Do we need to have a certain degree of remorse for our sin before we can truly become a Christian? In this brief clip, Derek Thomas explains how a proper understanding of the gospel helps us understand the right place of repentance in the Christian life.
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How much sin do you need to forsake in order to come to Christ? How much remorse do you need to have? How much sense of guilt do you need to have before you can come to Christ? And all of a sudden, repentance—and repentance is a requirement, of course—but the quality of my repentance can become the standard, the marker of my justification. And all of a sudden, I’m justified not by faith alone, but I’m justified by the quality of my repentance. And all of a sudden, it’s a performance. It’s our obedience. It’s our works. And you can dress that up in very fanciful, spiritual language that sounds very biblical. “Do you need to repent in order to be a Christian?” Yes and no. Yes, we need to repent, but it’s not our repentance that justifies us. It’s not the quality of our repentance that justifies us. In the history of the church, this has sometimes been labeled “preparationism,” that you need to prepare yourself in order to come to Christ. You need to be in a certain frame of mind. You need to have gone through various stages in your recognition of your sinfulness before you can come to Christ. And this affected certain aspects of Puritanism, particularly in New England in the late 1600s, early 1700s. And Thomas Boston was adamant that this was incorrect, that it violated, it undermined the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Paul hadn’t come to Galatia to offer “religion,” a moral code of behavior that would produce a certain kind of citizenship in Europe. He had come to offer a message of grace. He had come to offer freedom in Christ. He had come to emancipate those who by nature are slaves and in bondage and to set them free, to be what God intends them to be, to become children of God and heirs of God.