And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Act 20:18-21 ESV)
1) Preliminary questions
Are both faith and repentance really crucial to being saved? Do we need both (faith and repentance) to be saved? Does God require both universally? Do all men need both to repent and believe? Are faith and repentance inseparable? Can we have one of them without the other? Assuming that we cannot, is it possible that repentance and faith are just two names for the same thing and not two things at all?
a) They are both crucial – Paul solemnly “testified” or warned or urged earnestly (see, Luke 16:28; Acts 2:40; 20:23,24; Heb. 6:1)
Paul testified solemnly – the meaning of the words make both crucial: a solemn warning, witness, he admonished them in these words. We can also say that earnestly spoke, or tell strongly, strongly urge, insist, declare emphatically, charge under solemn oath, warn. The use of these word twice in the passage make them crucial (see. 23-24). Parallel passages like Mark 1:15; Acts 19:4; Heb. 6:1 make them both very crucial. We see that both are crucial because the Lord Himself preached the same – Mark 1:15. John the Baptist also preached the same. Both are crucial because they are elementary or basic foundation of the Christian faith – Heb. 6:1. You notice that sometimes each is required for salvation – see Acts 2:37-38 (repentance) Acts 16:30-31 (believe)
b) They are both universal – “both to Jews and Greeks” meaning all people without exception, universally (see, Acts 17:30, 34; 26:18-20)
In this passage we see that faith and repentance are required of both Jews and Greeks. If you would be saved, you are expected to trust Jesus Christ enough and commit all your sins to Him. This is what Apostle Paul, the Messenger of Christ preached when he preached to paganic Athenians – he said in Acts 17:30-34, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
Later on Paul before King Aggripa described his work as preaching both to those in Damascus first, also Jerusalem and then throughout all the regions of Judea and even to the Gentiles (Acts 26:18-20)
c) They are both inseparable – they are mentioned together, “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” as are stated together for they are inseparable grace (see, Acts 11:17-18)
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." We use the illustration that they are two sides of the same coin so show that they are inseparable as the requirement of the gospel or the responsibility pressed upon man for their salvation.
d) They are distinguishable – “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” While repentance is toward God faith is in our Lord Jesus Christ! The object of each is different.
Faith and repentance are not the same thing they are not synonymous because this passages presents them in a manner that differentiates them. Each goes in a different direction, ‘eis’ meaning toward or into, (it is the same preposition) in Greek for both means that while faith is toward Christ, repentance is toward God.
2) What is faith?
By this faith a Christian believes to be true whatever is revealed in the Word because this Word has the authority of God Himself. Also, by this saving faith, a Christian apprehends an excellency in the Word which is higher than in all other writings and everything else in the world, because the Word shows forth the glory of God, revealing His attributes, showing the excellency of Christ's nature and offices, and also the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in His workings and operations. - So the Christian is enabled to cast his soul upon the Truth he has believed, and to see and respond to the different kinds of teaching which different passages of Scripture contain. Saving faith equips him to perceive and obey the commands, hear the threatenings with fear and respect, and to embrace the promises of God for this life and the life to come. But the first and most important acts of saving faith are those directly to do with Christ, when the soul accepts, receives, and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Chapter 14:2
Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. Faith just like an arrow has its quiver (origin), its arrowhead (object), its shaft (nature), its feathers (instrumentality) & the target (double goal – the glory of God in Christ & assurance of salvation to the believer).
a) The origin of faith – The Sovereign grace of God grants or gives faith (Acts 15:9; Eph. 2:8. Phil. 1:29)
Where does faith come from? No sinner can ever believe except be gifted by the sovereign hand of God with faith. Jesus said, that no one can come to Him except the Father draws him (John 6:44). I want to point out to you that faith and new life are inseparable – as soon as you get the new life by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit you believe and repent. Otherwise, how can one who is dead in sins and trespasses believe except that he is made alive? Look at this in Eph. 2-10. Verse 8 explicitly says that faith is the gift of God - not of man so that room for fleshly boasting is removed. This means that a desire to believe in Christ is only an activity on God’s part in a sinner.
b) The object of faith – the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:21; Rom. 4:5; 2Cor. 5:18-21)
c) The nature of faith – conviction of the truths of the gospel and commitment to the Christ of the gospel (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4; Heb. 11:1; 2Tim 1:12; Luke 24:25
d) The instrumentality of faith – trust or reliance on Christ (Rom. 1:16,17; 10:9; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8)
e) The intended goal of faith – glory of God & Assurance of salvation (Rom. 10:9, 10; Jam. 1:6; John 6:37)
All other world religions, being man-centred rejects the idea of faith alone for the justification of people unto eternal life. Instead they insist that human effort has to be exerted to secure salvation. But this is the difference between Christianity and Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism and all other world religions. We understand the depravity of man is total, absolute and complete so that if we were to have any demands on people, they can’t do anything that can bring them any spiritual God before an infinitely holy God. Man is dead in sin, blind to all righteousness, man is completely controlled and subjugated by the power of sin until when Christ comes into his life and so to make any spiritual demand for him to do anything for salvation is to ask too much. Therefore, faith is not work. Faith is trusting in Christ to do it for you – for by His life on earth He secured righteousness that is well pleasing to the Father. Moreover by His sin atoning death on the cross, He has fully paid the debt and penalty of sin that was due to you, for He took our place. His death was penal substitutionary, meaning that He took the death that was due to us and was fully accepted by the Father and this was confirmed by His resurrection from the death.
Putting your faith in Christ means that you utterly renounce any hope of being counted as righteous before God upon any other merit. Do you sometime find yourselves trusting in your own ‘good works’? Faith is admitting that such works, though they may appear to you to be ‘good’ are as filthy rags before the infinitely holy God. Faith is turning to Jesus, without any reservations, with fully confidence that He can and will give you eternal life. This is not optional – all who will have eternal life have to come to Christ alone in faith alone for their salvation.
3) What is repentance?
Saving repentance is an evangelical grace by which a person who is made to feel, by the Holy Spirit, the manifold evils of his sin, and being given faith in Christ, humbles himself over his sin with godly sorrow, detestation of his sin and self-abhorrency. In such repentance the person also prays for pardon and strength of grace, and has a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit's power, to walk before God and to totally please Him in all things. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Chapter 15:3
Repentance like a tree has its roots, stem & branches, leaves and bears fruits when in a specific soil!
The Soil is God’s sovereign grace & mercy (Acts 5:31; 11:18; Romans 8:30; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:25).
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Act 5:31) When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." (Act 11:18)
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Rom 8:30) which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
(2Ti 1:12)…correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (2Ti 2:25)
Root – Two roots
(1) True sense of sin,
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. (2Co 7:8-11)
(2) Apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ
and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luk 24:47)
Stem & branches – Matt. 3:8 (heart & mind that have turned around)
Leaves – Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38; 10:48 (baptism of repentance)
Fruits – Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20 (holiness/godly living)
1) Do you have personal faith in Christ? Then do you remember ever being troubled by the load and the awfulness of your sins that you sincerely took the burden to Christ for forgiveness? Have you ever seriously repented of all your sins personally? If yes, then you have trusted Christ for who He is – the Saviour of sinners. But if not what makes you hesitate, and procrastinate? Why can’t you tonight?
2) What faith do you have? Is it a true faith or fake, temporal or spurious faith? Truth faith is lasting while false faith is often temporary – it does not last one’s lifetime. True faith is fruitful, while false faith is dead. True faith has a universal regard for everything Christ has said in His Word, while false faith is selectively selects what to believe from the Bible and what to leave out. True and genuine faith is of the heart while false faith is at its best intellectual and its worst only a lip-service. This means that you can indeed and certainly know what faith you have if you will be honest with yourself because the difference between the counterfeit faith and genuine faith is a like heaven and earth.
3) Do you remember making a genuine personal (whether private or not) repentance? Remember that repentance is not something that a preacher can do for you – and if you are a preacher of the gospel. You must never call people forward and require them to repeat a prayer from you. I have been to meetings where preachers, having preached, tell their hearers something like this: “Now that you have heard the gospel, you see the need to be saved – with all eyes closed… lift up your hand … come forward… repeat this prayer after me… ‘Lord Jesus, I now know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me my sins… delete my name in the book of death and write it in the book of life… Now I am saved thank you Jesus.’ … Now you are saved – you are a Christian and do not doubt it. Look for a Bible preaching and Bible-believing church and be baptized and live a holy life… in Jesus’ Name! This is not a genuine repentance and the faith is not a true faith and the assurance given is a false assurance. The convert is not a Christian because faith does not come that way. Repentance has to be very personal originating from God, motivated by the holiness of God, the awfulness of sin and the grace of God and powered by the Holy Spirit. Every genuine repentance has a genuine faith in it and vice-virsa.
4) Faith and repentance continue throughout the life of a believer. While the two mark the beginning of spiritual life of a person, they also mark its continuity because they are attitudes of a converted heart that keep an abhorrence of sin as to denounce and renounce it again and again – turning from sin continually and even more as the knowledge of God’s law increases. The difference between an unconverted and a converted person is not that one sins and the other doesn’t but that the former is undisturbed by his sins – in fact he loves his sins and the latter takes his hated sins to Christ so that He is reconciled with God and keeps on pressing his sins harder towards the cross of Christ while he walks towards the infinitely holy God. This is not something that stops – it carries on aided by the Holy Spirit so that in the last day we are found to be without spot or blemish before Christ! It is only a Christian who keeps on trusting on Christ even in the midst of troubles life suffering. Clearly, the life we live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and give His life for us (See. Gal. 2:20).
5) What will you say to the infinitely holy and righteous God on the Last Day? What do you think will convince God to acquit you and allow you into His glorious presence? What good deeds, what righteous thoughts, desires and attitude will you seek to present to God to impress Him as to account you eternal blessedness? Will you pull out your knowledge of the Bible, or will present your church attendance and membership. I suppose you may think that your Christian service will work? May be your righteousness – you will say that you did not kill anyone, neither did you commit adultery and such like heinous sins. Unless you draw to God singing – nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling, naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace, save me Saviour or else I die … in other words faith in Christ alone. A Christian will stand on that great day clothed in the righteousness of Christ – Yes… Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness…My beauty are Thy glorious dress; midst flaming worlds in these arrayed with joy shall I lift up my head… Bold shall I stand on that great day, For who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully absolved through this I am, from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.