First, we need to find what makes one lost. Please notice John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." It is very plain in this verse what makes a person lost. Notice the words, "he that believeth not is condemned already." A person who does not believe is condemned, so not believing is what makes a person lost.
Bear in mind, the word "believing" is the Greek word which means "to rely upon." When one believes on Christ, he simply relies on Him to save him and take him to Heaven when he dies. It is very plain here that what condemns a person is believing not. Then notice it says, "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Once again, we are told what makes a person lost - because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. It is as simple as that.
Now look at John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Again, we are trying to decide and determine what makes one lost. It is very plain here. Notice the word believeth, "and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." What keeps a person from seeing life? Believing not! What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since "believing not" makes him lost, "believing" makes him saved. In repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected.
Now turn to John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Oh, how simple this is, and yet how plain! Why does a person not have life, according to this verse? Because he will not come to Christ. So, if a person is going away from Christ, he must turn around and come to Christ, which is a change of direction or a change of mind. This is repentance - repenting of the thing that keeps one from being saved, repenting from "going away" to "coming to."
Notice Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Especially notice the words, "we have turned every one to his own way." That's what not being saved is - turning to our own way. Now if we turn to God's way, which is putting our faith and trust in Jesus, we turn around from going our own way to going His way, from unbelief to belief. This is Bible repentance. Bear in mind, it is the faith that saves. The turning around is necessary in order to put our faith in Christ. One must repent from that thing that keeps him from being saved in order to be saved.
If a person were saved by good works, then he would have to repent of bad works, or of not doing good works, in order to be saved. If a person were saved by quitting his sinning, then he would have to repent of his sinning in order to be saved. A person is saved by believing, so he repents of his unbelief or turns from his unbelief in order to be saved.
Let us look at the verses that teach us we are saved by belief.
John 3:15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."There are those who say we have to repent of our sins in order to be saved. No, we have to repent only of the thing that makes us unsaved, and that is unbelief. If a person needs to turn from his sins in order to be saved, what sins does he turn from? Does he turn from pride? Does he turn from selfishness? Does he turn from covetousness? The truth is, nobody can turn from all of his sins until he is raptured and he receives a body like the body of the Saviour. 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." According to Psalm 19:12, we do not even know all of our sins. David said, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." What he is talking about here is being cleansed from faults he doesn't even know he has. A person, when he is first saved, does not know all the things that he is doing that are wrong, and if a person has to repent of all of his sins, where is growth in grace? Where is being a babe in Christ? Where does the carnal Christian fit in here?
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3.18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Acts 16:31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."
Now don't misunderstand me. I am certainly for separation and for living a godly life, but the cleansing of our lives is not done by us any more than salvation is done by us. Salvation is simply repenting of unbelief, and believing, and letting Christ save us. We yield to Him to save us; He does! Immediately the Holy Spirit comes in to live. The Holy Spirit begins His work of cleansing in our lives. He is the one Who cleanses, just as he is the one Who saves. He is the one Who points our sins out to us after we are saved just as He is the one Who saves us when we are saved.
Now let us review, as follows:
1. God says to the unsaved, "Repent of your unbelief." It's very interesting that in I John the word "repentance" is never mentioned, and yet the purpose of I John was to give people the assurance of salvation. I John 5:13, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Of course, repentance is certainly implied throughout the entire book, because the book tells us that what saves is believing on Christ (or relying on Him) to save, which, of course, implies that that person must repent of what makes him lost, which is unbelief.
2. God says to the saved people, "Repent of sin." This is done by the Holy Spirit as He comes in to live to remind us to take the clothes off the bedpost, the shirt off the chair, put the shoes into the closet, etc.
3. If a person must repent of his sins to be saved, of what sins must he repent? Can he repent of all of them? Isn't that sinless perfection or holiness? Isn't that salvation by works? Of what sin must one repent? He must repent of the sin that makes him lost, and that's the sin of unbelief.
4. If turning from sins would get you saved, then turning back to sins would get you lost. In Acts 16:30 the very simple question is asked, "What must I do to be saved?" This is the one time in the Bible where this question is asked. Now the answer to this question must be what saves a person. Acts 16:31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." There's the answer-belief. There is nothing about repentance here, except, yes, there is something about repentance, because you can't believe without repenting from unbelief.
5. If a person has to clean up his own life before he gets saved, we are back to Arminianism or salvation by works.
6. We cannot do what the Holy Spirit can do. The Holy Spirit first convicts us of our sin of unbelief to bring us to Christ. Once He brings us to Christ, He comes in us to live. Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." I Corinthians 6:19, 20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Then when the Holy Spirit is in us, He begins to convict us of things in our lives that should be changed. Then the Christian life becomes a constant repenting until we wake in the likeness of Christ.