Thursday, October 19, 2006

“all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30)

It is undeniable that the Bible speaks clearly about the issue of repentance. Other than a correct understanding of what that is or what it means, the burning question in many people’s hearts is a simple, “Why should I repent?” Consequently the answer to this question comes easily when someone understands the full message of the gospel.

Before I even get into this discussion, I must try to articulate the friction that is present when Christians talk about repentance. If you put the wrong emphasis on it, repentance then becomes a means of salvation by works which is unbiblical. If you put no emphasis on repentance with the desire to avoid the incorrect emphasis we just saw, the message is that the life of a believer is no indicator of the validity of the claim of being saved (i.e. I can live like the devil because I am saved by grace). Both of these sides miss the correct understanding of what the New Testament is saying.

Repentance and faith are two responses to the grace of God in salvation that go hand in hand. I do not believe that one can truly occur without the other. To really get the point of why someone should repent, I need to paint the picture a bit first so that the actions will have their proper context.

The Bible is clear that all men, if judged by their own actions and merits, are wicked and evil in the sight of God and “even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” (Genesis 8:21) And no good deed that we do is even reckoned as a good deed in God’s eyes, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Also, not only are we unrighteous and evil, but Paul emphasizes this by quoting the Psalms when he wrote, “as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;” (Romans 3:10,11).

God sees every thought, word, and deed that we have as being wretched and, in the language of Isaiah 64:6, only as pure and clean as a used menstrual cloth. This is not even dealing with what we, as men and women, would consider less than righteous or bad things that we do. J.C. Ryle, the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, provided this illustration on humanities perspective on our own sinfulness:

“We, on the other hand—poor blind creatures, here today and gone tomorrow, born in sin, surrounded by sinners, living in a constant atmosphere of weakness, infirmity and imperfection—can form none but the most inadequate conceptions of the hideousness of evil. We have no line to fathom it and no measure by which to gauge it. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael and the queen’s head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ. The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive and are not offensive to one another. Fallen men and women, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect—perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope;”1

Establishing the fact that all humanity is wicked, and that includes every individual from the lowest to the highest, is the first and hardest truth for anyone to see and accept. It is not much easier (if it is in fact easier at all) for a person to see and accept that our status as unrighteous sinners is so offensive a holy God that He, also being totally just and totally righteous, should punish all humanity in an eternal hell where, in the words of Jesus Himself, it is described as “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43) and a place “where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.” (v. 48)

That was both the bad news and the truth. The good news is that Jesus Christ, God Himself, came to earth as one of us (John 1:1,14) where He lived a perfect life but He was crucified, died because of the sinfulness of mankind, and was resurrected to life again. God made Jesus Christ, the perfect and sinless God-Man, to suffer the just penalty of God’s wrath on behalf of all of those who would truly believe in Him. This was done so that these same undeserving, unrighteous, and wretched sinners would be given the righteousness that is Christ’s in order to be acceptable before God and inherit eternal life (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The bible makes it explicitly clear that men are saved by God’s grace alone. We are not saved, justified, or born again by any action or pious religious ceremony. Salvation must be received in this way (by grace alone) because we are like dead men in sin (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13), and dead men can’t do anything. In His divine providence, God has shown that our only acceptable human response to this gracious offer is to have faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5) that is shown by repentance (Matthew 7:16; John 15:5,6; James 3:8-12; ). This means that our thoughts, words, and deeds are now (by the grace of God) are no longer sinful by design or apathy, but are formed with the goal of honoring God.2

Why repent? Because no expressed faith has any validity before men or God if it is not proven by the actions of that same person (see James 2) If you live like the devil, no matter what you know in your head about God, then your actions and intentions of your heart testify to where your love and devotion truly are, and it is not with God. Furthermore, not only is repentance a biblical mandate and it must be present in a truly saved person, but it makes complete and total sense.

Imagine that you are married to a faithful and loving wife. However, you have been a cheating on her and now your brother has confronted you and has shown you how awful that is, and he has persuaded you to make it right with her. You then go up to her and say, “I’ve been cheating on you, and I’m sorry about that. Please forgive me.” She is gracious; she is more gracious than any other wife would ever be, and she says that she will forgive you and love you. However, within the next day or two you go back to the same woman that you were committing adultery with and continue that sordid affair. If this is the case, how truthful was your apology? Not truthful at all! You have shown that you are not sorrowful over the sins against your wife by your willingness to continue doing them.

It is the same way with God. If we say with our mouths that we are sinners and are in need of forgiveness and request the blood of Christ to be applied to our sins but yet we are unwilling to forsake the very things that so alienated us from God in the first place and required the death of God on the cross to pay their penalty, then we do not value the forgiveness of Christ and have shown that we did not, in fact, ever receive it.

Why repent? Because if you truly understand the penalty that you justly deserve, and you then look at the selfless and self sacrificial offering of Christ so that if you truly place your faith in him you wouldn’t have to suffer that eternal punishment, then your response is an overwhelming sense of gratitude and indebtedness. You can then say, with Paul, that you are a slave of Christ because you were bought by such a great price. Then, your only desire is to please your master who has redeemed you.

Place your faith in Christ and repent of your sins, otherwise you will incur the just punishment of a holy God forever and ever.

1Holiness: It's Nature, Hinderance, Difficulties, & Roots by J.C. Ryle p. 7

2 I cannot stress enough that the works are not the means or the reason why a person receives the righteousness of Christ, but it is only the result of – the fruit of – having already received forgiveness of Christ and being made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10)or born again (John 3:8). Being baptized, taking communion, being a pastor, a deacon, or going to church are not actions that contribute in any way to the attaining or maintaining of your salvation.


steph said...

Thank you for this well-written post. You have clearly and accurately represented Scripture. I praise the Lord for the new life that you have in Him. I see in you the works of one who is truly saved, and I am pleased to be equally yoked!

St. Michael the Archangel said...


EJ should not be interpreting scripture for himself, it says so in the bible about personal interpretation, it is forbidden.

Here is a link for ya to go to...

steph said...

It seems as though I have someone who likes to only make rude remarks after I have paid a complement to you, my love, but I won't let that stop me. I will simply ignore and move on. Great job reading the word, meditating upon it, letting it soak into your heart, and come out in actions of fruit in your life.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Luther did the same thing... look at his fruits

steph said...

Then, in your conclusion, we ought not even read our Bibles, because we would have a question at every turn, so we had just better leave the Bible reading up to, hmmmm, well, no one, since no man is ever infallible. That's the problem with your argument. YOu are counting on your demonination to be infallible, when we know from Scripture that the only source of infallibility is God, and we dare not attribute to ourselves attributes that belong solely to God. It is not as though we are sitting in our homes reading scripture and trying to come up with anything other than what other people think verses say. We read scripture, pray that the Lord would guide our understanding, read commentaries on scripture, learn from our pastor and other teachers at church. And, we know from Scripture that God called some to be pastors and teachers, so that we could have a deeper understanding of the word. And, we also know that those pastors and teachers will be judged more severely for their leading of people in spiritual matters. It is vital, therefore, that men rely upon God when reading His word so that they can understand it. No man will understand it fully while we live on this earth, so we do the best that we can in understanding it, while giving the most glory to God that we are able. Also, as I have said before, false teachers will creep in to lead people astry, and the Catholic church is not exempt from this since you have noted that there have been bad popes, priests, bishops, etc. YOu see my point: we cannot count on one churches understandning of Scripture. We must be like the Bereans were and search the scriptures so that we can see if what we are being taught is accurate. I suggest you read about the Bereans--it is quite commendable. It can be noted, as well, that the Bereans searched the Scriptures. They did not go to the next group of religious people to see what they had to say. They were taught the scriptures, and then they sought the scriptures on their own to see if what they were being taught was truly what God had said.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Hey Steph,

Nice Post, I think you missed one major factor. The Bereans didn't believe in Sola Scriptura, in fact they were against it. It was the thessalonians that believed in the sola scriptura, and that is why they rejected the teachings of Paul.

Read this below:

We can see, then, that if anyone could be classified as adherents to sola scriptura it was the Thessalonian Jews. They reasoned from the Scriptures alone and concluded that Paul’s new teaching was "unbiblical."

The Bereans, on the other hand, were not adherents of sola scriptura, for they were willing to accept Paul’s new oral teaching as the word of God (as Paul claimed his oral teaching was; see 1 Thess. 2:13). The Bereans, before accepting the oral word of God from Paul, a tradition as even Paul himself refers to it (see 2 Thess. 2:15), examined the Scriptures to see if these things were so. They were noble-minded precisely because they "received the word with all eagerness." Were the Bereans commended primarily for searching the Scriptures? No. Their open-minded willingness to listen was the primary reason they are referred to as noble-minded—not that they searched the Scriptures. A perusal of grammars and commentaries makes it clear that they were "noble-minded" not for studying Scripture, but for treating Paul more civilly than did the Thessalonians—with an open mind and generous courtesy (see I. Howard Marshall, "The Acts of the Apostles" in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1981], 5:280).

The Bereans searched the Torah no less than the Thessalonians, yet they were eager to accept words of God from the mouth of Paul, in addition to what they already held to be Scripture, that is, the Law and the Prophets. Even if one claims that Paul preached the gospel and not a "tradition," it is clear that the Bereans were accepting new revelation that was not contained in their Scriptures. These Berean Jews accepted oral teaching, the tradition of the apostles, as equal to Scripture, in addition to, and as an "extension" of, the Torah. This is further illustrated by the Christian community’s reception of Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:16; here Peter seems to acknowledges Paul’s writings as equal to the "other Scriptures," which can be presumed to refer to the Old Testament).

From the perspective of anti-Catholics, the Thessalonians would have been more noble-minded, for they loyally stuck to their canon of Scripture alone and rejected any additional binding authority (spoken or written) from the mouth of an apostle. In fact, at the Council of Jamnia, around A.D. 90, the Jews determined that anything written after Ezra was not infallible Scripture; they specifically mentioned the Gospels of Christ in order to reject them.

Why did the Bereans search the Scriptures? Because they were the sole source of revelation and authority? No, but to see if Paul was in line with what they already knew—to confirm additional revelation. They would not submit blindly to his apostolic teaching and oral tradition, but, once they accepted the credibility of Paul’s teaching as the oral word of God, they put it on a par with Scripture and recognized its binding authority. After that, like the converts who believed in Thessalonica, they espoused apostolic Tradition and the Old Testament equally as God’s word (see 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:16). Therefore they accepted apostolic authority, which means that the determinations of Peter in the first Church council, reported in Acts 15, would have been binding on these new Gentile converts.

By contrast, the Jews of Thessalonica would have condemned Peter’s biblical exegesis at the Council of Jerusalem. They would have scoffed at the Church’s having authority over them—the Torah was all they needed. Those who held to sola scriptura rejected Paul because he claimed to be the voice of "additional revelation."

Luke makes it plain that those who were willing to accept apostolic Tradition as binding were more noble-minded. The Bereans passage, therefore, is hardly a proof text for those who espouse sola scriptura. This text proves too much for Fundamentalists. Anti-Catholics love to associate themselves with the Bereans, but the example of the Bereans actually condemns their exegesis. Luke’s praise of the Bereans cannot be applied to Fundamentalist Protestants, who resemble rather the Thessalonians, who held to sola scriptura and rejected the oral word of God contained in Tradition and in the teaching authority of the Church.

steph said...

I think that you may have missed part of the verse: "Now these were more nobleminded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

They were not commended for simply receiving new teaching, but for examining the scriptures to see if what they were being taught was true. Therefore, I come to my conclusion previously mentioned: they searched the scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was truth, they did not go to a priest to check with him.

steph said...

I must add one thing that I forgot to mention. I was in no way using this as a proof-text for sola scriptura. That was not at all what I was talking about. The belief in the Bible alone comes from the knowledge that God has given us everything in His completed word to know Him as much as He wants us to and to know how to live a godly life.
Also, it is important to know that we have the completed canon, and can now search the entirety of God's revelation to find all the truth that He wants us to know. We do not need to rely upon traditions of men since the word is complete. Also, as I have said on Danny's blog, to equate tradition and the Bible does a huge disservice to the inspired word of God, since tradition is of man. There is nothing wrong with doing things out of tradition, but when you develop theology based on tradition, that's where the problem arises.

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