For many of us, that’s a rather nasty little word. It conjures images of fire-and-brimstone preachers holding their thick, black Bibles over their heads with one hand while pointing the other menacingly at the shell-shocked crowd and yelling:
“Repent, ye depraved sinners bound for the depths of hell. Repent before the fires of heaven consume the earth. Repent if ye can. Because the Dread Pirate Roberts is here for your souls.”
Wait, I may have gotten a little Princess Bride mixed in there at the end. But you get the point. Repent rarely gets good reviews.
But the biblical authors don’t seem bothered by it at all. Actually, they seem to like it. Jesus, Peter, and Paul, all identify repentance as one of the fundamental ways in which we should respond to the gospel (e.g. Mt. 4:17; Acts 3:19; Rom 2:4). All of them seem to think that we need to repent before we can enter the Kingdom.
But wait. Doesn’t that cause a bit of a problem. We often tell people that the good news of the gospel means that they don’t need to do anything to earn salvation. We make a pretty big deal out of that point: salvation by grace means no required works before salvation. If we require repentance before salvation, then, aren’t we breaking our own rules? If you have to do something before God will save you, then it seems like some kind of legalism has slipped in through the back door (or maybe the front door!).
This is the beginning of my latest post over at the Transformed blog. You can read the rest there.