Friday, August 27, 2021

Since The Bible Doesn't Explain What Repentance Means, Neither Should We

Acts 16:30-31, “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

We've got a BIG problem in many of our churches today with what pastors are teaching about Bible repentance to be saved. I was pondering this important matter today and something dawned on me. Folks, why do so many preachers try to explain what repentance means, when even the Bible doesn't tell us? Think about that. I am guilty of doing it too, so I am preaching to the choir here.

In Acts 16:30 the question was asked, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The simple answer to this naïve Roman soldier was, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...” Paul didn't mention repentance! No mention was made of turning away from anything. Oh, why do preachers make getting saved so complicated? Now, we know from the Bible that a person MUST realize that they are a sinner. That is the whole purpose of God's law according to Romans 3:19-20, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

I think one of the greatest injustices that pastors do to people is to make a big issue of repentance, which confuses them. I totally disagree with the theological statement: “Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior.” Folks, that simply is NOT true! Repentance is “a change of mind, period, end of story! It is true that once saved, the indwelling Holy Spirit will begin to produce fruit in the life of a believer (Galatians 5:22-25), but this fruit MUST NOT be connected with the plan of salvation itself, lest we corrupt the Gospel and cast stumbling blocks before the people.

Pilgrim's Progress author, John Bunyan (1628-1688), wonderfully made this statement:

“If you do not put a difference between justification wrought by the man Christ without and sanctification wrought by the Spirit of Christ within, you are not able to divide the Word aright; but contrariwise, you corrupt the Word of God, and cast stumbling blocks before the people.” —John Bunyan (1628-1688)

I LOVE that statement! I am amazed that John Bunyan had such a keen grasp of the Gospel. But after all, why shouldn't he, the Word of God was the same then as it is today. Moreover, this statement PROVES that many preachers back then were getting the Gospel wrong, just as they are today, which is why John Bunyan was refuting them. I have heard Paul Washer, Ray Comfort and John MacArthur all make lying allegations that the old time preachers all preached repentance from sins to be saved. Well, many did, and they were false teachers! But as the preceding wonderful quote from John Bunyan proves, there were also many preachers back then who taught a free grace Gospel, rejecting the heresy that to be saved you must first be willing to forsake a lifestyle of sinning.

In reality what these false teachers of “repent of your sins to be saved” are saying is that YOU must commit to changing your life, or else you don't meet God's qualifications to be saved. Dear friend, the Bible teaches in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 that if any man “BE IN CHRIST” (i.e., he is already saved), he becomes a new creature. Kindly said, Pacific Garden Mission's UNSHACKLED radio program really gets the Gospel wrong oftentimes. Heresy has invaded most churches today! Nowhere in the inspired King James Bible are we taught to forsake our sinning to be saved. 

I am tired of hearing pastors teach that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior. What they are indirectly implying is that if your life hasn't changed you're not saved! Being indwelt with God's Holy Spirit and the manifestation of an outward change of behavior are two different things! Case in point, I know of several believers who are serving time behind bars in prison. They're behavior didn't change! Well you say, if you are saved, there should at least be some evidence of the Holy Spirit. Okay, how much? How much does a person's life need to change before they are considered saved? Do you see how foolish this heresy of having a change of behavior is folks concerning salvation?

The truth is this—if you are saved you SHOULD live for Christ; not WILL because that is Calvinism; not MUST because that is works. What saith the Scripture? Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” If you are saved, YOU SHOULD live for God. When you hear a preacher insisting that true repentance means that your behavior WILL CHANGE, he is preaching another Gospel. 

Listen, anything that an unsaved person can imitate cannot be used as “proof” that someone is saved. Can an unsaved person change? Yes. Can an unsaved person love, do good works and live the Christian life? Yes. So those things cannot be used to “prove” that anyone is saved. The only “proof” that you are saved is the blessed presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 1st John 3:24, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” That is something that only YOU can determine, which is what the epistle of 1st John is about (1st John 5:13).

The simple answer given in Acts 16:31 to the question in Acts 16:30 about how to be saved, is simply to BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!!! No mention is made about forsaking a sinful life. No requirement is given about the necessity of a change of behavior down the road. It is so easy for preachers to get caught between grace and works. The churches today are full of false teachings on what a person must do to get to Heaven. I adamantly reject any teaching that even mentions a change of behavior with God's simple plan of salvation!!!

Again, the Word of God doesn't make an issue of repentance to be saved, so why should we? Whatever change of mind (repentance) is necessary to be saved is automatically included in believing for the sinner that comes to Christ. The ONLY requirement to receive God's free gift of eternal life is that you admit you are a sinner. No intent to reform is necessary, which would be equivalent to paying a toll to enter into God's Kingdom. Sorrow for sin is penitence, not repentance. To make a mend is penance, not repentance. To turn from sin is reformation, not repentance. All that God requires to be saved is repentance (a change of mind), which compels a man to believe the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen (1st Corinthians 15:1-4). Repentance facilitates believing. Repentance and faith are inseparable, two parts of one action of believing the Gospel to be saved. The man who believes has repented, and the man who repents has believed.

I reject the idea that it is even possible to believe without repenting. Some preachers claim that if a person professes faith in Christ, but are still living in immorality, that they never repented of their sins and are not saved. That is another gospel. The truth is that it is possible to follow Christ, live the Christian life, join a Christian organization, or adopt a Christian culture, and still be lost. We see this evidenced in Matthew 7:21-23. They did many wonderful works in Jesus' name. They preached in Jesus' name. They even called Jesus “Lord, but Christ denied knowing them, calling them workers of iniquity. The Lord tells us the reason why in Matthew 7:21, because they failed to do the Father's will. John 6:40 teaches that the Father's will is to BELIEVE ON CHRIST!!!

Dear friend, you can follow Jesus, serve Jesus, love Jesus and talk about Jesus all you want, but you will never be born-again until you cease from your own works and wholly TRUST JESUS. John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” So when we witness to people, we should simply make sure that they understand they are a guilty sinner in God's sight, under the condemnation of God's law. We should explain that there is a penalty for sin, which is eternity in the fires of Hell. Never withhold the reality of Hell from people when you witness to them. But we must be VERY careful to never give the wrong impression that their behavior must change to be saved. 

I love what Pastor Harry Ironside (1876-1951) said:

“In all that I have written I have failed completely to express what was surging up in my soul if I have given anyone the impression that I think of repentance as something meritorious which must be produced in man by self-effort ere he is fit to come to God for salvation.” —Dr. Harry Ironside, a quote from chapter 16, THE PREACHING THAT PRODUCES REPENTANCE, from his timeless classic book, EXCEPT YE REPENT.
I agree 100%! The entire concept of Lordship Salvation is based in self-righteousness. The concept of wrong repentance is rooted in self-righteousness. Never, ever, accept the teaching that repentance means anything more than a simple change of mind. That may not settle right with you dear friend, but it is God's Word. The Lord in His infinite wisdom intentionally chose metanoia (a Greek noun that means “a change of mind”). If God wanted to use a different word that included a change of behavior, then He would have chose a different word. Think about that! Why do so many preachers ADD meaning to the word metanoia?

I did an internet search to see if I could find out why preachers add extra meaning to repentance as “a change of mind.” The hardcore Lordship salvation website came up first. This is the heresy that they teach:

When a repentant person changes his mind about sin, that change of mind naturally leads to a turning from sin. Sin is no longer desirable or fun, because sin brings condemnation. The repentant sinner begins to abhor his past misdeeds. And he begins to seek ways to amend his behavior (see Luke 19:8). So, ultimately, the result of the change of mind about sin is good deeds. The sinner turns away from sin toward faith in the Savior, and that faith is shown in action (see James 2:17).

That is an ASSUMPTION! They are perverting the Bible meaning of repentance based upon their own flawed human understanding and not Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that repentance (a change of mind) naturally leads to a turning from sin!!! This is human reformation and not the work of the Holy Spirit. In true salvation the sinner has zero power to turn away from their sins. It is the power of Christ in the life of a born-again believer that enables us to turn away from sin (Galatians 2:20). In other words, God saves us and the Holy Spirit changes us. This is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). 

The horrible preceding quote from attributes all of the changes in a believer's life to SELF, and not the Holy Spirit. According to their flawed reasoning, all of the changes in a believer's life has its origin in repentance; but the Bible teaches that a believer is transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:1-2). John 17:17 teaches that the believer is sanctified by the Word of God, the truth. I completely reject the heretical idea that the change of mind which is necessary to believe the Gospel, somehow perpetuates into a change of behavior, so that if someone's behavior hasn't change they aren't really saved. 

Friend, if you don't have the Holy Spirit you're not saved. That is the truth! Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” I hope you see the big difference between the manmade changes that false teachers require, versus the changes which the Holy Spirit produces in the believer. No pastor should ever teach people that repentance is anything more than a simple change of mind. For to do so is to corrupt the Word of God. No mention of changing one's behavior ought ever be mentioned with repentance. God doesn't, so why should we? Where the Bible is silent we should be silent.

I love what Mario Cuomo, the governor of New York said: “Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but nobody has a right to their own facts.” Yes Sir! The FACT of the matter is that repentance in the Bible concerning salvation is simply “a change of mind.”

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