Repentance, Conversion, justification and Gospel presentation

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Puritan Board Post-Graduate
What is repentance at the initial stages of the believers life? Sorrow and a contrite heart?
I see that for many, especially MacArthurite churches, repentance is emphasized virtually to the point of it being a synonym of faith as if its a once and for all act so as to fall off the other side of the horse from antinomianism.
When preaching or presenting the Gospel how then is repentance to be proclaimed or seen if its a continual process? What about in true revivals like the First Great Awakening?


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
We usually talk about conversion as involving faith and repentance, sometimes described as "two sides of one coin." Repentance is a reflexive attitude or evaluation. The evangelical grace of repentance just as much a gift of God as faith is, and it should be distinguished from "earthly sorrow."

You might say that mere regret, or conviction and distress over it, or self-loathing, or the turning away from some evil as a thing of horror--these are the limit of what repentance would be, if there be no turning toward God (without further shieing away). If I turn from one evil, but settle for some other evil, this is no repentance in full.

Faith (alone)--not faith with sufficient repentance--is apprehension of God in Christ as the remedy for our sinful condition. The sinful condition is the terrible state we are in apart from God, and it is such whether or not there is any realization of it, or how much realization.

It is the effect of faith (alone) that brings the rudiments of repentance around fully to the very opposite of sin--to be drawn toward God, even in sorrow. The Christian life is a life of repentance. There is something of repentance in the initial, awful realization of one's guilt; it was this sort of heart-striking conviction we observe in the crowd on the day of Pentecost. But, no measure of each heart could register some helpful "amount," being subjective.

All who were saved that day had one, common and equal Object of faith. And until they looked in faith to the risen and ascended Lord, their conviction could not be properly called repentance; but improperly. So, we observe that many people come under similar conviction; they begin to turn (this way and that) from the revelation of the terribleness of their sin. But only in those of faith does that turn complete. In the rest, there is no settlement on Christ; but a dulling of the sharp pang of conviction, or a settlement on a false security, or a never ending restlessness that cannot find resolution and leads to despair.

Therefore, that which is properly repentance is a turning from sin, and turning (full) unto Christ. Now, the Spirit of God might induce the restlessness, the distress over sin, which is the rudiments of that which will be true repentance prior to his introduction of Christ, the Object of faith and the Savior. It is not error to call that which is coming around (in the elect) to full/true repentance, "repentance." But then, in those who do not in the end repent, having nothing but "the common operations of the Spirit," we must call that revelation then: false repentance, incomplete and ineffective, unworthy of the name.
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