mention repentance are Romans 2:4-5 and 2 Timothy 2:25. Both passages reveal that repentance is necessary in order to bring a person to truth.

. . . God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth . . . 2 Tim. 2:25 (NASB)

The four passages that mention baptism in conjunction with salvation, especially Acts 2;38, have been singled out by some claiming that one must be baptized in order to be saved. But a careful study of the New testament reveals that baptism is a symbolic act that declares that one is repentant and has given their life to Jesus Christ. Baptism does not save. If baptism was essential why is it hardly ever mentioned in connection with salvation? The answer is that it is not essential. It simply reflects a heart of obedience that says, “I have believed in Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion:

Repentance is a response of the heart, a response of sorrow that leads one to salvation. One who really sees themselves as sinners needing God’s forgives is going to be overwhelmed with sorrow and repentance just like the tax-collector. That will lead them to seek forgiveness from God – Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). That is an act of faith where they believe that He will forgive their sins. Baptism is an act of obedience that comes after saving faith that screams to the world, “I have believed in Jesus Christ.” Neither repentance nor baptism saves a person. One comes before faith and the other follows faith.

Suggested Links:

The Rescue -Salvation
Is Baptism Required For Salvation?
Is baptism symbolic?
Peace With God
The Meaning of Baptism
Who Can Be Saved?