Is repentance all I need to do to be saved?




I'm really confused, mainly because of all the bad things I've done. How do I fix it, or is it already fixed if I just repent?

While repentance is critical for salvation from sins because Jesus said, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3); yet, repentance is not all that God asks of a person.

Salvation belongs to those who are in Christ, that is who have become children of God by entering into a covenant relation with God. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). We can know that we have that salvation when we know that we have done what the Lord has asked of us. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6). Therefore, if you want full assurance that you are saved, you need to look at all the things God says is connected to being saved.


Imagine you were drowning, it seems fairly obvious that you could not be saved unless you first knew which way you needed to go to get to safety. For the same reason, a person needs to understand what God wants him to do before he can begin to follow God. "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:45). Later Jesus prays, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

This is why learning God's Word is so important to a follower of God. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). It doesn't mean that you have to know the entire Bible first before you can be saved, but it does mean that as you learn the things you need to do, you put them into practice in your life.


Using our drowning illustration again, suppose you learned which way you needed to go, but you didn't believe it. How likely are you to be saved from your predicament? It is one thing to know what you need to do, but it is an entirely different matter to believe that it is what you must do. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith is built upon knowing what you need to do. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). And faith requires action on your part. "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:14-16). It is faith that drives a person to do what God said because that person has complete trust in God.

Loving Obedience

It makes absolutely no sense if a person claims to trust God but then turns around and doesn't obey God. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:1-3).


Now what if our drowning man knew which way to go and believed that it was the right way, but then decided, "I'm staying right were I am." The reason a person is lost in sin is because they are in sin. You cannot be saved from sin by staying in it. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). That is why Jesus warned, "unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).

Repentance is triggered by being sorry for the wrongs done in the past and is shown by a change in a person's attitude and behavior. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11). Any old change won't do. It has to be a change toward God. Paul taught people that "they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).

Like hearing, it doesn't mean that you have to fix every sin that you have ever committed before you can be saved. It means you have renounced sin and are working toward righteousness. It will be an ongoing process. As you learn God's Will you will find yourself coming up short. Instead of throwing your hands up in despare, you will make corrections in the direction of your life and get a little closer to being an obedient child of God. Nor does this mean that you will never sin again. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:8-10).

Confession Wrong

This brings us to the next topic, you can't be save if you are unwilling to admit you are lost. People always tease men about being unwilling to ask for directions. But there are people who see the mess sin has made in their lives, but are unwilling to admit that it was their fault. God wants us to have tender hearts. "Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God" (James 4:6-7).

Confession of Christ

But we also must admit who is able to save us. "But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:8-10). Imagine a drowning person is plucked from the waters by a sailor. As the reporters flock around him on shore, they ask him how he was saved, but he refuses to say who saved him. Won't that poor sailor be annoyed? He might even feel like putting the man right back where he came from. That confession of who saved him is a display of gratitude for being saved. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

Entering the Covenant

Still, all that we listed above, critical as they each are to being saved, are preparatory for actually becoming a child of God. In the Old Testament, the men of Israel had to be circumcised to show that they were a part of God's kingdom. There is something similar to that in the New Testament. "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:11-13). It is at the point of baptism where God puts a person into Christ. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26-29).

In placing a person into Christ, his past sins are forgiven. "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). It is not that the water physically removes sin, but the act of responding to God's command in complete trust of God. "There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). But that salvation from sin doesn't come if a person doesn't obey God. A lack of obedience says the person doesn't fully trust God. "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Why baptism? God chose it because of what it represents to the believer. "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:3-7). It is Jesus' death which actually saves the Christian. Through baptism we accept the gracious gift of life from our Savior and Lord and become a follower of him. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Therefore, there is no need for confusion; there is a need for action. You don't have to wonder if you might be saved, you can know you are saved because you know you did what God required of you.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Salvation
Things That Accompany Salvation