In Romans and other Pauline epistles, repentance is a fruit of God’s grace rather than its cause. For example, we find in Romans 2:4:
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Paul also makes clear at 2 Timothy 2:24 that it is God who grants repentance:
God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (See also Acts 11:18.)
We are justified by faith alone.
Scripture clearly addresses repentance, but not in Romans 3-8, Ephesians 1-2, and Galatians 2-5, where Paul writes about saving faith and justification. Our justification—an act of God where he declares us righteous—is all about faith (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:8-14, for example).
Justification is an act of God who counts (declares) a person righteous, only because of what Christ Jesus has done (Rom. 4:21-5:1). Our works, or even our repentance, do not cause God to justify us; God justifies a person by grace alone because of Christ alone through faith alone—our faith is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8-9).
Now, what about James 2:24? Some object to justification by faith alone. For help on understanding this passage, please consider reading: “Works in the Book of James—’Fruits and Evidences of a True and Lively Faith.'”
True faith is grounded in Christ’s work alone, not in anything we do. Yet, let me be clear: there is no pardon of sins without repentance (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30). Repentance proceeds from faith; it does not precede faith. The cause of our pardon is Christ through faith. If repentance preceded faith, then our work of repentance would seem to be part of the ground for God to pardon us, which Scripture doesn’t teach. Read More»
Daniel Rowlands | “Faith or Repentance—Which Comes First?” | January 4, 2023
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Regarding our sins, how much repentance: how soon, how successful, how consistent, how broad, how deep, how lasting … especially, how lasting! To talk about the inevitability of it, without saying anything about these things, is only to produce anxiety about whether people really have it. (Lk 17:4). To say it comes from faith is one thing. To say it inevitably comes from faith, and be silent about its quantity and quality, is to invite us to rely on the measurement of it, not on Christ, I would think.
Either repentance exists or it doesn’t. It’s a binary question (off/on). Scripture says relatively little about the quality of our repentance and that is for good reason. The object of our faith is Christ and his righteousness (merits) for us and our righteousness with God is Christ’s meritorious obedience for us, which is imputed to us. Repentance is a fruit of faith, like any other fruit. There is no “enough” or “not enough.” All that matters is “is.” By grace, fruit grows. By grace repentance deepens.
What produces anxiety is to talk about quality and quantity. That sort of subjectivism is assurance-killing.