PILLAR 5 – THE HUMAN RESPONSE THE GOSPEL DEMANDS
Jesus death for sins was an act of salvation. To receive God's gracious gift Scripture explicitly teaches that:
Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
Repentance is necessary in order to receive salvation - therefore it is a necessary component of the Gospel we proclaim. This repentance from sin and turning away from it is also a turning to Christ in saving faith in order to receive salvation:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have shown you and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).
Some people claim that "faith alone" in Ephesians 2:8 negates the need to repent. But we must remember this hermeneutical rule: Scripture cannot contradict itself - therefore in understanding it rightly, it must harmonize with the rest of Scripture. As we harmonize all of Scripture we can clearly see that sometimes only faith or belief is mentioned, sometimes only repentance is mentioned, and sometimes both are mentioned (see the verses quoted in this post).
By harmonizing all of these (rather than focussing on a single verse) we can see that the salvation call is a call to turn away from sin in repentance and a turning to Christ in faith – trusting Him alone to save us. The turning to Christ (faith) necessitates a turning away from our carnal affections (repentance). Man cannot serve two masters. As Todd Friel says; "Repentance and faith are two wings of the same bird that fly us to the Savior".
This salvation is ultimately a work of God. Both repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Ephesians 2:8) are works of God. We cannot come to God unless the Spirit draws us (John 6:44). We are not saved by praying a prayer or walking down to the front of a church. It is God who saves. It is God who gives us a love for His law and a desire to live in holiness. It does not mean we stop sinning but it does mean we have a new relationship with sin manifest in a love for God's law and a desire to obey it:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
Scripture is clear! Baptism won’t save you, Confirmation won’t save you, praying a prayer won’t save you. We must be born again – and it is a transforming work of God. Does a tree become an apple tree because it has apples on its branches? Or do the apples on the branches reveal what the tree always was. Does the fruit of the Holy Spirit make us a Christian. Or does the fruit of the Holy Spirit reveal that our new birth is real.
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