What part does repentance have in becoming saved? We often read we must just ask for forgiveness and believe in Jesus.
This can be confusing to many people because somewhere along the way the word “repent” was re-defined to mean “change your behavior”. But the Greek word translated “repent” in the New Testament really means “change your mind.” It’s used mostly in the gospels and the first part of the Book of Acts when either Jesus or the disciples/apostles were urging their Jewish listeners to repent and be saved.
Because their audience had been taught that keeping the Law was the way to salvation, they needed to change their minds and realize they needed a Savior. This is what Jesus was teaching in (Matt. 5:20) when He said unless their righteousness surpassed that of the Pharisees they would certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Pharisees had devoted their lives to keeping even the smallest details of the Law, and Jesus was saying this was not sufficient for salvation. It was going to take an even greater righteousness than that.
Later, Paul wrote that God had made known a righteousness apart from the Law that comes through faith in Jesus to all who believe, and this righteousness would be sufficient to save us (Romans 3:21-24). This is the righteousness Jesus had been talking about.
Gentiles didn’t need to change their minds about saving themselves through the Law, they needed to change their minds about their behavior and recognize that it was sinful to repent is a continual act not a onetime proposition. This is true of unbelievers today as well. Before anyone can be saved, they need to come to the realization that they’re sinners and believe that Jesus died and rose again so their sins could be forgiven. This is what the phrase “repent and be saved” means.
What will you be saved from? The Bible is clear that every person has sinned (Romans 3:23). These sins separate us from God and deserve spiritual death (Romans 6:23). Those who die apart from Christ receive eternal separation from God in hell (Matthew 25:46). The difference between being saved and not being saved is the difference between eternity with the Lord in heaven and eternity apart from Him in hell. As a result, every person stands in desperate need of salvation.
The essential message one believes to be saved can be found in Romans 10:9: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It involves accepting Jesus as God’s Son and faith that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead.
We receive salvation by the gift of faith imparted to us as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), by hearing the “good news” of the gospel of salvation (Ephesians 1:13) and believing it. But salvation is more than saying “I believe.” Salvation requires repentance, and repentance goes beyond saying, “I’m sorry.” Repentance involves a continual 180-degree turn away from sin; that is, to go in the opposite direction, to forget the attractions of the world and follow the teachings of Jesus the Savior (Matthew 6:24).
Salvation is defined as being delivered, by God’s grace, from sin and its consequence of eternal punishment and being raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:4). Salvation comes to those who repent and, by faith, receive Jesus alone as personal Savior and Lord (John 1:12).
I have just put my faith in Jesus…now what?