The Bible does not portray two kinds of repentance and two kinds of faith, the one for salvation and the other for the Spirit-filled life. Faith is faith. Repentance is repentance. The concept of repent and believe is the same though the purpose varies.
Galatians 3:2-3 asks, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The correct answer is the hearing of faith. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit [by faith], are ye now made perfect by the flesh [by self-effort works]?” Spiritual birth is by faith in Christ and not of works/flesh-dependence. Likewise, spiritual growth is also by faith in Christ (for the sanctifying work of the Spirit) and not through flesh-dependence.
Colossians 2:5b–7a affirms, “…your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith.” Just as one is saved by faith (salvation), he is to walk by faith (the Spirit-filled life). Both demand faith in Christ—in salvation to receive the Spirit and in the Spirit-filled life to access the Spirit’s leadership and power. Therefore, the concept of faith is the same for both salvation and the Spirit-filled life of sanctification and service.
In this Repent and Believe series, we have seen that salvation is by grace through faith and therefore not of works in any subtle way. This is not to say that repentance should not lead to a change of lifestyle, but rather that the essence of repentance itself is an exchange of one’s way of thinking when one turns to Christ for salvation from sin and hell. However, justification, which is free by faith (Rom. 1–5), opens the way for sanctification which is also free by faith (Rom. 6–8). The faith is the same; the purpose for the faith differs.
Both John the Baptist and Paul call for those who have repented to follow through with a lifestyle that is appropriate to repentance or “meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8; cf. Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). Repentance itself is not a change of behavior. It opens the way for a change in behavior by the power of the new life then received. The change is not automatic; it is by faith. The change comes as one walks by faith and thus grows in grace.
Although the concept of faith is the same for both salvation and spiritual growth, there is a difference of purpose. This difference must be understood to properly maintain the biblical balance on the issue of faith/repentance. Next week, we will address the different purposes.
John Van Gelderen