Thursday, December 17, 2009

By Faith or By Faith Alone?

There is something I've experienced first hand from other Christians and recently even seen people posting on Youtube who have a problem with "Way of the Master" style evangelism. I've also noticed the same folks have an issue with Paul Washer and even John MacArthur. Their main accusation is, "If you tell someone they need to REPENT, you are adding works to salvation. Because you are saved by faith alone." Some have even gone as far to say that is a heresy to call men to repentance. This really amazes me considering that Jesus the Apostles and the OT prophets all called men to repent.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”(Matthew 4:17)

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.(Luke 13:3,5)

I believe this is part of the Lordship salvation "controversy" and is a complete misunderstanding of the work God does in the sinners heart by giving them the means (grace) to meet His requirements (repentance & faith). Pastor Jack has really helped me to understand that the goodness of God is where His attributes of mercy, kindness, grace etc. these flow from His goodness. If we only look at one part of scripture we are neglecting the scriptures that say we are saved by God's mercy,or saved by God's grace, or saved by faith, or saved by repentance. If you think about it telling them to "believe"... well they can't do that with out God. So why do we hear "repent" and that cannot be a work of God as well?

The question: Is a man required to repent of his sins (Change of mind about sin AND turning from sin) in order to be saved?

This verse to me really encapsulates repentance: "Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon." Is. 55:7

Notice "forsake his way" (turn from sin) & "his thoughts" (change of mind over sin).

I hope this presentation given by RC Sproul will help those who have had questions about this topic as well.

I have heard the argument, "Repentance is never mentioned in the Gospel of John." Well if we only had the gospel of John you may have an argument, though here is a great article from MacArthur refuting this idea.

Also MacArthur gives such a great summary during a Q&A question he answered. What's interesting about this Q & A is it addresses what I believe is the "flaw" of those who say "you are saved by faith alone."

What scripture teaches is that you are saved by GRACE (Eph.2:8&9, Rom. 3:24, Rom. 5:20, Titus 3:7)... THROUGH faith. You are not saved by trusting your repentance or your faith but trusting in the person and work of JESUS CHRIST! Salvation is of the Lord. God gives the grace which enables you to repent and believe unto salvation, and is a gift from God and He gets all the glory. Those who accuse people of "adding works to salvation by saying someone must repent" are actually guilty of their own accusation. By saying someone is saved "by faith", they are turning faith into a work. The sinner is just as unable to repent as he is to believe. The whole thing is a "work" of God.

..."in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth," 2 Tim 2:25

Trying to define repentance as "only a change of mind" doesn't work. It may work if you only read a Lexicon but not if you read the context of the bible. Scripture doesn't present it as only a change of mind and its just as impossible for a sinner to change his mind about the sin he loves unless God enables him... by grace.

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil." Jer. 13:23

Trying to "straw man" repentance as perfectionism doesn't work. Biblical repentance is not telling someone to "clean up your life and then maybe Jesus will save you." Preachers who call men to biblical repentance are not preaching perfectionism they are preaching what Jesus said and what the OT prophets meant when they said "TURN and live!"

This is why we are in such desperate need of grace! We can't DO anything unless the Lord enables. As preachers of the Gospel the Lord tells us what to say. "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." Luke 13:3

Notice that Jesus doesn't qualify this statement, He just commands it. Was Jesus wrong when He said unless you repent you will perish? That sounds like repentance is required not to perish.

This sermon by Steve Lawson is so helpful to understanding "Radical Repentance":

Something I learned from Pastor Jack which was extremely helpful is, "it isn't the knowledge of grace that saves, its GRACE that saves." I think many times we can try to over explain everything as if the people hearing will understand and get saved because we crossed every "t" and dotted every "i" in our gospel presentation.

The Lord tells us to call men to repentance and faith. Call men to do what God enables and trust that by His sovereign grace, He will draw His elect and give life by the Spirit!

I plan to read something from Thomas Watson on repentance. I already like the first line of the book: "The two great graces essential to a saint in this life, are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven".

Here is a great study note from MacArthur on Mark 1:4 "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins..." MAC: A baptism resulting from true repentance. John's ministry was to call Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah. Baptism did not produce repentance, but was its result. Far more than a mere change of mind or remorse, repentance involves a turning from sin to God. (1 Thes. 1:9) which results in righteous living. Genuine repentance is a work of God in the human heart (Acts 11:18).

I've heard some people say "That was John's ministry." But if you notice Jesus first words in the start of His ministry were "The time is fulfilled... REPENT, and believe in the gospel." Same as Johns. Mark 1:15

MAC: Repentance and faith are man's required response to God's gracious offer of salvation. (Acts 20:21)

My question is: since its all of grace and a work of God and our whole lives are a life of repentance and trust in Christ, why would we not expect God to require us to turn from our sins in the beginning of our walk with Him? With the "free grace" view WHEN are you supposed to turn from your sins? I see the biblical command given to men before they come to Christ. Why would God command unbelievers to repent? Because they are required to.I believe this misunderstanding comes from an incorrect understanding of the nature and definition of repentance.

Spurgeon sums up the whole matter with this:
"You will be sure to join with me in the next point without a single demur:success in holy service is wholly of the Lord. If we were so wicked as to attribute to ourselves the sowing, and to ourselves the watering, apart from grace, yet we dare not attribute to ourselves the increase. "I have planted," said Paul; "Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." Would a single persuasion of ours prevail with man's hard heart if the Holy Spirit did not convince him of sin, and make him repent? Would the preaching of the gospel in our poor way ever enlighten a single eye if Jesus Christ were not seen in his own light? Could we comfort the broken-hearted, could we proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, if the Spirit of God were not upon us? Why, if we did make the proclamation, would it not fall flat to the ground apart from the work of God, who doeth all things through us and by us? We are laborers together with him. We lift our hand, and God lifts his. We speak, and he speaks. We would fain lay hold of men's hearts, and he does lay hold upon them. We would weep them to Christ, and he brings them weeping to Christ, and saves them to eternal life. Blessed be his name! After many years of prophesying in his name, dare any of us say that we have made the dry bones to live? After having long given the invitation, do we say that we have persuaded one to come to the wedding-feast apart from the Lord's divine working? Do we take any of the glory of a saved soul to ourselves? It were treason; it were blasphemy. We dare not commit such a sin. Our work, if it succeeds at all, if it is worth calling good work, is all of grace."


  1. Very well said. May I add, I don't evangelize thinking that I can or would save someone or because lost sinners are dying and going to hell, I evangelize to be an obedient servant to Christ, because He said to do it.

  2. Obedience motivated by love for men dying and going to hell, to me, isn't a bad motivator. I want to see men rescued and in heaven to glorify the Lamb that was slain. Add to the Hallelujah choir Russell! Keep witnessing!