Repentance and Salvation 2 Pet. 3:9 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Is repentance necessary for salvation? Yes. There is no question that the Lord demands repentance. In 2 Peter 3:9, we find that the Lord “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing to any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” When Jesus described one of the purposes of his earthly ministry, he said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” (Matthew 9:13). Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” (Luke 13: 3).
In describing what goes on in heaven when a soul gets saved, the Lord said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth,” (Luke 15:10). When Paul described his evangelistic preaching, he said, “testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21).
The word “repent” or some variation of the word shows up 112 times in the Bible. The first time the word appears is in Genesis 6:6-7. There, it is clearly defined as “a change of mind.” The Lord was grieved with the wickedness of men in the earth. He repented that he had made man. As a result of his repentance, he destroyed them with a flood. In other words, he took action on what he decided.
The next time we see the word is in Exodus 13:17, where again it is a change of mind. In this case, the Lord was concerned that the Jews would change their mind about going to the Promised Land and return to Egypt. Later, when Aaron had made the golden calf, the Lord was ready to destroy the Jews and start over with Moses. However, after Moses made intercession for the Jews (Ex. 32:12-14), the Lord repented and decided not to destroy them.
So, repentance is clearly a change of mind. That change of mind results in an action. That action demonstrates that the mind of the person who has repented has definitely changed. For example, a man proposes to a woman and she agrees to marry him. Before the wedding, he repents that he proposed to her. So, what does he do? Of course, he calls off the wedding!!
In the New Testament, when Paul says, “…that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance,” (Acts 26:20) he is not defining repentance as a work. He is showing you that if there is real repentance in the heart or mind, eventually, there will be evidence that the person has truly changed his mind because he will change what he is doing. That’s the way repentance is used in the contexts where it appears in the Bible.
When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin (Jn. 16:8-11) and reveals your unrighteousness (Is. 64:6), he expects you to repent. That is, you change your mind and recognize that your sin and unrighteousness will wind you up in hell. Receiving Jesus Christ and his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:30) is the evidence of your change of heart and mind. That is the action that follows the repentance. That is the “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” that Paul preached.
After you are saved, there will be instances of repentance that have nothing to do with you getting saved because you are already saved. There will be times like 2 Cor. 7:9-10, where the Corinthian church had to repent of being puffed up and not handling sin in the church properly. And look at the good fruits of that “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance” in verse 11. They cleared themselves in that matter!
Sometimes, Christians can go too far in doctrinal error or sin and be taken captive by the devil (2 Tim. 2:26) at his will. In those cases, God will have to “give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,” (2 Tim. 2:25). In other words, they will have to change their mind about the error that has led them into the lie or into the sin and acknowledge the truth, instead. When they do, they “may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil.” If they don’t, they will remain his captive, albeit they are still saved.
So you see that repentance is not a complicated doctrine. It is that “change of mind” that causes you to receive Christ when you realize that your own righteousness won’t save you. It is that “change of mind” that causes you to turn to the truth when you realize that you have believed a lie. It is that “change of mind” that results in you doing right when you realize that you have been doing wrong. And that’s about the size of it.