What About Repentance?

Q. Great site, I am blessed by your insights.

Here’s a follow up question for you on “Are any homosexuals saved?”: You make good points on confession and asking forgiveness for sins, but how does repentance fit in in your view? I am thinking of specific scriptures such as “repent or perish”, “but unless you stop sinning, you too will perish”, “the one who continues to sin is not born of God”, etc.

A. Many in the Church today misunderstand the word repent. It comes from a Greek word that means “a change of opinion” not “a change of behavior.”

When John the Baptist told people to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” (Matt. 3:2) he wasn’t telling them to change their behavior to be worthy to receive the kingdom, but to change their minds about their need for the Savior Who was coming. In other words he was warning them that even their best attempts to keep God’s Law would not suffice. Many subsequent passages warn us that our behavior can never meet God’s standards. We have a sin nature and without a Savior are hopelessly lost.

Someone who doesn’t think he’s sinning doesn’t ask for forgiveness, so asking for forgiveness is a sign that he’s changed his opinion about his behavior. That’s repentance, and that’s the standard I applied in my previous answer. At that point, the Holy Spirit can convict him and begin leading him toward the change in behavior God desires. But even the best of us still does things that we know are sin but can’t seem to stop doing. That’s why John said that the person who thinks he doesn’t sin is a liar and cautioned us to ask for forgiveness every time we sin (1 John 1:8-10).

As humans, we assign degrees of sinfulness to behavior. This allows us to condemn others whose behavior we think is worse than ours. But in God’s view all sin leads to death, and the Bible says that if we only break a single commandment, even if it’s only in our mind, we’ve broken them all. (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28 & James 2:10). That’s why there are no degrees of salvation. We were all equally lost, and now as believers we’re all equally saved.

None of this is meant to condone either our own sins or the sins of others. But each of us has plenty of sin in our own lives to keep us busy repenting and confessing without going around condemning others for theirs. A sinner, of whatever sort, who recognizes their behavior as sin and asks for forgiveness has a right to receive it, and to benefit from our heartfelt prayers that that Lord would complete the good work He’s begun in their lives.

As an extra credit assignment, I suggest we all read the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:10-14)

Share Button