Updated April 14, 2010 (first published July 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The Bible very plainly gives us a doctrine of repentance, but there seems to be some confusion among Independent Baptists in this regard. In the June 1996 issue of O Timothy we noted that some even claim that repentance is not a doctrine and that it is not necessary to preach repentance. That this is a widespread problem is testified by the title of a book that was published some years ago by a veteran Independent Baptist missionary. The title was “The Great Omission,” and the subject was the lack of repentance in the preaching of many fundamental Baptists. Not only is repentance almost entirely omitted in many ministries, it is also widely misunderstood and misinterpreted.
I have read dozens of books, articles, and sermons touching on this topic, and the following are some of the errors that I have seen cropping up repeatedly:
ERROR NUMBER 1: REPENTANCE IS WRAPPED UP IN FAITH AND DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PREACHED.
“The word ‘repent’ is not even found in the book of John. It is obviously assumed by God that ‘repentance’ is a part of ‘believing’” (Bob Gray, Longview, Texas).
I will reply to the idea that repentance is the same as faith by asking the following questions:
1. If repentance and faith are the same, why does did Paul make such a plain distinction between them? “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In reality, repentance and faith are two different actions though they are intimately connected and cannot necessarily be separated in time. Repentance is to acknowledge one’s sin and rebellion against God and to change one’s mind about sinning against God. Repentance is surrender. Faith is to trust the finished work of Christ for forgiveness. Repentance and faith are the two aspects of man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.
2. If repentance and faith are the same, why did all of the New Testament preachers proclaim repentance? Many arguments have been given to justify not preaching repentance, but the bottom line is that the Bible preachers proclaimed repentance. If repentance is totally wrapped up in believing, why did the Lord Jesus Christ preach “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)? Why did Peter preach, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (Acts 3:19)? Why did Paul preach, “God ... now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30)? Or, “[men] should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20)?
3. If repentance and faith are the same, why did the Lord Jesus Christ say that repentance is a part of the Great Commission? “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The answer is that repentance is to be preached, and faith is to be preached. While these doctrines are intimately connected, they are not the same. Biblical salvation involves both: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). That is what the Lord’s Apostles preached, and they are our only infallible guides.
Those who claim that repentance does not have to be preached or that it is the same as faith are denying the plain teaching of the Word of God.
By the way, as for the Gospel of John not using the word “repentance,” it does not mention the virgin birth, either, or many other things that are found in other portions of Scripture. We are given four Gospels so that we will have a complete picture of Christ’s person, work, and message; and the fact remains that repentance is mentioned 27 times in the Gospels alone and 59 times in the New Testament. That is a heavy emphasis.
ERROR NUMBER 2: DEFINING REPENTANCE MERELY AS A CHANGE OF MIND
Another man who has widely influenced the doctrine of repentance held by independent Baptists is the late Curtis Hutson, former editor of the Sword of the Lord. His 1986 booklet “Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach?” has been distributed widely and is still used today in many churches. Hutson denied that repentance means to turn from sin (p. 4). He denied that repentance is sorrow for sin (p. 8). He even denied that repentance means “a change of mind that leads to a change of action” (p. 16). He claimed that repentance simply is “to change one’s mind” and that it did not necessarily result in a change of life. In an attempt to build his doctrine of repentance, Curtis Hutson quoted Scripture that appears to support his position but he ignored the Scriptures that plainly refute it. He misquoted the writings of men like his predecessor John R. Rice. He also mixed in a heavy dose of human reasoning.
For example, he stated that repentance couldn’t mean to turn from sin because man cannot turn from all sin. That is a smokescreen, because no one has defined repentance as turning from all sin. The historic definition of repentance, as it applies to salvation, is a change of mind toward God and sin that results in a change of life. Repentance is not turning from all sin in the sense of some sort of sinless perfection; it is a change of mind toward sin so that the sinner no longer intends to walk in rebellion against God. The turning is in the mind and heart. It is not a change of life; it is a dramatic change of mind, and that results in a change of life.
Dr. Hutson also reasoned that saying that repentance will result in turning from sin is a works salvation. That is nonsense. The Thessalonians turned from the sin of idolatry (1 Thess. 1:9). Obviously, that does not mean they thought that their works had a part in their salvation. It was the product of turning to God. The fact that God requires that we turn from sin does not mean that salvation is by works. We know that the works are the fruit of genuine salvation, not the cause of it. Repentance, defined as turning to God from sin, is not a works salvation, as Dr. Hutson falsely claimed. It is the sinner’s obedient response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction (John 16:8). Dr. Hutson’s entire line of reasoning about repentance was unscriptural and dangerous.
ERROR NUMBER 3: DEFINING REPENTANCE AS A CHANGE OF MIND THAT RESULTS IN A CHANGE OF LIFE IS A “NEW” THING.
“Who in the world would have thought that Independent Baptist preachers would try to redefine Bible ‘repentance’? ... Repentance is not turning from your sins” (Bob Gray, Longview, Texas).
“To say that repentance means to turn from sin, or to say that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action, is to give a wrong definition to the word” (Curtis Hutson).
In reality, the NEW doctrine is the teaching that repentance is ONLY a change of mind that might or might not result in a change of life. The NEW doctrine is the idea that 3,000 people can “be saved” under a church’s ministry but only 30 of these “converts” can be found serving the Lord a year later. To the contrary, the 3,000 that repented on the day of Pentecost “continued steadfastly-----.” All 3,000! For thousands of years God’s men have preached repentance and have defined it as a change of mind that results in a change of life. John the Baptist so defined repentance, when he demanded that the people “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). The Lord Jesus Christ so defined repentance, when he said that the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt. 12:41). We know the dramatic result of Jonah’s preaching. The Apostle Paul so defined repentance, when he noted that genuine repentance produces fruits of obedience (2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25-26). The Apostle John so defined repentance, when he wrote that repentance results in obedience (Rev. 2:5, 21-22; 3:3,19; 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).
God’s men have continued throughout church history to preach repentance and to define it as a change of mind that results in a change of life. To come closer to our own times, I will give a few quotes from Baptists of the last 60 years to prove that this is not a new thing:
“To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when he turned from sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (John R. Rice, What Must I Do to Be Saved?, 1940).
“We believe that Repentance and Faith are solemn obligations, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the quickening Spirit of God; thereby, being deeply convicted of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and openly confessing Him as our only and all-sufficient Saviour” (Baptist Bible Fellowship, Articles of Faith, 1950).
“Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin. Repentance is a forsaking of sin. Real repentance is putting your trust in Jesus Christ so you will not live like that anymore. Repentance is permanent. It is a lifelong and an eternity-long experience. You will never love the devil again once you repent. You will never flirt with the devil as the habit of your life again once you get saved. You will never be happy living in sin; it will never satisfy; and the husks of the world will never fill your longing and hungering in your soul. Repentance is something a lot bigger than a lot of people think. It is absolutely essential if you go to heaven” (Lester Roloff, Repent or Perish, 1950s).
“Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior” (Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, 1963).
“What do I mean by repent? I mean to turn your heart from your sin. Turn from sin in your heart and start out to live for God. … A penitent heart that turns from your sin and turns to Jesus” (John R. Rice, “Repent or Perish,” Sword of the Lord, March 3, 1971).
“Salvation is more than just believing the facts of the gospel. It involves being sorry for sin, turning from sin, and trusting in Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this ‘repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ … We live in a day of ‘easy believism.’ It is easy to get children to hold up their hands to indicate a decision, but that does not mean they are saved. The Bible says that no one can be saved unless he repents. … Repentance is being sorry enough for your sins to want to stop doing them” (George Eager, Winning Children to Christ, 1979).
“The Greek words [for repentance] mean ‘a change of mind which results in a change of action.’ When that refers to man, there is a sorrow for sin involved. This definition is substantiated both by the scholarship of Trench and Thayer, as well as by the New Testament usage” (Bruce Lackey, Repentance Is More Than a Change of Mind, 1970s).
These examples could be multiplied endlessly. (We have given many more in our book Repentance and Soul Winning.) The teaching of the Bible, and the teaching of men of God of old and the teaching of most independent Baptists of bygone days, is that repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life. Anything less is a new and unscriptural doctrine.
ERROR NUMBER 4: SAYING THAT IT IS UNBELIEF ALONE THAT CONDEMNS MEN AND SENDS THEM TO HELL.
“There is only one sin that the lost man is to repent of and that is the sin of unbelief” (Bob Gray, Longview, Texas).
“There are those who say we have to repent of our sins in order to be saved. No, we have to repent only of the thing that makes us unsaved, and that is unbelief” (Jack Hyles).
Repentance is thus defined as changing one’s mind merely in relation to unbelief. While we agree that the sinner must repent of his unbelief, this is not all that is involved with repentance. Repentance is largely a change of mind in relation to God Himself, to the role He has in life and in one’s life in particular. Who is God? Am I god? If I am not god, who is God? The Hindu, when hearing the gospel for the first time, often wants to add Jesus Christ to his other gods. I believe that is what the average North American wants to do. He doesn’t want to obey God. He merely wants a ticket to heaven and a source of help when he has needs. He isn’t interested in being God’s servant; he wants to make God his servant.
This is not biblical repentance. Repentance involves turning. A man is going one way in life, his own self-willed way, and when he repents he turns to go God’s way. It is something that happens in the mind and heart and then reflects in the life. When such a thing happens, how can it not result in a real, observable change in one’s lifestyle?
It is not only unbelief that sends a man to Hell; it is all of his sin. Romans 5:12 says that it is the sin of “one man” which has resulted in death. Adam’s sin was not merely unbelief; it was disobedience. Ephesians 5:6 and Colossians 3:6 tell us that the wrath of God comes upon men because of their sins, such as the sin of fornication or of covetousness or of jesting or of idolatry. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for BECAUSE OF THESE THINGS COMETH THE WRATH OF GOD UPON THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE” (Eph. 5:6). “For WHICH THINGS’ SAKE the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:6).
Revelation 20:12-15 tells us that unsaved men will be condemned by their works and cast into the lake of fire. They will not be condemned only by the one sin of unbelief.
Revelation 21:8 tells us that unbelief is only one of the sins which cause men to be outside of the eternal city of God. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Biblical repentance involves repentance toward one’s sin--not merely the sin of unbelief, but sin in general.
“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they REPENT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 2:22).
“And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and REPENTED NOT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 16:11).
ERROR NUMBER 5: CONFUSING REPENTANCE WITH “LORDSHIP SALVATION.”
“If someone says: repent for sins or you are not saved, what do they mean by that? Do they mean, when I turn from sin, I turn from all practice of sin, that I will never sin again? ... I am curious to know if there are any people living today who can say that God, Christ, is one hundred percent Lord of my life? ... When you speak of Lordship Salvation; when you make the statement: If Christ is not your Lord, you are not saved. Or, you can only be saved if you make Christ your Lord. What do you mean by that statement? Do you mean He must be the Lord every moment of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year? Does that mean that when you are a carnal Christian, as is taught in Corinthians, that you are really not saved? ... I would like to ask, when someone says to a sinner that he must accept Christ as Saviour and Lord, do they take him and give him a month or six weeks or three months of discipleship so that he can understand what Saviour and Lord means; so then he can accept Him as Saviour and Lord? ... I really don’t know anyone who would dare say: Christ is one hundred percent Lord of my life” (Tolbert Moore, The Gospel Preacher).
We do not support any idea of “Lordship Salvation” that teaches that an individual must make Jesus Christ Lord of every area of his life before he can be saved. Salvation does not produce perfect obedience nor does it require perfect understanding of theology. A genuinely born again Christian can be carnal. The Bible plainly teaches this (1 Corinthians 3).
To require that a sinner make Jesus Christ Lord of every area of his life is an impossibility and would be the greatest form of works salvation ever devised. This false doctrine is taught by some independent Baptists, but we do not support it. It is a very dangerous doctrine that causes people to look inside themselves and to examine their experience rather than to look solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust solely upon His shed blood.
We believe and are sure that salvation changes a man’s life, and we preach this boldly. One of the Way of Life booklets is entitled “Does Salvation Make a Difference?” The answer is YES! If a person says he is saved but he has absolutely nothing to prove it, he is deceived (2 Corinthians 5:17). To continually examine oneself, though, and to continually look at one’s experience as the basis for determining if one is saved, is extremely dangerous. Even the Apostle Paul, who, in our estimation, was the most dedicated Christian who ever lived, said of his own experience, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). That is the experience of every born again child of God. The old flesh is still there even after salvation.
I know I am saved today because I have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for my eternal salvation, and “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). My faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ, not in myself and my Christian experience. My Christian experience is lousy when I compare myself with what the Bible requires of me. The Bible requires PERFECTION. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). I don’t live up to this perfect standard. I am perfect only in my position in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. If I don’t keep my mind and heart focused on my perfection in Christ, I become extremely discouraged. I become tossed about like a bottle upon the waves of the sea. I lose my anchor (Heb. 6:19).
To preach a “lordship salvation” that requires that sinners make Jesus Christ absolute Lord of every area of their lives in order to be saved is to confuse position and practice, justification and sanctification. This is similar to the error made by many Pentecostals and Charismatics who believe the child of God can lose his salvation. An excellent testimony about the danger of this false teaching is in the book “Holiness: The False and the True” by the late Harry A. Ironside (Loizeaux). (This important book is available at the Way of Life web site under the Charismatic section of the Apostasy database and also in the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library.) As a young preacher, Ironside was involved with the Salvation Army. He was taught that he could have an experience, a “second blessing,” whereby he could obtain perfect victory over his old nature. As all genuinely born again people do, he earnestly desired such an experience. He agonized over his sinfulness and spiritual imperfection. He diligently sought the “blessing,” praying, fasting, crying out, striving, believing. Finally he thought he had obtained “it.” He stood in the testimony meetings and joyfully told the people that he had “it,” that his struggles with sin were over. Of course it wasn’t long before he realized that he had been deceived and that the struggle with sin was still within him. At that point he became so discouraged and disheartened that he had to be hospitalized in a mental ward. He was so disillusioned that he had determined to leave the Christian life and return to his old loves, feeling that it would be vain to attempt to seek the things of Christ any further. In the hospital, though, he met some saintly Christians who patiently taught him the simple and lovely truth of biblical sanctification, and through this ministry of the truth he became anchored in Christ and went on to have a long, fruitful preaching ministry. It was the truth that set him free (John 8:31-32).
We have observed that in many independent Baptist circles there is a serious lack of clear, sound teaching in regard to justification and sanctification, position and practice, of the believer’s relationship with the Law of Moses, and of the Holy Spirit. Without such teaching new converts are left to deal with the flesh without a proper understanding of the positional stability and unchanging victory they have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Shouting and empty huffing and puffing and a constant diet of nothing but duty, duty, duty will not ground God’s saints in the truth. Read the book of Ephesians, and see if you can conceive of Paul screaming and yelling and pounding his fist while preaching that. (Don’t get me wrong; I am all for strong, plain, pointed preaching, but that is not all that we need. A lot of the preaching I have witnessed in IB churches is more a carnal show than a godly endeavor.) Without such teaching new converts are left to struggle with the flesh without a proper understanding of the positional stability and victory they possess in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Salvation is not difficult. A child can trust Christ and be saved; a weak-minded person can trust Christ and be saved. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). Jesus invited all who labor and are heavy laden simply to come to him and receive His gift of rest (Matt. 11:28-29). He likened salvation to eating and drinking (John 6:35). Salvation is not difficult, except in the sense that the sinner has to humble himself and acknowledge his sinful condition and turn to the one true and live God from his idols (1 Thess. 1:9).
Having said all of this and having renounced Lordship Salvation as previously defined, I am also convinced that some men use the “Lordship Salvation” thing as a smokescreen to hide their “quick prayerism” error. Salvation does not produce perfection, but it does require repentance, and repentance is a change of mind toward God and sin and Jesus Christ and the Bible that will result in a change of action. Salvation does not require obedience, but salvation will result in obedience; and if it does not, at least to some degree or other, it is not biblical salvation. Faith in Christ cannot be divorced from repentance toward God. “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
The greatest concern I have, when surveying the independent Baptist scene as a whole, is that repentance is NOT emphasized in the preaching of the Gospel. It is mentioned sometimes, but it is not emphasized as it is in the preaching of the Apostles. Instead, a prayer is emphasized. The number of prayers are counted as salvations. “Eighty men got saved in the prison during the meetings this week.” What does a statement like that mean? It usually means that 80 men raised their hands and prayed a prayer. Is that, in itself, salvation? Is that repentance? No, a repentant man who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, but many call upon the Lord in prayer who are not saved.
I have followed up on “quick prayerism” and have found typically that only a small percentage of those who “pray the prayer” show any abiding interest in obedience to Jesus Christ. Many of these who we have counted as “saved” are offended that we would have the gall to imply to them that they need to go to church and be baptized and serve Jesus Christ. “But I thought you prayed to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior” we say to the “new convert.” He replies, “I did, but who are you to tell me what I have to do? I don’t need church to save me.” This attitude is evidence of an unrepentant heart, and I believe that any plan of salvation that allows multitudes to be comfortable in such a condition is unscriptural. If Dr. Moore agrees about this, I am glad that he does, but I could wish that he would have said so! I don’t understand how any independent Baptist preacher today can address these issues without pointing out the error of “quick prayerism” which has so permeated our movement. I don’t believe in “Lordship salvation” as Dr. Moore defines it, but I do believe that “except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” and repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of life. Call that “Lordship salvation” if you want to. Repentance is a radical change in attitude toward divine authority, and if a person does not have such a change in attitude he has not repented and he is NOT saved and he does not have “eternal security.”
This is the point, and I feel that it is dodged and that the “Lordship Salvation” thing is used as a straw man.
ERROR NUMBER 6: TEACHING THAT REPENTANCE REQUIRES THAT THE SINNER GO THROUGH A PROCESS OF TURMOIL AND STRUGGLE
“You must come to Jesus Christ and be saved. He is the answer to your unhappiness and loneliness. Now, how do you come to Christ? First, you must go to a good church every single Sunday -- to hear the gospel. That is critical -- if you want to become a real Christian. Secondly, you must go through the inner turmoil and struggle of conversion. You must inwardly come to the place where you distrust your own mind, and hate your own sin. You must begin to literally detest your own sinful nature. Third, you must throw yourself on Jesus for mercy. He has risen from the dead...” (R.L. Hymers, Demons in the Smoke of the World Trade Center, 2002, p. 50).
My friends, this is not what the Apostle Paul said when the Philippian jailer asked that monumental question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The simple reply was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
It appears that Dr. Hymers, in his zeal to distance himself from “quick believism” methodology that is rampant among fundamental Baptists, has gone over to an unscriptural position on the other side. The Bible does not tell the sinner to go to church faithfully and go through some sort of inner turmoil before he can properly cast himself upon Christ for salvation. Going to church is great, of course, and it is good for sinners to go to church to be under the sound of the preaching of God’s Word; but going to church is not the gospel. Inner struggle is also not the gospel. That is what many of the Puritans and others taught, but it is not scriptural. I believe in the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and that it is necessary for salvation, but nowhere in the New Testament did the apostles preach what Hymers preached in his 2002 book.
If a sinner were to attempt to follow Dr. Hymers’ instruction about salvation, how would he ever know that he had gone through enough struggle, enough turmoil? How would he know he had reached the point where he hated his sin enough, where he distrusted his own mind enough? Jesus said that to be saved one must come as a little child (Lk. 18:17). Can a child go through the process demanded by Dr. Hymers? I don’t think so.
I have seen the fruit of such false teaching, and it is endless confusion and anxiety and a lack of settled peace and confidence. It causes the person to look more upon himself than upon Christ, to focus more on who and what I am than Who and What Christ is. Salvation is not difficult. God did not make it difficult. It is a sinner acknowledging his sin (conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s job, not the sinner’s -- John 16:8) and fleeing to Christ for refuge (Heb. 6:18). Salvation is all of Christ. It is coming to Christ (Jn. 6:35), receiving Christ (John 1:12), believing on Christ (John 3:16), trusting in Christ (Ephesians 1:13), calling upon Christ (Rom. 10:13), knowing Christ (Jn. 17:3).
The Bible likens salvation to simple things, such as a hungry person eating food and being satisfied forever (Jn. 6:50-51), a thirsty person drinking water that quenches the thirst eternally (Jn. 4:14), a sick man going to a doctor and being healed (Mark 2:17), a guilty person being freely and undeservedly pardoned (Col. 3:13), a slave being bought out of the slave market and set free to serve a new and kind Master (that is what the terms “ransom” and “redeem” mean, i.e., Mat. 20:28; Titus 2:14), a needy orphan adopted as the son of a wealthy Man (Galatians 4:5), a weary laborer coming for rest (Mat. 11:28-29), a debtor having his account paid by Another (Romans 4:6), a man in a boat in danger of being drawn out to sea in a storm casting out a strong anchor that never fails (Heb. 6:19), a person freely receiving an infinitely valuable gift that was purchased at great cost by Another (Eph. 2:8-9).
I believe in repentance and I preach repentance. I am very concerned about the shallow “soul winning” methodology that is rampant in many fundamental Baptist circles that has left multitudes and multitudes of unconverted and deceived souls in its wake (deceived because they have been told they are saved and have even been given “assurance”). But at the same time I do not believe that biblical repentance and salvation is a difficult thing. I do not believe it is going through some process of “inner turmoil” and coming to the end of oneself. Conviction is God’s part, and He has promised to do it. The Bible says Jesus gives spiritual light to “every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9) and is drawing all men to Himself (Jn. 12:32). All do not come, but that is not God’s fault or choice (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Men can resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the drawing of Christ. The Lord wept over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often WOULD I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and YE WOULD NOT” (Mat. 23:37).
I believe in the necessity of conviction of sin, but my point is that the conviction and drawing is God’s part. What the sinner himself is called upon to do is to repent and trust Christ. “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Right where he is, the sinner is instructed to repent and believe. That is how the Apostle instructed the pagans at Athens. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but NOW commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). The Bible plainly says, “...behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). The Bible says you can be saved today, right now. That is different from Dr. Hymer’s instruction to go through some sort of a process.
Paul preached repentance and demanded repentance, but we know that the repentance that he preached was not a long process, because he told the Philippian jailer simply to believe on Christ, that very night. This is, of course, how Christ Himself dealt with people (i.e., John 3:16, 18, 36; 6:35, 39, 47; 7:38; 9:35; 11:25; 12:44; etc).
Biblical repentance is not a change of life. That would be a works salvation. Biblical repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life, which is exactly what the Bible says about salvation (2 Cor. 7:10; Eph. 2:8-10). If someone has a so-called salvation that doesn't result in a change of life, he doesn't have a biblical salvation. The Bible says that "if any man be in Christ, he is a NEW creature" (2 Cor. 5:21). "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Too many "converts" today are like those Paul warned about in Titus 1:16 -- "They PROFESS that they know God; BUT IN WORKS THEY DENY HIM, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
Biblical repentance is, very simply, a turning, a change of direction. It is depicted by the Prodigal Son. He came to himself in the hog pen (and we know from other passages that this comes through divine conviction) and he confessed his sin and changed directions. He acknowledged his sin before God and man and turned his feet back to the father's house. When he turned his feet to return to the father, he was, simply and automatically and by the very nature of the thing, turning from his old life. By the supernatural inner conviction and providential external working of God, the young man had gotten fed up with the old life and was ready for a new one. That is repentance. We see it in the believers at Thessalonica who before their conversion were worshippers of vile idols. Notice how their salvation is described: "For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how YE TURNED TO GOD FROM IDOLS to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9). They didn’t turn from idols to God, but they turned to God from idols. That is biblical repentance. It is nothing more; nothing less.
Do you mean then, Brother Cloud, that a sinner can flippantly pray a sinner's prayer and be saved even if he doesn't care about following Christ?
No, I mean nothing like that. A sinner who can flippantly pray a sinner's prayer without being ready conjointly to follow Christ has not repented in a biblical fashion and is not saved. Those who accept such a thing and proclaim such people "saved" and include such people in their "salvation statistics" are not following the Bible and are creating endless confusion. Sinner's prayers divorced from a repentant faith are empty.
I also do not mean that we should rush someone into "praying the sinner's prayer" if it is obvious that they don't understand the gospel or if they are interpreting the gospel in light of some false religion in their background or they are not under conviction about their sin, etc.
I also am not saying that salvation always comes quickly when the person first hears the gospel. Certainly that is not the case, as we all know. Oftentimes weeks, months, even years are required in dealing with an individual.
All of that, though, is a completely different issue and different problem from the one we have been discussing that is taught by Dr. Hymers. What we are saying, simply, is that the Bible does not instruct the unsaved sinner to do what Dr. Hymers instructs him to do.
For more on this subject see the following at the Way of Life web site http://www.wayoflife.org. Using the search engine you can find the following articles:
“Repentance and Lordship Salvation Revisited”
“On Doubting Salvation and Struggling with Sin in the Christian Life”
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