In the last article we saw how the essence of faith and repentance consists of two sides to one theological coin. Since the essence of faith and repentance is the same, how does the emphasis differ?
The essence of repent and believe is to change one’s thinking which is to transfer one’s dependence. However, the emphasis of repentance is the transfer while the emphasis of faith is dependence now on Christ. In Mark 1:15, Jesus declares “repent ye, and believe the gospel.” The usage of repent and believe shows the different emphases of the two words but without indicating two separate conditions for salvation; otherwise, this statement would contradict multiple clear passages that show man’s responsibility is one condition (something noted in the previous article of this series).
Scripture’s promises for salvation (e.g., forgiveness of sins and eternal life) are stated such that they are fulfilled the moment one first appropriates faith (e.g., “hath everlasting life,” John 6:47). In contrast, most occurrences of believe in salvation are in the present tense, generally indicating continuous action. This shows that one is now actually depending on Christ. However, the idea is not to believe and then never believe again. The present tense “is believing” allows for Christians to be referred to as believers, yet it is possible to doubt one’s salvation. If not, verses such as 1 John 5:13 would be unneeded:
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may [continue to] believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Also, an examination of verses such as John 1:12 reveal that while believe is used in a present tense (“is/are believing”), the word receive is in the aorist, a tense indicating the fact of an action:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Received refers to the moment of the transaction and believe refers to the new dependence now on Christ.
While believe or faith emphasizes the new, present dependence on Christ, repentance emphasizes the transfer or exchange. In passages that are most clearly salvific, the verb metanoeo occurs eleven times in the aorist tense (Matt. 11:20–21; 12:41; Luke 10:13; 11:32; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Rev. 9:20–21; 16:9, 11), ten times in the present tense (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; Acts 17:30; 26:20), and once in the future tense (Luke 16:30). The significant use of the aorist to indicate the fact of the action places emphasis on the moment of transfer.
Interestingly, the Scriptures refer to Christians “believers” (Acts 5:14; I Tim. 4:12), not “repenters.” Though the theological essence of faith and repentance is the same, clearly, the theological emphasis differs.
In the next two articles we will consider prevalent but confusing terminologies.
John Van Gelderen