The Order of Faith & Repentance

Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Charleston Heights, South Carolina

The position that one is saved by faith only is very prevalent in some religious circles. One religious group maintains that justification is "solely through faith in Christ" while another group goes so far as to say salvation by faith only is "a most wholesome doctrine." Those who advocate this find themselves in a dilemma, for they know that such passages as Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3, -etc., teach that one must repent before one is saved They recognize the consequence of their "salvation by faith only" position, i.e., if one is saved the moment he believes, he would be saved without repentance. In order to escape this consequence, the order of faith and repentance is reversed. It is argued that one must repent before he believes. It is argued, therefore, that the order is repentance then faith.

I fail to see how this order helps the advocates of "faith only," for repentance is something in addition to faith. Since one must repent, salvation could not possibly be "solely by faith," since "solely" is an adverb and means "alone" or "singly." Faith only excludes everything else, so the matter of reversing the order of faith and repentance does not eliminate the problem. To argue that repentance and faith are inseparable only poses greater problems. The fact that Peter commanded repentance in Acts 2, bus said nothing of faith since these already believed (Acts 2:37), points out that faith and repentance can be separated, and what about the statements in the New Testament where people believed but refused to confess? If faith and repentance are inseparable, then these were saved in this state. Pshaw!

The order of repentance and faith, or repentance before one believes is a psychological impossibility. Repentance involves the change of one's mind toward sin (with the exception of Luke 17:3-4) and always includes a change for the better (Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, Vol. III, pp. 280-281). It is produced by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), which includes a full and complete recognition of the truth of the story of the cross. One cannot possibly turn to God with "unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy" (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, Article No. 8) without accepting Jesus as Savior, as Prophet, as Priest, and King. There is no access to God except thru Jesus (Jn. 10:1; 14:16). Since one cannot please God without faith (Heb. 11:6), and this faith involves Jesus as the one in whom God reconciles the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19), one could not possibly turn to God in repentance without faith. The fact that +he individual must have faith before he repents is clearly demonstrated in Acts 2. After preaching the gospel, Peter commanded his audience to "know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). They believed, for they were "pricked in their hearts" (v. 37). Then they were told to repent! Look at the order: Believe, repent, and be baptized (Acts 2:36-38). It is impossible to repent of sins without first believing that sins have been committed against God and that remission thereof comes through Jesus.

When The Two Are Mentioned Together, Repentance Appears First

It is stated in rebuttal to the truth presented above, that in some passages repentance precedes faith. For example: "repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mk. 1:15; Matt. 32). The reference to these verses assumes that they apply these to the alien sinner, when in fact, to make such an application perverts these scriptures. Look at the context of Mark 1:15; "Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (v. 14). This took place under the law of Moses before the Lord's death. In Matthew's account, it was John the Baptist who also taught "repentance, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand" (Mt. 3:1-3).

To whom was John speaking? To Jews, some of whom were Pharisees and Sadducees who thought to say within themselves, "We have Abraham for our father" (Mt. 3:9). These it must be remembered were God's children under the law of Moses. As such, they were believers in God, though they had perverted worship to God and transgressed the law. These were hypocrites and as such, needed to repent! They also needed to believe the glad tidings of the nearly approaching reign of Christ. The kingdom had not been established; it is no wonder that they were told to repent and believe. They were to repent of their sins under the law, and to believe in the Messiah. We cannot apply these verses to aliens today, for the kingdom and Christ have appeared.


The sum total of commands with reference to the plan of salvation of these: The gospel must be preached for it is the power of God unto salvation (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16). Faith is the direct result of instruction in God's word (Jn. 6:44,45; Rom. 10:17). Faith leads to repentance (Acts 2:36-38). When one has repented of his sins and confessed his faith in Jesus (Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:10), he is then baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:1-6). This makes one a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27).

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Author: jfm

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