Repentance and Assurance

I have often seen Christians doubt their salvation because of concerns over whether they have sufficiently repented of their sins. Their mindset is something like this: “I’m told I must repent to be saved, but I keep sinning, therefore I must not be saved.” This mindset, however, generally misunderstands the nature of Biblical repentance and so brings doubt of salvation when assurance is warranted.

One theological dictionary gives its top two definitions of repent as “to change one’s mind” and “to change one’s mind for the better.” More thoroughly, Gordon Clark explains, “It is true that repentance should produce certain external acts. Undoubtedly we should bring forth fruits meet or suitable to repentance. Sometimes restitution is required; sometimes it is impossible; for although we can restore stolen goods, we cannot restore a reputation damaged by malicious gossip. But even when possible the more important thing is not the external act; the important thing is the state of mind from which the act springs.”

Though a Christian has changed his mind, he, like Paul, must admit “I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Assurance of salvation fortunately is not dependent upon personal sinlessness, but upon the Biblical promises associated with faith in Jesus Christ. You can only believe in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you. Since the Holy Spirit works only in those whom God has elected to salvation, if you believe in Jesus Christ you are to be assured of your salvation. And if you believe in Jesus Christ you have repented from disbelief; you have changed your mind. Repentance is not something that must be added to faith, but is integral to faith. One cannot believe in the truth unless he has turned away from error. While Jesus says in Mark 1:15 “repent and believe in the gospel” it is clear that one action is here in view, not two separate actions. In order to believe one must repent; and when one properly repents he of necessity believes. Thus it is sufficient to simply say, as the Scriptures do, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Let all who believe in Jesus Christ be assured of salvation in Him by God’s grace.