A Voice in the
December 21, 2001
Another recent communication from another source, totally unrelated to these mailings/studies, sent me to a website to check out the matters that were of concern to them, and I got to reading a bit of the website's (ministry's) doctrinal statement on "how to be saved", etc. As well... little passing comments some of you make in your correspondence to me from time-to-time also suggests we need to revisit this subject briefly.
There is a confusion between 1) repentance, 2) repentance, 3) faith, and 4) works. [Editor: Nope, I'm not 'losing' it with #1 & #2. No, my senility hasn't got the best of me.... yet!!] The confusion for many is, precisely, the fact that there are two types of repentance.
Yes, I, too, am noticing a proliferation of a "salvation" doctrine that teaches something on the order of: 1) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts16:31), and... 2) O.T. works of the form... "But if a man is righteous and -does- what is just and right; if he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife, nor approached a menstruating woman... if he has walked in My statutes and kept My judgments faithfully; he is righteous. He shall live life, says the Lord Jehovah." (~Ezek18:5-9) After all Paul says, "Yet the Law is not of faith; but, The man who -does- them shall live in them." (Gal3:12)
While not limited to them, this doctrine seems to be proclaimed most militantly by many "messianic/Hebrew roots Christians". They see how Jesus said that He came to "fulfill the Law" (Mt5:17), and that S/Paul was a Torah-observant Jew, keeping all the Mosaic traditions (Gal1:14); therefore Christians -really- should, too. But they seem to ignore the whole gist of the book of Galatians, that one cannot keep the Law. That "..by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom3:20)
Do we need to review "Faith"? I hope not. At least, we won't right now. The need for Faith unto Salvation proliferates the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. God sent His Son for the purpose that anyone who "believes" in Him might have "eternal life". (Jn3:16)
Do we need to review the fact that Salvation is "NOT of works"? (Eph2:9) I hope not. To prove out Paul's comment in Rom3:20, we see Israel's history, that, although they had the Law, based on works, "with most of them God was not well pleased..." (1Cor10:5) "..because of unbelief.." (Rom11:20, Heb3:19)
The confusion is with "Repentance". If you were to look at someone's theology, looking at how they view salvation, if they proclaim "repentance" (their doctrinal statement has the -word- "repentance" interspersed here and there all over the place), are they proclaiming Biblical Salvation? Does the fact that they use the -word- "repent" guarantee that they are saved?
Well, Billy Graham has proclaimed "repentance" with the definition that goes something like: "turning and changing one's mind and behavior". In other words, I used to go one way, doing certain things; but now I turn 180 degrees, and -do- different things. Become a better person. Get a new lease on life. Promise God to not do all those bad things I used to do. Trouble is, even at the end of his life of preaching this doctrine, when interviewed, his own words out of his own mouth have proclaimed that he is not sure that, when he should arrive at the Pearly Gates, if God will even receive him into Heaven or not. He is not even assured of his own salvation! (For you newer subscribers, find "Billy Graham's Gospel" in the Discernment Archives) It is also reported that he has membership in one of those godless, satanic secret societies. And recently he was in the news receiving knighthood in the UK. Is -his- "repentance" ... unto Salvation?
When it became exposed awhile back that Dave Hunt doesn't believe in repentance for Salvation (or at least, doesn't think it should be proclaimed because it's too "confusing"), his public questioning of the matter was words to the effect of, How would one know when they had repented for -every- sin? How would they know when they had repented -enough-?
The website I mentioned above gives a very clear Biblical presentation of Saving Faith. Then, they briefly quote Paul's words, "..repentance toward God.." (Acts20:21) but then proceed to follow-up that quote with O.T. concept of -doing- good, not sleeping with one's neighbor's wife, being honest in dealings, etc. All this, in their "how-to-be-saved" section.
Those who typically proclaim "Sola Fide" (Faith Only), denounce the concept of the "works-of-repentance". If we are saved, "not of works", and they view repentance as being what we have just observed in the preceeding few paragraphs, then, perhaps, we can understand why they balk at "repentance". If one has to repent 'enough', such a 'kind-of' repentance is certainly a "work", isn't it. However, I still haven't figured out how they then explain away Scripture's very clear proclamation, that God "..now commands all men everywhere to repent.." (Acts17:30) That God's purpose is that "all should come to repentance" (2Pt3:9) That Jesus came to call, "..sinners to repentance" (Mt9:13) Not one of them (to my knowledge) has answered, or explained how their beliefs correspond to these clear proclamations.
Another person the other day in an e-mail asked something on the order of: Is it possible that a person can Repent unto Salvation, but never actually use the -word- "repent"?
!!! EXACTLY !!!
Such a question gets closer to the Truth than pretty much all the other arguments or objections. Such a question indicates an understanding of the -other- "repentance" (numbered above). And it is this -other- repentance that, without it, a person cannot get to Heaven. This "repentance" is the very root and core of the October article from John ch3, "Born of the Spirit" and the one from November, "Spirit and Truth".
It is the difference between Repentance unto Salvation, and "penance". You see, the confusion comes because most people (who haven't yet "come out of her My people"-Rev18:4) are stuck on the Babylonish concept of penance. What Babylon calls "penance", people are confused into thinking is the same as Biblical "repentance" unto Salvation. The Reformation rebelled against certain aspects of Rome, but apparently never figured out what Biblical repentance is. Thus, rejecting Rome's "penance", they also threw Scriptural Repentance out the window (or never even saw it??), and embraced "Sola Fide". (Or, perhaps, the fact that they reject it is another proof of them being the other 'side' of the "coin" of Rome? The one 'side' being -obviously- in pagan error, and the other 'side' -appearing- to rebel against the first side...thus -seeming- to be 'True' by contrast... but in its falseness, actually being even more damningly deceptive for any who embrace it! And this includes -most- of christendom.)
Repentance Unto Salvation is -NOT- a sorrow and penitance for all the "things" I have -DONE-... that I have lied, cheated, stolen, slept with people not my spouse, been mean and nasty to people. Yes, it is on account of all these things that the "wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Eph5:6), and we will certainly have sorrow for them. But why does the sinner do these things? Because he is, in fact, a -SON- of disobedience. He was "born" into sin. "..in sin my mother conceived me.." (Ps51:5) He DOES them, because that is his NATURE. The problem is not the 'deeds', but the 'nature' that produces the deeds. Penance only takes care of deeds. But it has no effect over the nature. The Law (with its punishments and rectitudes/repentances) only gives a "knowledge of sin". (Rom3:20)
It is a "heart" problem... "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual perversions, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Mt15:19)
As God is presenting Himself to Job, when Job "repents" (Job42:6) he does not reply, "Oh, God, I have -done- so many terrible things!" No! Even satan agreed with God's accessment that Job was 'doing' all the right things. (Job1:8) No, he says, "I -am- vile" (Job40:4) When Isaiah sees God's glory, he replies, "I -am- undone! I -am- a man of unclean lips.." (Is6:5) Again, he does not list off all his terrible -deeds-. Presumably he was already a Law-abiding Israeli...keeping the Law. In both of these cases, the individuals see themselves as dirty, filthy, rotten. You see, even anything "wonderful" we might come up with, as humans, even things that we consider to be "good"... "..are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like a menstruation cloth." (Is64:6)
The one Jesus proclaimed had gone home "justified" was the man who cried out to God to be "merciful to me a -sinner-!" (Lk18:13) Unlike the pharisee who was listing off all his good deeds (vs11-12), the one who was justified did not list anything. He merely implored God's mercy because of -what- he was... a "sinner".
Yes, Dave Hunt is correct. How could we possibly know when we had 'listed off' -all- the sins we needed to repent -of-? We cannot! It is impossible. Repentance Unto Salvation replies to God, saying, "I cannot even remember all my sins! If it were up to me, it would be a hopeless situation, because everything about me is sinful! You, God Most High, know me. You know me better than I know myself. You know my sins. You know my heart is filthy. I haven't even a clue as to what is needed in order to 'fix' my life. Please extend Your mercy to me, take away my sin (nature), and give me Your eternal life and nature."
When I used to perform in Handel's "Messiah", there were always disputes about the words, "Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the -sin- of the world" (Jn1:29) Some editions print "sins" (plural). Certainly, Jesus came to take away sins (deeds). But that can never happen until SIN (the 'nature') is taken away, and the person is made into a "new creation". (2Cor5:17)
True Faith unto Salvation, thus, is synonymous with True Repentance. The two, actually, can not be extricated from each other. Today's doctrine of "just have faith" (like Oprah teaches), goes on to suggest that if you have "enough" faith... Well, there we come to Dave Hunt's question again. How do we know when we have repented "enough"? How do we know when we have "enough" faith? You see, both of these are "works". I am 'grunting' to -feeeel- the faith as those feelings eventually work themselves around to a feeeeeling of "holiness". Same as, "wracking-my-brain-to-remember" all my sins to repent of them, as though going into a confessional and listing them off. Both of these; this 'kind-of' faith, and 'kind-of' repentance are, truly, "works". They are of man's efforts. They do not save!
True Saving Faith does -NOT- "give our life to Jesus"! But rather, "receives Him". (Jn1:12) The self-abhorrence of Repentance realizes that my own state, of my own "strengh/ability" (Rom5:6), is hopeless. I am "undone". "Woe is me!" I've had it! There is no hope. But hand-in-hand with that revelation of my own heart is the understanding that Jesus provided "redemption through His blood". (Eph1:7, Col1:14) Thus, Saving Faith "trusts/leans on" the salvation Jesus provides. It doesn't necessarily understand it all, as the man cried out to Jesus, "I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mk9:24) Remember, even our faith is a "gift of God" (Eph2:8)
It's like when Jesus met the woman of Samaria. Salvation does not happen unless the "Father draws" the person. (Jn6:44) God meets the sinner; the sinner is NOT (as one famous witnessing tract proclaims) seeking after God. We have all "gone astray" like sheep; we all go our "own" way. (Is53:6) "There is none who seeks after God" (Rom3:11) Such a tract, essentially, says God's Word is lying, when they say that mankind is seeking after God. Well, if "God is true...and every man a liar" (Rom3:4), it becomes obvious that that tract is LYING to those it purports to witness to. (Yes, folks, the "4 Spiritual Laws") God comes to the sinner... not the other way around.
So, when a person is confronted with the Holy Righteous God, and sees one's own sinful state, he has two options: to reject God, or to acknowledge one's sinful state and receive God's new nature through Christ. The two are essentially part of the same event. One does not repent without receiving Christ. Nor does one receive Christ without the repentance which acknowledged the need for Him; otherwise, why would one ever "receive" Him? The Samaritan woman proclaimed in Jn4:29
1) He told me everything that I ever did... 2) is this not the Christ (what she -did- indicating her heart) 1) Repentance... 2) Faith 1) Acknowledge sin... 2) Receive Jesus ChristNo... there is no such thing as "Sola Fide". If Sola Fide is all you embrace, you are on your one-way ticket to Hell!
[Editor: If that seems like much too "harsh" of a statement, you should have seen "Dr. Phil" on Oprah last night! He was yelling at his group trying to get them to be 100% in his program of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. But here, we are talking about your eternal soul! Your eternal destiny. Your Eternal Salvation, or its alternative, eternal damnation!]
If you think that all you have to do is 'add' Jesus to yourself along with your list of other "friends" (Just like the Japanese used to want to add Christianity to their pantheon of "yaoyorodsu no kami") [Oh, "What a friend we have in Jesus..."], and you "believe" in Him in 'that-way', you didn't really meet Jesus! The "shepherd" you met was an impostor who "climbed up some other way" (Jn10:1) If it is not coupled with Repentance, it is not True Faith. That's "#1-Repentance", not "#2-Repentance" ...or, "#2-Repentance", not "#1-Repentance". Since we didn't label them... take your pick.. at any rate, it's the -other- "repentance" from the one most people proclaim.
"For [Jesus says] to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven." (Mt5:20) It is a righteousness that goes beyond SELF-righteousness, repenting of sin[s], and keeping lists of righteous deeds. "Deeds" is nothing, if the matter isn't resolved in the "heart". "For he is not a Jew [Believer] who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." (Rom2:28-29)