The Meaning of Saving Faith and Repentance
The Comments of the Following Evangelical Theologians:
Louis Berkhof, James Montgomery Boice, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, D.A. Carson, Walter Chantry, R.L. Dabney, John R. DeWitt, Jonathan Edwards, John Flavel, John Gerstner, William Hendriksen, A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, D. James Kennedy, R.C.H. Lenski, J.B. Lightfoot, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, G. Campbell Morgan, Handley Moule, John Murray, J.I. Packer, A.W. Pink, J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, John Stott, Augustus Strong, Henry Thiessen, Griffith Thomas, A.W. Tozer, B.B. Warfield, Thomas Watson, The Westminter Confession of Faith
True saving faith is a faith that has its seat in the heart and is rooted in the regenerate life…In speaking of the different elements of faith we should not lose sight of the fact that faith is an activity of man as a whole, and not any part of man…In order to obtain a proper conception of faith, it is necessary to distinguish between the various elements which it comprises.
A) An intellectual element (notitia). There is an element of knowledge in faith…The knowledge of faith consists in a positive recognition of the truth, in which man accepts as true whatsoever God says in His word, and especially what He says respecting the deep depravity of man and the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Over against Rome the position must be maintained that this sure knowledge belongs to the essence of faith; and in opposition to such theologians as Sandeman, Wardlaw, Alexander, Chalmers, and others, that a mere intellectual acceptance of the truth is not the whole of faith.
B) An emotional element (assensus). When one embraces Christ by faith, he has a deep conviction of the truth and reality of the object of faith, feels that it meets an important need in his life, and is conscious of an absorbing interest in it – and this is assent.
C) A volitional element (fiducia). This is the crowning element of faith. Faith is not merely a matter of the intellect, nor of the intellect and the emotions combined; it is also a matter of the will, determining the direction of the soul, an act of the soul going out towards its object and appropriating this. Without this activity the object of faith, which the sinner recognizes as true and real and entirely applicable to his present needs, remains outside of him. And in saving faith it is a matter of life and death that the object be appropriated. This third element consists in a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including the surrender of the soul as guilty and defiled to Christ, and a recognition and appropriation of Christ as the source of pardon and of spiritual life (Louis Berkhof,Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), pp. 503-505).
The special act of faith consists in receiving Christ and resting on Him as He is presented in the gospel…Strictly speaking, it is not the act of faith as such, but rather that which is received by faith, which justifies and therefore saves the sinner (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p 506).
The most common (Old Testament) word for conversion, means to turn, to turn about, and to return…The word clearly shows that, what the Old Testament calls conversion, is a return to Him from whom sin has separated man…True conversion is born of godly sorrow, and issues in a life of devotion to God, II Cor. 7:10…Conversion marks the conscious beginning, not only of the putting away of the old man, a fleeing from sin, but also of the putting on of the new man, a striving for holiness of life. In regeneration the sinful principle of the old life is already replaced by the holy principle of the new life. But it is only in conversion that this transition penetrates into the conscious life, turning it into a new and Godward direction. The sinner consciously forsakes the old sinful life and turns to a life in communion with and devoted to God…(Conversion is) a conscious turning from sin unto God…In the case of adults…conversion is absolutely essential (for salvation)…Conversion is necessary in the case of adults in the sense that its elements, namely, repentance and faith must be present in their lives. If we take the word conversion in its most specific sense, it denotes a change that takes place once and cannot be repeated...Conversion consists in repentance and faith, so that faith is really a part of conversion…Logically, repentance and the knowledge of sin precede the faith that yields to Christ in trusting love (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p. 492).
James Montgomery Boice
There is a fatal defect in the life of Christ’s church in the twentieth century: a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ. But for many of today’s supposed Christians—perhaps the majority—it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity, there is actually very little following of Christ Himself. And that means in some circles there is very little genuine Christianity. Many who fervently call Him ‘Lord, Lord’ are not Christians (Matthew 7:21)…There are several reasons that the situation I have described is common in today’s church. The first is a defective theology that has crept over us like a deadening fog. This theology separates faith from discipleship and grace from obedience. It teaches that Jesus can be received as one’s Savior without being received as one’s Lord…Discipleship in not a supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first became a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses, a disciple. From the beginning, discipleship is involved in what it means to be a Christian….Is ‘faith’ minus commitment a true biblical faith?…If faith without works is dead—how much truer is it that faith without commitment is dead…True faith involves these elements: knowledge…heart response…and commitment, without which ‘faith’ is no different from the assent of the demons who ‘believe…and shudder’ (James 2:19) (James Montgomery Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Chicago: Moody, 1986), pp. 13, 14, 16, 21).
In one of Jesus’ most important sayings about discipleship…the Lord pictures discipleship as putting on a yoke. This suggests a number of things, but chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for His assigned work. It is the picture of an animal yoked to others as well as to a plow.
A yoke is also the connection between submission and subjection. ‘Submit’ comes from the two Latin words sub (meaning ‘under’) and mitto, mittere (meaning ‘to put’ or ‘place’). So submission means putting oneself under the authority of another. ‘Subject’ also comes from two Latin words, in this case sub (meaning ‘under’) and iacto, iactare (meaning ‘cast’ or ‘throw’). It means being put under the authority of another. In other words, although the first word has an active sense (I put myself under another’s authority) and the second word has a passive sense (I am placed under that authority), the idea is nevertheless essentially the same. Moreover, it is connected with ‘yoke’ in this way. In ancient times it was customary for a ruler, when he had conquered a new people or territory, to place a staff across two upright poles, perhaps four feet off the ground, and require the captured people to pass under it.By this act they passed under his yoke or submitted to his authority. When Jesus used this image He was saying that to follow Him was to submit to Him. It was to receive Him as Lord of one’s life (James Montgomery Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Chicago: Moody, 1986), p. 19).
It is a quality of the Kingdom of Christ that in it the repentance of sinners must always be preached. Hence where the kingdom of Christ has truly been received, there it is necessary that the sins of all be severely rebuked, that men may give themselves up completely to the kingship of Christ in order to be cleansed from their sins and endowed with the spirit of righteousness…Thus it is a hollow mockery that those who do not make a wholehearted effort to do the things that are pleasing to the heavenly Father should declare themselves citizens and members of the Kingdom of Christ (Martin Bucer, On the Kingdom of Christ. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), Volume XIX, p. 219).
Faith of itself does not possess the power of justifying, but only in so far as it receives Christ…From this it is to be inferred that, in teaching that before his righteousness is received Christ is received in faith, we do not take the power of justifying away from Christ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Book III, Ch. XI.7, p. 733.
Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found inThe Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Book III, Ch. XI.1, p. 725).
Faith embraces Christ, as offered to us by the Father (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Book III, Ch. II.8, p. 552).
That very assent itself—as I have already partially suggested, and will reiterate more fully—is more of the heart than of the brain, and more of the disposition than of the understanding. For this reason it is called ‘obedience of faith’ (Rom. 1:5), and the Lord prefers no other obedience to it—and justly, since nothing is more precious to him than this truth…But another much clearer argument now offers itself. Since faith embraces Christ, as offered to us by the Father (cf. John 6:29)—that is, since he is offered not only for righteousness, forgiveness of sins, and peace, but also for sanctification (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30) and the fountain of the water of life (John 7:38; cf. ch. 4:14)—without a doubt, no one can truly know him without at the same time apprehending the sanctification of the Spirit. Or, if anyone desires some plainer statement, faith rests upon the knowledge of Christ. And Christ cannot be known apart from the sanctification of his Spirit. It follows that faith can in no wise be separated from a devout disposition (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Book III, Ch. II.8, pp. 552-553).
The Hebrew word for repentance is derived from conversion or return; the Greek word from change of mind or of intention. And the thing itself corresponds closely to the etymology of both words. The meaning is that, departing from ourselves we are to turn to God, and having taken off our former mind, we put on a new. On this account, in my judgment, repentance can thus be well defined: it is the true turning of our life to God, a turning that arises from a pure and earnest fear of Him, and it consists in the mortification of our flesh and of the old man, and in the vivification of the spirit.
When we call repentance a turning of the life to God we require a transformation, not only in outward works, but in the soul itself. Only when it puts off its old nature does it bring forth the fruits of works in harmony with its renewal…Repentance consists of two parts: namely, mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit. The prophets express it clearly although simply and rudely in accordance with the capacity of the carnal folk when they say ‘Cease to do evil and do good’ (Ps. 36:8,3,27).
For when they call men from evil they demand the destruction of the whole flesh which is full of evil and perversity. It is a very hard and difficult thing to put off ourselves and to depart from our inborn disposition. Nor can we think of the flesh as completely destroyed unless we have wiped out whatever we have from ourselves. But since all emotions of the flesh are hostility against God (Rom. 8:7), the first step toward obeying His law is to deny ourselves our own nature. Surely, as we are naturally turned away from God, unless self denial precedes, we shall never approach that which is right. Therefore, we are very often enjoined to put off the old man, to denounce the world and the flesh, to bid our evil desires farewell, to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. (Eph. 4:22,23)
From mortification we infer that we are not conformed to the fear of God and do not learn the rudiments of piety, unless we are violently slain by the sword of the Spirit and brought to nought. As if God had declared that for us to be reckoned among His children our common nature must die (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John McNeil, Ed., (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Vol. I, Book III, Chapter III. 5-8, pp. 597-600).
Even though we have taught in part how to possess Christ, and how through it we enjoy his benefits, this would still remain obscure if we did not add an explanation of the effects we feel. With good reason, the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31). Any discussion of faith, therefore, that omitted these two topics would be barren and mutilated and well–nigh useless…Surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance. Can true repentance stand apart from faith? Not at all. But even though they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III, Chapters 1, 5, pp. 592-593, 597.
John 12:24-26: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
If in v. 23 Jesus’ death is subsumed under his glorification, in v. 24 it is depicted as a kernel of wheat that is sown in the ground, dying to bring forth a rich harvest. But the connection between the two verses is deeper. Jesus’ glorification is tied to his refusal to seek his own glory (8:50, 54), to his commitment always to do what pleases his Father (8:29). The principled subordination of the Son to the Father (cf. notes on 5:19ff.; 6:37ff.) culminates in the spectacular obedience of self-sacrifice. Like the seed whose death is the germination of life for a great crop, so Jesus’ death generates a plentiful harvest. The seed is thereby vindicated; the Son is thereby glorified. The Evangelist has already pictured the same truth in other terms: Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven and gave his life for others (6:35-59), he is the one who dies so that the people may survive (11:49-52).
But if the principle modelled by the seed—that death is the necessary condition for the generation of life—is peculiarly applicable to Jesus, in a slightly different way it is properly applied to all of Jesus’ followers…The movement of thought in this passage runs from Jesus’ uniquely fruitful death (the death of one seed producing many living seeds) to the mandated death of Jesus’ followers as the necessary condition of their own life. The person who loves his own life will lose it: it could not be otherwise, for to love one’s life is a fundamental denial of God’s sovereignty, of God’s rights, and a brazen elevation of self to the apogee of one’s perception, and therefore an idolatrous focus on self, which is the heart of all sin. Such a person loses his life, i.e. causes his own perdition. By contrast, the one who hates his life (the love/hate contrast reflects a semitic idiom that articulates fundamental preference, not hatred on some absolute scale…) will keep it for eternal life (cf. Mk. 8:35 par…). This person denies himself, or, to use another of Jesus’ metaphors, takes up his cross daily (Mk. 8:34 par.), i.e. he chooses not to pander to self–interest but at the deepest level of his being declines to make himself the focus of his interest and perception, thereby dying.
A second contrast emerges in v. 25. The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…These choices cannot be acts of mere self–abnegation. Self must be displaced by another; the endless, shameless focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ, who is the supreme revelation of God (D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 438-439).
Often Christ turned crowds away by insisting that whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33). He was not speaking of abundant life nor of ‘victorious’ giants of the faith. He demanded this turning from everything to Himself as a condition of discipleship for everyone. The young ruler would turn from earthly riches to heavenly or lie would cling to earthly riches and perish. The sinner must know that Jesus will not be a Saviour to any man who refuses to bow to Him as Lord.
Christ knew nothing of the man–made twentieth–century suggestion that taking Jesus as Lord is optional. For Him it was not second step which is essential for great blessings but unnecessary for entering God’s kingdom. The altered message of today has deceived men and women by convincing them that Jesus will gladly be a Saviour even to those who refuse to follow Him as Lord. It simply is not the truth! Jesus’ invitation to salvation is, ‘Come, follow me’. Practical acknowledgments of Jesus’ lordship, yielding to His rule by following is the very fibre of saving faith…Believing is obeying. Without obedience, you shall not see life! Unless you bow to Christ’s scepter you will not receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. That is just what Jesus said to the ruler (Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (Edinburgh: Banner, 1970), pp. 59-60).
Only one entrance may be found to the kingdom of God. There is a narrow gate set at the head of the path of life. ‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Matt. 7:14). No one with ail inflated ego can squeeze through the door. There must be self–effacement, self–repudiation, self–denial even to become a disciple (a student) of Jesus Christ…Six times in the Gospels our great Prophet refers to His followers taking up a cross. It was one of His favorite illustrations of self-denial.
Some who call themselves ‘Christian’ in fact have never taken up their crosses. Being ignorant of the experience of self–execution, of self–denial, they are of necessity strangers to Christ. Our Lord Himself intended His illustration and His demand to deepen alarm in such individuals…Without a cross there is no following Christ! And without following Christ there is no life at all! An impression has been given that many enter life through a wide gate of believing on Jesus. Then a few go through the narrow gate of the cross for deeper spiritual service. On the contrary, the broad way without self–denial leads to destruction. All who are saved have entered the fraternity of the cross (Walter Chantry, The Shadow of the Cross (Edinburgh: Banner), pp. 19-20, 22).
Faith embraces Christ substantially in all His offices. This must be urged as of prime practical importance. Dr. Owen has in one place very incautiously said, that saving faith in its first movement embraces Christ only in His priestly, or propitiatory work. This teaching is far too common, at least by implication, in our pulpits. Its result is ‘temporary’ faith, which embraces Christ for impunity only, instead of deliverance from sin. Our Catechism defines faith, as embracing Christ ‘as He is offered in the gospel.’ Our Confession (chap. xiv.2), says: ‘the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life.’ How Christ is offered us in the gospel, may be seen in Matt. 1:21; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 5:25-27; Titus 1:14. The tendency of human selfishness is ever to degrade Christ’s sacrifice into a mere expedient for bestowing impunity. The pastor can never be too explicit in teaching that this is a travesty of the gospel; and that no one rises above the faith of the stony–ground hearer, until he desires and embraces Christ as deliverer from the depravity of sin, as well as hell.
Godly sorrow for sin must be presupposed or implied in the first actings of faith, because faith embraces Christ as a Saviour from sin…Surely the Scriptures do not present Christ to our faith only, or even mainly, as a way of impunity. See Matt. i:21; Acts iii:26; Titus ii:14. As we have pointed out, the most characteristic defect of a dead faith, is, that it would quite heartily embrace Christ as God’s provision for immunity from sin: but God offers Him to faith for a very different purpose, viz: for restoration to holiness, including immunity from wrath as one of the secondary consequences thereof.
The first and most urgent want of the soul, convicted of its guilt and danger, is impunity. Hence, the undue prevalence, even in preaching, of that view of Christ which holds Him up as expiation only. We have seen that even an Owen could be guilty of what I regard as the dangerous statement, that the true believer, in embracing Christ, first receives Him only in His priestly office! The faith which does no more than this, is but partial, and can bear but spurious fruits. Is not this the explanation of much of that defective and spurious religion with which the Church is cursed? The man who is savingly wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, is made to feel that his bondage under corruption is an evil as inexorable and dreadful as the penal curse of the law. He needs and desires Christ in His prophetic and kingly offices, as much as in His priestly. His faith ‘receives Him as He is offered to us in the gospel’; that is, as a ‘Saviour of His people from their sins’ (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology(Edinburgh: Banner, 1871) p. 601, 658, 664).
The manner in which faith and repentance are coupled together in Scripture plainly shows that, as faith is implicitly present in repentance, so repentance is implicitly in faith…True faith is obediential: it involves the will: it has moral quality: but its receptive nature is what fits it to be the organ of our justification (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1871) p. 606-607).
Saving faith versus temporary faith: The efficient cause of saving faith is effectual calling, proceeding from God’s immutable election…That of temporary faith is the common call. The subject of saving faith is a ‘good heart;’ a regenerate soul: that of temporary faith is a stony soul…Their objects are different: saving faith embracing Christ as He is offered in the gospel, a Saviour from sin to holiness: and temporary faith embracing only the impunity and enjoyments of the Christian (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1871) p. 600).
True faith is obediential: it involves the will (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1871) p. 607).
‘Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ’ (Conf. xv,1). The brevity, and in some cases neglect, with which this prominent subject is treated by many systems, is surprising and reprehensible…Of what should man repent? The general answer, of course, must be: Of all sin…Of the corruption of nature, of the concupiscence and inordinate desire of our hearts, it is our duty to repent, to feel blameworthy for them, to sorrow for, and to strive against them, just as of actual transgression; for this not only our guilt (imputed), but our proper sin. Again, Conf., xv.5, ‘Men ought not only to repent of their sinfulness, both of heart and life, as a general quality, but also of particular sins, so far as they are known, with a particular repentance.’
The relations of faith and repentance inter se, as to the order of production, are important to an understanding of conversion. Both these graces are the exercises of a regenerate heart alone; they presuppose the new birth. Now, Calvin, with perhaps the current of Calvinistic divines, says, that ‘repentance not only immediately follows faith, but is produced by it.’ Again: ‘When we speak of faith as the origin of repentance, we dream not of any space of time which it employs in producing it; but we intend to signify that a man cannot truly devote himself to repentance, unless he knows himself to be of God.’ And this, he adds, only becomes known by appropriating faith…Now there is a fair sense in which all this is true; and that, no doubt, the sense in which it commended itself to the minds of those great and good men. But there is also a great danger of holding it in an erroneous and mischevious sense. In what we have to say, guarding these views, let us premise that we make no priority of time in the order of repentance and faith; and no gap of duration between the birth of the one or the other. Either implies the other in that sense. Nor do we dream of the existence of such a thing as a penitent unbeliever, nor suppose that there is any other means of producing repentance than the preaching of the gospel. Repentance can exist nowhere except where God works it. In rational adults He works it only by means, and that means is the gospel revelation; none other. Nor do we retract one word of what we said as to the prime efficiency of the doctrine of the cross, and of the hope, gratitude, love, tenderness, and humiliation, which faith draws therefrom, as means for cultivating repentance.
But in our view it is erroneous to represent faith as existing irrespective of penitence, in its very first acting, and as begetting penitence through the medium of hope. On the contrary, we believe that the very first acting of faith implies some repentance, as the prompter thereof…The man begins to believe because he has also begun to repent.
Godly sorrow for sin must be presupposed or implied in the first actings of faith, because faith embraces Christ as a Saviour from sin…Surely the Scriptures do not present Christ to our faith only, or even mainly, as a way of impunity…As we have pointed out, the most characteristic defect of a dead faith, is, that it would quite heartily embrace Christ as God’s provision for immunity in sin: but God offers Him to faith for a very different purpose, viz: for restoration to holiness, including immunity from wrath as one of the secondary consequences thereof.
But now, a man does not flee from an evil, except as a consequence of feeling it an evil. Hence, there can be no embracing of Christ with the heart, as a whole present Saviour, unless sin be felt to be in itself a present evil; and there be a genuine desire to avoid it as well as its penalty…Some passages of Scripture imply the order I have assigned; and I am not aware of any which contradict it. See Mark i.15; Acts ii.38, v.31, xx.21; 2 Tim ii.25.
Repentance and Faith are twin graces, both implicitly contained in the gift of the new heart; and they cannot but co-exist. Repentance is the right sense and volition which the renewed heart has of its sin; faith is the turning of that heart from its sin to Christ. Repentance feels the disease, faith embraces the remedy…The exercise of repentance, while absolutely necessary in all who are saved, creates no atoning merit; and constitutes no ground whatever in justice, why the penitent should have remission of his sins…Repentance is as much a gift of God (Acts v.31), as the remission which it is supposed to purchase…While, therefore, the impenitent cannot be justified, yet the sole ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone (72 R.L. Dabney,Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1871), pp. 651, 654, 656-659).
John Richard DeWitt
Repentance is the first conscious step in a person’s experience of the divine grace, the entrance for all believers into life, hope, and salvation…Repentance—the repentance of which the Scriptures speak as a godly sorrow, the repentance which is unto life—is not only a persuasion of sinfulness, but it is also, and very distinctly, a turning from sin…Everywhere the Word of God reminds us that repentance is not simply honesty with oneself, or even the open confession of one’s sins; it must also lead to a forsaking of them. If it does not do that, if it is only the fear of punishment and of hell, only a trembling before the just judgment of God, without at the same time the purposing to turn away from sin and to undertake a new obedience to God, then it is not repentance at all (John Richard deWitt, Amazing Love (Edinburgh: Banner, 1981), pp. 66,74-76).
The apostasy of man summarily consists in departing from the true God, to idols; forsaking his Creator, and setting up other things in his room. When God at first created man, he was united to his Creator; the God that made him was his God. The true God was the object of his highest respect, and had the possession of his heart. Love to God was the principle in his heart, that ruled over all other principles; and everything in the soul was wholly in subjection to it. But when man fell, he departed from the true God, and the union that was between his heart and his Creator was broken: he wholly lost his principle of love to God. And henceforth man clave to other gods. He gave that respect to the creature, which is due to the Creator. When God ceased to be the object of his supreme love and respect, other things of course became the objects of it.
The gods which a natural man worships, instead of the God that made him, are himself and the world. He has withdrawn his esteem and honour from God, and proudly exalts himself. As Satan was not willing to be in subjection; and therefore rebelled, and set up himself; so a natural man, in the proud and high thoughts he has of himself, sets up himself upon God’s throne. He gives his heart to the world, worldly riches, worldly pleasures, and worldly honours: they have the possession of that regard which is due to God (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner, 1974), Volume 2, Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies, Sect. III, pp. 132-133).
In a legal humiliation men are made sensible that they are nothing before the great and terrible God, and that they are undone, and wholly insufficient to help themselves….but they have not an answerable frame of heart, consisting in a disposition to abase themselves, and exalt God alone. This disposition is given only in evangelical humiliation, by overcoming the heart, and changing its inclination….In a legal humiliation the conscience is convinced….but because there is no spiritual understanding, the will is not bowed, nor the inclination altered….In legal humiliation, men are brought to despair of helping themselves; in evangelical, they are brought voluntarily to deny and renounce themselves: in the former they are subdued and brought to the ground; in the latter, they are brought sweetly to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of God.
Men may be legally humbled and have no humility….they may be thoroughly convinced that they have no righteousness, but are altogether sinful, exceedingly guilty, and justly exposed to eternal damnation—and be fully sensible of their own helplessness—without the least mortification of the pride of their hearts…But the essence of evangelical humiliation consists in a mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and odious….and….in denying his natural self–exaltation, and renouncing his own dignity and glory, and in being emptied of himself; so that he does freely, and from his very heart, as it were renounce, and annihilate himself. Thus the Christian doth in evangelical humiliation….This is a great and most essential thing in true religion. The whole frame of the gospel, every thing appertaining to the new covenant and all God’s dispensations towards fallen men, are calculated to bring to pass this effect. They that are destitute of this, have no true religion, whatever profession they may make, and how high soever their religious affections….God has abundantly manifested in his word, that this is what he has a peculiar respect to in his saints and that nothing is acceptable to him without it….As we would therefore make the Holy Scriptures our rule, in judging of….our own religious qualifications and state; it concerns us greatly to look at this humiliation, as one of the most essential things pertaining to true Christianity (Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. Found in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner, 1974), Volume I, pp. 294–295).
No sooner is the soul quickened by the Spirit of God, but it answers, in some measure, the end of God in that work, by its active reception of Jesus Christ, in the way of believing…Nothing but unbelief bars men from Christ and his benefits. As many as (received him); the word signifies ‘to accept, take,’ or, (as we fitly render it), to receive, assume, or take to us; a word most aptly expressing the nature and office of faith, yea, the very justifying and saving act; and we are also heedfully to note its special object: The text saith not…his, but him, i.e. his person, as he is clothed with his offices, and not only his benefits and privileges. These are secondary and consequential things to our receiving him… the very essence of saving faith consists in our receiving Christ.
Christ is offered us in the gospel entirely and undividedly, as clothed with all his offices, priestly, prophetical, and regal; as Christ Jesus the Lord, Acts xv.31, and so the true believer receives him; the hypocrite, like the harlot, is for dividing, but the sincere believer finds the need he hath of every office of Christ, and knows not how to want anything that is in him. His ignorance makes him necessary and desirable to him as a prophet: His guilt makes him necessary as a priest: His strong and powerful lusts and corruptions makes him necessary as a king: and in truth he sees not anything in Christ he can spare; he needs all that is in Christ…Look, as the three offices are undivided in Christ, so they are in the believer’s acceptance; and before this trial no hypocrite can stand; for all hypocrites reject and quarrel with something in Christ; they like his pardon better than his government. They call him indeed, Lord and Master, but it is but an empty title they bestow upon him; for let them ask their own hearts if Christ be Lord over their thoughts, as well as their words; over their secret, as well as open actions; over their darling lusts, as well as others; let them ask, who will appear to be Lord and Master over them, when Christ and the world come in competition?…Surely it is the greatest affront that can be offered to the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, to separate in our acceptance, what is so united in Christ, for our salvation and happiness. As without any of these offices, the work of our salvation could not be completed, so without acceptance of Christ in them all, our union with him by faith cannot be completed.
The gospel offer of Christ includes all his offices, and gospel–faith just so receives him; to submit to him, as well as to be redeemed by him; to imitate him in the holiness of life, as well as to reap the purchases and fruits of his death. It must be an entire receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel offers Christ orderly to sinners, first his person, then his privileges. God first gives his Son, and then with him, or as a consequent of that gift, he gives us all things, Rom viii.32. In the same order must our faith receive him. The believer doth not marry the portion first, and then the person, but to be found in him is the first and great care of a believer…It is the proper order in believing, first to accept the person of the Lord Jesus…Union with Christ is, in order of nature, antecedent to the communication of his privileges, therefore so it ought to be in the order and method of believing….Acceptance, which saith, I take Christ in all his offices to be mine, this fits exactly, and belongs to all true believers…This therefore must be the justifying and saving act of faith…That and no other is the justifying and saving act of faith, to which the properties and effects of saving faith do belong, or in which they are only found…By saving faith, Christ is said to ‘dwell in our hearts,’ Eph. iii.17, but it is neither by assent, nor assurance, but by acceptance, and receiving him that he dwells in our hearts…By faith we are justified, Rom. v.1…therefore it must be by the receiving act, and no other.
If such a receiving of Christ, as hath been described, be saving and justifying faith, then faith is a work of greater difficulty than most men understand it to be…It is no easy thing to persuade men to receive Christ as their Lord in all things, and submit their necks to his strict and holy precepts, though it be a great truth that ‘Christ’s yoke doth not gall, but grace and adorn the neck that bears it;’ that the truest and sweetest liberty is in our freedom from our lusts, not in the fulfilling them; yet who can persuade the carnal heart to believe this? And much less will men ever be prevailed withal, to forsake father, mother, wife, children, inheritance, and life itself, to follow Christ: and all this upon the account of spiritual and invisible things: and yet this must be done by all that would receive the Lord Jesus Christ upon gospel terms…Many ruin their own souls by placing the essence of saving faith in naked assent.
See that you receive all Christ, with all your heart. To receive all Christ is to receive his person, clothed with all his offices; and to receive him with all your heart, is to receive him into your understanding, will and affections, Acts viii.37. As there is nothing in Christ that may be refused, so there is nothing in you from which he must be excluded (John Flavel, John Flavel (Edinburgh: Banner, 1968), Volume 2, Sermon: The Method of Grace, pp. 102-105, 107-112, 115, 122-123, 140).
The Church is presently faced with a struggle equal in importance to the fourth century Nicene battle for the deity of Christ and the Reformation struggle for the doctrine of justification by faith. In both of these previous controversies, the very gospel of Jesus Christ was at stake. The situation is no different today. We have shown throughout this volume that Dispensationalism teaches a different gospel. The gospel of dispensational Antinomianism declares that a person may have Christ as Savior but refuses to accept Him as Lord of one’s life. This battle has been called the ‘Lordship Salvation’ controversy.
Without question, the most serious and effective attack on dispensational Antinomianism has come from within dispensational ranks. Though many others had said the same things before him, when John MacArthur, almost universally recognized as a respected dispensationalist himself, wrote The Gospel According to Jesus, the fat was in the fire.
The essential declaration of The Gospel According to Jesus is that Jesus Himself insists that if a person does not take up Christ’s cross and follow Him that person does not have saving faith in Him and will be disowned and damned by Him at the day of judgment. That is shown through parable after parable, teaching after teaching, and illustration after illustration. The appendix adds insult to injury against Dispensationalism’s antinomian teaching by showing that the churches historic understanding of the gospel has always recognized the necessity of obedience.
This is no mere ivory tower concern. It is not an esoteric debate among theologians; the antinomian threat is everywhere. Antinomianism has penetrated, and in many cases permeated, many evangelical churches in America. This false gospel is even spread by missionaries in foreign lands…The stakes are indeed high, for the church faces a direct challenge from within Protestantism to the integrity of the gospel message. If Luther had to proclaim to the church of the sixteenth century that justification is by faith alone and not by meritorious works, we must protest to the church, as she approaches the twenty–first century, that justification is by LIVING and not by DEAD faith! (John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (Brentwood: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), pp. 251-253, 258-259).
Eternal life depends on Christ alone—nothing, but nothing else. Predestination will not bring it. Providence cannot produce it. It does not rest on foreknowledge, divine decrees, or even the atonement itself. Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with Jesus Christ is faith…Strictly speaking, the true Christian church does not teach justification by faith. It teaches justification by Christ. Where does faith come in? It is simply the uniting with, joining with, becoming one with, the Lord Jesus Christ (Don Kistler, Ed., Justification by Faith Alone (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), pp. 106, 110).
Mark 8:34—‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’To come after Jesus means to attach oneself to Him as His disciple. What then must a person do in order to be considered a true disciple? Well, if he wishes to come after Me, says Jesus, then first, he must deny himself; that is, he must once for all say farewell to the old self, the self as it is apart from regenerating grace. Secondly, he must take up his cross. The underlying figure is that of a condemned man who is forced to take up and carry his own cross to the place of execution. Finally, he must follow and keep on following Jesus. Here, following the Master means trusting Him (John 3:16), walking in His footsteps (I Peter 2:21), and obeying His commands (John 15:14) out of gratitude for salvation in Him (Eph. 4:32-5:2). Together the three indicate true conversion, followed by life-long sanctification (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981).
In the next three verses…the obligation to be converted, etc., and the reward that results are brought into sharp contrast with the loss experienced by those who refuse to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow Jesus…Accordingly, with an implied ‘Let him not refuse,’ there follows…For whoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for may sake, he shall save it. Meaning: the individual who would—or ‘should wish to’—save his life shall lose it. Exactly what is it that he wishes to save? Answer: his life, that is, himself…This man clings to that sinful life of his, holding on to it tenaciously…On the other hand, whoever loses his life ‘for my sake,’ he shall save it. One loses his life in the present sense by devoting oneself completely to Christ, to the service of those in need, to the gospel (Cf. Mark 8:35). Note that Christ lays claim to absolute devotion. This proves that he regards himself as Lord of all, and that the evangelist was fully aware of this! The person who offers this devotion saves his life, that is, his soul, or as we can also say, himself…It is only by losing oneself—looking away from self in order to serve the Master and his ‘little ones’ (Cf. Matt. 25:40)—that one can ever be saved…For the sinner salvation is impossible apart from obedience to this rule (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), pp. 498-500).
The Scriptures make it plain that the condition of its effectual application (redemption) is an act of faith, involving real spiritual repentance and the turning from sin and the acceptance and self–appropriation of Christ and of His redemption as the only remedy…From within, the God–man reigns supreme in every Christian heart. It is impossible to accept Christ as our Sacrifice and Priest without at the same time cordially accepting Him as our Prophet, absolutely submitting our understanding to His teaching and accepting Him as our King, submitting implicitly our hearts and wills and lives to His sovereign control. Paul delights to call himself the doulos–purchased servant of Jesus Christ. Every Christian spontaneously calls Him our LORD Jesus. His will is our law, His love our motive, His glory our end. To obey His will, to work in His service, to fight His battles, to triumph in His victories, is our whole life and joy (A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1976), pp. 120, 233).
Now, every Christian who really has experienced the grace of Christ must, unless very greatly prejudiced, recognize the fact that this work of sanctification is the end and the crown of the whole process of salvation. We insist upon and put forward distinctly the great doctrine of justification as a means to an end. It is absolutely necessary as the condition of that faith which is the necessary source of regeneration and sanctification; and every person who is a Christian must recognize the fact that not only will it issue in sanctification, but it must begin in sanctification. This element must be recognized as characteristic of the Christian experience from the first to the last. And any man who thinks that he is a Christian, and that he has accepted Christ for justification when he did not at the same time accept Christ for sanctification, is miserably deluded in that very experience. He is in danger of falling under the judgment of which Paul admonishes when he speaks of the wrath of God coming down from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and with special reference to those who ‘hold the truth in unrighteousness’ (A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1976), p. 297).
The essence of repentance consists…in our actual turning from all sin unto God. This is that practical turning or ‘conversion’ from sin unto God, which is the instant and necessary consequence of regeneration. It is a voluntary forsaking of sin as evil and hateful, with sincere sorrow, humiliation, and confession; and a turning unto God as our reconciled Father, in the exercise of implicit faith in the merits and assisting grace of Christ…Repentance unto life can only be exercised by a soul after, and in consequence of, its regeneration by the Holy Spirit. God regenerates; and we, in the exercise of the new gracious ability thus given, repent…If genuine, it infallibly springs from regeneration and leads to eternal life (A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), pp. 212–213).
Romans 10:9—‘ That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’
The two requisites for salvation mentioned in this verse are confession and faith…The thing to be confessed is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is we must openly recognize His authority to the full extent in which He is Lord; acknowledge that He is exalted above all principality and powers, that angels are made subject to Him, and of course that He is our Lord. This confession therefore, includes in it an acknowledgment of Christ’s universal sovereignty and a sincere recognition of His authority over us (Charles Hodge, Romans (Edinburgh: Banner, 1972), p. 341).
Kingly Office of Christ
God, as the creator and preserver of the universe, and as infinite in His being and perfections, is, in virtue of His nature, the absolute sovereign of all his creatures. This sovereignty He exercises over the material world by His wisdom and power, and over rational beings as moral ruler. From this rightful authority of God, our race revolted, and thereby became a part of the kingdom of darkness of which Satan is the head. To this kingdom the mass of mankind has ever since belonged. But God, in His grace and mercy, determined to deliver men from the consequences of their apostasy. He not only announced the coming of a Redeemer Who should destroy the power of Satan, but He at once inaugurated an antagonistic kingdom, consisting of men chosen out of the world, and through the renewing of the Holy Ghost restored in their allegiance.
The kingdom of God, therefore, as consisting of those who acknowledge, worship, love and obey Jehovah as the only living and true God, has existed in our world ever since the fall of Adam…To gather His people into this kingdom, and to carry it on to its consummation, is the end of all God’s dispensations, and the purpose for which His eternal Son assumed our nature. He was born to be a king. To this end He lived and died and rose again, that He might be Lord of all those given to Him by the Father…The Scriptures constantly speak of the Messiah as a king who was to set up a kingdom into which in the end all other kingdoms were to be merged. The most familiar designation applied to Him in the Scriptures is Lord. But Lord means proprietor and ruler; and when used of God and Christ, it means absolute proprietor and sovereign ruler…Nothing, therefore, is more certain, according to the Scriptures, than that Christ is a king; and consequently, if we would retain the truth concerning Him and His work, He must be so regarded in our theology and religion.
He is the king of every believing soul. He translates it from the kingdom of darkness. He brings it into subjection to Himself. He rules in and reigns over it. Every believer recognizes Christ as His absolute Sovereign; Lord of his inward, as well as of his outward life. He yields to Him the entire subjection of the reason, of the conscience, and of the heart. He makes Him the object of reverence, love and obedience…To acquit himself as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, to spend and be spent in His service and in the promotion of His kingdom, becomes the governing purpose of his life.
The laws of this kingdom require first and above all, faith in Jesus Christ, the sincere belief that He is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, and cordial submission to Him and to trust in Him as our prophet, priest and king. With this faith is united supreme love. ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…He that findeth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matt. 10:37,39). ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciples’ (Luke 14:26). ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha’ (1 Cor. 16:22). With this supreme love are to be connected all the other religious affections. Christians are the worshippers of Christ.
But if we are to recognize Christ as Thomas did (John 20:28), as our Lord and our God, then of course we are bound not only to worship, but to obey him. We stand to Him in the same relation that a slave does to his master, except that our subjection to Him is voluntary and joyful. We belong to Him, not only as the Creator, being His creatures, but also as the Theanthropos, being purchased by His blood (I Cor. 6:19-20). His will, and not our own, must govern our conduct, and determine the use we make of our powers. All we gain, whether of knowledge, wealth, or influence, is His. He, and not we ourselves, is the object or end of our living. It is Christ for believers to live. His glory and the advancement of His kingdom, are the only legitimate objects to which they can devote their powers or resources; the only ends consistent with their relation to Christ, and the full enjoyment of the blessedness which membership in His kingdom secures.
The kingdom of Christ is not a democracy, nor an aristocracy, but truly a kingdom of which Christ is absolute sovereign (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, The Kingly Office of Christ).
Faith and repentance are graces not only alike indispensable, but they cannot exist separately. Repentance is a turning from sin unto God, through Jesus Christ, and faith is the acceptance of Christ in order to our return to God…In the ordinary religious sense of the term, it (repentance) is a turning from sin unto God…That repentance, therefore, which is unto life, is a turning; not a being driven away from sin by fear and stress of conscience, but a forsaking it as evil and hateful, with sincere sorrow, humility, and confession; and a returning unto God, because he is good and willing to forgive, with a determination to live in obedience to his commandments…Our repentance needs to be repented of, unless it leads us to confession and restitution in cases of private injury; unless it causes us to forsake not merely outward sins, which attract the notice of others, but those which lie concealed in the heart; unless it makes us choose the service of God, as that which is right and congenial, and causes us to live not for ourselves, but for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us…The salvation offered in the gospel, though it be a salvation of sinners, is also a salvation from sin…No man, therefore, can be saved who does not, by repentance, forsake his sins. This is itself a great part of salvation. The inward change of heart from the love and service of sin to the love and service of God, is the great end of the death of Christ…A salvation for sinners, therefore, without repentance, is a contradiction.
Hence it is that repentance is the burden of evangelical preaching. Our Saviour himself, when he began to preach, said, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ And when he came into Galilee preaching the gospel, he said, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.’ The commission which he gave his apostles was, ‘That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.’ In the execution of this commission his disciples went forth and preached, ‘Repent ye, and be converted, that your sins May be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. Paul, in the account which he gave Agrippa of his preaching, said that he showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. And he called upon the elders at Ephesus to bear witness that he had taught ‘publically, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Repentance, then, is the great, immediate, and pressing duty of all who hear the gospel. They are called upon to forsake their sins, and return unto God through Jesus Christ. The neglect of this duty is the rejection of salvation. For, as we have seen, unless we repent we must perish…Though repentance is a duty, it is no less the gift of God (Charles Hodge, The Way of Life (Edinburgh: Banner, 1959), pp. 153, 166-169).
D. James Kennedy
‘I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ These are the words of Jesus Christ concerning repentance. In a way, it’s a strange doctrine because repentance itself will not save you. Yet you cannot be saved without it…While many churches ignore this doctrine, the Bible gives it considerable emphasis. Both Old and New Testaments call upon men to repent. Noah was a preacher of righteousness, calling men to leave their wicked ways and turn unto God. All the prophets were preachers of repentance. In fact, Nahum’s name comes from a root meaning repentance. Both the major and minor prophets called people to repent. John the Baptist said: ‘Repent… who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.’
When Christ reached His thirtieth year (the time for the priest to begin his priestly function), our Great High Priest was baptized and began His work as prophet and priest. How did Jesus begin His ministry? Matthew says: ‘From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent…’ The burden of His heart and ministry for this world of sinners was: Repent! ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ Many of His parables, such as the prodigal son, dealt with the subject of repentance. After Jesus’ resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, He said to the two: ‘ Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’ Christ began, continued, and ended His ministry with the same word—repent! At Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was poured out and the church began its distinctively Christian ministry, Peter preached the first sermon. After the people were reminded what God had done, they said: ‘What must we do?’ And Peter said: ‘Repent.’
Paul said he was called by God to preach that men should exercise repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.’ The letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation abound in commands to repent. Eight times in these letters Jesus walks among his churches, symbolic of the churches of all times, and says: ‘Repent…or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.’ Fifty–three times in the New Testament men are called to repent or told they must have repentance.
Repentance and faith are inseparable in Scripture. There can be no genuine repentance without faith. And there is no genuine faith without repentance. The two go together as heads and tails on one coin.
Because the human soul is made up of mind, heart, and will, all three must become involved in true faith and repentance. We must intellectually grasp that sin, because of its heinousness, will inevitably be punished by God. We must also intellectually grasp and understand the divine remedy for sin. We must come to know the way of salvation as it has been divinely appointed by God and must not be deluded by some false plan of salvation of our own making. We must understand it is only through Christ, His grace, and death on the cross that we have eternal hope. But even understanding will not be sufficient. It must go beyond the mind to the heart, to the affection. We must come to God with a contrite heart…‘A broken and contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.’
There are others who have been reared in the church and suppose themselves to be Christian but have never by any act of their will renounced their sins and turned to Jesus Christ. But nothing less will suffice for repentance! It is only as we see the awfulness of our own sin and truly desire in our hearts to turn from them and embrace the Savior, that God accepts our repentance.
Have you repented of your sins or are you deluded into believing that you can live in sin and then in heaven? The Word of Christ to you is unmistakable….Jesus Christ says: ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (D. James Kennedy, Truths That Transform (Old Tappan:Revell, 1974), pp. 63-66).
Mark 8:34—‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’
To deny means to refuse association and companionship with, to disown. And the one to be disowned and denied is…self—and that means self altogether, not merely some portion, some special habit or desire, some outward practice. As Peter afterwards denied Jesus by saying, ‘I know not the man,’ so must you say this to your self: ‘I disown you completely.’ This is not self denial in the current sense of the word but true conversion, the very first essential of the Christian life. The heart sees all the sin of self and the damnation and death bound up in this sin and turns away from it in utter dismay and seeks refuge in Christ alone. Self is thus cast out and Christ enters in; henceforth you live, not unto yourself, but unto Christ who died for you. So you are to deny your very own self, and enter the new relation with Christ (R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), p. 348).
Faith is not an intellectual assent, nor a sympathetic sentiment merely. It is the absolute surrender of self to the will of a Being who has a right to command this surrender. It is this which places men in personal relation to God, which (in St. Paul’s language) justifies them before God. For it touches the springs of their actions; it fastens not on this or that detail of conduct, but extends throughout the whole sphere of moral activity, and thus it determines their character as responsible beings in the sight of God (J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), p. 121).
What is the kingdom (of God)? It means in its essence, Christ’s rule or the sphere and realm in which He is reigning…Wherever the reign of Christ is being manifested the kingdom of God is there…the kingdom of God is present at this moment in all who are true believers. The kingdom of God is only present in the Church in the hearts of true believers, in the hearts of those who have submitted to Christ and in whom and among whom He reigns. We who recognize Christ as our Lord, and in whose lives He is reigning and ruling at this moment are in the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of heaven is in us. Do we belong to this kingdom? Are we ruled by Christ? Is He our King and Lord?…The kingdom of God means ‘the reign of God,’ ‘the reign of Christ,’ and Christ is reigning today in every true Christian…Whenever Christ is enthroned as King, the kingdom of God is come, so that while we cannot say that He is ruling over all in the world at the present time, He is certainly ruling in that way in the hearts and lives of all His people.
Matthew 7:13,14 – Strait Gate and Narrow Way
The first thing we notice is that the Christian life is narrow or strait at the very beginning. Immediately it is narrow. It is not a life which at first is fairly broad…the gate itself, the very way of entering into this life, is a narrow one. We are told at the very outset of this way of life, before we start on it that if we would walk along it there are certain things which must be left outside, behind us. There is no room for them because we have to start by passing through a strait and narrow gate. The first thing we leave behind us is what is called worldliness. We leave behind the crowd and the way of the world…Our Lord is warning us against the danger of an easy salvation, against the tendency to say, Just come to Christ as you are and all is going to be well. No, the gospel tells us at the outset that it is going to be difficult. It means a radical break with the world.
Yes, but still narrower and still straiter, if we really want to come into this way of life, we have to leave our ‘self’ outside. And it is there of course that we come to the greatest stumbling–block of all. It is one thing to leave the world, and the way of the world, but the most important thing in a sense is to leave our self outside. Have no illusion about this…for he who would enter by this gate must say goodbye to self. It is a life of self abasement, self humiliation. ‘If any man will come after Me’—what happens? ‘Let him deny himself (the first thing always), and take up his cross and follow Me.’
But self denial, denial of self, does not mean refraining from various pleasures and things that we may like. It means to deny our very right to ourself. We leave our self outside and go in through the gate saying, ‘Yet not I but Christ liveth in me.’
In the same way it (the false prophet’s teaching), does not emphasize repentance in any real sense. It has a very wide gate leading to salvation and a very broad way leading to heaven. You need not feel much of your own sinfulness; you need not be aware of the blackness of your own heart. You just decide for Christ and you rush in with the crowd and your name is put down and is one of the large number of decisions reported by the press.
Repentance means that you realize that you are a guilty vile sinner in the presence of God; that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, that you are hell-bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you; that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world whatever the cost, the world in its mind and outlook as well as its practice, and you deny yourself, and take up the cross and go after Christ. Your nearest and dearest and the whole world may call you a fool, or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference. That is repentance.
The false prophet does not put it like that. He heals ‘the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,’ simply saying that it is all right and that you have but to come to Christ, ‘follow Jesus,’ or ‘become a Christian’ (D. Martyn Lloyd–Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pp. 16, 40, 220, 221, 224, 225, 247, 248).
The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus’ message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It puts shiners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God’s righteousness. It was in every sense good news, yet it was anything but easy-believism. Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following Him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it.
Jesus is both Savior and Lord (Luke 2:1 1), and no true believer would ever dispute that. ‘Savior’ and ‘Lord’ are separate offices, but we must be careful not to partition them in such a way that we end up with a divided Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:13). Nevertheless, loud voices from the dispensationalists camp are putting forth the teaching that it is possible to reject Christ as Lord and yet receive Him as Savior. Indeed, there are those who would have us believe that the norm for salvation is to accept Jesus as Savior without yielding to Him as Lord. We do not ‘make’ Christ, Lord; He is Lord! Those who will not receive Him as Lord are guilty of rejecting Him. ‘Faith’ that rejects His sovereign authority is really unbelief. Conversely, acknowledging His lordship is no more a human work than repentance (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25) or faith itself (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). In fact, it is an important element of divinely produced saving faith, not something added to faith…No one who comes for salvation with genuine faith, sincerely believing that Jesus is the eternal, almighty, sovereign God, will willfully reject His authority. True faith is not lip service. Our Lord Himself pronounced condemnation on those who worshipped Him with their lips but not with their lives (Matt. 15:7–9). He does not become anyone’s Savior until that one receives Him for who He is—Lord of all (Acts 10:36).
Those who teach that obedience and submission are extraneous to saving faith are forced to make a firm but unbiblical distinction between salvation and discipleship. This dichotomy, like that of the carnal/spiritual Christian, sets up two classes of Christians: believers only, and true disciples. Many who hold this position discard the evangelistic intent of virtually every recorded invitation of Jesus, saying those apply to discipleship, not to salvation…Are we to believe that when Jesus told the multitudes to deny themselves (Luke 14:26), to take up a cross (v. 27), and to forsake all and follow Him (v. 33), His words had no meaning whatsoever for the unsaved people in the crowd?
The call of Calvary must be recognized for what it is: a call to discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To respond to that call is to become a believer. Anything less is simply unbelief. The gospel according to Jesus explicitly and unequivocally rules out easy–believism. To make all our Lord’s difficult demands apply only to a higher class of Christians blunts the force of His entire message. It makes room for cheap and meaningless faith—a faith that may be exercised with absolutely no impact on the fleshly life of sin. That is not saving faith (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), pp. 21-33).
Matthew 4:17—‘From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
That is the way in which Jesus always begins. His first message to men is always, Repent! He does not end there. He had much more to say to men than this … But there is nothing Jesus can ever say until this first thing is said, and until this first thing is done. But Jesus in this great word did not merely say, Repent…He indicated a direction. ‘Repent…the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’…Jesus did not come to men and say: You are wrong, get a new idea of life. Said He: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Herein is direction. Herein is the indication of what the change is to be. There occur in the scriptures certain terms…the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom, the Church…What is the common principle in all these? The rule of God, the authority of the Most High over the affairs of men. The permanent principle in all these phrases is the direct right of God to govern individual life in its entirety, social life in all its relationships and national life in its purposes and its policies. The permanent principle, that for which Jesus came, and for which He stood, is that of the absolute right of God to govern every man’s life in every part and detail of it. This is the Kingdom of Heaven. The absolute right of God to govern social life in all its interrelationships, husband and wife, father and children, master and servant, capital and labor.
Now Jesus did not merely say, change your mind, but change your mind toward that, and in the phrase that indicates the direction, there flashes the light that reveals the failure. We can put the whole call into very simple phrases and words. Change your mind about God and change your mind toward God. God is exiled, enthrone Him! That is all and that is everything. It is a call from godlessness to Godliness…‘Repent ye for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’
We have lived under other lords. We have obeyed the impulses of sin, of self, of passion, of pride; we are wrong. We have wakened in the morning and we have said: What will please us today? We are wrong. Change your mind, learn to understand that you never can live, till with the break of day we say: ‘Teach me to do Thy will, 0 my God.’ ‘Repent ye for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ It had its local application, but I take out the eternal principle; the right of God to govern human lives; to direct, immediate, positive, drastic interference with every man. This is the keynote of the preaching of Jesus. The first thing is that we enthrone God and kiss the scepter, and bow the knee, and learn that we have no right at all except the right of being where God would have us be and doing what God would have us do.
Jesus comes to enthrone God in human life…When men repent in that direction what will happen? Their conceptions will be godly, their conduct will be godly and their character will be godly…ultimately, repentance is the turning of the back deliberately on everything that is out of harmony with the will of God. Fundamentally it is turning to God. Repentance is turning round and facing God, recognizing the throne, submitting thereto, asking at the gates of the high place for the orders of every day and every hour. That is godly life.
Repentance is toward God, the change of the mind back toward Him, that He may be taken into account; the change of the conduct so that it may square with that master conception of life that the will of God is supreme (G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1954-1955), Vol. 6, pp. 154-166; Vol. 8, p. 121).
Luke 9:23—‘Whosoever will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.’
Let him deny himself—Always let us emphasize in thought and tone, that last word—let him deny himself. And what is self denial? The word is often and much mistaken in common use, as if it meant much the same as self control, the control of lower elements of our being by higher.
If a man postpones the present to the future, resolving on present loss for the sake of future gain, this is often called self denial. If a man for some high object of his own, abjures inferior pleasures, scorns delights and lives laborious days, this is often called self denial. If in the highest sphere, for the sake of rest hereafter, he inflicts on himself great unrest now, this too is often called self denial. Now the doing of such things may be wrong or may be right in itself; but it is not self denial, as the phrase is used here assuredly by our Lord. Take the New Testament and try the case by the words ‘deny’ and ‘denial’ in successive passages. I think it will be seen that self denial is not self control. In all cases at all in point, ‘to deny’ much more resembles in idea ‘to ignore’ than to control. It means to turn the back upon, to shut the eyes to, to treat as nonexistent. Let him deny himself (Luke 9:23) – let him ignore self; let him say to self – I know thee not, thou are nothing to me.
In effect may we not say the Lord’s precept comes to this: the real displacement of self from the throne of life in its purposes and hopes, and the real enthronement of Another. It comes to unqualified self surrender. We all practically understand what we mean when we speak about self and its surrender and the enthronement of Jesus Christ. We mean that whereas yesterday our aims, many of them, some of them, one of them, terminated in ourself – today, so far as we know, they all terminate in our Lord. Yesterday perhaps, in some highly refined mode, perhaps in some mode not refined, we lived at least part of our life to self, today, in full purpose, we live the whole of it to Him who died for us and rose again. Yesterday, it was very pleasant as a good thing in itself, if some action, some influence going out from us, brought back praise, spoken or unspoken, to ourselves; today, such a feeling is recognized as sin, if the pleasure terminates short of a distinct and honest reference to our Lord in us. Yesterday we were easy in the consciousness of purely personal gratification, when some intellectual success, let us say, or physical, brought credit to ourselves and stimulated self esteem. Oh how much inner force we spent in one phase or another of self esteem. But today our deliberate choice is in the other direction. We prefer with unaffected preference, that all our earnings should go straight to Another, to our Lord.
In true purpose and choice He is now the center of our whole life – not parts but the whole. We wish not to spend ten minutes irrespective of His interests, His claims, His will. This is self denial of the saints. True self denial has lodged the personality of the person as to its whole purpose working upon another center, even Jesus Christ the Lord (Handley Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody, 1975), pp. 19-21).
The Nature (of faith)—its Constituitive Elements:
- A) Notitia. Faith respects an object and in this case Christ. But there can be no trust without knowledge of the person in whom trust is reposed. We do not trust any person unless we know something about him and, more particularly, things pertaining to that in respect of which we have confidence. So it is with Christ.
B) Assensus. This has two aspects: a) Intellective…The information conveyed is recognized by us to be true…b) Emotive…It is truth believed as applicable to ourselves, as supremely vital and important for us. Saving faith cannot be in exercise unless there is a recognition of correspondence between our needs and the provision of the gospel. Knowledge passes into conviction.
C) Fiducia. Saving faith is not simply assent to propositions of truth respecting Christ, and defining the person that he is, nor simply assent to a proposition respecting his sufficiency to meet and satisfy our deepest needs. Faith must rise to trust, and trust that consists in entrustment to him. In faith there is the engagement of person to person in the inner movement of the whole man to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation. It means the abandonment of confidence in our own or any human resources in a totality act of self–commitment to Christ.
This fiducial character, consisting in entrustment to Christ for salvation, serves to correct misapprehensions. Faith is not belief that we have been saved, nor belief that Christ has saved us, nor even belief that Christ died for us. It is necessary to appreciate the point of distinction. Faith is in its essence commitment to Christ that we may be saved. The premise of that commitment is that we are unsaved and we believe on Christ in order that we may be saved…It is to lost sinners that Christ is offered, and the demand of that overture is simply and solely that we commit ourselves to him in order that we may be saved.
Faith is a whole–souled movement of intelligent, consenting, and confiding self–commitment, and all these elements or ingredients coalesce to make faith what it is. Intellect, feeling and will converge upon Christ in those exercises which belong properly to these distinct though inseparable aspects of psychial activity (Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp.257-260).
Justification is by faith and therefore can never be separated from it. What is this faith? It is trust in Christ for salvation from sin. It is to contradict the very nature of faith to regard it as anything else than a sin–hating, sin–condemning, and sin–renouncing principle. Since faith is a whole–souled movement of trust in Christ its very spring and motive is salvation from sin…As regeneration is the fountain of faith and faith is the logical pre-condition of justification, we can never think of justification apart from regeneration. And, again, the faith that justifies is faith conjoined with repentance(Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp. 220-221).
All along the line of obligations, overtures and priviledges of the divine call, there is an utter incongruity between the condition of the called and the calling. The response to the call is a whole–souled movement of loving subjection and trust in God. It is a totality of a man’s soul…It is a turning to God with the whole heart and soul and strength and mind (Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp. 169-170).
According to the more classic Protestant position faith is simply the instrument whereby justification is appropriated. The faith in view is not faith in justification but faith in Christ, the faith directed to him and commitment to him for salvation (cf. Westminster Confession XI, iv)…Faith has as its specific quality the receiving and resting of self-abandonment and totality of self-commitment(Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp. 216-217).
Faith is always joined with repentance, love and hope. A faith severed from these is not the faith of the contrite and therefore it is not the faith that justifies. But it is faith alone that justifies because its specific quality is to find our all in Christ and his righteousness (Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, p. 217).
Faith is not regeneration, for it is the person who believes. But it is by the washing and renewal of regeneration that the person is enabled to believe. Faith is of God, but faith itself is the whole–souled movement of the person in entrustment to Christ…It is at this point of faith that our responsibility enters…It is truly our responsibility to be what regeneration effects, namely, new creatures, trusting, loving, and obeying God with all our heart and soul and mind…Faith is the activity of the person and him alone. And every Godward response is, of course, our responsibility. This needs to be pressed home with the utmost emphasis (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp. 262-263).
The response to the call is a whole–souled movement of loving subjection and trust in God. It is a totality act of man’s soul…It is a turning to God with the whole heart and soul and strength and mind…This change of heart manifests itself in faith and repentance, which are the responses of our whole inner man to the revelation of the gospel, away from sin and towards God (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), Volume 2, pp. 170, 202).
Evangelism means declaring a specific message…It means to present Christ Jesus Himself, the living Saviour and the reigning Lord…Evangelism means to present Jesus as Christ, God’s annointed Servant, fulfilling the tasks of His appointed office as Priest and King…Evangelizing means declaring this specific message with a specific application..Evangelism means exhorting sinners to accept Christ Jesus as their Saviour, recognizing that in the most final and far reaching sense they are lost without Him. Nor is this all. Evangelism also means summoning men to receive Christ Jesus as all that He is, Lord as well as Saviour, and therefore to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.
Evangelism is the issuing of a call to turn, as well as to trust; it is the delivering, not merely of a divine invitation to receive a Savior but of a divine command to repent of sin. And there is no evangelism where this specific application is not made. Jesus has been raised and enthroned and made King and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge His Lordship.
The gospel is a summons to faith and repentance. All who hear the gospel are summoned by God to repent and believe (Acts 17:30, John 6:29)…
It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling. Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man. Faith is more than just credence; faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners and on the Christ who gave those promises. Equally, repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Saviour as King in self’s place.
More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. Luke 9:23,24—‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me…whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same (but only he) shall save it.’ Luke 14:26,33—‘If any man come to Me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters yea, and his own life also (i.e., put them all decisively second in his esteem) he cannot be my disciple…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.’
The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims which He may make on their lives. In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything or else our evangelism becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.
In the last analysis there is only one method of evangelism, namely the faithful explanation and application of the gospel message…We have to ask: is the way we present the gospel calculated to convey to people the application of the gospel and not just part of it, but the whole of it—the summons to see and know oneself as God sees and knows one, that is as a sinful creature and to face the breadth and depth of the need into which a wrong relationship with God has brought one, and to face too the cost and consequences of turning to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord. Or is it likely to be deficient here and to gloss over some of this, and to give an inadequate distorted impression of what the gospel requires…Will it leave people supposing that all they have to do is to trust Christ as a sin–bearer not realizing that they must also deny themselves and enthrone Him as their Lord (the error which we might call ‘only believism’)? (J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1961), pp. 38-40, 65, 70-71, 72, 73, 88, 89, 105).
That man should not separate what God has joined is a truth about more than marriage. God has joined the three offices of prophet (teacher), priest, and king in the mediatorial role of Jesus Christ, and directs us in the Bible to relate positively to them all. God has joined faith and repentance as two facets of response to the Savior and made it clear that turning from sin means letting ungodliness go. Biblical teaching on faith joins credence, commitment, and communion; it exhibits Christian believing as not only knowing facts about Christ, but also coming to Him in personal trust to worship, love and serve him. If we fail to keep together what God has joined together, our Christianity will be distorted.
‘Lordship salvation’ is a name for the view that upholds these unities. The name sounds esoteric and slightly uncouth, and its novelty would naturally suggest that the view labeled by it is a novel product, manufactured only recently. But in fact it is no more, just as it is no less, than the mainstream Protestant consensus on the nature of justifying faith, and the real novelty is the position of those who coined this name for the view they reject and who break these unities in their own teaching. That teaching reinvents the maimed account of faith given by Scottish Sandemanianism two centuries ago…Like Sandemanians, those who reject ‘lordship salvation’ choose to keep works out of justification. To this end, like Sandemanians again, they represent faith as simple assent to the truth about Jesus’ saving role, and thus their teaching becomes vulnerable to the criticism that it exalts faith in a way that destroys faith. Simple assent to the gospel, divorced from a transforming commitment to the living Christ, is by biblical standards less than faith, and less than saving, and to elicit only assent of this kind would be to secure only false conversions. So the gospel really is at stake in this discussion, though not in the way that the opponents of ‘lordship salvation’ think. What is in question is the nature of faith (From the Foreword to The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988) By John MacArthur, p. ix).
The word of God teaches plainly that in this dispensation, equally with preceding ones, God requires a sincere and deep repentance before He pardons any sinner. Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation, just as necessary as is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3). ‘Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life’ (Acts 11: 18). ‘For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of’ (2 Car. 7: 10). It is impossible to frame language more explicit than that. Therefore in view of these verses and others, we cannot but sorrowfully regard those who are now affirming that repentance is not in this dispensation, essential unto salvation, as being deceivers of souls, blind leaders of the blind. In repentance sin is the thing to be repented of and sin is a transgression of the law (I John 3:4). And the first and chief thing required by the law is supreme love to God. Therefore, the lack of supreme love to God, the heart’s disaffection for His character and rebellion against Him (Rom. 8:7) is our great wickedness, of which we have to repent.
What is sin? Sin is saying…I disallow His (God’s) right to govern me. I am going to be lord of myself. Sin is rebellion against the Majesty of heaven…The language of every sinner’s heart is, I care not what God requires, I am going to have my own way. I care not what be God’s claims upon me, I refuse to submit to His authority. The Lord Jesus taught and constantly pressed the same truth. His call was ‘Repent ye and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15). The gospel cannot be savingly believed until there is genuine repentance.
When the gospel first comes to the sinner it finds him in a state of apostacy from God, both as sovereign Ruler and as our supreme good, neither obeying and glorifying Him, nor enjoying and finding satisfaction in Him. Hence the demand for ‘repentance toward God’ before ‘faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). True repentance toward God removes this dissatisfaction of our minds and hearts toward Him, under both these characters. In saving repentance the whole soul turns to Him and says: I have been a disloyal and rebellious creature. I have scorned Thy high authority and most rightful law. I will live no longer thus. I desire and determine with all my might to serve and obey Thee as my only Lord. I subject myself unto Thee, to submit to Thy will…Repentance…is the perception that God has the right to rule and govern me, and of my refusal to submit unto Him…As the Holy Spirit sets before me the loveliness of the divine character, as I am enabled to discern the exalted excellency of God, then I begin to perceive that to which He is justly entitled, namely, the homage of my heart, the unrestricted love of my soul, the complete surrender of my whole being to Him.
Many are the scriptures which set forth this truth, that there must be a forsaking of sin before God will pardon offenders. He must be crowned Lord of all or He will not be Lord at all. There must be the complete heart–renunciation of all that stands in competition with Him. He will brook no rival.
Thus repentance is the negative side of conversion. Conversion is a whole–hearted turning unto God, but there cannot be a turning unto, without a turning from. Sin must be forsaken ere we can draw nigh unto the Holy One. As it is written, ‘Ye turned to God from idols to serve (live for) the living and true God’ (I Thess. 1:9). Make no mistake upon the point…it is turn or burn; turn from your course of self will and self pleasing, turn in brokenheartedness to God, seeking His mercy in Christ, turn with full purpose to please and serve Him, or be tormented day and night forever and ever in the lake of fire (A.W. Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), pp. 45, 49-53, 56, 58, 60, 79).
I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God!…If he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means. Are not men in danger of undervaluing and underrating the immense blessedness of conversion? Are they not, when they urge on believers the ‘higher life’ as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, of that great first chapter which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection? I may be mistaken. But I have sometimes thought, while reading the strong language used by many about ‘consecration,’ in the last few years, that those who use it must have had previously a singularly low and inadequate view of ‘conversions’ if indeed they knew anything about conversion at all. In short, I have almost suspected that when they were consecrated, they were in reality converted for the first time! (J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Cambridge: James Clark), p. 57).
Matthew 4:17—‘From that time Jesus began to preach and to say Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Luke 24:47—‘And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations
beginning at Jerusalem.’
It seems from these two texts that repentance was the first subject upon which the Redeemer dwelt, and that it was the last, which, with His departing breath, He commended to the earnestness of His disciples. Jesus Christ opens His commission by preaching repentance. What then? Did He not by this act teach us how important repentance was—so important that the very first time He opens His mouth He shall begin with ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’? Did He not feel that repentance was necessary to be preached before He preached faith in Himself because the soul must first repent of sin before it will seek a Savior.
It seems to me that nothing could set forth Jesus Christ’s idea of the high value of repentance more fully and effectually than the fact that He begins with it, and that He concludes with it – that He should say ‘Repent’, as the key note of His ministry. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in every–day life.
Repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will say ‘sir I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold.’ 0 sirs, in God’s name let me tell you; it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance, it is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost harbour one of those accursed vipers in thy heart, and does give up every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul. Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices, fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which God demands.
Repent says He and when He bids you repent, He means repent of all thy sins, otherwise He can never accept thy repentance as real and genuine.
All sin must be given up or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember then that for repentance to be sincere, it must be entire repentance. True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God to be His forever and ever; it is the renunciation of the sins of the heart as well as the crimes of the life (C. H. Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 5 and 6, pp. 342-346; Sermon #106, pages 418, 419).
It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Saviour unless He also becomes our King, for a very large part of salvation consists in our being saved from sin’s dominion over us, and the only way in which we can be delivered from the mastery of Satan is by becoming subject to the mastery of Christ (C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 56 (reprint, Pasadena: Pilgrim, 1979), p. 617. Cited by John MacArthur, Faith Works (Dallas: Word, 1993), p. 245-246).
What must I do to be saved? Clearly we must do something. Christianity is no mere passive acquiescence to a series of propositions, however true. We may believe in the deity and the salvation of Christ, and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in need of His salvation; but this does not make us Christians. We have to make a personal response to Jesus Christ, committing ourselves unreservedly to Him as our Saviour and Lord. Jesus never concealed the fact that His religion included a demand as well as an offer. Indeed the demand was as total as the offer was free. If He offered men His salvation, He also demanded their submission. He gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship…He asked His first disciples and He has asked every disciple since, to give Him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this will do.
‘If any man would come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life . . .’ (Mark 8:34-37).
At its simplest Christ’s call was ‘follow Me.’ He asked men and women for their personal allegiance. He invited them to learn from Him, to obey His words and to identify themselves with His cause. Now there can be no following without a previous forsaking. To follow Christ is to renounce all lesser loyalties …. Today, in principle, the call of the Lord Jesus has not changed. He still says, ‘Follow Me,’ and adds, ‘whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.’ In practice however, this does not mean for the majority of Christians a physical departure from their home or job. It implies rather an inner surrender of both and a refusal to allow either family or ambition to occupy the first place in our lives.
Let me be more explicit about the forsaking which cannot be separated from following Jesus Christ. First, there must be a renunciation of sin. This, in a word, is repentance. It is the first part of Christian conversion. It can in no circumstances be bypassed. Repentance and faith belong together. We cannot follow Christ without forsaking sin. Repentance is a definite turn from every thought, word, deed and habit which is known to be wrong. It is not sufficient to feel pangs of remorse or to make some kind of apology to God. Fundamentally, repentance is a matter neither of emotion nor of speech. It is an inward change of mind and attitude towards sin which leads to a change of behavior.
Second, there must be a renunciation of self. In order to follow Christ we must not only forsake isolated sins, but renounce the very principle of self–will which lies at the root of every act of sin. To follow Christ is to surrender to Him the rights over our own lives. It is to abdicate the throne of our heart and do homage to Him as our King. This renunciation of self is vividly described by Jesus, in three phases:
- It is to deny ourselves: ‘if any man would come after Me let him deny himself.’…We are to disown ourselves as completely as Peter disowned Christ when he said, ‘I do not know the man.’ Self denial is not just giving up sweets and cigarettes, either for good, or for a period of voluntary abstinence. For it is not to deny things to myself but to deny myself to myself. It is to say no to self and yes to Christ; to repudiate self and acknowledge Christ.
- The next phrase Jesus used is to take up the cross: ‘If any man would come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’…To take up the cross is to put oneself into the position of a condemned man on his way to execution. In other words, the attitude to self which we are to adopt is that of crucifixion. Paul uses the same metaphor when he declares that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (i.e. their fallen human nature) with its passions and desires. In Luke’s version of this saying of Christ the adverb ‘daily’ is used. Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he renounces the sovereignty of his own will. Every day he renews his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.
- The third expression which Jesus used to describe the renunciation of self is to lose our life: ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ The word for ‘life’ here denotes neither our physical existence nor our soul but our self. The psyche is the ego, the human personality which thinks, feels, plans, and chooses…Jesus simply used the reflexive pronoun and talked about a man forfeiting ‘himself.’ The man who commits himself to Christ, loses himself. This does not mean that he loses his individuality, however. His will is indeed submitted to Christ’s will, but his personality is not absorbed into Christ’s personality. On the contrary, when the Christian loses himself, he finds himself, he discovers his true identity.
So in order to follow Christ we have to deny ourselves, to crucify ourselves, to lose ourselves. The full inexorable demand of Jesus Christ is now laid bare. He does not call us to a sloppy halfheartedness, but to vigorous absolute commitment. He calls us to make Him our Lord. The astonishing idea is current in some circles today that we can enjoy the benefits of Christ’s salvation without accepting the challenge of His sovereign Lordship. Such an unbalanced notion is not to be found in the New Testament. To make Christ Lord is to bring every department of our public and private lives under His control. No Christian can live for himself any longer (John Stott, Basic Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 107-113, 124, 125).
Augustus H. Strong
Conversion is that voluntary change in the mind of the sinner, in which he turns, on the one hand, from sin, and on the other hand to Christ. The former or negative element in conversion, namely, the turning from sin, we denominate repentance. The latter or positive element in conversion, namely, the turning to Christ, we denominate faith.
Repentance is that voluntary change in the mind of the sinner in which he turns from sin. Being essentially a change of mind, it involves a change of view, a change of feeling and a change of purpose. We may therefore analyze repentance into three constituents, each succeeding term of which includes and implies the one preceding:
A) An intellectual element—a change of view—recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness.
B) An emotional element—change of feeling—sorrow for sin as committed against goodness and justice and therefore hateful to God and hateful to itself.
C) A voluntary element—a change of purpose—inward turning from sin and disposition to seek pardon and cleansing. This includes and implies the two preceding elements, and is therefore the most important aspect of repentance. It is indicated in the Scripture term metanoia (Acts 2:38; Rom. 2:4).
The idea of metanoia is abandonment of sin rather than sorrow for sin—an act of the will rather than a state of the sensibility…It is repentance from sin, not of sin, nor for sin. In further explanation of the Scripture representations we remark:
a) That repentance, in each and all aspects, is wholly an inward act, not to be confounded with the change of life which proceeds from it.
b) That repentance is only a negative condition, and not a positive means of salvation.
c) That true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith.
d) That, conversely, where ever there is true faith, there is true repentance also.
Since repentance and faith are but different sides or aspects of the same acts of turning, faith is as inseparable from repentance as repentance is from faith.
Faith is that voluntary change in the mind of the sinner in which he turns to Christ. Being essentially a change of mind, it involves a change of view, a change of feeling and a change of purpose. We may therefore analyze faith also into three constituents, each succeeding term of which includes and implies the preceding (intellectual, emotional and volitional). The voluntary element is trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, or in other words, to distinguish its two aspects:
- Surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled to Christ’s governance (Matt. 11:28,29, John 8:12, Acts 16:3 1, John 2:24, Romans 3:2, Gal. 2:7). “Pistis” equals trustful self surrender to God (Meyer). In this surrender of the soul to Christ’s governance we have the guarantee that the gospel salvation is not an unmoral trust which permits continuance in sin. Aside from the fact that saving faith is only the obverse side of true repentance, the very nature of faith as submission to Christ, the embodied law of God and source of spiritual life, makes a life of obedience and virtue to be its natural and necessary result.
Faith is not only a declaration of dependence, it is also a vow of allegiance. The sick man’s faith in his physician is shown not simply by trusting him, but by obeying him. Doing what the doctor says is the very proof of trust. Faith is self surrender to the Great Physician and a leaving of our case in His hands. But it is also the taking of His prescriptions and the active following of His directions.
Faith is not simple receptiveness. It gives itself as well as receives Christ. It is not mere passivity; it is also self committal. There are great things received in faith, but nothing is received by the man who does not first give himself to Christ. While faith is the act of the whole man, and intellect, affections and will are involved; in it, will is the all–inclusive and most important of its elements. No other exercise of will is such a revelation of our being and so decisive of our destiny.
The voluntary element of faith is illustrated in marriage. Here, one party pledges the future in permanent self surrender, commits oneself to another person in confidence that this future, with all its new revelations of character will only justify the decision made.
- Reception and appropriation of Christ as the source of pardon and spiritual life (John 1: 12, 4:14, 6:53, 20:3 1, Rev. 3:20). Faith then is a taking of Christ as both Lord and Savior and it includes both appropriation of Christ and consecration to Christ(Augustus H. Strong,Systematic Theology (Old Tappan: Revell, 1907), pp. 829, 832-836).
Henry C. Thiessen
The Scriptures appeal to man to turn to God (Prov. 1:23; lsa. 31:6,59:20; Ezek. 14:6, 18:32, 33:9-11)…Conversion is that turning to God and it represents the human response to the call of God. It consists of two elements: repentance and faith.
The importance of repentance is not always recognized as it should be. Some call upon the unsaved to accept Christ and to believe without ever showing the sinner that he is lost and needs a savior. But the Scriptures lay much stress on the preaching of repentance.
Repentance was the message of the Old Testament prophets (Deut. 30: 10-1 2 Kings 17:13; Jer. 8:6, Ezek. 14:6, 18:30). It was the keynote of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2; Mark 11:15), of Christ (Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:3-5), of the twelve as such (Mark 6:12), and in particular of Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38; cf. 3:19). It was also fundamental to the preaching of Paul (Acts 20:21; 26:20).
The dispensational change has not made repentance unnecessary in this age; it is definitely a command to all men (Acts 17:30). This is what Paul said at Athens, the farthest removed from a Jewish environment. Repentance is something in which all heaven is supremely interested (Luke 15:7, 10; 24:46f). It is the fundamental of fundamentals (Matt. 21:32; Heb. 6: 1) because it is an absolute condition of salvation (Luke 13:2-5).
Repentance is essentially a change of mind, taking the word in a broad sense. It has, however, three aspects: an intellectual, an emotional, and a volitional aspect
1) The intellectual element – This implies a change of view. It is a change of view with regard to sin, God and self.
2) The emotional element – This implies a change of feeling. Sorrow for sin and a desire for pardon are aspects of repentance.
3) The volitional element – This element implies a change of will, disposition and purpose. This is the inward turning from sin.
Repentance is not a satisfaction rendered to God, but a condition of the heart necessary before we can believe unto salvation. Furthermore true repentance never exists apart from faith.. Conversely we may say that true faith never exists without repentance. The two are inseparably bound together.
What then is faith? … In conversion, faith is the turning of the soul to God as repentance is the turning of the soul from sin … We may say that the scriptures represent faith as an act of the heart. It therefore involves an intellectual, an emotional and a volitional change. Men believe with the heart to be saved (Romans 10:9f). The scriptures emphasize the intellectual aspect of faith in such references as Psalm 9:10, John 2:23f and Romans 10:14. Nicodemus had faith in this sense of the term when he came to Jesus (John 3:2) and the demons we are told, believe, for they know the facts concerning God (James 2:19). It is no doubt in this sense also that Simon Magus believed (Acts 8:13) for there are no indications that he repented and appropriated Christ.
We conclude therefore that faith must be more than intellectual assent. A man is not saved unless his faith has all three of these elements in it (emotional, intellectual, volitional). The voluntary element, however, is so comprehensive that it presupposes the other two. Certainly no one can be saved who does not voluntarily appropriate Christ. The voluntary element includes the surrender of the heart to God and the appropriation of Christ as Saviour. The former is brought out in such scriptures as ‘Give me you heart my son and let your eyes delight in my ways’ (Prov. 23:26). ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me’ (Matt. 11:28). ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sister, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:26).
That the Greek term pisteuo (to believe or trust) is used in the sense of surrender and commitment is seen in such statements as: ‘But Jesus on his part was not entrusting himself to them for he knew all men’ (John 2:24). ‘They were entrusted with the gospel’ (Gal. 2:7). The scriptures frequently emphasize that men should count the cost before deciding to follow Christ (Matt. 8:19–22, Luke 14:26-33). The thought of surrender is also implied in the exhortation to accept Jesus as Lord. The command is, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 16:31). And we must ‘confess Jesus as Lord to be saved’ (Rom. 10:9) To believe in Him as Lord is to recognize Him as Lord, and we cannot recognize Him as Lord until we ourselves abdicate.
This note of faith is often overlooked or even referred to as a later time of consecration, but the scriptures connect it with the initial experience of salvation (Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 268-270, 271-273).
Romans 14:9—‘For this purpose Christ died and rose again that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead.’
Our relation to Christ is based on His death and resurrection and this means His Lordship. Indeed the Lordship of Christ over the lives of His people was the very purpose for which He died and rose again. We have to acknowledge Christ as our Lord. Sin is rebellion, and it is only as we surrender to Him as our Lord that we receive pardon from Him as our Savior. We have to admit Him to reign on the throne of the heart, and it is only when He is glorified in our hearts as King that the Holy Spirit enters and abides (Griffith Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946, 1974), p. 371).
The scriptures do not teach that the Person of Jesus Christ nor any of the important offices which God has given Him can be divided or ignored according to the whims of men. Therefore I must be frank in my feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles—the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!
I think the following is a fair statement of what I was taught in my early Christian experience and it certainly needs a lot of modifying and a great many qualifiers to save us from error:We are saved by accepting Christ as Savior.
We are sanctified by accepting Christ as Lord.
We may do the first without doing the second.
This concept has sprung up naturally from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about Christian discipleship and obedience. The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures. Peter makes it plain that we are ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.’ To urge men and women to believe in a divided Christ is bad teaching for no one can receive half of Christ or a third of Christ or a quarter of the Person of Christ! But how can we insist and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ can be our Savior without being our Lord? How can we continue to teach that we can be saved without any thought of obedience to our Sovereign Lord?
The Bible never in any way gives us any such a concept of salvation. Nowhere are we ever led to believe that we can use Jesus as Savior and not own Him as our Lord. He is the Lord and as the Lord He saves us because He has all the offices of Savior and Christ and High Priest and Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption! He is all of these things and all of these things are embodied in Him as Christ the Lord…It is either all of Christ or none of Christ. I believe we need to preach again a whole Christ to the world, a Christ who does not need our apologies, a Christ who will not be divided, a Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all.
In our time we have over emphasized the psychology of the sinner’s condition, We spend much time describing the woe of the sinner, the grief of the sinner, and the great burden he carries. He does have all these, but we have overemphasized them until we forget the principal fact, that the sinner is actually a rebel against properlyconstituted authority. That is what makes sin – sin. We are rebels. We are sons of disobedience. Sin is the breaking of the law and we are in rebellion and we are fugitives from the just laws of God while we are sinners…the root of sin is rebellion against law, rebellion against God. Does not the sinner say, I belong to myself. I owe allegiance to no one unless I choose to give it. That is the essence of sin. Thus, in repentance, we reverse that relationship and we fully submit to the Word of God and the will of God as obedient children…We have no basis to believe that we can come casually and sprightly to the Lord Jesus and say, ‘I have come for some help, Lord Jesus. I understand that you are the Savior so I am going to believe and be saved and then I am going to turn away and think about the other matters of lordship and allegiance and obedience at some other time in the future.’
I warn you, you will not get help from Him in that way for the Lord will not save those whom He cannot command! He will not divide His offices. You cannot believe on a half Christ. We take Him for what He is, the anointed Savior and Lord who is King of Kings and Lord of all Lords. He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives.
Just remember what the Bible says about the Person and the titles and the offices of Jesus. ‘God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.’ Jesus means Savior, Lord means Sovereign, and Christ means Anointed One. The Apostle therefore did not preach Jesus as Savior. He preached to them Jesus as Lord and Christ and Savior, never dividing His Person or offices. Remember too, that Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, ‘What saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is the word of faith which we preach, that if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead thou shalt be saved.’
Three times in these passages he calls Jesus Lord telling us how to be saved. He says that faith in the Lord Jesus plus confession of that faith to the world brings salvation to us. God desires that we be honest with Him above everything else. Search the scriptures, read the New Testament, and if you see that I have given a germ of truth, then I urge you to do something about it. If you have been led to believe imperfectly in a divided Savior, be glad that there is still time for you to do something about it (A.W. Tozer, I Call It Heresy (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1974), pp. 9, 14-16, 18-20).
By repentance we are to mean, not merely sorrow for and hatred of sin, but also the inward turning away from it to God, with full purpose of new obedience. By original sin we are to mean not merely adherent but also inherent sin, not merely the sinful act of Adam imputed to us, but also the sinful state of our own souls conveyed to us by the just judgment of God. When so understood, it would seem sufficiently clear that we must ‘repent of original sin.’ The corruption that is derived by us from our first parents comes to us, indeed, as penalty; but it abides in us as sin, and must be looked upon as sin both by God and by enlightened conscience itself…And thus it appears, that so far from its being impossible to repent of original sin, repentance, considered in its normative sense—not as an act of turning away from this sin or that sin, but of turning from sin as such to God—is fundamentally just repentance of ‘original sin.’ Until we repent of original sin, we have not, properly speaking, repented in the Christian sense at all. For it is characteristic of heathen thought to look upon sin atomistically as only so many acts of sin, and at repentance also, therefore, atomistically as only so many acts of turning away from sinning; the Christian conception probes deeper and finds behind the acts of sin the sinful nature and behind the specific acts of repentance for sins the great normative act of repentance for this sinful nature. He only, then, has really repented who has perceived and felt the filthiness and odiousness of his depraved nature and has turned from it to God with a full purpose of being hereafter more conformed to his image as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings–1 (Nutley: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1970), pp. 279-280).
Acts 22:10:-” What shall I do, Lord?”: When Paul was stricken to the ground on his way to Damascus by the glory of the risen Christ, bursting on him from heaven, he had but two questions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? ‘and What shall I do, Lord? By the first he certified himsel, as to the person before whose majesty he lay prone; by the second he entered at once into His willing service. In this, too, Paul’s conversion is typical. No one can call Jesus Lord save by the Holy Ghost; but when the Holy Ghost has moved with power upon the soul, the amazed soul has but two questions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? and What shall I doLord? There is no question in its mind as to the legitimacy of the authority claimed, as to its extent and limitations, as to its sphere, as to its sanction. He whose glory has shone into the heart is recognized at once and unquestioningly as Lord, and is so addressed no less in the first question than in the second. Who art thou, Lord? is not a demand for credentials; it is a simple inquiry for information, a cry of wondering adoration and worship. And it is, therefore, followed at once with the cry of, What shall I do, Lord?
In this latter question there unite the two essential elements of all religion, surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side when dealing with sinful men. “ What shall I do, Lord?” In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to Him and His guidance, in a word, the whole of the “ assensus” and “fiducia,” which (the “notitia” being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And saving faith wherever it is found is sure to take fhis position, perhaps not purely—for what faith of man is absolutely pure?—but in direct proportion to its purity, its governing power over the life. Surrender and consecration, we may take it then are the twin key–notes of the Christian life. “What shall I do, Lord” the one question which echoes through all the corridors of the Christian heart…
There was nothing small or little in Paul’s Pharisaic life; no reserves in his devotion to his ideal, and no shrinking from labor, or difficulty, or danger. Paul never was a place seeker, never was a sycophant, never was self indulgent, or self-sparing. The elements of a great character wrought in him mightily. What he lacked was not readiness to do and dare; what he lacked was humility. And the change that took place in him on the road to Damascus was in this regard no less immense than immediate. It was a totally new note which vibrated through his being, that found expression in the humble inquiry,..“What shall I do, Lord?” It is no longer a question directed to himself: “What shall I do?—what shall I, in my learning and strength and devotion—what shall I do to the glory of God?” It is the final and utter renunciation of self and the subjection of the whole life to the guidance of another. What shall I do, Lord?” Heretofore Paul had been, even in his service to God, self–led; hereafter he was to be, even in the common affairs of life, down to his eating and drinking, God–led. It is the characteristic change that makes the Christian; for the Christian is particularly the Spirit–led man: they that are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. And as the Christian more and more perfectly assumes the attitude of constant and unreserved “What shall I do, Lord? “, he more and more perfectly enters into his Christian heritage, and lives out his Christian life the very key note of which is thus easily seen to be humility…
The characteristic of the Christian man is that he has orders to obey—he is “under orders.” And the soldier, conscious of all that being under orders is to him—of what it has wrought in him—of how it has given him self-respect, a sense of his value, a consciousness of dignity and worth, sees in this parallel fact the essence of Christianity. The Christian man is the man who is under orders…for what is the primary characteristic of Christendom but just this, that God has taken charge of it, given it His orders, a revelation we call it; while heathendom is without this book of general orders. And what is the characteristic of the Christian man but just this: that he has found his Captain and receives his orders from Him? “What shall I do, Lord?”—that is the note of his life… And is it not clear that it is the source of an added dignity and worth to his life? Just as the soldier is nothing but the hoodlum licked into shape by coming under orders under the establishing and forming influence of legitimate and wise authority—so the Christian is nothing but the sinner, come under the formative influence of the Captain of us all (B.B. Warfield, Faith and Life (Edinburgh: Banner, 1974), pp. 154-155, 157-58, 160-161).
Repentance is of such importance that there is no being saved without it…It is a great duty incumbent upon Christians solemnly to repent and turn unto God…That religion which is not built upon this foundation must needs fall to the ground. Repentance is a grace required under the gospel. Some think it legal; but the first sermon that Christ preached, indeed, the first word of his sermon, was ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4.17). And his farewell that he left when he was going to ascend was that ‘repentance should be preached in his name’ (Luke 22.47)…Repentance is not arbitrary. It is not left to our choice whether or not we will repent, but it is an indispensable command. God has enacted a law in the High Court of heaven that no sinner shall be saved except the repenting sinner, and he will not break his own law.
Some bless themselves that they have a stock of knowledge, but what is knowledge good for without repentance? It is better to mortify one sin than to understand all mysteries. Impure speculatists do but resemble Satan transformed into an angel of light. Learning and a bad heart is like a fair face with a cancer in the breast. Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell(Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh: Banner, 1987), pp. 12–13, 59, 77).
How shall I know that I am making a right application of Christ? A hypocrite may think he applies when he does not. Balaam, though a sorcerer, still said, ‘my God (Numb. 22:18). Answer: He who rightly applies Christ puts these two together, Jesus and Lord: ‘Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Phil. 3:8). Many take Christ as Jesus, but refuse him as Lord. Do you join ‘Prince and Saviour’ (Acts 5:31)? Would you as well be ruled by Christ’s laws as saved by his blood? Christ is ‘a priest upon his throne’ (Zech. 6:13). He will never be a priest to intercede unless your heart is the throne where he sways his sceptre. A true applying of Christ is when we take him as a husband that we give ourselves to him as Lord (Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture (Edinburgh: Banner, 1992), p. 22).
The Westminster Confession of Faith
The principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace (XIV.2) (Found in The Confession of Faith by A.A. Hodge (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 204).
Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ…By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments…Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it (XV.1,2,3) (Found in The Confession of Faith by A.A. Hodge (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), pp. 210-213).