There are many Biblical words that have been eliminated or revised in modern Christianity but none more devastating than the word “repentance.” The modern call is for repentance to be just a simple change of one’s mind – that you once thought Jesus was a man, but now you know He is God. The other call is to eliminate it all together stating that simply believing Jesus is your ticket to Heaven.
Henry Ironsides in 1937 wrote “The Doctrine of Repentance is the missing note in many otherwise orthodox and fundamentally sound circles today. The unwillingness to preach repentance is an incipient easy believism.” There is no salvation without true repentance which in Biblical context goes far beyond just a change of mind. It is not a pre-salvation attempt to get your life cleaned up so that you can get saved. It is the thing that God produces in you when He saves you. It is an element of saving faith that redirects the will away from sin and towards Christ. As stated in 2 Timothy 2:25, it is the thing God produces in you when you are regenerated or born-again.
The issue of repentance is crucial and gospel calls without an explanation of repentance is void of any substance at all. It is the difference between true and false conversions, the difference between life in Heaven and eternal torment in Hell, the difference in a strong confidence in salvation and a false assurance.
John the Baptist had a ministry of repentance and faith, Jesus had a ministry of repentance and faith, the Disciples had a ministry of repentance and faith, Paul had a ministry of repentance and faith, and any great preacher down through the ages have had a ministry of repentance and faith. Therefore, our ministry must be repentance and faith in Christ alone. Unless one turns from their sin, denies themselves, and turns in complete trust in the One alone who can save – Jesus Christ – there is no true repentance and therefore not true salvation.
Charles Spurgeon explains true Biblical repentance in a way that no other can:
There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in everyday life. Repentance, to be sure, must be entire. How many will say, Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other…but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold? Oh, sirs, in God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor 50 sins which is true repentance. It is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost harbor one of those accursed vipers in thy heart and dost give up every other, that one lust like one leak in a ship will sink thy soul. Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices, fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life, it is all or none which God demands. Repent, says He, and when He bids you repent, He means repent of all thy sins otherwise He can never accept thy repentance as real and genuine. All sin must be given up or else you will never have Christ. All transgression must be renounced or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember then that for repentance to be sincere, it must be entire repentance. True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life. It is the giving up of the whole soul to God to be His forever and ever. It is the renunciation of the sins of the heart as well as the crimes of the life.