Briefly explain the role of faith and repentance in the process of salvation. How does the work of the Holy Spirit relate to the human response to God's grace and saving actions?
The roles of faith and repentance in the process of salvation are certainly essential. Without repentance there is no conviction, without conviction there is no need of saving and without a need for saving, there is certainly no faith. Profession of faith at that point would be just lip service to God (Isaiah 29:13). Is it true salvation that we seek or is it an imitation? To experience true salvation requires a heartfelt decision, meaning it is not one made out of rationality. Rationally speaking, being forgiven by a God who humbled Himself to the lowliness of a human is hard to imagine. However, knowing that you are in need of a savior and that the only way to be saved is to seek forgiveness from Him changes our perspective. Belief in not only the method, but the vehicle in God is the faith. It is not until we realize that we as humans are fallen and in sin, that we can see salvation. This is the repentance element required as a part of salvation.
Let us highlight the necessity of each role through the eyes of a congregant within a revival. Imagine that an evangelist is speaking. He speaks with authority of anointing and the Holy Spirit is strong because this speaker is close to God. The Scriptures used and wonderfully in context with his message regarding his testimony. His message brings the congregant to the realization of their own iniquities. Maybe the speaker mentioned a sin that the congregant has committed that brings this realization. This conviction is followed with the speaker’s message that we are all born in sin and in need of a Savior. The method of the Gospel is spoken, an altar call is given, and the congregant moves towards the altar in response to the invitation to receive salvation. This desire to come forward is driven by the Holy Spirit’s conviction. The conviction pricks the hearts of man with God’s presence and when we are in God’s presence our sins are exposed (1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:11-14). It is at this point that we wish to rid ourselves of the chains of bondage under sin, relieve ourselves of our slave master in Satan, and relieve ourselves of the guilt/yolk around our necks. That requires repentance of our sins.
Once we confess our sins to God and ask Him to take them for us, we are truly “set free”. In order to do this, at some point we had to develop faith. It is different for everyone when this moment will be. Maybe it is something that the speaker may have said that made you want to consider the reality of a God. It is possible that you already believed there is a God, but did not have the faith required to believe that He could take your sins away. Perhaps you believed in God, but did not know that the vehicle to God and heaven was through His only begotten son Jesus Christ (John 14:6). However fast, slow, or what the order may have been; it required faith and repentance to get to the point of being a Christian. God “never leaves us nor forsakes us” and he surely never stops seeking His one lost “sheep” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 18:12). The Spirit relentlessly, but certainly in the most gentlemanly manner; knocks at our hearts every possible moment until we are secure in the Kingdom. We only have to seek God and He always meets us half way. It is only an initial effort on our part, yet we make it so hard. We never had to have the nails hammered in our hands, or be hung on a cross to receive Him; yet we pretend that it requires such sacrifice on our parts. When we make that effort, God’s grace and mercy cover us. If the truth be told, that congregant who decided to give their hearts to the Lord in that revival, begins the process of salvation from the moment they decide to get up from their seat. The arrival to the front only verbally and physically confirms their decision and commitment. They must be explained the process to and understand the commitment that they are making, but the heart decision is made from right where they were prior. Because it is a decision within our own spirit, we can make it from anywhere such our homes or job. Thank God that His Spirit pursued me because without Him I would certainly not be where I am today.