Truth 2: Every believer comes into this position as an act of the grace of God when the believer repents of His ungodly views of himself, his righteousness, his sin, and the person and work of Christ, and turns to trust only in the finished work of Christ in the gospel.
We have seen already, that we are not saved by keeping the law or by doing some good deed to merit a righteous standing before God. We are justified and saved from the wrath of God in Christ by grace alone and on the basis of the work of Christ, and His imputed righteousness. The follow-up question ought to be, then what unites a person to Christ? Or to put it another way, what must a person do in order to be saved. I will answer the question with our second non-negotiable Bible truth that is true of every believer. Every believer comes into this position as an act of the grace of God when the believer repents of His ungodly views of himself, his righteousness, his sin, and the person and work of Christ, and turns to trust only in the finished work of Christ in the gospel. Paul answered the question this way in Acts 17:30. He said “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” Acts 20:21 I have testified “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter put it this way in Acts 3:19: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” And Jesus put it this way in Matthew 4:17 “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Luke 13:3 “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Did Christ and apostle say here are the Ten Commandments, follow them and you will live? The answer is no. They said repentant and believe the gospel. Why did Christ and the apostles emphasize repentance and faith? They emphasized these two aspects of our response to the gospel, because that humble repentant dependence upon the person and work of Christ is the only thing that will bring conversion and union with Christ. Repentance is essential to our response to the gospel, because of our condition as natural men. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” No person is by nature a believer. His mind is clouded by sin. Everything that he sees in that condition is affected by his fallen condition. Unless he is awakened from his stupor, and brought to see the light by the grace of God, he can never and will never embrace the cross of Christ for his redemption. Repentance is that radical change in one’s thinking wrought by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel that changes an arrogant self-righteous person into a humble person looking only to Christ for his redemption and standing before the Lord. Ephesians 2:13-14 Puts it like this: “Ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Notice the order. You trusted after you heard the gospel, and then after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. There can never be faith without the proclaiming of the gospel, and one’s response of repentance toward God and faith in Christ is the critical response that unites us to Christ and the benefits of the gospel. I can think of no passage that more clearly expounds the practical elements of repentance and faith than Paul’s personal testimony in Philippians 3:4-9. He writes: I was “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Paul in beauty and clarity articulates the two critical aspects to his faith. He had a radical change in his disposition toward God, righteousness, and self. He turned from his former confidence in self and embraced the righteousness of Christ in the gospel. He viewed his religious credentials as rubbish, to embrace the perfection of Christ’s righteousness. This is what repentance, faith, and conversion look like in a practical world. As we read 1 John 3:7-15, let us not loose sight of this second non-negotiable truth. Every believer comes into this position as an act of the grace of God when the believer repents of His ungodly views of himself, his righteousness, his sin, and the person and work of Christ, and turns to trust only in the finished work of Christ in the gospel.