Tag Archives: Faith

“Unless you repent, you will…perish” Part 3

A couple of weeks ago I cited several historic confessions from the 16th and 17th centuries that specifically addressed the concept of repentance. This week I want to take a closer look at the doctrine of repentance as it is revealed in Scripture, it’s implications on the Gospel and Christian living, the etymology of the word, and what theologians and scholars have believed throughout the centuries as it pertains to repentance. I will do this in a sort of question and answer format to make it more systematic and comprehensible.

Is repentance necessary for salvation?

Yes, repentance was an essential theme in John the Baptist’s preaching as well as Jesus and the Apostles.

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:19)

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (Acts 17:30)

21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)

9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Just from these few verses we can clearly see salvation is obtained through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Two great graces graces essential to a saint in this life are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven.” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 7)

“There is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears. Repentance is required as a qualification. It is not so much to endear us to Christ as to endear Christ to us. Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 7)

“Moreover, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while, on the other hand, wherever there is true faith , there is also real repentance.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th Edition, p. 487)

“Scripture puts repentance and faith together as different aspects of the one act of coming to Christ for salvation.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 713)

“No message that eliminates repentance can properly be called the gospel…” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 182)

“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.” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, p. 606-607)

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“Unless you repent, you will…perish” Part 2

I want to begin by providing several citations from some of the most notable Christian confessions and historic church documents that discuss the concept of repentance. Although Historic creeds and confessions are not the ultimate standard of orthodoxy, they do provide helpful insight as to what the Scriptures teach on a particular doctrine, and they also teach us what the early church fathers, in whose shoulders we stand on today, believed in regards to key aspects of doctrine, theology and Christian living.

The Augsberg Confession (1530)

Article 22:

Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

The Westminster Confession faith (1646) & The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)

Of Repentance unto life:

I. 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.

II. 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 endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

III. Although repentance is 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 it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

IV. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy;  so he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

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“Unless you repent, you will…perish”

“Unless you repent, you will…perish.” (Luke 13:3) Wait, did Jesus forget that we are saved solely by our faith in Him? What is this notion of repentance? One of the essential doctrines of the Reformation was the concept of salvation by faith alone (sola fide). But why did Luther assert in his 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance”? This sounds more like faith plus repentance; hence, faith is no longer alone, but it is accompanied with repentance. So is salvation contingent on repentance rather than on faith alone?  What exactly is repentance and what does it mean? What role does repentance play in how a person obtains forgiveness of sins and eternal life? I will be writing several blogs throughout the next upcoming weeks addressing many of these questions and more, as it relates to the doctrine of repentance.

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Counterfeit Gospels by Tullian Tchividjian

I found this great post by Tullian Tchividjian from his blog on the Gospel Coalition site, definitely worth the read.

In his book How People Change (co-authored with Tim Lane), Paul Tripp identifies seven counterfeit gospels– ways we try and “justify” or “save” ourselves apart from the gospel of grace. I found these unbelievably helpful. Which one (or two, or three) of these do you tend to gravitate towards?

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

As I said a few months ago in one of my sermons, there are outside-the-church idols and there are inside-the-church idols. It’s the idols inside the church that ought to concern Christians most. It’s easier for Christians to identify worldly idols such as money, power, selfish ambition, sex, and so on. It’s the idols inside the church that we have a harder time identifying.

For instance, we know it’s wrong to bow to the god of power—but it’s also wrong to bow to the god of preferences. We know it’s wrong to worship immorality—but it’s also wrong to worship morality. We know it’s wrong to seek freedom by breaking the rules—but it’s also wrong to seek freedom by keeping them. We know God hates unrighteousness—but he also hates self-righteousness. We know crime is a sin—but so is control. If people outside the church try to save themselves by being bad; people inside the church try to save themselves by being good.

The good news of the gospel is that both inside and outside the church, there is only One Savior and Lord, namely Jesus. And he came, not to angrily strip away our freedom, but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so that we might become truly free!

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Theologically Thirsty? Quench it with New Calvinism…

This is a great column by Kate Shellnutt from the Houston Chronicle.


Next generation of theologians craves historical tradition

The newest thing in Protestantism is really the oldest thing in Protestantism: Reformed theology.

Young Christians are turning to the centuries-old teachings of church fathers such as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards — reading their work, watching pastors talk about them on YouTube and sporting their faces on sweatshirts.

ReThe nationwide renewal of Reformed theology has been going on for about a decade, and it has finally made its way to Houston. Two Reformed seminaries opened local campuses this fall, Redeemer Seminary, which recently broke off from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Reformed Theological Seminary. They are holding classes for a couple of dozen young Christians from Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical and Baptist churches.

“We’re offering that historical, Calvinist tradition to a generation that’s interested in it,” said the Rev. John Crimmins, the interim director of RTS’ Houston campus and the senior pastor at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where they meet.

He describes their theological stance as “winsomely Reformed,” focusing on the sinfulness of man, the grace of God and his sovereignty over all things, including salvation.

This Sunday is Reformation Day, marking 493 years since Martin Luther nailed his disputes on the door of a Catholic Church. Since then, Protestants across denominations have relied on the early thinkers of their tradition.

But after many American baby boomers distanced themselves from the theology side of religion, their children have returned to it with particular interest and passion, said Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed. For this generation of Christians, deep, nuanced theological teachings are a turn-on.

“There’s a certain type of tradition that to a young person looks cheesy, looks hokey,” Hansen said. “There’s another that goes back further and connects them to an older, broader church.”

That’s what Calvinism does for its young followers, who say it offers more historical depth and groundedness than America’s contemporary Christian movements.

Its “less of me, more of God” mentality and the salvation of the elect through grace makes more sense logically, spiritually and biblically, said Kyle Worley, the youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Groves and a student at Redeemer Seminary, which meets at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Houston.

Worley, 22, grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, the son of a Baptist minister and a graduate of Dallas Baptist University.

“It views the Bible as a complete narrative. The dispensational perspective is too much of a bits-and-pieces kind of worldview, and people couldn’t find their place in that,” he said.

Plus, there’s a whole cadre of popular pastors and authors who are making Reformed doctrine compelling to young churchgoers, seminarians and pastors-to-be. John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and others present a Reformed perspective in their popular books, sermon series and web postings.

Beyond Presbyterian and Reformed churches, the Calvinist resurgence has had an effect on Baptists that can’t be ignored. At least 10 percent of pastors belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention identify as Calvinist, according to Lifeway Research. Among recent graduates of Southern Baptists seminaries, that number is up to a third.

A number of Southern Baptist leaders – most prominently Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville – consider themselves Calvinists, evidence of the range of beliefs within the Baptist tradition, where some reject Calvinism, some accept certain teachings and some don’t follow the theological debate enough to care.

“Right now, there’s a movement to be more explicitly Reformed,” said Jim Denison, the theologian-in-residence for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Denison is non-Calvinist.

He says it’s the most divisive theological topic today, but “it doesn’t really affect a lot of practice. Most folks in the pew don’t follow the issue.”

Across the country, the resurgence of Reformed theology in the 21st century initially took hold in places where being an evangelical Christian wasn’t exactly the norm, in urban hubs such as Chicago and in the Northeast, Hansen said.

In these places, Christians studied theology deeply as a way to secure and defend their faith in a “sink or swim” mentality, he said.

Driscoll started Mars Hill Church in Seattle, in the middle of the “secular Northwest.” His church-planting network, Acts 29, has fostered Reform churches across the country, and its small-but-growing presence in Houston, in part, brought Redeemer and RTS to the area.

“We have a particular interest in missions and church planting, so Acts 29 has been a strong source for students,” said Steven Vanderhill, president of Redeemer Seminary, which is headquartered in Dallas.

Redeemer was the Texas campus of the Presbyterian Westminster Theological Seminary until last year, when it split off to focus more on starting new campuses across the state. Its Houston and Austin campuses both launched this fall.

In Dallas, Matt Chandler’s Village Church, a member of the Acts 29 network and the Southern Baptist Convention, has grown to 8,000 attendants. The Austin Stone Community Church, an Acts 29 church founded by Matt Carter in 2002, has 5,900.

Houston hasn’t seen that scale of Reformed presence yet and the city’s largest Baptist churches aren’t Calvinist.

The dominance of megachurches in Houston, plus the city’s size and diversity, make it a little intimidating for new pastors and church-planters but an exciting mission field.

“Houston is different than Austin or Dallas,” said Paul Duffin, the campus director for Redeemer. “There’s a large crossroads of people of different backgrounds and faiths. It’s an excellent place for us to be.”

The Calvinist emphasis on man’s depravity and God’s grace can counter the lessons of morality and self-empowerment preached at existing congregations.

Reformed theology teaches that God secures salvation, rather than prompting Christians to do something to “get saved,” said Dru Bennett, a student at Redeemer. She grew up in the Methodist church but now attends Kaleo, a 4-year-old Reformed church plant.

Redeemer and Reformed Theological Seminary join Houston’s Baptist and evangelical schools, who view them as a necessary part of the religious landscape rather than competition. Houston may be the “city of churches,” but for its size, it’s not the city of seminaries.

Andrew Dearman, director and associate dean of Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, called Houston “one of the most underserved theological communities in the country.”

Southwestern Baptist Seminary opened a campus in Houston in 1975, making it the city’s oldest. Denny Autrey, dean of the school, is pleased to see new seminaries open, even if they vary theologically.

“I think it shows that there is a healthy, spiritual thirst for truth in the city,” Autrey said.

The new seminaries, and their dozen students each, are eager to address those theological needs.

Crimmins, of Reformed Theological Seminary, describes their approach in Christlike terms: incarnational.

“You’re not going to class to be learning the data points, you’re going to be living them out authentically in day-to-day life,” he said, engaging the culture because “the Reformation emphasizes that God is present in the totality of life.”

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