15 June 2011

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

Some "Christian" discussions can become rather wearisome. One of these pertains to the role of repentance in the salvation process. My observation is that this stems largely from a misunderstanding of what has been deemed "Lordship Salvation." There are those who claim and teach that Lordship Salvation demands that a person change himself, get himself cleaned up, repent of his sin, and then God will save him. If this was what the doctrine professed, then I would most certainly agree that it is one to be railed against. However, this is decidedly not what Lordship Salvation teaches and so, like many other "controversies" that arise within the Christian community, I personally see this as a result of well-intentioned men arguing against an extreme position, and building their arguments upon a faulty foundation.

I'm not going to take the time here to expound on the "Lordship Controversy." I'm not even sure I could do so adequately, so I'll trust my readers to do their own careful reading on the subject. Linked below are some good articles on the topic, or on related topics. What I want to share here, however, is something that I stumbled across on the 9Marks website. Since the core of this controversy really is the role of repentance in one's salvation, I thought this article summed up the issue rather well.

Is repentance necessary for salvation?

  • The claim: Some people say that you can believe in Jesus as “Savior” but not as “Lord.” That is, you can believe in him but never repent of your sin. You can believe in him and be saved even if your life goes on just as it was before you became a Christian. Or so the claim goes.
  • A further claim: Some people even claim that if we say repentance is necessary for salvation we’re adding works to the gospel. They claim that if repentance is required then we’re no longer saved by God’s grace alone, but by what we do as well.
  • Scripture’s reply: But what does the Scripture say?
  • Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32)
  • Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:47).
  • When the apostles preached in Acts, they called people to repent of their sins in order to be forgiven (See Acts 2:383:198:3217:3020:2126:20).
  • The apostle Paul makes it clear that those whose lives are characterized by sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Rom. 8:12-13Gal. 5:21Eph. 5:5).
  • Scripture’s lesson: According to the unanimous testimony of Scripture, repentance is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. Only those who turn from their sin, trust in Christ, and live lives that are characterized by righteousness will be saved on the last day.
  • Further reflection: But then is repentance a “work” we must perform in order to earn our salvation? Not at all! Repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance is turning from sin. Faith is turning to, trusting in, and relying on Christ. Repentance is not a “work” anymore than faith is: we simply renounce our sin and rely on Christ.
Another important point that isn't mentioned here is that repentance, like faith, is a gift from God (see Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25). How, then, can it be a work that we are doing to gain salvation? As I mentioned, I truly believe that those who argue against repentance as part of the salvation process do so from a misunderstanding of the position, and this article simply and clearly lays out the truth of the issue.

There is terrific danger in removing repentance from our Gospel presentations. Observation reveals that without a godly grief and turning from one's sin, the mass "conversions" that we see on Sunday mornings or at these huge stadium-filled rallies are nothing but a mere "moment of decision." They do not result in saving faith. This is the easy-believism that has wreaked havoc in our churches, leading to packed pews for the Sunday morning show, but very few churchgoers who are actually saved. It's the removal of repentance from the Gospel message that leads to a false assurance of salvation for so many. Did you pray the prayer? Walk the aisle? Get all tingly and start to cry when the music played? Well, then you must be saved. NO! If someone hasn't been smacked in the face with the gravity of their sin, but simply "accepts Jesus" or "asks Jesus into his heart," the chances are good that they will still be living like a heathen a week, a month, and years after their feel-good moment. It doesn't do any good to cry your way down an aisle if there's no visible fruit of your supposed salvation. Removing the call to repentance leads to false converts who think they can just add Jesus to the way they are currently living.

We are saved by GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, in JESUS CHRIST ALONE. But as the above article stated, "repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin." Both are granted by God to the sinner who receives salvation. And if repentance isn't supposed to be part of our presentation of the Gospel, then I guess Jesus had it all wrong.
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)
An Introduction to Lordship Salvation
What is the Gospel?
What is Biblical Repentance?
What is Repentance and How Does it Relate to Salvation?
Robbing God of His Glory in a Moment 

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