One of the arguments of those who claim that Paul’s teachings contradicted the teachings of Jesus is that Paul taught justification by faith alone without repentance.
Is this true?
To begin, consider Paul’s words to the elders of the church of Ephesus:
… Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Acts 20:18-20
Notice that Paul says that he taught “repentance toward God.”
In Acts 26, Paul testified of Jesus as he stood on trial before King Agrippa, and recounts how he previously lived as a zealous Pharisee who persecuted and put to death some of the followers of Jesus (v.4-11). Beginning in verse 12 Paul recounts his experience on the road to Damascus where he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ (v 12-18). Paul then says the following:
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. ~ Acts 26:19-20
Those who say that Paul did not teach repentance claim that Paul taught justification through faith alone and cite verses like Romans 4:4-5
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. ~ Romans 4:4-5
The context, to which the verses above belong, actually begins in chapter 1. Throughout Romans, Paul expounds on justification through Christ, in contrast to boasting in the works of the Law which separated the Jews from Gentiles.
To claim that Paul is teaching a salvation with no repentance in Romans 4 is the result of careless proof-texting. Paul has already spoken of the necessity of repentance in the second chapter of Romans
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Paul taught that the goodness of God leads ungodly men to repentance.
In Acts 13, Paul preached to the people and reminded them how John the Baptist had first preached repentance to all the people of Israel (v.24).
When Paul was in the city of Athens (Acts 17), he was stirred in his spirit because he saw that the whole city was give over to idolatry. When Paul found that they had made an altar with the inscription – TO THE UNKNOWN GOD – Paul used it to preach the gospel to them. Paul’s message can be read beginning in verse 22. In verses 30-31 we read the following:
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~ Acts 17:30-31
Notice that Paul says that God has commanded “all men, everywhere to repent.” Paul says this within the context of the coming Day of Judgment, wherein God is going to judge men through Jesus Christ.
While at Lystra (Acts 14) Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the people and a man who had been crippled all his life was healed. This caused quite a stirring among the idolatrous people at Lystra who then attempted to worship Barnabas and Paul.
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the Living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein… ~ Acts 14:11-15.
Notice that Barnabas and Paul preached to the people to turn from their idolatrous practices and serve the living God. Turning from idolatry to serve the Living God is repentance.
In Acts 15, the Jerusalem counsel (of which Paul and Barnabas were a part) concluded that the Gentiles in Antioch were brethren in Christ because they had “turned to God.”
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. ~ Acts 15:18-20
When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus said the following to Paul:
… I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. ~ Acts 26:16-18
Paul interprets this commission by Jesus as preaching repentance and that is why he says:
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. ~ Acts 26:19-20
Turning from sin and idols to serve the Living God is core to Paul’s doctrine regarding salvation through Jesus Christ. In Romans 11:26 Paul refers to Jesus as the deliverer who shall come out of Zion and shall turn ungodliness from Jacob.
Paul also says the following to the Thessalonians:
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
Later, in chapter 4 Paul says the following to the Thessalonians:
Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
These words to the Thessalonians regarding sanctification are consistent with Paul’s gospel which calls men not only to repentance, but to live holy and godly lives. Paul’s preaching and teaching of repentance is well documented throughout the New Testament, not only in the book of Acts, but in the epistles as well.
In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, Paul confronts the Corinthians for the sin of fornication in their midst.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:1-2
Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians moved them to repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says the following to them:
For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. ~ 2 Corinthians 7:8-11
Paul later expresses his concern about the lack of repentance of some among them.
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
Paul did not preach a gospel void of repentance, nor did he teach doctrine void of repentance. In his letter to Titus Paul says the following:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. ~ Titus 2:11-15
Notice that Paul tells Titus that the saving grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts by living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. This is consistent with the commission given to Paul by Jesus in the book of Acts, “… I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” ~ Acts 26:16-18
One only needs to read what Paul actually said (examples, Ephesians 4:21-32, Ephesians 5:3-13, Colossians 3:5-10, Romans 6) to understand that Paul’s gospel was not void of repentance and that Paul taught that we are to turn from sin and live godly and holy lives in the fear of the Lord.
For more teachings regarding Paul please follow the links below:
DID PAUL TEACH OTHERS TO EAT FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS?
WERE JAMES AND PAUL ON THE SAME PAGE?
PAUL AND THE JEWS RELIGION
WAS PAUL A RICH PREACHER?
PAUL AND HEAVENLY VISIONS
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When I looked up what repentance is in Greek it is defined as ‘change of the mind’. What must an unbeliever do in order to be saved (Is this the being justified part?)? How much repentance must a believer do (Is this the sanctification part?)? Once glorified will there be any more repentance to be done?
Absolutely, repentance brings about a changed mind, and when we look beyond the Greek definition into the testimony of the scriptures from beginning to end, repentance is more than changing one’s mind. It is changed heart that is purified by Christ’s blood, and God’s Spirit.
Having a changed mind does not mean that a person has a purified heart. Any Atheist, Agnostic, or Occultist could change their mind on any number of their ideas and still be as much opposed to God as they were before.
It’s only when the “change of mind” is a turning of the heart to God that it is Biblical repentance. True Biblical repentance brings about a cleansing of the soul from the power of sin.
If I change my mind regarding what I want to eat for a meal, I have satisfied the Greek definition for repentance, but such a change of mind does not mean that a change has occurred in my heart.
Repentance is turning from sin. When an unbeliever comes to Christ this is the specific change of mind they are called to have.
With regards to repentance after salvation, if I can demonstrate contrition when I have hurt or offended a friend or complete stranger, should I not have the same respect for my God who gave his Son for me?
“It is changed heart that is purified by Christ’s blood, and God’s Spirit. ” — This happens at the point of Justification? See verses below:
[When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. ~ Acts 11:18]
[In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; ~ 2 Timothy 2:25]
This repentance then harmonizes with faith as spoken in Ephesians 2:8 [For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:] which both are a work of God. Other similar verse below:
[Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. ~ Colossians 2:12]
[Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. ~ John 6:29]
“Repentance is turning from sin. When an unbeliever comes to Christ this is the specific change of mind they are called to have. ” — At the point of Justification, from non-believer to believer, shouldn’t repentance be turning to Christ as my Messiah instead of turning from my sin? I base my reasoning on two examples.
Example 1. In Acts 2, at the Day of Pentecost, the were Jews from every nation, these Jews do not believe Jesus as their Messiah. These unbelieving Jews had mixed reactions on the coming of the Holy Spirit incident [And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. ~ Acts 2:12-13]. But Peter addressed these unbelieving Jews culminating in, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. ~ Acts 2:36”. These men and brethren were pricked to the heart (cf. Acts 11:18) and asked Peter what shall they do? [Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ~ Acts 2:38]. In the context of the unbelieving Jews’ change, did they not turn from as some of them even had assuredly saw Jesus as someone who gets his power from Beelzebub to believing Jesus as their Yeshua HaMashiach?
Example 2. Cornelius’ Household. What was Cornelius’ condition before becoming a believer, [As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. Acts 10:25]? What did Peter preach to Cornelius household just before the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word?
[34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they[fn] killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” ~ Acts10:34-43]
If repentance is turning from sin in order to be saved then I would be presented with an insurmountable problem. For I have no idea how many sins I commit everyday and over the decades I have lived. For sure I may even have forgotten a bunch of them. If repentance requires me to turn from all these sins or even half of my sins before I can be saved then woe is me, I have no hope then.
That you would make such arguments against repentance from sin is troubling. Do you honestly think that person can turn to Jesus as Messiah, and at the same time not turn from their sins?
How does that even work?
Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3. He gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify us unto himself as a special bought people. ~ Titus 2:14
Turning from sin to serve God is one of the most basic fundamental truths in all of scripture.
When God brought Israel out of Egypt and made covenant with them, he gave them an entire system of worship which included the priesthood, tabernacle, and sacrifices to deal with sin and impurity. These were all types pointing to Christ who would take away the sin of the world and save us from our iniquities.
Again, how can we serve God and be right with him if we do not turn from our sins and iniquities? All throughout God’s history with Israel he constantly called them out of sin and into righteousness and holiness.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. Psalm 24:3-4a
Isaiah the prophet spoke of repentance as turning from sin:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. ~ Isaiah 1:16-18
God also says through Isaiah, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” ~ Isaiah 55:7
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, “…if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. ~ Jeremiah 7:5-7
In Ezekiel, God says, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye,turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? ~ Ezekiel 33:1
I could go on and on with Old Testament texts.
In your comment, You said, “shouldn’t repentance be turning to Christ as my Messiah instead of turning from my sin?”
The answer is no, for how can one truly turn to Christ without turning from sin? Christ died to save us from our sins. When John the Baptist came preaching repentance and baptizing, the people came confessing their sins (Matthew 3:5-6) in anticipation of the Messiah!
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? ~ Romans 6:1-2
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. ~ Ephesians 5:3-7
You referenced the conversion of the Jews in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. It seems that you think their repentance was simply a turning from their previous unbelief only, but that is not what happened. They were pricked in their hearts because Peter preached to them that they were guilty of the death of Jesus, whom God had vindicated by raising him from the dead and exalting him at his right hand in fulfilment of the scriptures.
Peter declares: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” ~ Acts 2:22-23
The testimony of God which Peter preached brought conviction on the people, because they were guilty, and so they asked, “what must we do?” Peter tells them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and they would receive the forgiveness of sins. One does not receive forgiveness of sins he doesn’t turn from. Peter also tells them they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The apostle Paul declares, For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
Believing in Jesus does not eliminate the necessity of turning from sin. On the contrary, when we believe in Jesus we receive by faith the forgiveness of our sins: the very sins we are turning from to serve God.
True repentance is not remembering every sin you have ever committed as you asserted. Instead, it is turning from your sinful ways and unrighteousness, to serve God with a pure heart. No where in scripture are we ever taught that repentance is remembering every sin. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah was overwhelmed by the presence of God when he saw the glory of the Lord. Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. In response, Isaiah said, Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. ~ Isaiah 6:5-7
Notice that Isaiah, in the presence of God, did not try to remember every time he had spoken things he’s shouldn’t have. Yet he repented of his sin. In the New Testament, there was a woman whom Jesus forgave. She did not name every sin she had ever committed, instead she came with a heart of repentance weeping because she was a sinner and expressing love and gratitude towards Jesus. According to Jesus, her sins which were many were forgiven.
You also referenced Cornelius, but Cornelius was already “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.” He was already seeking God and the Bible says “he gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” His righteous acts came up to God as a memorial, and that is why God sent Peter to him to tell him about Jesus.
Cornelius was a God fearing man who was already doing righteous deeds when Peter preached to him and his household.
The same apostle Peter, who preached to Cornelius’s house dealt with Simon the Sorcerer in an entirely different manner.
Simon the Sorcerer had believed what Philip preached and had also been baptized.
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. ~ Acts 8:12-13
Notice that Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized, but when Peter and John arrived, he “saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” ~ v 18-19
In response, Peter says the following to Simon: Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. ~Acts 8:20-23
Remember, Peter is saying this to a man who had believed and had been baptized, but his heart was not right with God because he had not turned from his sorcery.
Repentance is indeed turning from sin, for Christ is the one who calls us to turn from our sins, and when we turn from sin, we receive forgiveness through faith in Jesus.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. ~ Acts 26:15-20
Is this the repentance you are talking about, see below:
There’s a related series on this site I still need to to watch and read.
I deleted the links you posted. Biblical repentance is out in the open in the pages of scripture. Anyone who will open their heart to God will see this clearly.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.~ Psalm 19:12
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. ~ Psalm 51:2
It’s not that Paul failed to preach repentance, the church of the devil successfully watered down the gospel removing many ‘plain and precious’ parts that may be deemed offensive thereby causing many to stumble. Why Christ spoke in parables because darkness does not comprehend the light, that the parables may be preserved