Is Repentance Required for Salvation or is such teaching a form of Works Righteousness?

If a person claiming to be a Christian embraces an ungodly lifestyle and refuses to change his or her mind and forsake this lifestyle, and they die, will they go to heaven or hell?

What if that person firmly believes that because of the sacrifice of Jesus, their sins are covered by the blood and they are under the grace of God? What if they also say that they have at one time "received Jesus as Lord and Savior"? What if they call Jesus Lord when they pray and even say, "Jesus is Lord!" on various occasions.

Many Christians believe that holiness and separation from the world are not at all required by God for those that would enter Life and escape the wrath to come – HELL. Such Christians believe that the blood of Jesus Christ covers everyone who believes that it does, and that the grace of God covers all unrepentant sinners, transgressors and workers of iniquity who believe that it does – even if they choose for now to continue living as such.

Surely there are many people who believe this way in protestant, evangelical and so-called "full gospel" churches today.

Here are the KINDS of things you MIGHT hear the more theologically educated among them say:

1. We are all sinners, aren't we? We're just sinners saved by grace. There are no "big sins" and "little sins". Sin is sin. So either you are trusting completely in Jesus' sacrifice and so you have no fear of sinning, or you are trusting your own righteousness and you haven't really embraced the gospel of the grace of God.

2. God only requires FAITH for a person to be saved. He doesn't require a change of heart from man's side. To say that God requires repentance or holiness is "legalism". It is the legalistic people who have fallen from grace.

3. When Jesus talked about "Repent, and believe the gospel" what he really meant to say was "Change your mind concerning the idea that you somehow have to work to save yourself".

4. All the commands of Jesus were not something He really expected us to follow. He just gave them to show us how rotten we are, and that we needed to trust in His free grace and stop worrying about all the things God commanded.

5. All insistence upon holiness for the Christian smacks of "trusting in your own righteousness", "works gospel" and as such it is a perversion of the true gospel of the grace of God.

These are big claims, and they sound good. But before jumping in and embracing them all without reservation, and calling THAT "trusting in Jesus" I think it is good to examine these matters in the context of the whole of the New Testament, indeed the whole of the Bible. The reason for this is that God has not changed his attitude to sin at all (He hates it). In the New Testament, God certainly reveals a perfect Sacrifice for sin – far better than the blood of bulls and goats. In the New Testament, God also makes the Holy Spirit of God more freely available. But the Spirit of God is still HOLY, and is One with the Father and the Son in hatred of sin.


It is certainly possible to take the things I am about to say in a mean-spirited and ungracious Pharisaical way, and I would never want to encourage that. We all need to approach things  from the standpoint that we are personally in need of God's grace, God's forgiveness and God's mercy more than we realize. Whenever we point the finger and find fault with someone, there is every chance that we are at some level guilty of the same thing. God resists proud self-righteous pronouncements and often such people will fall into the very sins they talk so loudly against. May God help us all to avoid this.

Having said that, to determine if a given doctrine is true, one needs to be willing to look at the whole counsel of God and see if the doctrine in question can be reconciled with everything God has said on the subject.

I contend that God has made the following truths plain enough in the Scripture.

1. God is Holy and Righteous and will judge sinners.

2. The Laws of God – which are summed up in the requirement to "Love one's neighbor as oneself" when studied and heeded, show us how sinful we are by nature.

3. God loves us and wants to provide a way out.

4. Our own efforts at pleasing God fail to do so when these things are not done by the grace of God.

5. Jesus fulfilled God's law and bore the punishment so that we could go free from that punishment.

6. The Old Testament system of sacrifices and religious obligations has been done away with by the cross of Christ.

7. Faith is the way into the Kingdom.

8. True sanctification is also by faith.

9. Faith without works, mere mental assent, has no saving power. Such faith is dead. (James 2:17)

10. Our sanctification is the will of God.

1Th 4:2  for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1Th 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

11. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Depending on Works or Being Faithful to Christ?

It is important for Christians to be faithful to Christ. He is spoken of in terms of being our espoused husband.

Paul wrote:

2Co 11:2  For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2Co 11:3  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
2Co 11:4  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

Paul was well aware that Satan may come to the Christians and tempt them in crafty ways, so as to corrupt their minds. There are MANY ways Satan can attempt to do this.

Why was Paul FEARING? He was fearing because it was possible for the Corinthians to start to worship "another Jesus", receive "another spirit", or receive a "different gospel". Is such a concern relevant today? I believe that it is.

A study of the letters to the Corinthians reveals that the kind of attack Satan was using against them was that of CARNALITY. Satan uses carnality against some people and legalism against others – usually both types of attacks, but usually one predominates. Both are equally deadly.

The Corinthians were basically a picture of "unholy charismatics" where the spiritual gifts were genuinely in operation, but people were carnal and fleshly in their mindset. These people were at the point of rejecting Paul and embracing certain ministers who seemed to be ministers of Christ, but were in fact ministers of Satan. The difference between the two actually, has to do with the kind of lifestyle and motivation they each have. This can be seen from a study of 2 Corinthians chapter 11.

If you or I are FAITHFUL to CHRIST and believe such faithfulness is vital, it does not imply that we believe that our good works have earned us forgiveness for our sins.

It does not imply that we are trusting OUR works to save us.

It just means we are clinging to our Savior in trust, and refusing to be lured by Satan into areas of sin and unbelief.

One form of unfaithfulness to Christ is to be so focused on the laws of God and one's conformity to them that one does not look to the LORD for deliverance from sin, but rather to one's own efforts.

Another form of unfaithfulness to Christ is to wilfully deny Him the love and obedience which He deserves by virtue of the fact that He is Creator, King, Savior and LORD.

A person who is NOT faithful to Christ, who does not cling to Him should not expect that God recognizes their "faith". The word for "faith" in Greek, 'pistis' is translated "faithfulness" as well as "faith". It isn't right to trust in a faith that is fundamentally "unfaithful". True faith leads to obedience. External obedience without faith does not, cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).


We as Christian are called to TRUST in a PERSON – Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We cannot divorce this person from His Words. We cannot say, "I trust in Jesus but I just can't take what He says seriously". Jesus said:

John 14:21  He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

John 14:23  Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:24  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.

To assert then, that true faith in Jesus is free to disregard what Jesus has said or to consider it a mere expose of our inherent sinfulness, is to disregard Jesus Himself, and to create "another Jesus", "another gospel" – one more after our  fleshly tastes.

I conclude it is possible to assert the necessity of repentance and holiness without trusting in one's own righteousness. Our repentance and growth in grace is unlikely to be fully complete in this present age, and as we walk with God we will always see new areas where we need to change. Nevertheless repentance and a refusal to follow the devil's enticements is an essential part of our underlying faith commitment and allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, it is the LORD who knows who is truly His, and the progress a person makes in sanctification depends greatly upon the amount of TIME they have had since they believe. I  say that it is reasonable to believe, based on the New Testament Scriptures, that a refusal to allow God to deal with one's sinful lifestyle could show that a person never has truly known the Lord or that they are in a backslidden state where any assurance they have of salvation is a false one.

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About Michael Fackerell

Michael is the founder of Christian faith dot come, a site about Jesus. He came to save the lost. Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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