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Questions Answered About Repentance
QUESTION: Where does the Bible say that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of life?
First, we see this definition of repentance in many clear Scriptures, such as the following:
“Bring forth therefore FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE” (Mat. 3:8).
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, THEY WOULD HAVE REPENTED LONG AGO IN SACKCLOTH AND ASHES” (Mat. 11:21).
“The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because THEY REPENTED AT THE PREACHING OF JONAS; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Mat. 12:41). Jesus said the men of Nineveh ‘repented at the preaching of Jonas.’ According to Jonah 3, this means that they believed God, fasted, put on sackcloth, and turned from their sin. Christ taught that their change of action was a result of their repentance.
“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but AFTERWARD HE REPENTED, AND WENT” (Mat. 21:28-29).
“Then Peter said unto them, REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ... Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. AND THEY CONTINUED STEDFASTLY IN THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE AND FELLOWSHIP, AND IN BREAKING OF BREAD, AND IN PRAYERS” (Acts 2:38-42). Their repentance was seen in a dramatic change of life.
“REPENT YE THEREFORE, AND BE CONVERTED, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Repentance results in conversion of life.
“But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and DO WORKS MEET FOR REPENTANCE” (Acts 26:20).
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, WHAT CAREFULNESS IT WROUGHT IN YOU, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Cor. 7:10-11).
“And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have NOT REPENTED OF THE UNCLEANNESS AND FORNICATION AND LASCIVIOUSNESS WHICH THEY HAVE COMMITTED” (2 Cor. 12:21). True repentance deals with sin and results in a change of life.
“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 Thessalonians 1:9). This verse doesn’t use the word “repentance” but it gives a perfect example of and summary of biblical repentance. It means to turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Repentance results in a change of life.
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them REPENTANCE TO THE ACKNOWLEDGING OF THE TRUTH; AND THAT THEY MAY RECOVER THEMSELVES OUT OF THE SNARE OF THE DEVIL, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26).
“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 the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet REPENTED NOT OF THE WORKS OF THEIR HANDS, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: NEITHER REPENTED THEY OF THEIR MURDERS, NOR OF THEIR SORCERIES, NOR OF THEIR FORNICATION, NOR OF THEIR THEFTS” (Rev. 9:20-21).
“And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and REPENTED NOT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 16:21).
Second, we see this definition (“repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life”) in all of the biblical examples of salvation. There is not one example of someone who was saved who did not demonstrate a change of life. The examples God gives of salvation are the apostles, the woman at the well, Nicodemus, the 3,000 who believed on the day of Pentecost, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailer, Lydia, Apollos, the Thessalonians who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” etc.
QUESTION: Aren’t you preaching “lordship salvation” by saying that repentance is “a change of mind that it results in a change of life”?
“Lordship salvation” has been given many different definitions. I do not believe in lordship salvation if that means that a person must yield his life 100% to the Lord Jesus Christ before he can be saved, because no one can do that. The very attempt to do so in order to be accepted by God would be the most cruel form of works salvation.
At the same time, I do not believe that a person can be saved unless he accepts Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour. Romans 10:9 says the sinner must “confess with thy mouth the LORD Jesus.” The thief on the cross addressed Jesus as LORD (Luke 23:42). Those who have not received Jesus Christ as Lord have not repented of their sin and idolatry. The Bible plainly shows us that salvation involves changing masters, and if some want to call that “lordship salvation,” that is their business.
The 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 (though rarely), but it is not emphasized as it is in the preaching of the apostles. A sinner’s prayer is emphasized. Sinner’s prayers are counted as salvations. When a preacher says that “twenty men got saved in the prison this month” or that “one hundred souls were saved in our church last year,” what does this mean? It usually means that these people prayed a sinner’s prayer, but that is not salvation. A repentant man who puts his confidence in the cross-work of Jesus and who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, but many call upon the Lord in a sinner’s prayer who are not saved.
I have followed up on the “quick prayerism” practice many times and have found that only a very small percentage of those who “pray the prayer” and are counted on salvation statistics show any interest in serving Christ. This is evidence of an unrepentant heart, and I believe that any evangelistic program that gives assurance of salvation to people when they are in such a condition is unscriptural and damnable.
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” if it confuses salvation with discipleship or if it confuses a change of mind with a change of life, but I do believe that “except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” and I do believe that repentance is a change of mind toward God and sin that results in a change of life. Repentance is a change in attitude toward divine authority, and if a person does not have such a change in attitude, he has not repented, he is NOT saved, and he does not have “eternal security.”
This is the point I am trying to make in my teaching on repentance, and I feel that my point is oftentimes dodged and that the “lordship salvation” thing is used as a straw man or is used to muddy the waters in an attempt to confuse the real issue.
LET ME HASTEN TO REPEAT THAT I DO NOT ACCEPT THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION TAUGHT BY SOME FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS THAT CLAIMS A CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE CARNAL, AND THAT IF CHRIST DOES NOT HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OF A PERSON’S LIFE HE IS NOT SAVED OR, IF HE HAS DOUBTS, HE IS NOT SAVED. To require that a sinner make Jesus Christ Lord of every area of his life in order to be saved, or even to demonstrate his salvation, is an impossibility and would be the harshest form of works salvation ever devised.
This very dangerous doctrine causes people to look at themselves and to examine their experience rather than to look solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust exclusively upon His shed blood. We believe and are sure that salvation changes a man’s life, and we preach this boldly, but 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 present even after salvation.
I know I am saved today because I am trusting 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 me and my changed life and my Christian experience. My Christian experience is lousy at best when I compare myself to what the Bible requires of me, which is PERFECTION OF HOLINESS. “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 standard. I am perfect only in my position in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. My acceptance before a holy God is only because I am “in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6).
If the believer doesn’t keep his mind and heart focused on his positional acceptance in Christ, he becomes discouraged. He is tossed about like a bottle upon the waves of the sea. He loses his anchor, which is a know-so salvation, a confidence in Christ’s atonement (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 “Holiness: The False and the True” by the late Harry Ironside (Loizeaux, P.O. Box 277, Neptune, NJ 07754). 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 born again people do, he earnestly desired such an experience. He agonized over his sinfulness and spiritual imperfection. He 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 found “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 old man was still present. At that point he became so disheartened that he was hospitalized in a mental health facility. He determined to leave the Christian life and return to his old loves, since Christian living “didn’t work.” In the sanitarium, though, he met some saintly Christians who taught him the truth of biblical sanctification, and he became anchored in Christ and went on to have a long, fruitful preaching ministry.
We have observed that in many independent Baptist churches 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 Mosaic Law, 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.
In conclusion, I do not believe in “lordship salvation” if it is defined as any form of discipleship, but I do believe that biblical repentance is the change of mind in the sinner that replaces the old lord of his life with the new Lord, Jesus Christ.
QUESTION: Isn’t it only the sin of unbelief that condemns the sinner?
Those who define repentance as a change from unbelief to belief (the position taught by Jack Hyles and Curtis Hutson) claim that it is unbelief that condemns men to hell and therefore it is only the sin of unbelief that the sinner must repent of.
But it is not only unbelief that sends a man to hell; it is all of his sin. Romans 5:12 says it is the “SIN of one man” which has resulted in death. Adam’s sin was not merely unbelief; it was disobedience. “For by one man’s DISOBEDIENCE many were made sinners…” (Rom. 5:19). 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. Revelation 21:8 tells us that unbelief is only one of the sins that 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 toward sinning 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).
Repentance is a change of mind in relation to God Himself, to the role He has in life in general and in one’s life in particular. Repentance deals with the question of 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 to his other gods. I believe that is what the average North American wants to do. He doesn’t want to obey God; he wants a ticket to heaven and a source of divine help with his problems. Repentance, however, involves turning. A man is going one way in life, his own sinful, self-willed way, and when he repents, he turns around to go God’s way. It is an act of surrender.
QUESTION: Aren’t you preaching “works” salvation by claiming that repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life?
First of all, repentance is not a work of man; it is a work of God. “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
Furthermore, repentance itself is not the good works in a Christian’s life; it is the cause of the good works. It is the same for saving faith. Saving faith is not a work, but it produces works. See Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-8. We don’t believe in a works salvation in any sense whatsoever, and those who say we do are liars. Salvation is by grace alone through the blood of Christ alone without works or sacraments. Salvation is wholly of the Lord (John 1:12-13). Likewise, biblical repentance is not a change of life; it is a change of mind that RESULTS IN a change of life.
QUESTION: Do you believe that no one can get saved quickly?
I believe people can be saved as quickly as God saves them. I do not doubt that some people are saved the very first time they hear the gospel. We have biblical examples such as the Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and the Ethiopian eunuch. (By the way, we don’t know how long Phillip rode with the eunuch on the long road from Israel to Ethiopia or how much Paul and Silas talked with the jailer or how long Paul spent teaching Lydia.)
What I must do as an evangelist is to look for the hand of God at work in people’s lives, convicting them and bringing them to repentance and faith. If that work is not present, a sinner’s prayer is spoken in vain. Salvation is instantaneous; it is a birth; but enlightenment and conviction precede it, and ordinarily this process takes time.
QUESTION: Don’t you believe in a sinner’s prayer?
I have nothing against using a sinner’s prayer as an aid in evangelism if it is used correctly, but it must be plainly understood that the Bible never says that sinners are saved through a prayer. The apostle Paul taught that salvation is “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). A repentant sinner who prays a sinner’s prayer sincerely to God, putting his trust exclusively upon Jesus Christ for salvation, will be saved. But an unrepentant sinner who prays a sinner’s prayer without heart-level faith and with insincere motives will not be saved. A prayer has never saved anyone. The publican in Luke 18 was saved when he prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” but it was not the mere utterance of those words that saved him; it was the fact that he was convicted of his sin before God and he had humbled himself in repentance and faith. If another man, standing nearby, had tried to pray the same prayer without the heartfelt repentance and faith of the publican, he would not have been saved merely through uttering a “sinner’s prayer” formula.
I am not opposed to using a sinner’s prayer to help people come to Christ. I didn’t pray a formal sinner’s prayer when I was saved. I simply trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour from my heart and professed Him before men with my mouth. God opened my heart to Christ one night in a motel room in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1973 and I yielded to Him and cast myself upon His mercy. Some people, though, find a sinner’s prayer helpful in formulating their thoughts toward God. The sinner’s prayer can be a good tool to assist the sinner in reaching out to God in faith, but it must be plainly recognized that a sinner’s prayer alone, apart from repentance and faith, apart from the convicting, saving power of God in that person’s life, is empty.
Some might ask, “But doesn’t Romans 10:13 say that ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’?” Yes, it does, but that verse cannot be interpreted apart from its context. The context says that sinners are saved by confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in the heart that God has raised him from the dead (verse 9), “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (v. 10). We see, then, that salvation is a heart matter. The cry unto God that saves the sinner must come from a repentant, believing heart. Apart from that, a sinner can cry out to God all day long and not be saved. Jesus described people who pray “Lord, Lord” and who even do many wonderful works in His name (which is more than the average Independent Baptist church member does!) but who are not saved (Matt. 7:21-23). James warned that one can believe in God and not be saved (James 2). Prayers alone do not save.
The bottom line is that there is not one instance in the New Testament of a sinner being led in a sinner’s prayer.
QUESTION: Isn’t repentance the same as faith?
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 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. It is heresy.
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.
QUESTION: If you teach that repentance means to turn from sin, doesn’t that make it impossible since it is impossible for the sinner to turn from every sin?
Biblical repentance is not turning from sin in the sense of changing one’s life; it is turning from sin in the sense of surrendering to God and being ready to submit one’s life to Him. It is a change of mind, not a change of life. The old nature still resides in the believer and he continues to have the potential for sin throughout his earthly life (1 John 1:8-10). If the believer says he has no sin, he is deceived. At the same time, those who say they know Christ and keep not his commandments are said to be liars. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). Repentance is changing masters. It is turning from sin and self-will as master of one’s life to Jesus Christ as Master. It is something that happens in the heart and mind and then reflects in one’s life.
To say that people can be saved without evidencing such a change is to deny passages such as the following:
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
QUESTION: If it is necessary to preach repentance, why is it not mentioned in the book of John?
I will answer this question under the following four points:
First, no one part of the Bible can be isolated from the rest of the Bible. The Gospel of John does not mention the virgin birth of Christ, but the other Gospels do. The same is true for repentance. Though it is not mentioned by term in John, it is mentioned 27 times in the other Gospels. The book of Acts describes how the apostles in the early churches preached the gospel, and they preached repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20). This is our example, regardless of what any one particular biblical book teaches. To base one’s doctrine and practice upon one isolated part of the Bible, while ignoring other parts, is the way that false teachers (mis)use Scripture.
Second, though the Gospel of John does not use the term “repentance,” it does use the concept of repentance. The book of John tells us plainly that while it is “believing on Christ” that saves, the term “believe” means far more than it commonly means today. In John’s Gospel, salvation is described as receiving Jesus Christ (John 1:11-12). To receive Christ means to receive Him as everything He is, both Lord and Saviour. John 2:23-25 tells us that the Lord Jesus did not commit himself to all of those who “believed in his name.” Why? Because many of those who “believed” did not do so in a saving manner. They “believed” in Jesus Christ only as a miracle worker or as a food provider or as a deliverer from political oppression, and they did not believe on Christ in the saving sense of bowing their knees to Him and trusting Him as their Lord and Saviour. Many of the same people who “believed in his name” in John 2:23 turned away from Him in John 6:66.
The Gospel of John teaches that salvation produces a change in a person’s life, and that those who do not live in obedience to Christ do not know Christ as their Saviour. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). John describes salvation as being “born again” (John 3). That is a dramatic expression that instructs us that salvation produces a dramatic change in a person’s life. In his first epistle, John, the author of John’s Gospel emphasizes that salvation is always accompanied by a change of life. He lists three marks of salvation: obedience (John 2:3-4; 3:3), love (1 John 3:14), and truth (1 John 2:20-27).
There is no “quick prayerism” in the inspired writings of John, and to use the Gospel of John to defend this unscriptural practice is a great error.
Third, while many arguments have been given to justify not preaching repentance, 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)? The answer is that repentance is to be preached, and faith is to be preached. While these things 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 sure guides.
Fourth, biblical repentance and biblical faith for salvation are so intimately connected that one can sometimes stand for the other WHEN PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD. They are not the same, but they are impossible to separate in practice. As the Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention stated in 1925, “We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces…” To have faith in Christ in a biblical fashion means to have a repentant faith. J. Frank Norris described it as “penitent and obedient faith.” A.C. Dixon, in his messages to the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, in 1915, noted that repentance and faith are “like the Siamese twins they are joined together by a living ligament. To cut them apart is to kill both. … When you are truly repentant, it is because you have faith in Christ; and when you turn from sin to Christ, it is because you have repented.”
This is what John’s Gospel and the rest of the New Testament teaches. Biblical faith involves repentance, and biblical repentance involves faith.
“While it is true that upwards of one hundred and fifteen N.T. passages condition salvation on believing, and fully thirty passages condition salvation on faith ... nevertheless, repentance is an essential condition in God’s glorious Gospel. It is also true that in the last analysis repentance and faith are one and the same act. ‘Ye turned to God from idols’ (1 Th. 1:9). Repentance is included in believing. Howbeit, repentance is not faith, nor faith repentance. ‘He that believeth,’ implies repentance. ‘Repent and be converted,’ involves faith. ... Repentance and faith can never be separated. ‘Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). ‘Ye repented NOT ... that ye might believe Him’ (Mt. 21:32). ... Repentance is denying (negative), faith is affirming (positive). Repentance looks within, faith looks above. Repentance sees our misery, faith our Deliverer. Repentance is hunger, faith is the open mouth, and Christ is the living food” (Evangelist James A. Stewart, Evangelism, p. 49).
Evangelist James Stewart understood repentance and faith far better than those today who claim that it is not necessary to preach repentance inasmuch as the word is not mentioned in the Gospel of John.
QUESTION: You condemn “easy believism”; does that mean you believe salvation is complicated and that a sinner cannot simply trust Jesus Christ as His Saviour?
We do not believe salvation is complicated. In my 1996 article on “Repentance and Lordship Salvation,” I stated:
“I don't like the term ‘easy believism,’ because salvation IS easy and it IS received by believing” (David Cloud, “Repentance and Lordship Salvation,” O Timothy, Volume 13, Issue 7, 1996).
Consider further the following statement from my 1992 booklet Easy Prayerism or Bible Evangelism:
“There is an evangelistic methodology in Christian circles today which is a plague to sound gospel preaching. Some call this ‘easy believism,’ but I don't like that term. BELIEF IS EXACTLY WHAT GOD REQUIRES FOR SALVATION. ‘For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:8-9). ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (Jn. 3:16). Salvation is received by believing. FURTHER, GOD HAS MADE IT EASY TO DO. A child can trust Christ and be saved; a weak-minded person can trust Christ and be saved. Salvation is not difficult, except in the sense that the sinner has to humble himself and repent.”
If someone thinks I do not believe that salvation is simple or that I do not believe it is received by childlike faith in Jesus Christ, they are wrong and they are seriously misrepresenting my position. Salvation is not difficult, but Jesus did describe the gate as “strait.”
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
REPENTANCE AND SOUL WINNING (D.W. CLOUD) [ISBN 1-58318-062-1] A study on biblical repentance and a timely warning about unscriptural methods of presenting the gospel. The opening chapter, entitled “Fundamental Baptists and Quick Prayerism: A Faulty Method of Evangelism Has Produced a Change in the Doctrine of Repentance,” traces the change in the doctrine of repentance among fundamental Baptists during the past 50 years. Chapter Two is an extensive study on biblical repentance and includes what repentance is not, a study of every Bible passage dealing with repentance, repentance defined by preachers of old, illustrations of repentance, and God's repentance. Chapter Three looks at four “Unscriptural Presentations of Repentance”: (1) An Quick Prayerism Presentation: Failing to deal plainly with repentance. (2) An Insufficient Presentation: Failing to define the terms of the Gospel so the hearers plainly understand, and failing to contrast the true Gospel with false gospels. (3) A Positive Presentation: Failing to lay a proper foundation of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. (4) A Need-Oriented Presentation: Failing to make a distinction between genuine salvation and mere reformation and ritual. Chapter Four is titled “Does Salvation Make a Difference,” demonstrating that profession without a corresponding change of life is not biblical salvation. Chapter Five is “Pentecost vs. Hylescost,” contrasting the Jack Hyles evangelistic methodology with the Bible’s. Chapter Six answers questions that commonly arise pertaining to this subject, including “Are you preaching lordship salvation?” and “When repentance is defined as turning to God from sin, isn't that a works salvation?” Third edition June 2008, 201 pages, available in print and eBook editions, www.wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143.
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