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It’s amazing how often people think they are giving the Christian message or have heard the gospel and yet there is nothing about sin and repentance.

The message of the gospel is not simply an invitation to know God’s love or enter his family or to live forever. That is all true. But the call to saving faith must always include a call to repentance.

Acts 13:38-39 “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses.”

The Law of Moses cannot free you. You cannot go to sleep at night knowing for certain that you are righteous before God based on your observance of the Decalogue. The law cannot set you free of your condemnation, that is why the High Priest had to offer sacrifices year after year, for centuries.

You cannot be freed from your sins by the intercession of your ancestors, or your moral religiosity. You cannot be set free from your sins because you have an active social conscience and you’re very engaged in issues of justice, or because you are a very fastidious homeschooling family. Only Jesus, the Savior, can set you free.

We have a problem. We are slaves to sin. We are under the curse and penalty of sin. We love sin. We live in sin. We were born in sin and apart from Christ, we die in sin.

The only freedom: repent and believe.

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10 thoughts on “Two Often Missed Gospel Essentials”

  1. Mark Criss says:

    I do find it interesting that the KJV & NKJV says in Matthew 9:13; “for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. The Greek word “metanoia” is emphasized by utilizing the English word “repentance”. However, most translations (ESV, NASB, NLT, NIV, RSV, ASV) do not use the word reptetance at all but emphasize the “call (for) sinners”. I suppose it may be “implied” that a sinner would no longer be a sinner after s/he is called. Although, I do like the clear use of the word “metanoia” in the KJV and NKJV…(call) “sinners to repentance”. (BTW, the Webster translation got it right! Yay!) Don’t get me wrong, I love my ESV translation! Going along with your post today, sometimes it’s good to remember “the call to saving faith must always include a call to repentance.” To God be the Glory, Mark.

  2. a. says:

    “The only freedom: repent and believe.”

    thank you :”

    ‘believers’,unbelievers Rev 2:5,16,21;3:3,15;9:20-21;16:9,11

    Rev 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

  3. ABL says:

    I know believers who have been convinced by the Grace Evangelical Society that repentance is only for believers, and is not part of the Gospel. Drives me crazy!

  4. Dean P says:

    ABL: I hear you, but what I’ve been struggling with lately is how can we necessarily articulate the difference between the “the general need of believers to repent” regularly, from the radical call of repentance unto conversion to a specific point in time from belief to unbelief? I feel like lately the lines between the two seem to be getting blurred.

  5. Kevin Jandt says:


    Could it be any clearer?

    John the Baptist (Matt 3:2), Jesus (Matt 4:17), Paul (Acts 17:30), Peter (Acts 3:38), John (Acts 3:38, Rev 2:5 quoting Christ).

    Shouldn’t we imitate them?

  6. Patrick Bussell says:

    I posted your article on my Facebook page, a friend of mine offered this comment, I thought I’d give you the opportunity to respond, instead of me speaking on your behalf.

    I find this verse to be a weird choice to support his stance. The verse doesn’t say anything about a required request of repentence. To the contrary, it says, “by him everyone who believes is freed”.

    I am not arguing against repentence, it is a vital part of our walk, and there is certainly freedom in repentence.

    But if “the call to saving faith must always include a call to repentance” is true, where does that leave the thief on the cross, who simply said “remember me in paradise” (displaying a genuine faith)?

    “through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” says it all. This article, to me, is trying to make a case that our salvation is partly “earned” through repentence, which I believe you would agree, cannot be true.

  7. LWesterlund says:

    What about Mark 1:14,15: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”? Sin and the need for repentance is a doctrine under attack today, but hasn’t it always been, for fallen hearts filled with pride? And with the minimizing of sin, and judgement unless there is repentance, the need for the Atonement, Christ bearing our judgment, is likewise minimized. Thank you, Kevin!

  8. Lakeaffex says:

    I’m confused about what repentance means. In the Old testament God repented, In which case it cannot mean to turn from your sin unless God is a sinner. I think a better definition would be to change your mind. Repentance in the gospel simply to change your mind from what you think saves you (church attendance, following the ten commandments, giving) and toward the only thing that can save Jesus’ saving grace!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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