Faith and Repentance

Edited from Bob L. Ross’ book Campbellism- Its History and Heresies

The Church of Christ gospel plan is to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be (water) baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Here it is reasoned that if one will simply accomplish these “5 steps,” the believer will thereby save himself.

Notice that this plan places faith before repentance.

To those in the Churches of Christ, this is common sense because it is believed that ‘one must believe before he can repent.’ This view arises from their understanding of both “faith” and “repentance.”

“Faith” in the Churches of Christ is understood as ‘intellectual assent” or accepting the facts of the Christian faith. To them it is believing God’s historical testimony about Himself, Jesus Christ, and that of the rest of the Bible.

Repentance on the other hand is understood as moral self-reformation.

In regards to faith, those in the Churches of Christ often fail to understand that there is a deeper, more substantive aspect of faith which is believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life, and most cannot distinguish between mere intellectual belief or assent from a personal faith that is trusting or resting on Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Here, they will cite that “even the devils believe” (from James 2:19) in their sermons and will contend that even the "faith of devils" is the same as any other faith except that the faith of devils lacks any moral or religious good works.

Thus, their understanding gives rise to their reversal of the scriptural order of repentance and faith, and yet as we will find, there is not a single scripture in the New Testament to support their view.

To the contrary, when we consider this in light of the Scriptures, we find repentance actually preceding Faith:

“…you did not repent and believe him.” Matt. 21:32

“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

“…repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21

“…repent and turn to God.” Acts 26:20

“…not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” Heb. 6:1

These verses should make it clear that repentance actually precedes faith.

So why is this important?

This is significant because when Church of Christ members read passages like Acts 2:38 and “Repent and let each one of you be baptized,” they assume that the passage teaches that if you want to be saved, what you must do is make the commitment not to sin anymore (i.e. repent or "self-reformantion") and then get yourself baptized in water.

However, the word Repentance literally means “a change of mind.”

The word for Repent is “metanoia” and it’s actually two Greek words put together, “meta” meaning after, “noia” means mind or thought.

It literally means “an after-thought”, "post-thought", or “a change of mind.”

The word was used that if you said one thing, “I think I’m going to go do this…” and then changed your mind, “No, I’m not” –then you have repented.

In Acts chapter 2, Peter just has been telling them about Jesus, whom they thought was just a carpenter, or teacher from Nazareth. He says, “No, Jesus is Messiah, He is the God-Man who came doing the miracles, whom YOU put to death, Whom God raised up, He is both Lord and Christ…”

So when Peter says to “Repent,” he was not merely talking about "self-reformation", but was telling the people to change their minds about Jesus Christ. They saw Him as a teacher or Rabbi from Nazareth. But Peter was saying, 'You have got to see Him as Lord, you've got to see Him as Messiah, you have got to repent (i.e. change your mind) about Jesus Christ.'

The bottom line is, this whole idea of repentance is that we see Jesus Christ as the Messiah, to trust Him as our Savior. And when you believe in Him there will be the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And BTW, everyone one of us who put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, changed our minds, we all repented.

Whatever else we were trusting in before we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we changed our minds about when we realized that Jesus Christ is the only way, that He is the Savior, and that He is the only One who will take us to heaven.

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