Is repentance necessary for salvation?
Some people say that you can believe in Jesus as “Savior” but not as “Lord.” That is, you can believe in him but never repent of your sin. You can believe in him and be saved even if your life goes on just as it was before you became a Christian. Or so the claim goes. Some people even claim that if we say repentance is necessary for salvation we’re adding works to the gospel. They claim that if repentance is required then we’re no longer saved by God’s grace alone, but by what we do as well.
But what does the Scripture say?
- Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32)
- Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:47).
- When the apostles preached in Acts, they called people to repent of their sins in order to be forgiven (See Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:32, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20).
- The apostle Paul makes it clear that those whose lives are characterized by sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Rom. 8:12-13, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5).
According to the unanimous testimony of Scripture, repentance is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. Only those who turn from their sin, trust in Christ, and live lives that are characterized by righteousness will be saved on the last day.
But then is repentance a “work” we must perform in order to earn our salvation? Not at all! Repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance is turning from sin. Faith is turning to, trusting in, and relying on Christ. Repentance is not a “work” anymore than faith is: we simply renounce our sin and rely on Christ.