We respond. The fruit of salutary repentance is reconciliation with God and the turning away or certainly the easing of punishments, not by reason of contrition but with respect to faith in Christ by which alone we who are justified have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Therefore this passage [Jonah 3] is describing the quality of those on whom the Lord has compassion: that they were of a contrite and humble heart, that they turned from their wicked way. It is describing the order which God observes in showing mercy and in healing but does not describe the merit or reason because of which God is merciful and forgives sin. “For it is grace and not of works; otherwise, grace would not be grace” (Rom. 11:6). Nonetheless it must be added that one can receive an easing of temporal punishments through contrition even if it lacks faith, as the example of Ahab teaches (1 Kings 21:27). In the same way God rewards the good works of those who have not been born again with temporal rewards, but no one receives the gracious remission of sins and God-pleasing righteousness without true faith in Christ.