I have established that the overall pattern of Jesus’ preaching in gospels and the apostles’ preaching in Acts is clearly marked by the call to repent. This is because repentance in part and parcel of the gospel message. Thus, the New Testament simply does not envision believers who have not yet repented. Repentance is inseparable from faith in the call of the gospel and it is the necessary fruit of true conversion. In this short post, I intend to show that in addition to the gospels and Acts, the New Testament epistles also echo Christ’s command to repent and believe.
It is clear that Christ’s message was one of repentance and his disciples were faithful to retain Jesus’ pattern of preaching as their teaching prominently features repentance as well. For example, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Thus, Paul clearly believed that repentance is intricately tied to salvation.
Peter’s second epistle also clearly ties repentance to the fulfillment of God’s promises in salvation: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It is extremely difficult to make sense of these passages if repentance is understood to be something that takes place after conversion. Faith and repentance, if rightly understood, should be placed together as the biblically commanded human response to the gospel call. Repentance is a work of God and man–sinners must repent to receive salvation, yet God enables them to do so (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). The Gospels, Acts, and the New Testament epistles clearly tie repentance to conversion–a great deal must be read into these texts in order to see repentance as applying only to sanctification.
In my next post, I will discuss the Greek words used for repentance and how both lordship and non-lordship proppnents understand them. I will argue that non-lordship teaching incorrectly defines “repentance” to the detriment of the church.
Other key Pauline texts on repentance include 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and Romans 2:3-4.