Immediately before His death, Christ declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). This brief statement was Christ’s declaration of victory. By His death He accomplished all that was necessary for humanity’s salvation. The demands of God’s justice against us were satisfied, and His wrath was appeased. God is both just and the justifier of wicked people (Romans 3:26). On the cross of Christ, “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psalm 85:10). Now, pardon and justification are available to all through faith in the person and work of Christ.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 5:1; 8:1)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Having considered God’s work on behalf of sinful humanity, we must now ask how we are to respond in order to benefit from such a great salvation, or, what must we do to be saved? The Bible demands two things of all men: (1) that they repent of their sins, and (2) that they trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ:
[Jesus Christ said], “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
[The apostle Paul was] “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 11:18) and a work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s heart that results in a change of mind (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 9). This may seem superficial until we understand that the heart refers to the control center of our intellect, will, and emotions. For this reason, a change of mind will always be proven genuine by real changes in our attitudes and conduct.
A wonderful example of repentance is found in the life of Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as the apostle Paul. In his ignorance and unbelief, he thought that Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than an impostor and a blasphemer and that all who followed Him were the enemies of God and worthy of death (Acts 9:1–2; 1 Timothy 1:13).
On his way to Damascus, however, Saul was confronted by the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:3–8) and discovered that he had been wrong about Him. He had thought that Jesus was a blasphemer, only to discover that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and the Savior of the world. He had thought that righteousness was earned through obedience to the law, only to discover that there was nothing good in him (Romans 7:18) and that salvation was a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).
He had thought that the disciples of Jesus were the enemies of Israel and unfit to live (Acts 8:1), only to discover that he was persecuting the true Israel (Gala-tians 6:16) and putting to death the sons and daughters of the living God (Romans 8:14–15).
Through one encounter with Christ Jesus, Saul of Tarsus, the proud and self-righteous Pharisee of Pharisees, was proven wrong. He repented and immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:18–22). The news spread throughout all the churches of Judea that “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:22–23). Paul’s change of mind led to a change in everything else!
Changes in Our Thinking.
Repentance involves a change of mind leading to a recognition that what God says is true and that we have been wrong.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:3–4)
And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” (Daniel 9:4–5)
Changes in Our Emotions.
A genuine recognition of our sinfulness and guilt will also lead to genuine sorrow, shame, and even hatred for what we have become and done. We begin to disdain, with a deep sense of shame and remorse, the sin we once loved.
And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. (Ezekiel 20:43)
Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, Because I bore the reproach of my youth. (Jeremiah 31:19)
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15, 24)
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sor-row led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. (2 Corin thians 7:9)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
Changes in Our Actions.
Our claim to think differently and our expressed emotions against sin are not in themselves definite evidence of genuine repentance. True repentance will also be accompanied by a change of the will that produces right actions—especially, a turning away from sin and a turning to God in obedience.
Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance. (Matthew 3:8)
They should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repen-tance. (Acts 26:20)
For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10)