Do I have to repent of my sins to go to heaven?

Do I have to “repent of my sins” to be saved? (receive eternal life)

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 “. . . Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, . . .”  Acts 16:30-31

In over 150 places the Bible presents faith in Christ as the sole condition for receiving salvation.  For example in response to the question “what must I do to saved?” the apostle Paul replied “. . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”  Acts 16:30-31

Often however, people are told that in addition to believing in what Christ did for their sins, that they must also do something about their sins. That is, they must also “repent of their sins” “to be saved.” (By this they mean that a person must “turn from [all] their sins”, or at least be “willing to turn from their sins.” “to be saved.”)  Is this true?, or is this an unbiblical addition to faith in Christ?

What does “repent” in the New Testament mean? The Greek word translated “repent” in the New Testament is the word Metanoeo.  Metanoeo is derived from two Greek words, meta which means after and noeo, which means to think.  “Repent” and its noun form “repentance” in the New Testament Greek mean “to think differently”, or to “change the mind”.  See for example Hebrews 12:17 where Esau was unable to change the mind of his father about his blessing despite seeking it carefully with tears.

“For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”

No set object in the Greek word itself. If someone came up to you and told you “to think differently,” you would probably reply “about what?” There is no set object in the phrase “to think differently”, context has to be provided as to what you are “to think differently” about.  Likewise, the word “repent” in the New Testament has no set object. It does not always refer to sin. What the subject is “to think differently” about can only be determined by carefully studying the context of the passage. Only then can the object of repentance in a particular passage be determined.

 “Turn” a different Greek word. Not only does repent have no set object, the Greek word for ‘turn’ is a completely different word (epistrepho), then the Greek words translated “repent” and “repentance“).

Word meanings change over time. The meaning of words can change over time. This is what has happened with the word “repent”. The King James Translators certainly did not think that the word “repent” necessarily referred to “turning from sin” since they translated many Old Testament passages as God being the one who repented!

Phrase “repent of sins” not found anywhere in the New Testament. Surprising to most people, the phrase “repent of sins” in any form is not found anywhere in the New Testament. This can be verified by a concordance. (At least one recent “translation” tries to add it, but with no support from the Greek).

What about salvation passages?  Most salvation passages do not even use the word “repent”. In the limited number of possible New Testament salvation passages that the word “repent” is found, the object of repentance is never sin. Instead, in these passages the contexts involve thinking differently about Jesus Christ, or what God is like. Compare for example Acts 3:12-19 with Acts 13:16-39. Both of these passages are addressed to “men of Israel” yet only those who had previous wrong thinking about Jesus Christ [they did not believe that he was the Messiah] were told to “repent” (to think differently).   The other “men of Israel” who didn’t have previous wrong thinking about Jesus Christ were only told to “believe” (Acts13:39).  If repent meant to “turn from sin” or “turn from all sins” and was necessary for salvation, then both groups should have been told to “repent.”

Acts 17:30 is a verse from which usually only a small portion is  quoted to try to convince people that they must “turn from all their sins to be saved”. However, a look at the context shows that it is referring to thinking differently about the nature of God. “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent [ to think differently]:”

Luke 13:3 is a verse commonly used to try to teach that a person must “repent of their sins” “to be saved” (even though the words “of your sins” are not found there). Look though at the verses before and after it.

“…Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things” 13:2

“Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 13:4

This passage was addressed to a specific people who had wrong thinking (note the words “Suppose ye” and “think ye”). They thought (wrongly) that people who perished in tragedies were worse sinners than people who did not. Jesus was not telling these people to “repent of their sins,” but instead to think differently (metanoeo) and see themselves as sinners too.

The Gospel of John, the books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. The Gospel of John (the Gospel with the express purpose of leading people to salvation -John 20:31.) uses the word “believe” 98 times, yet does not use the words “repent” or “repentance” even once! Likewise, the book of Galatians (written to defend the gospel of grace) does not use the words “repent” or “repentance” one single time. Neither does the book of Ephesians.The apostle Paul in Chapters 3 to 5 in the book of Romans gives the most detailed theological treatment of salvation by grace. There is no mention of “repenting of sins” or “turning from sins for salvation” in this passage, yet the words “believe” and “faith” are used repeatedly. The books of John, Romans, Galatians and Ephesians are considered to be the books most focused on salvation, yet the Greek word usually translated repent is only found one single time in all these books put together!

Why “repentance of sins” is not involved in salvation by grace. Grace means unmerited favor, or undeserved mercy. It is God saving us where we are at, just as we are, dead in sins.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 2:4-5 [Note the condition we are in when we are saved “dead in sins,”]

The Bible says that salvation is by grace through faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  Salvation by grace is “not of works“. Turning from sin is a work: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. . . ” (Jonah 3:10)., so it turning from sins could not be a part of salvation by grace.

Faith alone in Christ alone. In Over 150 places the Bible presents faith in Christ as the sole condition for receiving salvation. Not only that, but adding “repentance of sins” as a requirement for salvation would actually contradict the passages in Romans and other places that state that salvation is received completely by faith.

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath sent forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, . . . ” Romans 3:22-25

[note: “all them that believe”, not “all them that repent of their sins and believe”]

“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  Acts 10:43

“And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:39.

What Christ did about our sins was sufficient. If we say that we have to do something about our sins to be saved in addition to what Christ did about our sins, then we are saying that what Christ did about our sins was not enough. “The issue in salvation is not what man must do about his sin, but what Christ has already done about man’s sin.” Dr. Charles Bing

 

The Bible the sole authority.

Often times people quote “famous” preachers, religious publications, or confessions, as “proof” that repent means to “turn from sin” and that a person must “repent of their sins” “to be saved.” (These sources assume that the word “repent” always has sin as its object). These sources are neither infallible, nor inspired. The Bible alone must be authority for all doctrinal matters.

 

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ is God and has been eternally. Jesus paid for all of our sins (past, present, and future.) on the cross. He did this for all people (Heb. 2:9) . The issue in salvation is not what we must do about our sins, but what Christ has already done for our sins on the cross.  Believe on him alone for your salvation. Eternal life is a free gift, and you will never perish.

 

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

 

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5

 

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe . . .” Romans 3:22

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” John 6:47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do I have to have good works to go to heaven?

Nope!

Works have nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is only by God’s grace. Grace means unmerited favor. Grace excludes works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

Some people claim that James chapter 2 teaches that works are necessary to enter heaven. “Save” in James 2:14 does not mean “save him from damnation”, but instead “save him” from a harsh believers judgement. (The word “save” in the Bible does not always refer to salvation from hell to heaven.) The passage in James is not talking about salvation by grace: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. James is written to believers who were already eternally justified in Gods sight by grace (Romans 4:1-5).

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:6 King James Version

 

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Heaven QUIZ ?

What do you think is necessary to go to heaven? 

___ 1. Obey God’s laws. Live a righteous life.

___ 2. Repent of your sins, feel sorrow for sins, turn from sins, confess sins.

___ 3. Be purged from your sins after death.

___ 4. Water baptism.

___ 5. Do good works.

___ 6. Confess Christ.

___ 7. Continue in the faith.

___ 8. Faith in Christ and one or more of the above.

___ 9. Faith in Christ alone.

No. 1: Trying to keep God’s laws and commandments cannot save us.  God’s laws (because we have broken them) show us that we are sinners. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. We don’t get to heaven by our own righteousness, but instead by having a perfect righteousness given to us (as a free gift). This righteousness is received when we believe that Lord Jesus Christ made a complete payment for our sins and rose again.

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: . . .”Ro. 3:22

No. 2: Nowhere does the Bible tell us to “repent of our sins” “feel sorrow for sin”, “turn from our sins”, or “confess our sins” to be saved. The Bible says that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and that he saves us as we are. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6-8

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 2:4-5

“The issue in salvation is not what man must do about his sin, but what Christ has already done about man’s sin.” Dr. Charles Bing (see also end note 1)

No. 3: Nowhere does the Bible say that we are purged by suffering for our sins. Jesus by himself purged our sins on the cross. He “by himself purged our sins” Hebrews 1:3 “without shedding of blood is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22  “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  Acts 10:43

 

No. 4: Water baptism does not justify us before God, make us “born again”, nor wash away sins.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1Cor. 1:17-18. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross is what washes us from our sins.

No. 5: Works have nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is only by God’s grace. Grace means unmerited favor. Grace excludes works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:6 (see also end note 2.)

No. 6: People received eternal life at the moment of belief, even those who would not publicly confess Christ (John 12:42). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath [possesses now] everlasting life.” John 6:47  Everlasting life is everlasting, not dependent on behavior. (see also John 3:14-18)

No. 7 and 8: incorrect. You can do nothing to add to the finished work of Christ. To do so is to say that what he did was not enough.

No. 9:  Correct.  Eternal  salvation is given freely by grace and is received by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath sent forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] through faith in his blood, . . . ” Romans 3:22-25              (Notice that these verse says “all them that believe”  not “all them that believe” “and repent of their sins”, “and confess sins” etc.).

The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God, and has been eternally “. . . whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2. He upholds “all things by the word of his power” Heb. 1:3. While remaining by nature God, he also became a man (“of the seed of David”) and lived a sinless life. Jesus paid for all of our sins (past, present, and future) on the cross. He did this for all people (Heb. 2:9).  He bore our sins in his body on the cross (Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 2:24), and was bodily raised (Luke 24:39).

“. . . Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” 1 Cor. 15:3-8

What Jesus Christ did was not just necessary, but fully sufficient. Believe on him alone for your salvation, you will immediately receive the forgiveness of all your sins (past, present, and future), God’s righteousness, the free gift of eternal life, and you will never perish.

“. . . through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, . .” Acts 13:38-39

“. . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians1:7

“. . .having forgiven you all trespasses;” Colossians 2:13

Once you have believed you are eternally justified in God’s sight.“. . . being now justified by his blood,” Romans 5:9  You are a child of God. You have eternal life which is secure, and can never be lost. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John. 10:28 (see also John. 5:24)

End Notes:

1.The Greek word translated “repent” in the New Testament means “to think differently”, or ”change the mind”. The context tells us what “to think differently” about. The word has no set object. It does not always refer to sin, and is a different word than the Greek word for “turn”. The phrase “repent of sins” does NOT occur in the original Greek in any New Testament passage, nor is sin the object of repentance in any salvation passage. (see freely by his grace. com)

  1. Some people claim that James chapter 2 teaches that works are necessary to enter heaven. “Save” in James 2:14 does not mean “save him from damnation”, but instead “save him” from a harsh believers judgement. (The word “save” in the Bible does not always refer to salvation from hell to heaven.) The passage in James is not talking about salvation by grace: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. James is written to believers who were already eternally justified in Gods sight by grace (Romans 4:1-5).

Freely by  grace .com

Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

 

 

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