Weekly Devotional 8-4-19
The Fallacy of Salvation Without Repentance and Commitment
In his book, A Laymen’s Guide to the Lordship Controversy, Richard P. Belcher writes, “If one were to suggest that the time would come when a group of evangelical Christians would be arguing for a salvation without repentance, without a change of behavior or lifestyle, without a real avowal of the lordship and authority of Christ, without perseverance, without discipleship, and a salvation which does not necessarily result in obedience and works, and with a regeneration which does not necessarily change one’s life, most believers of several decades ago would have felt such would be an absolute impossibility. But believe it or not, the hour has come”.
If what Mr. Belcher writes is true, and I believe it is, then how should we evangelize our friends, our family, and neighbors? How should we present the gospel to our children? Certainly we should not present a deluded gospel, yet Christians today are often cautioned not to say too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the uncon-verted: God’s law, Christ’s lordship, repentance, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell are not to be mentioned, lest we add something to the offer of God’s free gift. Many evangelicals have come to wrongly apply the doctrine of “faith alone.” They make faith the only permissible topic when speaking to non-Christians about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, believing that this preserves the purity of the gospel. What this has done is weaken the message of salvation. It has also populated the church with “converts” whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus or false promise. These people say they “accept Christ as Savior,” yet brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord. They pay lip service, but utterly scorn Him with their hearts (Mark 7:6). They casually affirm Him with their mouths, although they deliberately deny Him with their deeds (Titus 1:16). They address Him superficially as “Lord, Lord,” yet stubbornly decline to do His bidding (Luke 6:46). Such people fit the tragic description of the “many” in Matthew 7:23 who will one day be stunned to hear Him (Jesus) say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The fallacy of one choosing Jesus Christ as Savior is a prevalent belief today in evangelism. Truly, one does choose Christ as Savior, but this follows the work of the Holy Spirit. Many of the evangelical persuasion have come to believe, however, that choosing Christ originates within man and then the Holy Spirit comes alongside to aid the one making the decision. A “decision for Christ” is usually signified by some physical or verbal act such as raising a hand, walking an aisle, repeating a prayer, signing a card, reciting a pledge, or something similar. If the sinner performs the prescribed activity, the “moment of decision” becomes the ground of the person’s assurance. Scripture refutes these fallacies.
From John 3:3-6 we read: “3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1).
From these passages it is clear that any movement toward God comes after the granting of newness of spiritual life. The chicken came before the egg, and life comes before faith. It is impossible for one who is dead either physically or spiritually to produce anything. Life in both cases must exist. Spiritual life produces faith and according to Ephesians 2:8 is God’s gift: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” The “and that” of verse 8 refers back to the entire previous statement of salvation (2:1-7). Salvation is by grace through faith. Because it is impossible for man to believe on his own (1 Corinthians 2:9-14), faith must be initiated by God. Man comes to a point of placing faith in God, but it is not of himself. Verses 9 and 10 of Ephesians 2 affirm this truth. Consider; “9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If faith is of one’s own device, it must be qualified as a work.
Verses 8 through 10 state clearly that faith is the work and gift of God. Salvation is more than just simply declaring, “I believe.” When newness of life (spiritual awakening) occurs in a person’s life, repentance also takes place. This cannot be otherwise because it is the result of the Holy Spirit softening man’s heart toward God. Jesus Himself preached, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). To believe in biblical terms always goes beyond a mere acceptance of facts. Belief points to a commitment or obligation to the object of faith, in this case the gospel, more pointedly, as in the case of salvation, to Jesus Christ. A good example of this truth is the Philippian jailer. He and his family were moved to the point of commitment to Christ, a commitment that came with a cost.
The writer of Hebrews said that Christ “became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Paul wrote, “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” (Romans 10:9).
Confession is a part of repentance. One must be in agreement with God about his or her sin. Confession and repentance are both components of this agreement. Even though they are different, they are not mutually exclusive of one another. They must both exist. At Pentecost, Peter preached, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). There are a multitude of other Scriptures that declare that true salvation is always accompanied with repentance and being defined as, “the turning from sin to Christ.” For instance, 1John 2:3-4 says: “3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Are we to believe that the inspired Scripture constitutes poorly worded theology? It should be obvious that Jesus and the apostles certainly held that repentance was a part of salvation. Why should we separate the two if God’s Word does not? If Scripture cautioned against preaching repentance, obedience, righteousness, or judgment to unbelievers, then perhaps we would have a just cause to limit our presentation of Christ to a mental acceptance of Him. Scripture, however, contains no such warnings. The opposite is true. If we want to follow the biblical model, we cannot ignore those issues. Sin, repentance, righteousness, and judgment are the very matters about which the Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved. Can we omit them from the message and still call it the gospel? Apostolic evangelism inevitably culminated in a call for repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20).
Are we to do less than they, simply telling the sinner he must “accept Christ” and not declare his need of repentance or turning from sin? Finally, to declare that by accepting Christ as Savior either by the raising of a hand, walking an aisle, or verbally accenting to that acceptance, while not declaring the necessity of repentance, is in direct contradiction of Ephesians 2:10, which states: “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
God’s work in the Christian begins immediately upon regeneration, conforming him or her to the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit uniquely prepares the heart of the recipient of salvation. The Holy Spirit sheds light on man’s sin. The Holy Spirit calls one out of spiritual darkness. The Holy Spirit regenerates man to spiritual life. The Holy Spirit begins to conform one to the image of Jesus Christ at the point of regeneration. To put it bluntly, if there is no change, however slight, in the one who claims to have accepted Christ as Savior, he or she is still in sin.
Salvation is a free gift, but it is not a free ride.
Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man