Ray Comfort: Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

New from Ray Comfort:

“Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

The Bible says that salvation is a free gift of God (Romans 6:23). We are saved by grace and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). No one can earn salvation by repenting or by believing. It is grace that saves us, and the way to partake of that grace is by God-granted repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-26), and faith alone in Jesus.

It is true that there are numerous verses that speak of the promise of salvation, with no mention of repentance. These merely say to “believe” on Jesus Christ and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). However, the Bible makes it clear that God is holy and man is sinful, and that sin makes a separation between the two (Isaiah 59:1,2).

Without repentance from sin, wicked men cannot have fellowship with a holy God. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ. The Scriptures speak of “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). We turn from sin to the Savior. This is why Paul preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

The first public word Jesus preached was “repent” (Matthew 4:17). John the Baptist began his ministry the same way (Matthew 3:2). Jesus told His hearers that without repentance, they would perish (Luke 13:3). If belief is all that is necessary for salvation, then the logical conclusion is that one need never repent.

However, the Bible tells us that a false convert “believes” and yet is not saved (Luke 8:13); he remains a “worker of iniquity.” Look at the warning of Scripture: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).

The Scriptures also say, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them [repentance] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Jesus said that there was joy in heaven over one sinner who “repents” (Luke 15:10). If there is no repentance, there is no joy because there is no salvation.

When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he commanded his hearers to repent “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Without repentance, there is no remission of sins; we are still under His wrath. Peter further said, “Repent …and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). We cannot be “converted” unless we repent. God Himself “commands all men everywhere [leaving no exceptions] to repent” (Acts 17:30). Peter said a similar thing at Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:38).

If repentance wasn’t necessary for salvation, why then did Jesus command that repentance be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47)? With so many Scriptures speaking of the necessity of repentance for salvation, one can only suspect that those who preach salvation without repentance are strangers to repentance themselves, and thus strangers to true conversion.”

Faith and Grace

The following is from Donald C. Stamps, Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1748-9:

“Our salvation comes as gift of God’s grace and is appropriated by the response of faith.  To understand the process of salvation, we must understand these two words.

Saving Faith.  Faith in Jesus Christ is God’s requirement for receiving His free gift of salvation. Faith is what we believe about Christ and our heart’s response of trust that causes us to follow Him as Lord and Savior (cf. Mat 4:19; 16:24; Luke 9:23-25; John 10:4, 27; 12:26; Rev 14:4)  

(1) The NT conception of faith includes four main elements:

(a) Faith means firmly believing and trusting in the crucified and risen Christ as our personal Lord and Savior (see Rom 1:17, note).  It involves believing with all our hearts (Rom 6:17; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:22), yielding up our wills and committing our total selves to Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the NT.

(b) Faith involves repentance, i.e., in true sorrow turning from sin (Acts 17:30; 2 Cor 7:10) and turning to God through Christ.  Saving faith is always a repentant faith (Acts 2:37-38; see Mat 3:2, note on repentance).

(c) Faith includes obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word as a way of life inspired by our faith, by our gratitude to God and by the regenerating work of the Spirit (John 3:3-6; 14:15, 21-24; Heb 5:8-9).  It is an ‘obedience to the faith’ (Rom 1:5).  Therefore, faith and obedience belong inseparably together (cf. Rom 16:26).  Saving faith without the commitment to sanctification is impossible.

(d) Faith includes a heartfelt personal devotion and attachment to Jesus Christ that expresses itself in trust, love, gratitude and loyalty.  Faith in an ultimate sense cannot properly be distinguished from love.  It is a personal activity of trust and loving self-giving directed toward Christ (cf. Mat 23:37; John 21:15-17; Acts 8:37; Rom 6:17; Gal 2:20; Eph 6:6; 1 Pet 1:8).

(2) Faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour is both the act of a single moment and a continuing attitude that must grow and be strengthened (see John 1:12, note).  Because we have faith in a specific person who died for us (Rom 4:25; 8:32; 1 Thes 5:9-10), our faith should become greater (Rom 4:20; 2 Thes 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3-9).  Trust and obedience develop into loyalty and devotion (Rom 14:8; 2 Cor 5:15); loyalty and devotion develop into an intense feeling of personal attachment to and love for the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21; 3:8-10; see John 15:4, note; Gal 2:20, note).  This faith in Christ brings us into a new relationship with God and exempts us from His wrath (Rom 1:18; 8:1); through that new relationship we become dead to sin (Rom 6:1-18) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:5; 4:6).

Grace. In the OT, God revealed Himself as a God of grace who showed love to His people, not because they deserved it, but because of His own desire to be faithful to the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Ex 6:9, note; see articles on The Passover, p. 112, and The Day of Atonement, p. 190).  Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is being spared what we deserve; grace is being given what we do not deserve.  The NT emphasizes the theme of God’s grace in the giving of His Son on behalf of undeserving sinners.  God’s grace is multiplied to believers by the Holy Spirit, imparting forgiveness, acceptance and power to do God’s will (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:10; Phil 2:13; 1 Tim 1:15-16).  The whole movement of the Christian life from beginning to end is dependent on God’s grace.

(1) God gives a measure of grace as a gift (1 Cor 1:4) to unbelievers so that they may be able to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9; Tit 2:11, 3:4).

(2) God gives grace to believers to be ‘made free from sin’ (Rom 6:20, 22), ‘to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:13; see Tit 2:11-12; see Mat 7:21, note on obedience as a gift of God’s grace), to pray (Zech 12:10), to grow in Christ (2 Pet 3:18) and to witness for Christ (Acts 4:33; 11:23).

(3) God’s grace must be diligently desired and sought (Heb 4:16).  Some of the ways (i.e., means of grace) by which God’s grace is received are: humbling ourselves before God (Jas 4:6, 10); studying and obeying Scripture (John 15:1-11; 20:31; 2 Tim 3:15); hearing the proclamation of the gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:17-18); praying (Heb 4:16; Jude 20); fasting (Mat 4:2; 6:16); worshiping Christ (Col 3:16); being continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18); and participating in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; see Eph 2:9, note on how grace works).

(4) God’s grace can be resisted (Heb 12:15), received in vain (2 Cor 6:1), put out (1 Thes 5:19), set aside (Gal 2:21) and abandoned by the believer (Gal 5:4).

Stamps, Donald C. (2003: Zondervan), Life in the Spirit Study Bible

Is the Human Decision to Accept God’s Grace a Meritorious Work?

Is the human decision to accept God’s grace a ‘work’ that we contribute towards our salvation? Roger Olson writes,

“Isn’t the bare human decision to accept and not resist God’s grace and mercy unto salvation a meritorious work?  Arminians respond with a resounding no.  In sum, and by way of preview, classical Arminianism argues that anyone who shows the first inkling or inclination of a good will toward God is already being influenced by grace. Grace is the first cause of genuine free will as liberation from bondage to sin, and grace is the source of anything good.  In its prevenient (going before) form, it is the ‘quickening ray’ Charles Wesley wrote about in his famous Arminian hymn ‘And Can It Be?’  It awakens the prisoner lying helpless in the dungeon of nature’s night and breaks off his chains so that he can rise up and follow Christ.  There is no hint in traditional Arminian theology of salvation by works righteousness; all good is attributed solely to God’s grace…  All that is required for full salvation is a relaxation of the resistant will under the influence of God’s grace so that the person lets go of sin and self-righteousness and allows Christ’s death to become the only foundation for spiritual life.  Was Arminius’s soteriology then synergistic? Yes, but not in the way that is often understood.  Calvinists tend to regard synergism as equal cooperation between God and a human in salvation; thus the human is contributing something crucial and efficacious to salvation.  But this is not Arminius’s synergism. Rather, his is an evangelical synergism that reserves all the power, ability and efficacy in salvation to grace, but allows humans the God-granted ability to resist or not resist it.  The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance to grace.  This is the same as accepting a gift.  Arminius could not fathom why a gift that must be freely received is no longer a gift, as Calvinists contend.  To explain the ‘concurrence and agreement of divine grace with free will’ he offered an analogy:

To explain the matter I will employ a simile, which yet, I confess is very dissimilar; but its dissimilitude is greatly in favour of my sentiments.  A rich man bestows, on a poor and famishing beggar, alms by which he may be able to maintain himself and his family. Does it cease to be a pure gift, because the beggar extends his hand to receive it?  Can it be said with propriety, that ‘the alms depended partly on the liberality of the Donor, and partly on the liberty of the Receiver,’ though the latter would not have possessed the alms unless he had received it by stretching out his hand? Can it be correctly said, because the beggar is always prepared to receive, that ‘he can have the alms, or not have it, just as he pleases?’  If these assertions cannot be truly made about a beggar who receives alms, how much less can they be made about the gift of faith, for the receiving of which far more acts of Divine Grace are required!

At this point, of course, some Calvinist critics still maintain that Arminius makes the free acceptance of the gift of salvation, including faith, the decisive factor in salvation; so the human act of acceptance, and not God’s grace, becomes the ground of righteousness. No Arminian, including Arminius, will agree with the formula that the person’s mere acceptance of redemption from Christ is ‘the decisive factor’ in salvation. For Arminius, as for all classical Arminians, the decisive factor is the grace of God – from beginning to end. Using Arminius’s analogy of the rich man and the beggar, would it be normal speech to say that the beggar’s acceptance of the rich man’s money was the decisive factor in his family’s survival?  Who would say that? All attention in such a case would focus on the benefactor and not on the poor receiver of benefaction.  We might extend the analogy a bit and suggest that the rich man bestowed the gift in the form of a check, which needs only to be endorsed and deposited in the poor man’s bank account.  What if someone claimed that the act of endorsing the check and depositing it was the decisive factor in the poor man’s family’s survival?  Surely even the Calvinist must see that no reasonable person would say that.  So it is with Arminian evangelical synergism; the bare act of deciding to rely totally on God’s grace for salvation and to accept the gift of eternal life is not the decisive factor in salvation.  That status belongs to God’s grace alone.” 1

J.P. Holding writes,

“And a point I have yet to see explained as well is how making a decision qualifies as a “work.”  The Jews were forbidden to work on the Sabbath; did this prohibit them from thinking or making a decision?  Is there any evidence that the Greek word behind “works” (ergon) ever refers to a thought or a decision?  It seems to me that this is a flawed premise upon which the Calvinistic case rests.” 2

So is the human decision to accept God’s grace a meritorious work that we contribute toward our salvation?  So far, all the evidence is to the contrary, but if making the decision to accept a gift is a work, the burden of proof is on the Calvinists to show how it is.


1 Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, p. 161-66; According to Olson, the Arminius quote is from ‘The Apology or Defence of James Arminius, D.D.,’ Works [Of Arminius], 2:52

2 Holding, J. P. ‘On Unconditional Election’ (Link)