Thoughts to Ponder

Is repentance part of the gospel?

The more I research some of the doctrines out there under the umbrella of Christianity the more disturbed I become. Not long ago I wrote about one which claimed that you could be a Christian but not a disciple of Christ. I want to address another such claim, this one on repentance. Let me quote from one of these teachers:

Turning from sins is not a condition of eternal salvation.

Is repentance in some sense a condition of eternal salvation? I believe that it is, but only in a few NT passages. In those texts a change of mind about Jesus Christ is given as a condition for eternal life. Changing one's mind about Christ is another way of speaking about believing in Him. Repentance is not a second condition for eternal salvation. It is another way of talking about faith in Christ.

Notice what this person is saying. That it is not a condition of salvation to repent of your sins. Or in other words you don't have to be sorry for your sins, you just have to believe in Jesus Christ. Then he goes on to say that maybe repentance is required in a way, but all repentance means is changing your mind about who Christ is, not changing your mind about your sins or turning from them or being sorry for having committed them.

Here is another quote:

Is repentance a condition for receiving eternal life? Yes, if it is repentance or changing one's mind about Jesus Christ. No, if it means to be sorry for sin or even to resolve to turn from sin, for these things will not save.. Is repentance a precondition to faith? No, though a sense of sin and the desire to turn from it may be used by the Spirit to direct someone to the Savior and His salvation. Repentance may prepare the way for faith, but it is faith that saves, not repentance (unless repentance is understood as a synonym for faith or changing one's mind about Christ).

I believe that repentance is part of having faith. But what is faith? If it is just believing that Jesus is the Son of God, then that is all that is needed, but that is not all it is. These false teachers are saying that you can have saving faith in Jesus Christ without repentance or remorse for your sins. Let's see if that holds up to Scripture.

Just belief in Jesus is not enough as these passages show:

(James 2:19 NIV) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.

(Mark 3:11 NIV) Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

The demons believe in Jesus, but they are not saved. The point is that belief in, or faith in Jesus demands that you understand your position and what He did for you when He died for your sins. If you can believe that He suffered and died for your sins and yet not be sorry for those sins, then there is something missing. You don't have true faith in Jesus Christ.

Let's look at what God's word has to say about being sorry for our sins:

(Psalm 51:16-17 NIV) [16] You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. [17] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

(Isaiah 66:2 NIV) [2] "Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."

(Isaiah 57:15 NIV) For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."

contrite: Feeling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent.

God puts a lot of stock on a contrite heart, or in other words on the person who is remorseful for their sins. Yet these people are teaching that you don't need to be sorry for your sins, you don't need to turn from them, you don't need to do anything other than have faith in Jesus Christ. Now don't get me wrong, I agree that you don't need to do any work to gain your salvation, but having faith in Jesus Christ encompasses repentance and remorse for your sins. But don't take my word for it, again let God speak for Himself:

(Romans 1:5 NIV) Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

Why does obedience come from faith? Because true faith includes remorse for your sins and turning from your sins will accompany remorse. You can't be obedient without turning from your sins. The next few quotes are from the Old Testament and therefore people tend to discount it. But remember God does not change.

(Isaiah 30:15 NIV) This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

(Isaiah 59:20 NIV) "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 15:19 NIV) Therefore this is what the LORD says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them."

(Ezekiel 14:6 NIV) "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!'"

(Ezekiel 18:30 NIV) "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall."

(Ezekiel 18:32 NIV) For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

(Hosea 11:5 NIV) "Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?

As you see in the Old Testament God thought a lot of repentance. The only way for the nation of Israel to survive was to repent of their sins.


1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it: repented of intemperate behavior.
3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.

Now let's look at the New Testament.

(Matthew 3:8 NIV) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

(Matthew 3:1-2 NIV) [1] In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea [2] and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

(Matthew 4:17 NIV) From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

(Matthew 11:20 NIV) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

(Mark 6:12 NIV) They went out and preached that people should repent.

(Luke 5:32 NIV) I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

(Luke 13:3 NIV) I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

(Acts 3:19-20 NIV) [19] Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, [20] and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-even Jesus.

(Acts 8:22 NIV) Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

(Acts 11:18 NIV) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."

(Acts 17:30 NIV) In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

(Acts 20:21 NIV) I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

(Acts 26:20 NIV) First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

(2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

(2 Peter 3:9 NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

(Revelation 2:5 NIV) Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

(Revelation 3:19 NIV) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

As you can see God still demands repentance. Don't be fooled by these false teachers who claim to have an easy 'consumer' version of salvation. A version where you need not repent or turn from your sins. A version where you need not follow Christ, you can just use Him as your ticket to heaven, while continuing to follow the world.

Many will say to Jesus on judgment day; "Lord, Lord, didn't we...." But He will tell them He never knew them. Included in this group will be these false teachers and their followers, who refuse to deny themselves and follow Christ.

(Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV) [26] If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

Who would continue to deliberately sin after coming to know Jesus Christ? Those who believe they don't need to follow Him and believe they don't need to turn from their sins. They are fooling themselves.

(James 4:4 NIV) You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

These people think they can hold onto their friendship with the world and yet be saved. God says that if you do, you are showing hatred towards God and you will become His enemy. If you think this passage is addressing a sinner who has never understood the gospel you better read the verse more closely. Who are the enemies of God? Sinners are, only through Jesus Christ can we be reconciled to God the Father. So who is it that can 'become' an enemy of God? Think about it. A sinner can't become something they already are. Only someone who is no longer an enemy of God can 'become' an enemy of God.

We are told to guard our doctrine closely. We need to guard it because it has eternal implications. The apostasy predicted in the Bible for the last days is in full swing. Don't get caught up in it. Many false teachers have PhD at the end of their name, or Pastor in front of it, these are man's titles, don't be fooled by them. I am not saying titles are wrong, just that they don't mean anything about a person's heart. Jesus left no doubt about what it takes to follow Him:

(Matthew 16:24 NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

We used to talk about salvation by saying the person "gave their life to Christ," but now we talk about "accepting Christ." Oh it sounds good, but there is much more to salvation than just 'accepting' Christ. We must give our lives to Him. We must die to self and live through Him. This is all basic Christian doctrine but it is being perverted today to make the gospel more pleasing to the masses.

Look at something else Jesus had to say:

(Matthew 7:13-14 NIV) [13] "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. [14] But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

The gate is Jesus Christ and we can only find Him when we understand that we are wretched sinners, who deserve to spend eternity in hell because we have sinned against a holy God. And we believe that God loved us enough to send His only Son to die in our place and that He raised Him back to life after three days. Part of understanding that we are wretched sinners, who deserve death, is also being remorseful for those sins and wanting to follow Christ.

We need to quit watering down the gospel. The gospel has power to save until we take that power away by teaching a false gospel. Paul confronted the same thing in his day:

(Galatians 1:6-9 NIV) [6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- [7] which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! [9] As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

How do you recognize a false gospel? The best way is by knowing the true gospel to start with. Read your Bible! If someone is teaching something check it out against God's word. If you can't find it clearly stated in the Bible, then don't believe it. I have shown over and over again where the Bible says we must repent, but these false teachers can't show you one place where it says you don't have to. They play word games to confuse and make doctrine out of thin air. Let them be eternally condemned, but don't let yourself be by believing their lies.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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February 2003