John, why does the Bible sometimes seem to say different things about the same issue. For instance, sometimes Jesus says repent and other times he says believe.

Also, some passages indicate that salvation results in an obedient life but other passages seem to show that believers can live very ungodly. How do we make sense of this and trust fully on God’s Word when these apparent contradictions exist?



Hello Zach,

Thank you for your question. When I was younger I noticed seeming contradictions as well. Since all Scripture is inspired, we can have confidence there is a viable solution to every seeming contradiction (2 Tim. 3:16). Over time I learned that when you embrace the attitude of confidence in God’s sure Word, the Spirit gives light.

Regarding repentance and faith, some passages just mention repent, others just mention believe, and some incorporate both. The Holy Spirit convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment in order to bring people to Jesus. Sin is the problem with the consequence of judgment, but Christ is the answer. To repent means to change your thinking, which means you change what you believe. But to change what you believe is also what occurs when you exercise faith. When you believe in Jesus, it’s because you were convinced of sin and judgment, and the need for the righteousness of Christ. So you changed what you believe by transferring your dependence to Jesus as Savior. But that is also repentance. Repentance and faith are two emphases to one essence, or we might say two sides to one coin.

This explains why the Gospel of John uses the word believe, but does not use the word repent. The concept of repentance is inherent in a proper understanding of believing. The converse is also true in other passages.

Regarding obedience and disobedience, we all know obedience is not automatic. It, too, is by faith. But the provision for obedience is available from salvation onward. Our new man consists of something of God’s nature and the Holy Spirit moved in to lead and empower. But we must set our focus on the Spirit and depend on His leadership or we miss out on the full benefits of Christ living in us through the Spirit.

These concepts are expanded much more thoroughly in the small book I wrote entitled Repentance and Faith: Two Sides to One Decision.


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