Brethren, it is taught by some that turning from sin is not necessary for salvation, that only believing in Christ is necessary. One of their arguments is that the word repent does not appear anywhere throughout John’s Gospel, which Gospel to them is thee Gospel that emphasizes how one can have eternal life. Yet based on that kind of logic, there is no need to believe in or warn anyone about the existence of hell since the word hell isn’t found in John’s Gospel either; and based on that logic we do not need God’s mercy since the word mercy is also not found in John’s Gospel.
I would contend that while it is true that the word repent is not found in John’s Gospel, the need to turn from sin for salvation is most certainly taught therein. For example, in John 3 when Christ reasoned with Nicodemus about his need for the new birth, the need for repentance (turning from sin) was implied. How do I know that? Well, our Lord reprimanded Nicodemus for not being acquainted with the new birth as it was taught in the Old Testament. And how was it taught in the OT? Ezekiel 36:25-27 puts it this way,
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."
Another example is in the case of the women caught in adultery in John 8. Did not our Lord tell her, “go and sin no more,”?
Our Lord also said in John’s Gospel that His sheep hear His voice and FOLLOW Him (Jn. 10:26-28).
And there are more examples from John’s Gospel that could be cited.
Those that deny the need for turning from sin argue that when the New Testament mentions repentance it is synonymous with belief/faith/trust in Christ and that it has absolutely nothing to do with any turning from sin. And they say that men of God like Paul Washer, Ray Comfort, A.W. Tozer, John MacArthur and others have erred in preaching that repentance involves a turning from sin and that it is necessary for salvation.
But does the New Testament really teach that repentance has nothing to do with a turning from sin? The following are examples of repentance being taught as a turning from sin:
“But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”-Acts 8:20-23
“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”-Revelation 2:20-23
“But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”-Revelation 9:20-21
The late H.A. Ironside (theologian and pastor of Chicago's Moody Church) explained this issue well in his book titled "Except Ye Repent." Ironside wrote there,
“The arrangement of the four Gospels is in perfect harmony. In the Synoptics [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] the call is to repent. In John the emphasis is laid upon believing. Some have thought that there is inconsistency or contradiction here. But we need to remember that John wrote years after the older Evangelists, and with the definite object in view of showing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, we might have life through His Name. He does not simply travel over ground already well trodden. Rather, he adds to and thus supplements the earlier records, inciting to confidence in the testimony God as given concerning His Son. He does not ignore the ministry of repentance because he stresses the importance of faith. On the contrary, he shows to repentant souls the simplicity of salvation, of receiving eternal life, through a trusting in Him who, as the true light, casts light on every man, thus making manifest humanity's fallen condition and the need of an entire change of attitude toward self and toward God (Except Ye Repent, 37-38).”
Brethren, the need to turn from sin for salvation is clearly taught throughout both Testaments. May we not allow the enemy of our souls to deceive us in this vital matter.