Spirituality Without Ongoing Repentance Is *Not* Christian Spirituality

“Christians don’t need to repent,” said the young man. “Jesus died for our sins … past, present and future,” he continued, “so you don’t need to spend all of your time asking him for forgiveness. He has already forgiven you!” According to this young man, all the church needed to do was lean into its identity as righteous daughters and sons of God!

Part of me agrees with some of the points being made by those who make these types of statements. It is absolutely appropriate to place emphasis on the Christian’s ontology, namely our union with Christ. Our identity as God’s children is rooted in our connection to Jesus and our reception of the soteriological benefits related to the cross, both those experienced in the immediate and those promised on the eschatological end.

But there are some serious issues with the suggestion that (1) Christians don’t need to repent and (2) the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict Christians. Yes, you read that correctly … advocates of the “Christians do not need to repent” concept also suggest that the Holy Spirit does not convict Christians; rather, the Spirit is said to convict the world alone.

Again, there are serious problems with these two ideas, both on a biblical-theological level as well as on a practical level. To name several of the issues I think need to be dealt with:

These views fundamentally undermine explicit statements from the Bible.

The New Testament, originally written in Greek, uses the word metanoia, which is translated as “repentance,” in a number of  verses that are contextually related to Christians. For example:

“Look how far you have fallen! Turn back (metanoeo) to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” (Rev. 2:5 NLT)

“Repent (metanoeo) of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev. 2:16 NLT)

“Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent (metanoeo) and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” (Rev. 3:3 NLT)

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn (metanoeo) from your indifference.” (Rev. 3:13 NLT)

As the context of these texts reveals, these texts are written to Christians. In fact, even if you make the mistake of suggesting that Jesus’ words to Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) or Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) aren’t relevant because Jesus doesn’t commend those two churches, you still have to deal with Jesus’ words to Ephesus and Pergamum, two churches that Jesus commended.

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Luke Geraty
Luke Geraty has been lead pastor of Trinity Christian Fellowship for the past six years and is a member of the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Interested in missional theology within the rural context, Luke loves all things espresso, hockey, hip hop, and fly fishing (what a weird combo!). He and his wife have four children. He blogs regularly at ThinkTheology.org.