Turn Because You’re Forgiven[This article is part of the Turntables series]
God is so complex, and people are complex. It’s makes sense to me why there’s different views of soteriology. There are many moving pieces and different situations involved. I don’t claim to have a perfect theology, nor complete understanding of the process (order) in which God saves sinners. What is clear to me, however, is that we can only be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Even so, different viewpoints may vary within that very statement, itself.
Though my soteriology has room to take shape, I find it helpful, maybe even educational, to think aloud the way I understand God to save sinners. Repentance is an absolute requirement for every person to be pardoned of sin. I see it as God’s work within us. In fact, I don’t think that we have the ability to turn from sin to God, apart from God’s help. Apart from God we can do nothing (John 15:5). However, repentance is required. In this article, I hope to explain the way I see repentance fitting into our salvation and our everyday life.
We all know the great Ephesians 2:8-10 passage. It is a foundational statement of truth that speaks directly to soteriology that we have to look at.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
I could read this 99 times over. It never gets old. Isn’t it great? We are blessed to have such direct access to knowing the truth of Scripture. This is one passage I am so grateful to memorize. I’d like to point out that salvation is not a result of works.
Repentance, as we have previously discussed, is the act of turning around. It’s like to change your mind, change your ways, change your works. It’s about turning away from your sin, towards Christ. What may take up most of the discussion here is the fact that I am hesitant to say that we are saved after we repent, because to some this communicates that unless you accomplish being repentant God will not save you, as if it were a type of good work. This would be inconsistent with how I view regeneration.
In order to help communicate what I mean, it will be helpful, I think, to point out something. I see repentance in two places within Ephesians 2:8-10. I’ll do my best to describe the way I understand God to save sinners. This may deal with semantics, but one of the places I see repentance is in through faith.
To be saved by grace through faith means that you are placing your trust in Jesus Christ instead of another source. There is a turning from a former object of faith onto the person, Jesus Christ. This is how some (like myself) view repentance. It is through faith that justification is granted to the believer. However, I would not be able to turn to Christ if God had not regenerated me. So, salvation is not a result of works.
Repentance is seen as a means by which God saves us. I wouldn’t argue against that. I would submit that through faith and repentance are the same thing in this context. This is an instantaneous, one-time event, where the believer is sealed by promise (cf. Ephesians 1:13). Placing your faith onto Jesus is one way to understand repentance. This is how I understand why repentance is required of every person in order to be saved.
The second place that I see repentance in Ephesians 2:8-10 is within the latter part of the passage—in verse ten. We are created for good works. We are not saved by good works, but for good works. As we walk the Christian life there is an ongoing repentance that takes place. In this sense, repentance is not a one-time event. The direction of our life is towards Christ. It’s all about pressing on towards Christ, and working out your salvation with fear and trembling. All the while, salvation is not a result of works.
Thus, I must clarify—in its general sense, repentance is both, within the means of our justification (believing through faith), and it follows as part of our everyday life as a sealed, born-again believer. The title of this article is directed more towards turning as part of our everyday life. Turn because you’re forgiven, and salvation is not a result of works.
Getting above the ground a bit, we should repent, not necessarily to earn favor with God; we already have favor with God in Christ! Our obedience to God does not help us earn an identity in Christ; our identity in Christ helps us obey. Don’t you see that salvation is completely a gift? Read Ephesians 2:8-10 over as many times as it takes to see that it’s free. It’s a gift, and you cannot earn it. Period.
We were dead in our trespasses. Since God has made us alive, and empowers us with the Holy Spirit, we should repent. You will never regret following God’s statues and instruction. They lead to life! You will always regret disobeying, but will never regret doing what pleases God. May our obedience, however, be done from a heart that expects to earn no more favor with God by our efforts. We’ve been saved to obey him. We’ve been saved for good works.
This series has already included many thoughts regarding repentance. I hope this article adds significant encouragement to the discussion thus far. It’s my belief that repentance is required of every believer. It can be viewed as part of our faith in Christ to receive justification, and it is part of our everyday life as a new child adopted into God’s family. I invite you to share your thoughts, join the discussion, and continue reading the Turntables series.
View another Turntables article here.