Without a doubt the notion of how repentance ties in with faith in Christ has been the cause of much frustration for Christians. This is a crucial matter, and is a matter that in my opinion should not be that difficult to resolve. Nonetheless this concept of repentance being tied to faith has led many a heresy police to fire their heresy guns as often as they can. Many it seems would say that it is near, or in fact, heresy to teach that you must repent in order to be saved. They say one can exercise faith in Christ and be saved without any sort of repentance. Some would go a step further and say that it is a false Gospel, a works-based Gospel to say that you must repent & believe the Gospel.
I commented to a video featuring Pastor David Platt a few months ago where a gentleman was accusing the likes of Pastor David Platt, Pastor John MacArthur, and Ray Comfort of teaching a works-based false Gospel. His qualm was that they teach repentance must accompany your faith in Christ, and therefore this is a false Gospel. I was then responded to by another gentleman who, very respectfully I might add, challenged my views by posing some questions. The open letter in this post is my response to this gentleman since I felt it inappropriate to fill up the YouTube comments section with this many words.
This article is a brief (compared to the numerous essays & books written on this subject) response to some questions I was asked from commenting on a YouTube video. I am going to show the comments that lead up to my response essay.
You can see the video here
6 months ago
Nope not the GOSPEL, 1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: No where does it say turn or repent of sins, and no where in the bible does it say “repent of sins”… The Gospel of John mentions the word “believe” or “believed” 85-times, without ever mentioning the word “repent” even once. This is clear evidence that faith and repentance are inseparable; and that by believing on Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, one has also repented. Repentance is acknowledging one’s sinnership—admitting that I am as dirty and guilty a sinner as God hath declared me to be in His Word. The Law of God was given “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Repentance” unto salvation in Mark 1:15 is the Greek word metanoeo, which simply means “a change of mind,” no more. Notice that believing the Gospel is the object of true repentance; not ridding one’s life of sin, which is what heretics like Ray Comfort, Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), Jack Chick and John MacArthur teach. Mark 1:15 plainly teaches that the Gospel is the object of repentance. Men repent and believe the Gospel. That is salvation.
[Copperas Springs Baptist Church](Dustin Burdin,myself, posting from our church’s account)
5 months ago
Wow….strong words calling men of God who have dedicated their lives to the ministering of the Word heretics. Just because you disagree with someone does not make them a heretic automatically. To correct you a little, I know Ray Comfort & John MacArthur do not teach “Ridding your life of sin.” They explicitly say from the pulpit they sin every day. I have sermons to prove this. They do not teach Repentance=Perfection as you seem to indicate. They teach Repentance= a complete 180 degree change of heart/mind about your life before Christ. And a complete abandoning of yourself and self-will and hatred of your sin. And a turn/reliance complete trust upon Christ’s atoning sacrifice. I encourage you friend to be a little more careful with who you point your heresy gun at.
2 weeks ago
+Copperas Springs Baptist Church
Well howdy partner, you wrote, “They [MacArthur & Comfort] teach Repentance= a complete 180 degree change of heart/mind about your life before Christ. And a complete abandoning of yourself and self-will and hatred of your sin. And a turn/reliance complete trust upon Christ’s atoning sacrifice.” This statement raises Oh-so-many questions in my mind. First, I was just wondering if you could actually point to any verses in scripture to substantiate that definition of repentance. I would appreciate it.
I’m a bit confused, you see, because you state that MacArthur and Comfort “explicitly say from the pulpit they sin every day” and that “They do not teach Repentance=Perfection”, but then, as I quoted above, you define repentance as completely abandoning yourself, and your will. But if I’m completely abandoning myself and my will how is it that I’m continuing to sin?
Furthermore, if I have to turn from my sins and totally abandon myself and my will to be saved, was the apostle Paul saved? Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” It doesn’t look like he totally abandoned himself and repented of his sins. Is Paul in hell right now?
[Copperas Springs Baptist Church] (Dustin Burdin,myself, posting from our church’s account)
1 week ago
Brother, I have a reply but it is lengthy. I would rather email you it than take up comment space on here. I have it typed up in a Word document. Is there a way I can privately contact you with it?
1 week ago
No please do I would like to hear it
As of today, August 18, 2014, I have not heard back from Mr. Jason Wolfe for my request to personally email him. At the request from him for answers, and the request of Mr.Brodie9237 to post the answers publicly, I have decided to openly post my response essay that was intended for Mr. Jason Wolfe personally. I have posted the essay here on my blog because I did not think the format would be appropriate to fill up so much comment space on the YouTube video page.
Here is the response. Repentance & Faith: Response to Mr. Jason Wolfe’s Questions.
The following is my response letter
Dear Jason Wolfe,
I will try and give sufficient answers to your questions. I must say at the start that I am sorry if I caused any confusion by not clarifying my response enough. I also would like to preface my answers by saying that my response is in no way a complete or thorough Biblical treatment on repentance. I have only tried to give concise answers to your questions raised.
First of all the Greek word commonly behind the English repent in our Bibles is Metanoeo. This is the only Greek word that is translated repent or repentance in our English New Testament. I am no Greek scholar, nor pretend to be, however I know enough of the tools and language to study the critical lexicons and language aids. That being said, you can check this out for yourself, but Greek lexicons translate the word Metanoeo to have a literal meaning of “a change of one’s mind”; “a change in direction entirely”; “a remorse and sorrow over your sin leading to a turning away from it”; “to think differently.” The military used to use this word as a marching command to direct soldiers to perform a complete 180 degree turn in their marching. This is the Biblical notion of repentance. A complete 180 degree turning of your current life path (ways, morality, ethics, sinful desires, etc.) towards Jesus Christ and His ways.
The idea is not that you have to do a work (repentance) before you can be saved, which some falsely accuse Pastor MacArthur & others of teaching. Rather repentance is a mindset, much like faith. In fact faith in Christ and repentance towards Christ are inseparable.
Jesus began His public ministry calling for the repentance of the Jews (Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15). He called for them to abandon, turn away entirely from their system of works and self-righteousness and towards the forgiveness and grace of God found only in Christ (their Messiah). I want to say right at the start that I believe the Bible is clear that the Gospel is a Gospel of repentance towards Jesus Christ. I say this because there is the idea amongst theologians and lay Christians of a ‘cheap grace’ sort of Gospel where you merely have faith. That sounds like I am being heretical, but let me explain what I mean by having mere faith. Indeed we are saved by faith alone, we only have to have faith, we are justified by faith (Romans 5:3). But the question becomes, what kind of faith is required? There are many who ‘say’ they believe (have faith) in Christ as their Savior, yet never show the fruits of repentance (Matt 3:8).
John the Baptist, in the same way as Jesus, preached a message of repentance (Matthew 3:1,2 & Luke 3:1-18). He preached to the self-righteous Jews of his day that the Messiah was coming and they must turn (repent) from their wickedness, their apostate Jewish system, and turn towards the grace of God and the salvation to come through His Messiah. John’s message to the Jews was that they must turn to God through His coming Messiah by way of repentance. This implies faith since if they are truly repenting of their wickedness and turning to God through His Messiah, then they must have faith in the Messiah and faith that this is their only hope of salvation or they would not be repenting in the first place.
John also spoke of such a thing as the fruits of repentance (Matthew3:8). This is what I mean by when we say faith alone in Christ alone saves, we have to make sure we have the right kind of faith. The kind of faith John and Jesus preached was a faith of repentance, or we could call it a repentant faith. John says to the Jews that they must show the fruits of their repentance. Then John lists some ways that they can know if they have truly repented or not (Luke 3:10-14). So repentance is not a work added to faith as if repentance and faith are opposed to each other. Rather they are two-sides of the same coin. Repentance is accompanied with faith and then the fruits of faith & repentance follow, as John the Baptist mentioned the fruits in keeping with repentance.
This is the same idea as James wrote in his epistle about we are not saved by works, but we prove our faith is genuine by the fruit of good works it produces since we have a repentant heart that turned to Christ in faith (James 2:14-26). The idea is a repentantless-faith is a dead faith that James refers to in James 2:26. If one never repents, then one has never truly come to faith in Christ. They are merely giving ‘lip-service’ to Christ while never being convicted over their sinful-lost lifestyle and repenting of it. This repentantless type of faith will never produce the fruits or works that James refers to as being the evidence of our faith.
Repentance is not a work, but it is a changing of the sinner’s mind about their current sinful lifestyle as they are convicted over their rebellion & condemnation by God. Faith is the other side of this coin of salvation. In repentance the sinner turns away from their own ways of sinful & wickedness and in faith turns towards God through Jesus Christ as the Savior. This is Paul’s idea in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. Paul was pleased that his previous letter caused the Corinthian church so much grief and conviction that they repented of their sinfulness. Now before one argues back with my analysis and claims that Paul was only referring to Christians who were caught up in sin, let me say it should be clear though that this principle applies to the lost person as well. Notice Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that the kind of sorrow over sin that leads to repentance is the kind that is according to the will of God. So this I say must by definition apply to the lost sinner as well since this is the only kind of sorrow that is according to God’s will, the kind of sorrow over sinfulness that leads the sinner to repent of that life. Paul says this sorrow unto repentance leads to salvation.
If someone has the right kind of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches us that there will not be perfection, but there will be an entire change of the person (2 Corinth. 5:17). If someone says, “I have faith!” The questions becomes, “prove it! (James 2:18).” It is not merely saying we believe in Christ as our Savior that saves us. If someone does this and their life is never changed, in the sense that they have turned away from their former ways (lusts, passions, sins, beliefs that were wrong) and turned and clung to the saving work of Christ, then they have never truly had faith in Christ. True faith in Christ will be accompanied with repentance and thus the changed life in Christ. This does not mean perfection by any stretch of the imagination. But it does mean that it is biblically impossible for someone to say they have faith in Christ and yet never have any desire whatsoever to actually put away their sinful lifestyle and life in a manner according to the will of God (repent). No Christian lives perfectly, but the true Christian must be able to say that he/she is a new creature in Christ. That their old self has passed away and that they are striving to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:17 again).
Jesus was asked by the rich young ruler what he needed to enter eternal life. Jesus did not say to him, “Just make sure you pray the sinner’s prayer and make sure you mean it with all your heart that you believe in Me as the Savior for your sins.” Nor did Jesus say, “Just make sure you believe in me with all your heart, even if you don’t have a desire to change your life, just believe is all and that will do.” Jesus responded to the man by showing him that he has no righteous work he can offer for his salvation, and furthermore he needed to get rid of what he held in higher regard than God in his life (his wealth) (Luke 18:19-23). This is the idea of repentance. It is abandoning all, forsaking your own self to gain Christ as it were (borrowing Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8).
Jesus begins His Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-4 with explaining that those who can enter the Kingdom of Heaven are those who first are ‘poor’ in spirit. This does mean that only the literal poor can enter Heaven. Poor here means those who come to realize they are spiritually bankrupt and destitute. They have no spiritual value to offer God in and of themselves. They realize they are naked as it were before God because of their sinfulness and are broke in the spiritual bank. Then Jesus in verse 4 and adds that they also are the ones who mourn. Again, this is all spiritually speaking not physically. Jesus means that those who realize they are spiritually bankrupt before God then begin to mourn (weep, deep sorrow, & grief ) over their own sinfulness before God. This is the idea of repentance.
You cannot truly say you have faith in Christ if you have never first seen why you need to have faith in Christ. The first concepts to understand are do you even recognize you are a sinner (spiritually poor)? Do you then realize that your sinfulness has put you under the judgment of God and those sins must be dealt with by His holy justice (spiritually mourning)? This leads to the gentle mindset of Matthew 3:5. These ones then become humbled in their soul after they realize their condemnation and guilt before God. This is the idea of Proverbs 3:34 and James picks up this idea in his letter (James 4:4-10). Then these are the ones who begin to thirst after the righteousness of God found only in Jesus Christ the Savior (Matthew 3:6).
Repentance & Faith in Christ are two-sides of the same coin as I have already said. They cannot be separated. One is accompanied by and with the other. If I put my faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of my sins, that necessitates that I also am acknowledging my current way of life is not pleasing to God and I must turn towards Christ (repentance). This is the idea I mean by a self-abandonment and ridding of yourself (sinful desires, passions, lusts). Jesus said to follow Him you must take up your cross & follow Him (Matt 16:24). This cross image signifies death of the bearer of the cross. Jesus’ idea was that to be One of His true followers you have to die to yourself (your own passions, desires, selfish will, sinful ways) & turn from that way to follow Him (repentance).
Now, to address your question that it seems contradictory to say repentance equals a complete turning and abandoning of yourself and self-will; yet Paul indicates we still deal with the flesh. Yes I agree that Paul was indeed teaching that even though we are a new creature in Christ, we still have the flesh. We will have the flesh until we die, and only upon death will be able to rid this body of sinful death.
So we do still deal with sin, temptations, lusts, and we will succumb to these to one degree or another. I for one will be the first to say that I still sin as a Christian, and I sin more than I ever want to. I sin when it makes no sense to sin. I sin and know it is wrong the whole time. I give in to my fleshly temptations and it sickens me. I feel Paul’s pain of the scripture you quoted in Romans 7.
There is no contradiction in what I, or the likes of Pastor MacArthur and Ray Comfort are saying. I probably did not explain properly. The idea is that repentance is a mindset. This is why I labored to explain with so many words above in this essay as to what repentance is biblically. And so much more could be said, I did not do it justice I am sure. But even I think you would agree, that we who are in Christ are new creatures and have new desires to serve God, obey God, fulfill God’s will for our lives. All the while, we struggle with dealing with the sinful things of this world and our own lusts. It is a struggle, no a war it is!
But that comes from repentance in the first place. If I have repented & turned to Christ and clung to His complete saving work through faith, then the new life I have in Christ will be marked now with a war. A war between my old flesh and my new spirit! Repentance is not saying that you rid yourself…of yourself in the sense that you have practically and completely put away your own selfish desires & sinful passions. Repentance is an acknowledgement that your current way of life (before Christ) is anti-God, hatred of God, judged by God and you need to turn from that towards Christ!
No sir, the Apostle Paul is certainly not in Hell. I was not saying that Paul’s reference to his struggle between his sinful flesh and his regenerated spirit is to imply he never repented. Rather the fact that Paul faces this war within himself between his old nature and his new nature in Christ by definition necessitates he has repented of his sins and turned to Christ in faith. To repent does not mean we are forevermore perfect, rather it means we forevermore wish to be rid of our old life before Christ. We wish to be shed of all our filthiness and sinfulness that offends our Creator God. In faith we cling to the saving work of Jesus Christ for our forgiveness. In the Holy Spirit we are being conformed more each day (albeit we still struggle and may falter for a brief time) into the image of Jesus Christ. When we repent, we are putting away the old and seeking the new life in Christ.
If someone has never repented, yet says they have faith in Christ, I dare say this is a huge contradiction. You cannot have one without the other. If I have truly repented of my sins (I change my entire mind about my life as it is before Christ; I am sorrowful over my sins & wish to be rid of them) then I turn to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of them, I am saved. I will still practically in this life deal with sins and temptations, but having repented of those does not mean I never do them again. It means my mind is such that I hate the sins! Things I used to love to do before faith in Christ, I no longer want anything to do with. The life I lived before my life in Christ, I want nothing to do with it! This does not mean I may never slip back into some of the old life, but when I do the conviction of the Holy Spirit is strong and I now am aware that what I am doing is dishonoring to God. When I sin it makes me sick because I know that this is no longer what I want for my life (because I have a repentant mindset). I only want what God wants.
This is a deep issue and you raise great questions, I am afraid that my attempt has been but an introductory level response to your questions. I am going to draw this to a conclusion, and if you have any more questions or would like to discuss other points or need clarification (since I cannot be clear at times), please feel free to email me personally.
Sincerely in Christ,