Union with Christ Necessary in Order to Forsake Sin
We do not forsake sin in order to go to Christ, but rather, we go to Christ in order to forsake sin. This is because faith precedes repentance in the ordo salutis, or the order of salvation. This means that faith in Jesus Christ must logically come first in order for a person to experience true repentance and turn away from sin.
Christ is our source who provides a foundation of grace and forgiveness, which allows a person to turn from their sin with a sincere heart. When a person has faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, who indwells them, convicts them of their sin and helps them to see their need for repentance.
On the other hand, wrongly thinking that Christ accepts our faith only after we forsake sin, will lead to a self-righteous and legalistic approach to the Christian life, rather than a heart transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, going to Christ first is crucial in the ordo salutis because it is through faith in Christ that a person can experience true repentance and be transformed from the inside out.
The Bible teaches that the grace of Christ is a prerequisite for repentance in several passages. Here are a few examples:
Titus 2:11-14 - "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
In this passage, the apostle Paul connects the appearance of God's grace with training for repentance and living a godly life.
Hebrews 12:15 - "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled."
In this verse, the author of Hebrews warns against failing to obtain the grace of God, which is necessary for avoiding bitterness and defilement.
2 Corinthians 7:10 - "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
In this verse, Paul connects godly grief, which is produced by the grace of God, with a repentance that leads to salvation.
2 Timothy 2:25 - "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth."
In this verse, the apostle Paul is referring to the need for gentleness when correcting those who are in error, and he implies that God is the one who grants repentance. The phrase "grant them repentance" in the original Greek text can be translated as "grace them with repentance." This suggests that repentance is a gift of God's grace.
This teaching is in line with the broader biblical understanding that salvation, including repentance, is a gift of God's grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." In this verse, Paul makes it clear that salvation, including repentance, is a gift of God's grace and not something that can be earned through works.
Therefore, 2 Timothy 2:25 teaches that grace is necessary for repentance by implying that it is God who grants repentance as a gift of his grace. This is consistent with the broader biblical teaching that salvation, including repentance, is a gift of God's grace and not something that can be earned through human effort.
These verses, among others, demonstrate that the Bible teaches that grace is necessary for repentance. It is through the grace of God that a person can experience true repentance and be transformed from the inside out.
The biblical teaching that faith precedes repentance in the ordo salutis is prominent in the Reformed tradition, and many influential Reformed theologians have affirmed this teaching. Some examples include:
John Calvin: In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin writes about the importance of faith in the order of salvation and how it precedes repentance.
Martin Luther: Luther also taught that faith must come first in the order of salvation and that a person must trust in the finished work of Christ before they can truly turn from their sin. When he knows he must repent, "and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it."
Jonathan Edwards: Edwards, a key figure in the First Great Awakening, emphasized the priority of faith over repentance and argued that true repentance can only come from a heart that has been changed by faith in Jesus Christ.
These are just a few examples of Reformed teachers who have affirmed the teaching that faith precedes repentance in the ordo salutis. This understanding of the order of salvation remains a central tenet of Reformed theology to this day.