The Way of Salvation

The Essential Nature of Repentance

By Charles F. Stanley
  • October 18, 2015

God made the way of salvation simple, yet there is so much confusion about it. Some people say all we have to do is believe in Jesus. In their view, repentance and submission to the lordship of Christ are not necessary for salvation. Others think joining a church, being baptized, giving money, and doing good works are all that’s required.

Salvation is by faith and not works, but we need to clarify what “believing in Jesus” means. This expression encompasses so much more than merely believing what the Bible says about Him. Saving faith is more than mental agreement with the truth. It includes an acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, as well as a recognition of our own sinfulness. We become sorrowful under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and desire a changed life.

Believing in Jesus includes complete trust in Him for salvation, repentance from past sins, and surrender of our lives fully to Him. In the New Testament, salvation and repentance are often equated. When Jesus spoke of salvation in Luke 5:32, He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Peter also spoke of salvation when he wrote that the Lord does not wish “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Another area of confusion is the lordship of Christ. Some people want to claim Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. They desire His forgiveness and a guarantee of heaven, but they don’t want Him telling them how to live. The problem with this approach is not only that it is extremely selfish; it’s also contrary to the very identity of the Son of God. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and we cannot remove the fact that He is our Lord and God. Those who are truly repentant are willing to submit to Christ and let Him lead them in a new direction.

After salvation, we begin a brand new life. Although we don’t understand all that’s involved at that moment, the Holy Spirit works within us to convict us of sin, draw us to repentance, and guide us on a new path of obedience. We all begin as spiritual babies, but the Lord wants us to continually grow in Him, and repentance is a large part of this process. If we stop turning away from sin, we will stop growing and stay “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1-2).

Instead, may we always desire to please the Lord and do the good works He has planned for us (Eph. 2:8-10). For if we are genuinely saved, we will never be happy or satisfied living in sin because we now have a new nature through the Holy Spirit who indwells us. When He convicts us of sin, our first response should be to ask Him for forgiveness. And praise God that He is always ready and willing to do so.

This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message, “The Missing Link,” which airs this weekend on TV.


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32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.

2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

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