Belief in God

What does biblical repentance mean?

On Repentance

by John Calvin (abridged)1,2

1. Though we have shown how faith possesses Christ, and how by means of faith we enjoy His benefits, yet the subject would still be left in obscurity, unless we describe the effects which we experience. Faith must lead us to repentance.

2. The argument, that repentance rather goes before faith, is based on the preaching of Christ and John the Baptist, wherein they first exhort the people to repentance; and that the Apostles were commanded thus to preach (Acts 20:21).

Yet, when we speak of faith as the origin of repentance, we dream not of any space of time which it employs in producing it. Those who prescribe to their young converts certain days, to work out repentance before they could be admitted to the communion of evangelical grace, have erred. Anabaptists and Jesuits prescribe such a period for repentance which a Christian ought to extend throughout his whole life. These people also err in regarding repentance, merely as a product of terrors of conscience, without first having tasted a knowledge of grace. We say that a man cannot devote himself to repentance, unless he knows himself to be of God; and no man can know he is of God, until he has first received His grace.