Repentance Comes From Faith

Believers Repent, Unbelievers Do Not

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has a helpful, biblically-based definition of repentance:

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

The Heidelberg Catechism gives a good biblical definition of true faith:

Question 21. What is true faith?

Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

Repentance is turning from sin to obedience. Internally, it is a hatred of sin and a motivation to live in gratitude and love by obeying God’s commands. Externally it is changed conduct. Saving faith is a gift of God in our hearts leading us to trust him alone for our forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation, only because of what Christ has done for us.

So, which comes first—faith or repentance? The answer is faith precedes repentance; it is a fruit of saving faith—not the other way around. A person is reconciled to God (justified) by faith alone, not by faith plus works. Yet, faith without repentance is not saving faith. Let me explain by considering what the Bible teaches. Read more»

Daniel Rowlands | “Faith or Repentance—Which Comes First? | May 10, 2022


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  1. To clarify (in response to a question), The theological issue is not the temporal or chronological order of faith and repentance but the logical order.

    in other words, the question is is it the unregenerate, or unbelieving who repent and believe or is it the regenerate, that is the believing, who repent? The point that Dan is making here is that it is the regenerate, the believing, who repent.

    What we need to do is to distinguish between the order of teaching, e.g., when Scripture says “repent and believe,” from the order of the application of redemption.

  2. Important distinction, and helpful in a number of contexts, one of which is the error of equating faith and obedience.
    The full article on Dan’s site begins with a quote by Murray:
    “The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance.”

    Had it been included, do you think the fuller idea Murray was making also made the point/distinction you are pointing out here in your comment?

    “The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance.”

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