Q & A 85-88 Faith And Repentance-True Conversion.
Q. 85 What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
A. 85 To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
John Murray, particularly in his ‘Redemption Accomplished And Applied’, regarded faith and repentance as twin sisters, things which cannot be separated from each other. No one can claim to have faith who does bot also have repentance. Furthermore, the catechism makes clear that scripture teaches that these are gifts of God’s grace. When Paul wrote that we are saved by grace through faith, the entirety of this process is a gift. It also involves turning to works “which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
The message was the same to all, Jew and Greek, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). These twin gifts show themselves both in what we profess, and in how we live. When they are evident in our lives, we make our call and election sure (II Pet. 1:10). This was also part of the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20, new disciples being taught to observe everything Jesus the Christ has commanded. This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing way of life.
“Faith and repentance are not just sudden and momentary things. What we call conversion is really just the beginning of the activity of faith and repentance. The only proof of conversion is…the continuance of it, and the fruit that comes from it.” (Williamson 145)
Q. 86 What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. 86 Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
The primary aspect of faith is belief. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ” (Gal. 2:16). This is the message that we receive, but in receiving this message we are also receiving Christ himself, and resting in him for our salvation.
Q. 87 What is repentance unto life?
A. 87 Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.
Repentance is a 180 degree turn around, being not simply a turning away from sin, but at the same time a turning to God in faith. Repentance is also a gift which God grants to his own (Acts 11:18). Those who heard the gospel in a saving way, were those who were “cut to the heart,” that is their core, and when asked as to what they must do, Peter said that they must repent (Acts 2:37-38). Being “cut to the heart” was one side of the coin, abhorring their past sins and sinful condition, but repentance also involved a turning to God in newness of life (Cf. Ezek. 36:31). Sorrowing in a godly manner involves both a turning from, and a turning to (II Cor. 7:11).
Q. 88 What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. 88 The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
By directing attention to “outward means,” the catechism does not mean to suggest that there is no outward expression to faith and repentance, as has been shown. Rather, the point to be made here is that faith and repentance are the dispositional means of conversion, but God also provides the instrumental means outside of us for this conversion. One can obviously be the recipient of the so-called “outward means” without the inward gifts of faith and repentance. However, the ordinary outward means of conversion are also necessary, being first and foremost the preaching of the word, but the sacraments and prayer also. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The disciples also “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42 Cf. Heb. 10:25), and the great commission includes being baptized.