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Re: Repentance vs Faith

    "...how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ac20:20-21)

    "...the foundation...repentance from dead works and of faith toward God," (Heb6:1b)

    "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out..." (Ac3:19)

    "Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk1:15)

    "I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are being kept safe, if you hold fast that Word which I preached to you; unless you believe in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures," (1Co15:1-4)

It never ceases to amaze me, God's timing. Yesterday (compared to the day this is being written) the Lord impressed upon me the topic for this writing, which was then put on my mental 'schedule' to do 'today', a file being created and titled for the purpose. This morning when I turned on the computer and retrieved the e-mail, there was a mailing from WayOfLife's FBIS mailing service about "The Repentance Blacklist" www.repentanceblacklist.com (RB), so I clicked the link and had a look.

The RB website opens with the subtitle, "Openly denouncing those who are adding works to salvation", and then gives several paragraphs of explanation, as follows:

    --paste--
    The independent fundamental Baptist movement has been totally infiltrated by those promoting the false doctrine that in order to be saved one must "repent of their sins." (This phrase is never found in the Bible.)

    This supposedly involves a change in lifestyle or a "willingness" to turn away from sin in order to be saved. THAT IS WORKS SALVATION!

    This is a clear departure from the Bible's teaching that FAITH ALONE is necessary for salvation. The Bible makes it clear what repentance really is:
    --endpaste--

First of all, before moving on, let's knock over a couple of their straw men. They claim that the phrase "repent of their sins" is not found in the Bible. Well, certainly, if a person types the words "repent of their sins" in the software search box, one comes up empty. But, what do they think "repentance from dead works" means? (Heb6:1) And if repentance does not include a "willingness to turn away from sin", then what is the whole point of "Repent therefore...that your sins may be blotted out..."? (Ac3:19) The word "that" implies a mental purpose/willingness and desire to be without sins; that "repent" ultimately -results- in sins being "blotted out" (Further down we will discuss how that happens: repentance, of itself, does not blot out sins; but leads to it)

There are two error extremes, which I was intending to address, before this RB website came to attention; and then correct Biblical doctrine. Let's summarize the two, briefly; and then review what the Bible says. Most of this has already been covered in the past, and can be easily found as a subjunct to the "Salvation" series [link] at the website: under the main index, the category: "Additional Related Writings"

On the one hand there is the doctrine that Billy Graham has preached [link], and which most churches and pastors have proclaimed, and the basis for invitations and "-the- prayer" that people are exhorted to pray. It says, basically, that repentance is a "changing of the mind, changing directions". It suggests that "I was going one way, but when I changed my mind, I started going a new direction" And the "salvation" process also includes the exhortation to "promise to -do- better...from now on". Billy Graham, and most churches, also proclaim the essentiality to 1) attend church, 2) read the Bible, 3) pray, and 4) live a good life. These latter four points, as seen recently on a vintage TV video of BG from 1979, making up the last of BG's three points on "how to be saved"

Truly, this -is- a (as RB says) "works salvation". And Billy Graham deserves to be on their "blacklist". Salvation is "not of works" (Eph2:9) Even though we may have a -desire- to not be sinful, we do not have the ability to save ourselves by -doing-; we are unable to "keep our promise" to "do better"; it was when we were "without strength" that Christ died for us. (Rom5:6) Paul proves the argument that mere -desire- to "do better" is impossible: "For the good that I wish to do, I do not do; but the evil I do not wish to do, that I practice." (Rom7:19) And concludes that victory comes "through Jesus Christ our Lord" (vs25)

On the other hand, Repentance (itself) is not "works". If you check out the above-mentioned links, in the past there was a discussion with a particular webmaster who, at the time on his website proclaimed, in so many words, that Salvation "does not include repentance". And when a couple of e-mails were exchanged, he labeled repentance as a "work". Thus, Salvation is -only- through faith. One of the Reformation's battle cries, "Sola Fide" (only faith). In contrast to Rome's practice of penance and indulgences.

Oh yes, and... a third error: Some propound that repentance is the same as faith. I think it was Dave Hunt who in his mixed up explanation back then, as he also said that the subject of "repentance" is "too confusing", thus any discussion of it should be "left out" [link] when talking about "salvation": said something like, "repent by believing" [link].

But if one does a Bible computer search on "repent*", notice that in just about every place repentance is mentioned, it is repent(ance) "and" something else. Repent "and" believe (two distinct things). Repent "of" their deeds. Repent "of" their works. Repentance "leading to" salvation. Repentance "unto" life. Repentance "and" remission of sins. (If you do your own similar search you can find the references to these)

The title of this piece, "Repentance -vs- Faith", is to help us truly understand. We do not repent -by- believing. Faith does not -define- repentance. The two are distinct.

Repentance is not something we -do-, although there are some 'actions' associated with repentance; after all, by our very existence, we are 'active' in some way: breathing, thinking, standing, sitting, etc. We are not blank 'blobs' of nothingness. If we have blood coursing through our veins, we are comprised of soul. (Lev17:11) We have the "breath of life". (Gen2:7) As long as our bodies are alive, there is 'activity', even in sleep; which is distinct from how "work" is defined.

Work is defined: "Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something."

Repent is defined: "To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it..."

    "But to this one will I have regard: To the lowly and contrite of spirit, and the one who trembles at My Word." (Is66:2)
The Greek word for "repent" comes from a root meaning: "to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding"
    "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is continually before me." (Ps51:3)
As God also invites Israel:
    "Come now and let us reason [a mental process related to "understanding"] together, says Jehovah: Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Is1:18)
Let us revisit a past example or object lesson...
    "In the year that King Uzziah died I then saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple." (Is6:1)
In ancient cultures, the more grand and powerful the king, the 'higher' was his throne situated. They would be situated on an elevated level with steps leading up to the throne.
    "Then I said, Woe is me! for I am undone! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts." (vs5)
How did a condemned person usually find themself before the king's throne? Did they come 'seeking' the king? No. If they came uninvited, if the king didn't extend the scepter (like in the account of Esther), they could be killed. (Es4:11) Typically they would be arrested by the king's officers and 'brought' before the king. And once in the king's presence, did they waltz up the steps and "How'ya doin' Dude?" (with high fives)? The sinner is before God's throne, being judged according to their works. (Rev20:12) The verdict is, "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezk18:4) Isaiah laments, "Woe is me!" In those eastern cultures the low condemned person would grovel on the ground. If punishment was imminent, they might wallow and plead, "be merciful to me a sinner!" (Lk18:13)

The 'understanding' (remember the Greek definition?) is that I'm a sinner. I have no saving graces. The 'books' (record) of my life is that there is "nothing good" in me. (Rom7:18) Nobody is righteous. (Rom3:10, Is8:20, Ps14:3) I am without hope, and have been existing as though God didn't exist. (Eph2:12) I have nowhere to go. I have no ability to rectify and -undo- my sin.

Like we've said on other occasions... THAT is the "place" of Repentance!

Is groveling and pleading a "work"? Like we explained above, it is certainly the activity of one's soul and mind. But according to the definition of "work", nothing is being "accomplished" to a desired end. Any personal efforts are totally fruitless. Pleading with the Most High does not expunge our sin from the books. We are born in sin (Ps51:5), and we cannot change our nature.

God's judgment is due us, and we have no ability to 'fix' the record. The guards are standing around keeping us from escaping, and the executioner's sword is drawn, poised over his head.

But God hears the pleading, and He sends His Son, who all this time has been sitting at the Father's right hand: because on another occasion the Father had sent Him to take care of this person's penalty. So He goes (Jn3:16) and the executioner whacks off His head, instead. (Jesus died on a cross, but we're using 'beheading' in keeping with this parable) His blood/soul (Is53:11) is shed. (Rev1:5) After three days God raises Him from the dead. (Ac2:32, Rom10:9)

So now the Father offers (Jn6:44) to the sinner: If you will receive Him, My Son has paid the penalty, and you can come and live with Me for eternity. (Jn1:12) So Jesus comes and stands before the sinner, "Do you believe into the Son of God?" Who is He? "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you." (Jn9:35,37) "Lord, I believe" (vs38) Jesus goes over to the clerk of court, takes the warrant, signs it with His 'blood stamp'... "FORGIVEN", and then says, "Follow Me" (Mt16:24, Jn21:22)

There are three parts to Salvation:


1) Repentance - acknowledgment of sin and pleading for mercy 
2) Gospel - Jesus died and rose again to pay the penalty 
3) Faith - Believing God's offer to be true and efficacious, and 
            - Receiving the gift of Eternal Life given through Jesus Christ
When does Salvation become effective upon a person? At repentance? No. Repentance is a place of utter hopelessness. Does the Gospel message save? Well, certainly Jesus died and rose IN ORDER TO PAY for the sinner's sin. But the sinner is not saved JUST BECAUSE Jesus died. There is a teaching called "universalism" that says the whole world is -already- saved because of Jesus' death and resurrection; that the "gospel" is the act of informing people of that fact. But no. Jesus came, but it says, "His own did not receive Him" -BUT- "as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing into His name:" (Jn1:11-12) God sent His son "that everyone believing" can be saved (Jn3:16); thus the opposite is also true: those NOT believing are "judged already, BECAUSE" of their unbelief. (vs18, Heb3:19)

Salvation is -conditional- upon the sinner 'receiving' Jesus Christ, and everything He represents. First of all that He exists (Heb11:6) and is God's Son (Jn8:24); and then that He provides the necessary atonment for sin. (Rom3:24-26)

Is a person saved through faith...alone? Faith...IN WHAT? The world believes in faith. They teach each other to "have faith...in yourself". Not long ago I drove by a sign at one of today's local 'churches' that proclaimed, "Jesus believes in you" Oprah teaches her followers to have "faith in yourself"; you can do it; you go girl!

Faith must have an 'object'. And SAVING Faith must have the -correct- Object. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name [than Jesus Christ of Nazareth] under Heaven given among men that is required for us to be saved." (Ac4:12,10) "No one comes to the Father except through [Jesus]" (Jn14:6)

No. Salvation is not through repentance...alone. It is not through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...alone. It is not through faith...alone. It is the complete package.

Just like: You cannot drive only with wheels. Nor only with an engine. Nor only with a car body. It requires the whole package, assembled, to drive down the road.

And also: The three elements -are- NOT each other. Repentance and faith are not the same as each other. Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection is not the same as faith. They are each distinct.

What came first was Jesus' Gospel. The preparation for Jesus to die on the cross was made "before the foundation of the world" (1Pet1:20) Before God ever made the earth and put man on it, He knew man would sin, requiring Salvation; and thus already had the preparations ready.

Next comes Repentance: the sinner's acknowledgment of sin, sorrow over it, and the heart desire to be cleansed. Notice the passive voice: to "be" cleansed; we cannot -do-, but it is done -to- us. We cannot cleanse/save ourselves. If we could, it would not be "salvation"... by definition.

And finally is Faith: RECEIVING the "gift" God is offering. And God's invitation is: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2Co6:2)

The result of all this is that God then does a work. He makes us a "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph2:10) We have the new "birth from above" (Jn3:3) of the Holy Spirit (Jn3:8, Rom8:9) which is now "able to please God" (Rom8:8) because we are a "new creation" where the old has gone 'bye-bye' and "all things have become new" (2Co5:17) That's the "conversion". Conversion is not how Billy Graham says a person changes and -goes- a new direction; but conversion is what God -does- 'to' the sinner; He has "-translated- us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col1:13) Our "citizenship" changes from earth to Heaven. (Php3:20) It is God who is doing the "good work in [us]" (Php1:6) because Jesus takes up residence through the Holy Spirit, and it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col1:27)

Our new nature is like putting on a "robe of righteousness" (Is61:10) We "put off" the deeds of the flesh and "put on" righteousness, which then naturally lends itself to good deeds. (Col3:8-10) The dirty robe comes off, and a new clean one is put on. In our minds the old has been "put to death" (Col3:3-5, Rom6:3-13) Our mind now thinks new thoughts (Col3:2) and as a result the new deeds follow. "Whatever things are [righteous]... think on these things" (Php4:8)

And regarding these new righteous things we -think- about, "DO THESE, and the God of peace will be with you." (Php4:9)

Thus the verse:

    "...that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." (Ac26:20)
That verse is not saying that Salvation is of "works". But what is the result of Salvation? A new nature and new mind. We say it often: Dogs bark, ducks quack; sinners sin, and those who belong to God -do- deeds of righteousness. Deeds "befitting" repentance. Deeds that are 'appropriate' and 'proper' to the new nature. Dogs do not meow; that's not 'appropriate/befitting' for a dog. And sinners, used to sinning, also cannot (are not able to) do good.

A sinner may 'want' to change and do good. He may make "promises" to do so. But if the sin nature remains, there is no way (yes: in hell) that a sinner can do righteous works.

    As Jesus said, "Offspring of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Mt12:34)
The tree is known by its fruit. (Mt7:16,20) And yes... a book -is- known by its cover, because most covers are designed in accordance with the contents of the book.

Yes, it is true that "without faith it is impossible" to be pleasing before God. (Heb11:6) But such a truth does not also indicate "sola fide" (faith only). If a person refuses God's face, refuses to acknowledge God's holiness (Is6:3), refuses to repent, acknowledging one's sin; in so doing they have refused the 'place' (at the foot of the cross, at the foot of God's throne) where the Gospel and Faith are even an option. If you are filled with self-esteem, you are self-righteous; and Jesus "did not call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mt9:13)

And Jesus further says, "unless you repent" you will perish (Lk13:3)

Salvation comes from God (Jonah2:9) through Jesus Christ. (Rom5:21) But for the sinner to obtain that salvation, the sinner's first step (not works) is repentance: Acknowledging that one is a sinner, separated from God, deserving of death, unable to save ourselves, and plead for mercy. And then, when God "draws" (Jn6:44) and offers the gift: to Receive it in Faith, Believing (trusting) in Jesus Christ (Ac16:31) to pull us "out of the miry clay" and to set us firmly "upon the Rock" (Ps40:2) as we then become part of Christ's [C]hurch. (Mt16:18)

That is it. Salvation. In a nutshell.

Amen!