Friday, February 03, 2006

Is Turning from Sin Legalism?

First of all, let me define legalism. Legalism (especially when relating to salvation) is adding anything to the process of salvation other than faith (Eph 2:8,9). Period.

I found an article on entitled
that has a very powerful point. In the third paragraph of this article, the author, Hank Lindstrom, writes, “Satan, the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), has delighted in this misuse of the word repentance.” Mr. Lindstrom clarifies what his issue is with this statement, “To insist upon a repentance that in any sense includes a demand for a change of conduct either toward God or man is to add an element of works or human effort to faith.” So, to sum up what I believe is Mr. Lindstrom’s point is, if we stress that one must repent (turn away from the sins in your life) in order that you may be saved, this is heresy because it is a “works righteous” salvation.

Quick Sidebar:
To be fair, Mr. Lindstrom does not call this heresy in his article, but that is what I would call a theoloty that actually required me to work out my salvation because it was up to me.

Back to the Article at issue:
Mr. Lindstrom goes to great lengths in order to show both how our understanding of the biblical word “repent” is incorrect, and if one applies this understanding of repentance to an evangelistic presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ we are becoming “tools of the devil to add works to salvation in a subtle way by misuse of repentance.”

Those of you who know me and have read much of what I have written about may be as shocked as I was concerning this article. Am I distorting the gospel and making a mockery of Christ’s death on the cross and saying that I need to do something that Christ didn’t or couldn’t do in order to affect my actual salvation?

In his article, Mr. Lindstrom extensively quotes Scofiled, Ryrie, and Lindsee in their commentaries concerning the actual meaning of repent as being a “change of mind” from the Greek word (metanoia) that is translated into repent. I am not a Greek scholar, and so I will not try to go head to head with C.I. Scofield or Charles Ryrie in that arena, but I would like to look at the issue and the argument in total.

A Red Haring:

Mr. Lindstrom begins his article this way, “’ Repent of Sin.’ This often-quoted phrase ‘repent of sin’ does not even occur in the Bible.” First of all, he is right. This phrase doesn't appear in the Bible. The next question is this - does the fact that this exact phrase doesn't occur Bible diminish the reality that this phrase communicates a biblical principal. Do you disagree with me? Is it absolutely necessary that our doctrinal understanding and the way we are to communicate the gospel and theology be verbatim from any given Bible translation?

If your answer is "yes" to that question, then I have another problem. How are we to express our understanding of the Godhead, or Trinity? The word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible, nor does the phrase "three in one." So, do we discount Trinitarian theology? Do we say that because the Bible does not express itself in this way using this word that it is incorrect? I think that it would be foolish to do so.

The Answer:

The answer to both of the issues - neither "repent of sin" or "Trinity" appear in the Bible - is to search the scriptures to best understand what the Bible is communicating about these subjects. If we read and search the scriptures, we will come to understand that God has expressed Himself as 3 individual, eternal, co-equal persons that are fully God.

Also, if Mr. Lindstrom is correct, then how does one ever figure out what James is talking about in chapter 2? The argument that James develops is concluded in James 2:26, "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (NASB) James is not saying that we are saved when we "do" things, but it is the "doing" of things that is the outpouring and overflowing and result of a new creation. He makes it clear that even the demons believe that God is one - I think that the implication is that the demons and Satan know the absolute truth about God that is possible for angelic beings to know. The demons that were in the demon possessed man in the synagogue reacted this way to Jesus when he showed up, "'Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are-- the Holy One of God!'" (Luke 4:34 NASB). Not only do the demons know that God is one (cited above), but this demon knows that Jesus is the Holy One of God - you had better know that they knew who He was better than anyone else did at that time (including his followers). This isn't the only example of demons saying truth with conviction (terror) in their voices. Just look at Matthew 8:29 when Jesus casts the demons out of the two demon-possessed men, and see where the demons actually refer to him as the Son of God. Again, look at Mark 5:7 where Jesus encounters another demon possessed man who refers to Him again as "Son of the Most High God" for further proof of what the demons believe and shudder about.

James is saying that just "believing" that something is true when it doesn't make any impact on the actions that you do is dead. Basically it is this - if the actions don't follow our faith, it shows that our belief was not genuine in the first place.

It is a dangerous road to travel to espouse what Mr. Lindsdtrom does when he equates the working of the Spirit toward outward changes and actions in a believer following his conversion as proof positive that this person is a true believer with legalism and adding "works" to salvation.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the
"natural" order of things a METANOIA - the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is "I" it can do nothing to save itself; it's sacrifices are of no avail, and it's Law gives no life.
After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis - I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!
Peace Be With You

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