Which Comes First: Repentance or Faith?

from Jul 04, 2018 Category: Ligonier Resources

In this brief clip from his teaching series The Whole Christ, Sinclair Ferguson addresses the relationship between repentance and faith.


Now, how do you put together all these statements? Is there a contradiction here? No, there is no contradiction here. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the figure of speech known as hendiadys. Not sure that they teach it in schools any longer or perhaps ever taught it in English speaking schools. It’s Greek for “one through two.” That is, when you — when you say one thing, but you use two expressions to convey the whole. And the language of repentance and faith in the New Testament is essentially an hendiadys. That, the same reality of coming to Christ is being viewed from two different perspectives. One, in relationship to the sinful life, the other in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. So that sometimes, one of the terms will stand for both terms. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved,” means as you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will turn away from sin. You cannot go to Jesus Christ without leaving where you have been, or repent in response to the gospel. What does it mean to repent in response to the gospel? Well, he’s talking about that coming to Jesus Christ in faith, but from the perspective of, “Therefore leaving behind the old lifestyle in which you once lived,” or “Repent and believe the gospel.” Exactly the same thing.

In other words, repentance and faith are not joined together like two links in a chain so that we’re left asking the question, “Well, is the first link repentance and then faith, or is the first link faith and then repentance?” No, repentance and faith are not abstract phenomena that exist out there. They are simply ways of describing what happens when we are united to Jesus Christ and trust Him.