Almost every church in Christendom requires some form of repentance, or at least expects it to naturally happen from those saved by Christ. Even those who teach “Faith Only” still expect to see changes from an individual who has been saved and lets Jesus into his/her heart. No Christian leadership would expect a person to be saved (in whatever process they teach) and then see that saved person make no changes in his/her life, just continue to live as the individual did while unsaved. What would be the point of being saved if one’s life didn’t change for the better? Repentance is the change that comes from seeking and receiving salvation.
One individual asked, “Do you need to ask for forgiveness after you have been saved, and if so then how?” He asked the question within the context of repentance. Does one need to repent, that is to say, asking for forgiveness and not committing the sin again, after the person has already initially repented in being saved? Clearly Christ wanted His followers to repent (Luke 13:3; 24:47; Matt. 3:2), but when should the followers of Jesus repent? Obviously, sinners having never been saved should repent, but should believers repent at all after having been saved?
In the first sermon preached during the Christian dispensation, Peter said to those who asked what they must do after realizing that they had crucified the Son of God. He said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). In order to be saved sinners must repent (or turn away) from their sins and then be baptized for the remission of their sins. Some have suggested that the initial act of repentance in being saved would be enough for all of one’s life in the doctrine of ‘once saved always saved.’ This implied that after one repented and then was baptized that the individual was then saved forever with no chance of falling away; in other words, one has no more of a need to repent or to be forgiven. However, this idea does not correspond to the passage in Acts 8:9-24. God left an example of one who was a Christian and had the need to repent of their wickedness.
Simon the sorcerer believed and was baptized for the remission of his sins from the teachings of Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:9-11). Later, when Simon saw that the gift Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, Simon offered to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit to receive the power of miracles (vs. 18-19). Peter responded by telling him that “thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (vs. 20). Peter also described Simon as being “in the bond of iniquity,” and “in the gall of bitterness” (vs. 23). Peter told Simon to “repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (vs. 22). From Peter’s statement, it was clear that even though Simon had been baptized for the remission of his sins he fell from grace (Gal. 5:4). His heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21).
Simon’s situation proves that it is possible for a Christian to once again be entangled in the yoke of bondage, which is the service of sin (2 Peter 2:20; Rom. 6:16). God always gives Christians a choice between good and evil, even if they are saved by grace. If certain Christians fall from grace and find themselves in the bond of iniquity, they should do as Peter commanded. They should pray to God for forgiveness. If the saved prove faithful to repent before God, then He is just and fair to forgive them of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
However, to think that one need not repent ever again because he/she repented when initially saved, would be like a husband saying to his wife, “I told you that I loved you when we first got married, if I change my mind, I’ll let you know.” Who wants a spouse like that? God does want followers like that! Christians are not infallible; they need to admit to their mistakes just like sinners. If the saved sin and transgress the Law of Christ, they should seek God’s forgiveness and show their regret in turning away from the sinful action. John speaks of those who are saved in writing, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). For those who claim to be saved and walk in trespasses while refusing to repent because they say they have already repented, they lie and know not the truth!
In order to fully repent, one must understand that repentance is the product of both mind and action. “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” (Ez. 18:21-22). Repentance is a change in action that results from a change in the heart (Acts 26:20; Rom. 12:2). If a person is truly sorrowful, then their actions will show it and God will forgive them.