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Understanding Covenant;
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The Standard of Holiness
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Repentance
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Repentance

God has given us each a ministry.  Every believer has been given a commission from our Lord to spread the gospel, the good news about God’s free gift of grace, to all creation – “making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded.”  My particular piece of this ministry has evolved over the years by asking questions about things most of us have taken for granted, unearthing and exposing myths that have arisen over time – of which many of us have bought in to.  These distortions of truths taught by Jesus, though perhaps initially innocuous, over time, some of these distortions have polluted the simplicity of the gospel message.

The simple formula of the gospel we should all remember is this:

Grace + Faith + Nothing = Salvation (Chart).

Since Jesus returned to heaven, attempts to complicate this simple message are the constant worry of teachers like me.  I fear that some people may have heard a gospel of works rather than the gospel of grace and that they may have rejected Jesus needlessly not realizing the reality of grace, unmerited favor.  I am zealous for the unabridged version of the gospel to be declared.  I want to make sure that no one gets left out of heaven because they were told and believed a lie rather than the truth – I want them to decide where they will spend eternity based on the simple gospel of grace.

The doctrine of repentance is one of those things that may have perhaps been misunderstood and distorted the simple gospel message.

G3340. metanoeo, met-an-o-eh'-o; a compound word derived from G3326 meta, met-ah'; (to transfer, change, or modify) and G3539 noieo, noy-eh'-o; (perception, thought, comprehension, consideration); i.e. to think differently, reconsider, change direction:-- v. repent.  & (G3341) n. repentance

Occurs 54 times in the New Testament.

The Greek word metanoeo is always rendered “repent” in the KJV and NASB.  The word means to reconsider or re-think something.  Though we have been led to believe that this word is heavily associated with sin, it is not directly connected to the idea of sinfulness.  The thing that must be reconsidered is always contextual.  For example, in the Old Testament in the book of Jonah, we find God repenting of the destruction He had planned for Nineveh.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." – Matthew 3:2, 4:17

Often we have perhaps been led to believe that we must “repent from sin” in order to be saved.  We have been told that repentance must precede saving faith.  Salvation cannot occur without repentance from sin, they tell us.  Somehow it has become a pre-qualification before one can be saved.  While this sounds right, there is no solid teaching that I could find in the New Testament to support this doctrine.  Peter’s message at Pentecost was not that they should repent of their sins – but that they must change their minds about what they believed concerning Jesus so that they might receive forgiveness of sins.  Let us re-read these passages:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent (change your mind) and believe in the gospel (good news about God’s free gift of grace)." – John the Baptist speaking in Mark 1:15

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” was both the message of John the Baptist and Jesus.  John’s ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord and in so doing he called the people to change their thinking about the imminent appearance of the Messiah.  In the Jordan River John baptized those who came to renew their belief in the expectancy of His coming.  Jesus and His disciples began their ministry preaching that all should repent and believe the gospel.  We have assumed that repent referred to sin, but clearly it is in reference to belief – about the good news of God’s love for all people.

Listen to words Peter uses in his sermon on the day of Pentecost:

37  Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

38  And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38

By the way, these same verses have been used to promote a doctrine of the necessity of baptism to salvation.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is quoted most often as the support for this mis-understanding of repentance.  But most scholars agree that Peter’s reference to repentance in Acts 2:38 was with regard to their belief about the identity of Jesus.  Peter urged them to “reconsider” their unbelief, and believe that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord.  Note the people were “pierced to the heart” meaning they were ready candidates for switching their unbelief into belief – and that day about three thousand souls were added.

But I submit that requiring people to “repent of their sin” before they are saved or as a pre-qualification for receiving salvation, we are significantly modifying the gospel message and the pure truth cannot be realized.  Unbelief is the enemy of the unsaved, not sin.  They must repent of their unbelief. (REPEAT)

So what is the place of “repentance from sin”?  While I cannot find this terminology used by the New Testament writers, certainly this is a favorable behavior and necessary to live the abundant life i.e., Romans chapters 6-8 – abandoning the mind set of flesh in favor of a mind set on the Spirit.

8  "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,

9  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;

10  for with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. – Romans 10:8-10

In this sense repentance is necessary before salvation.  To be saved, one must “turn” from unbelief to belief, confessing and believing that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the practice of faith, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (More specifically the words of Christ).

 Grace + Faith + Nothing = Salvation

 If you want the biblical declaration on how to be saved, Paul tells us plainly, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:13

 

 

+

+

  Grace

   Faith

         0

= Salvation