Quotes on Repentance

John Calvin

"Even though we have taught in part how faith possesses Christ, and how through it we enjoy his benefits, this would still remain obscure if we did not add an explanation of the effects we feel. With good reason, the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins [Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31]. Any discussion of faith, therefore, that omitted these two topics would be barren and mutilated and well-nigh useless. Now, both repentance and forgiveness of sins - that is, newness of life and free reconciliation - are conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith. As a consequence, reason and the order of teaching demand that I begin to discuss both at this point. However, our immediate transition will be from faith to repentance. For when this topic is rightly understood it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone, and simple pardon; nevertheless actual holiness of life, so to speak, is not separated from free imputation of righteousness. Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered through the preaching of the gospel in order that the sinner, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of vices, may cross over into the Kingom of God, surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance. There are some, however, who suppose that repentance precedes faith, rather than flows from it, or is produced by it as fruit from a tree. Such persons have never known the power of repentance, and are moved to feel this way by an unduly slight argument." -- John Calvin, Instutues III:III:1 (Battles translation)

He goes on to discuss, at length, this "unduly slight argument" and its refutation. If you are interested, I would definitely encourage you to procure a copy of Calvin's Institutes so you can read on.

Arthur W. Pink

Arthur Pink is considered by many to be within the camp of Calvinism. I have quoted so extensively from Pink to show that his views on the subject appear, so far as I can understand them, to be somewhat different from those of John Calvin. - CAS

"One of the divinely predicted characteristics of the 'perilous times' in which we are now living is that 'evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived' (II Tim. 3:13). The deeper reference of these words is to seducers and deceivers. Men with captivating personalities, men who occupy prominent places in Christendom, men with an apparently deep reverence for Holy Writ, are beguiling souls with fatal error. Not only are evolutionists, higher critics, and modernists deluding multitudes of our young people with their sugar-coated lies, but some who pose as the champions of orthodoxy and boast of their ability to 'rightly divide the Word of Truth,' are poisoning the minds of many to their eternal destruction.

"Such a charge as we have just made is indeed a serious one, and one which is not to be readily received without proof. But proof is easily furnished. The Word of God teaches plainly that in this dispensation, equally with preceding ones, God requires a sincere and deep repentance before He pardons any sinner. Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation, just as necessary as is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:3). 'Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life' (Acts 11:18). 'For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of' (II Cor. 7:10). It is impossible to frame language more explicit than that. Therefore, in view of these verses and others yet to be quoted we cannot but sorrowfully regard those who are now affirming that repentance is not, in this dispensation, essential unto salvation, as being deceivers of souls, blind leaders of the blind." -- The Doctrine of Salvation, p. 45.

"Weigh well what is now being presented if you value your soul, dear friend. The 'deceitfulness of sin' (Heb. 3:13) may hitherto have closed your eyes to the terrible condition you are in. If so, are you now willing to be undeceived? Are you willing to really see yourself? Then make no mistake upon this point: never was any sinner pardoned while he was impenitent; and never was a soul truly penitent while insensible of the great evil of sin; and never did a sinner perceive the great evil of sin till he became acquainted with the infinitely great and glorious God against whom he has sinned. You may indeed have been sorry for sin on other accounts - as exposing you to shame before men, as having injured your reputation, or because it has brought down God's chastening hand upon your body or temporal affairs. But if you have never seen the great evil of sin as it is against that God who is infinitely glorious in Himself, then your repentance was not genuine, and God has not pardoned you." -- The Doctrine of Salvation, pp. 49-50.

"Thus, true repentance issues from a realization in the heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of the sinfulness of sin, of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of God and defying His authority. It is therefore a holy horror and hatred of sin, a deep sorrow for it, an acknowledgment of it before God, and a complete heart-forsaking of it. Not until this is done will God pardon us. Whoever will take the trouble to search through the Scriptures on this point, will find that it is plainly and uniformly taught by Moses and the prophets, by Christ and His apostles. Begin with what God demanded on the Day of Atonement: 'whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day,' so far from the sacrifice removing his sins, 'he shall be cut off from among his people'(Lev. 23:29)." -- The Doctrine of Salvation, pp. 50-51.

"The Lord Jesus taught and constantly pressed the same truth. His call was, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mark1:15): the gospel cannot be savingly believed until there is genuine repentance - as the ground must be ploughed before it is capable of receiving the seed, so the heart must be melted ere it will welcome the Lord and Saviour Jesus christ. therefore did He declare, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted' (Matt. 5:4), and announce that He had been sent 'to heal the brokenhearted' (Luke 4:18). He came here to 'call sinners to repentance' (Luke 5:32), and insisted that 'except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:3,5). He illustrated this truth at length in the parable of the prodigal son, who 'came to himself,' repented, left the 'far country,' returned to the Father, and so obtained His forgiveness (Luke 15:17-20).

"When risen from the dead, Christ commissioned His servants 'that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations' (Luke 24:47), and Acts 5:31 tells us that He has been exalted on high to communicate these blessings in the same order, namely, 'to give repentance to [the spiritual] Israel and forgiveness of sins.' Accordingly we find the apostles, who were filled with the Holy Spirit, thus carrying out His command. On the day of Pentecost when many were 'pricked in their hearts' and asked, 'What shall we do?' Peter did not say, Do nothing, but rest upon the finished work of Christ. Instead, he said, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins' (Acts 2:38). Again, in Acts 3:19 we find him saying, 'Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out'!" -- The Doctrine of Salvation, pp. 51-52.

Since I have quoted so extensively from this work, I thought it proper to give the complete bibliographic reference here:

Pink, Arthur W. The Doctrine of Salvation. Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1975.

Lewis Sperry Chafer

"Too often, when it is asserted - as it is here - that repentance is not to be added to belief as a separate requirement for salvation, it is assumed that by so much the claim has been set up that repentance is not necessary to salvation. Therefore, it is as dogmatically stated as language can declare, that repentance is essential to salvation and that none could be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and could not be separated from it. The discussion is restricted at this point to the problem which the salvation of unregenerate persons develops; and it is safe to say that few errors have caused so much hindrance to the salvation of the lost than the practice of demanding of them an anguish of soul before faith in Christ can be exercised. Since such emotions cannot be produced at will, the way of salvation has thus been made impossible for all who do not experience the required anguish." -- Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 373.

Charles H. Spurgeon

The following block quotation is from a sermon entitled "Mistaken Notions About Repentance," found in Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, pp. 88-89. I wanted to quote enough to show that Spurgeon's thoughts on repentance were closer to those of Calvin and Chafer than to those of Pink.

"Still," says one, "repentance must be the ground of our belief. Do I not believe that I am saved because I repent?" Stop! There is a muddle there. What is the ground of my trusting Christ? That is what I mean by believing. I will tell you. My only ground for trusting Christ is this,--that I am told, by God's Word, that he can save sinners, and I believe he can; and that then I am commanded to trust him to save me, and I do it. My warrant for believing is God's Word,--not my sense of sin, or anything in me. How, then, do I know that I am saved? I do know, as I stand before you, that I am a saved man. Why do I know that? Because it is written, "He that believeth on him is not condemned," and I do believe, trust, rely on Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I feel as if I were not saved; but my feelings must go overboard if they come into conflict with the plain declaration of God's Word: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." The ground of a man's belief that he is saved, is not that he repents, but that he has trusted Jesus Christ, who is able to save him, and that God has declared that whosoever trusts Christ is saved.

"Then," says one, "there must be repentance and believing." Yes, I know that; and repentance goes well side by side with believing. If I was asked whether a man repented first, or believed first, I should reply, "Which spoke in a wheel moves first when the wheel starts?" When divine life is given to a man, these two things are sure to come,--repentance and faith; but if anyone should say, "He must repent first before he believes," I should contest that point very strongly; and if, on the other hand, a man should say, "There is such a thing as a belief which is not attended with repentance which will save the soul," I would contest that point with equal ardour. No, they come together as the first marks of the new birth within the soul. This is the practical point which concerns you; no metaphysics of theology need perplex your mind; what you have to do with is God's command, and that command is, as I just reminded you, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." And if thou dost that, thou has repentance in the germ; and that repentance will grow and increase; but thou must take heed not to put thy repentings into the place of Christ. I will say this,--bold and naked as the saying may seem to be,--if you put your repentings into the place of Christ, you make an antichrist of them; and if you trust for salvation to your repentance, or even to your faith, you might as well trust to your sins. Nothing is to be trusted to but the finished work of Jesus Christ upon Calvary's bloody tree; and no feelings, no emotion, no believing, no conversion even, must ever be put into the place of that one eternal Rock of refuge,--the blood and merit of Jesus Christ. Fly thou there, poor soul! Whatever thou art, or art not, fly thou there; cast thy guilty self on Christ, and rest there, for there alone canst thou find salvation. Learn this lesson,--not to trust Christ because you repent, but trust Christ to make you repent;--not to come to Christ because you have a broken heart, but to come to him that he may give you a broken heart;--not to come to him because you are fit to come, but to come to him because you are unfit to come. Your fitness is your unfitness; your qualification is your want of qualification. You are to be nothing, in fact, and to come to Christ as nothing; and when you so come, then will repentance come.

What, then, is the true place of repentance? It is this: I trust Christ, just as I am, to forgive me. I have God's assurance that I am forgiven, seeing that I am trusting Christ. What, then, do I feel? I am forgiven; covered is my transgression; my iniquities are all washed away. O my Saviour, how I love thee! And the next thought is, "O my sins, how I hate you!" This feeling naturally grows out of a sense of divine love. Am I pardoned? Am I fully forgiven? Can I never be cast into hell? Am I indeed a child of God? Then, how could I ever have lived as I once did? Can I ever play the fool after that fashion again? No, my Lord, thy love shall bind me fast, and nail me to the cross of Christ, my Saviour; henceforth, I am dead to sin; I cannot live any longer therein, because thou hast saved me! We do not repent in order to be saved, but we repent because we are saved. We do not loathe sin, and therefore hope to be saved; but, because we are saved, we therefore loathe sin, and turn altogether from it. May the Lord bless these words to the correction of some of the mistakes which are so frequently made!

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