Chapter 7 – The Repentance of Faith

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

This beginning of the preaching of the Lord Jesus contains the summary of the will of God for our salvation. Repent ye and believe. W hat God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Without repentance no real faith, without faith no true repentance.

Without repentance no real faith. The entire design of God in the mission of Christ, the great aim for which the salvation of faith has been given to us, is to win the heart back from sin, and to make it free from sin. A real desire for this salvation can thus never arise in the heart that is not also prepared to be loosed from sin, and to abandon it. Faith is a surrender of the soul to God: this is an impossibility where it still continues to give itself to sin. Faith is an appropriation and a reception into the heart of the grace of God: it is an absurdity to suppose that this should take place without a contemporaneous repentance, an abandonment and casting out of sin.

Without faith also no true repentance. Repentance is not only a turning away from sin, which of itself would tend to self-righteousness, but a turning back to God, and this can take place only through faith. Repentance is not a work of one’s own power, but a consenting, a cooperation with God’s plan, in God’s strength, a trustful surrender to the redeeming grace of God. And this can be done only through faith. Repentance is not an actual victory over sin, but the soul has to bring every sin to the feet of the Lord Jesus, the great victor over sin, that He may take it away; and this cannot find place, except by the faith which has acknowledged that He is faithful to forgive sin, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

Thus the power of repentance is faith: for the more we trust that Jesus makes us free from sin, the stronger are we to turn away from it. And the power of faith, on the other hand, is also repentance: for the more eager to become freed from sin it causes us to be, the more are we shut up to faith. “Repent ye and believe”: he that observes and holds fast both shall be saved.

Nor is it only at the beginning of the way, but on to the very end that these two must accompany one another. No sooner is faith cultivated in a one-sided fashion, without a growing conscientiousness in the casting off of little sins, and the sanctification of the whole heart and walk, than it becomes a work merely of the understanding or the feeling. And as soon as continued repentance occupies itself with the furtherance of sanctification, without daily holding fast and increasing a living faith by the promise of God’s grace, such a repentance will also lose its worth.

“Repent ye and believe.” See here what Jesus calls us to. Every wish and endeavor after repentance, every remembrance of the sin which is in you, and of which you would be free, must be a summons to faith in that Jesus who is exalted to bestow repentance. Combat every sin, and make renunciation of it at His feet with faith fixed on Him. And let every thought of faith on the other hand be an encouragement to fight more bravely against sin, until at length your whole soul shall be filled with the faith of which it is written: “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith.” So shall repentance and faith in due time become entirely one, and the out-going of the soul to Jesus shall be a departurefrom sin: the enjoyment by faith of the light of His love, shall of itself drive away the darkness. Then shall believing and working no longer be considered as antagonistic, but the soul shall know that a continually renewed faith is the fruit of sanctification, for it carries it on in the strength of Jesus, and continued repentance then gives to faith courage to persevere, experience which it can plead, and the certitude of a full assurance. Soul, why do you not believe? O, pray let it not be because you will not repent. It should not be that you are not willing to make a renunciation of sin. And let it not be that you would first repent and then later on believe. No: let both go together from this moment onwards: “Repent ye and believe.”