Soteriology 006Acts 2:38 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 17, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 06, Acts 20:38
February 17, 2016
Good evening everybody. It’s good to see everybody tonight. There are some handouts, they might all be gone, I don’t know, but it’s got the ppts. If you need a handout just put your hand up and we can get you one; it’s just the slides that I’m using. By the way, all the slides for this course, the doctrine of soteriology, you can find on our website along with video archives and audio archives of all these teachings. So it’s there for you long after the class is over.
But this class is basically what’s called soteriology, which basically means the doctrine of salvation. What does the whole Bible reveal about the subject of salvation? And we are in lesson 6 and if you haven’t been here for the prior lessons that’s okay, you should be able to still pick up where we left off as each of these lessons is sort of self-containing. And I want to thank Earl last week for filling in, thank you Earl. And if you’re a man, so that would exclude women, unless you really want to come and then we’ll let you, we’re having a men’s breakfast this Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. and our speaker is going to be Doyle Davis who is a pastor in Houston, and he usually brings messages that are very politically incorrect and deal with volatile political issues. So if you’re into that kind of thing we invite you to come and listen to Pastor Davis, 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. So I’m looking forward to that.
Here we are in our course on the doctrine of salvation and we’re in this section called God’s one condition of salvation. And what we tried to communicate in that session, prior session, because I wasn’t here last week, Earl taught, but the last time I taught we were in this section called God’s one condition of salvation. And we basically worked through this whole idea that the Bible is very clear that salvation is conditioned upon one human response. And what’s that one human response? Faith! And we saw that the Bible teaches this close to 200 times. So that was the big idea from that session.
And now what we’re moving into, and we’re not going to be able to get through all of these tonight, but we’re moving into passages that at first glance seem to contradict the 200 passages that teach salvation is by faith alone. So at first glance there are a handful of passages that make it look as if, at first glance, that you don’t just believe in Christ to be saved, you believe in Christ plus do something else. So there are actually passages in the Bible that read this way. So what I’m trying to teach you how to do is to harmonize the handful of passages with the 200 clear ones.
And what you’ll discover today in modern day evangelicalism is people, for whatever reason, they don’t built their salvation message off the 200 clear ones, they always gravitate towards the remote ones. I think that’s sort of a backwards way of thinking; I think we need to understand the remote ones in light of the 200 clear ones. So that’s what I mean by problem passages, if that makes any sense.
So here’s sort of a large outline that we’re going to follow and we may not even get through the first one today because there’s a lot of confusion in the body of Christ today about this. But if salvation is by faith alone, what do you do with the word repent? What do you do with people say you have to submit to Christ’s Lordship to be saved? What do you do with phrases like “receive Christ” and “accept Christ?” What do you do with passages that say “faith without works is dead?” What do you do with passages that make it look like you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven?
This is a controversial one, we won’t be getting to this tonight, but what do you do with those passages that say you’ve got to confess Christ? Because most evangelistic tracts that you see out there they say you’re saved by faith, by grace, not by works. And then they give you three works to do, so they contradict themselves and so a lot of people make it sound as if you have to make some kind of public confession of Christ. You know, you have to walk an aisle. Other people say you’ve got to ask Jesus into your life. Other people say you’ve got to confess your sins to be a Christian. You’ve got to forgive others to be a Christian. A lot of people say you’ve got to sell all your possessions to be a Christian. And some people say you’ve got to pray a prayer of saving faith. In other words, if you haven’t prayed a prayer of saving faith then a lot of people will question whether you’re a Christian at all.
And at first glance there are passages that people use that look like they support these ideas but what I’m going to try to show you in these sessions is these passages can all be harmonized if understood properly with the 200 clear ones that say you’re saved by faith alone in Christ alone. So that’s sort of the direction that we’re moving in. So let’s start with the first one, and this is a very, very controversial one; that’s why I am going to go through each of these slowly. It may take me… I usually teach till 8:00 o’clock which is about an hour and then we open it up for questions but it may take me the whole hour just to cover the first one.
What do you do with the word “repent?” And then, as time permits, I’m not sure we’ll get to it, what do you do with Lordship, because you have passages where Jesus told Peter if any man wants to follow Me He must pick up his cross, deny Himself. [Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”] So he was calling Peter to submission, what do you do with passages like that. And can passages like these be harmonized with the 200 clear ones that say we’re saved by faith alone in Christ alone.
So let’s start with the word “repent.” You might take a look at Acts 2:38. Now we went through all of these passages last time we were together, or the last time I was with you, showing that salvation is by faith alone. And then all of a sudden you get to Acts 2:38 and Peter doesn’t even mention faith on the day of Pentecost, when he’s calling for the unsaved to be saved. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent,” so you don’t see the word “faith” there at all, you see the word “Repent.” And there are a series of verses that say this. I have them there on the screen at the top: Acts 3:19, you’ll see the word “repent” in the context of what the unbeliever is supposed to do. Paul, on Mars Hill in Acts 17:30 says “repent.” Peter, says it’s God’s desire for all men to come to repentance and be saved.
[Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 3:19, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” Acts 17:30, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.”]
So you know, you read these verses you say well, which is it, do we repent or do we believe? And if they are two different things, which one comes first. Do I believe first and then repent or do I repent first then believe? And so you can see how just the words that the Scripture uses bring forth a lot of confusion unless you understand these words properly.
So let’s focus just for a minute on the word “repent,” and you’ll notice there at the top I’ve got a list of things of what repent means, and then towards the bottom you’ll notice I’ve got a couple of things repent does not mean. And half the battle is trying to figure out what this word repent means. So take, for example, the word “repentance,” what exactly does it mean. The Greek word “repent,” now these words both come from the same root, you can use the word as a noun or you can use the word as a verb. Just like the word “run,” I could use it as a noun, I went on a run or I could use it as a verb, I need to make a run to the store. So that’s how language functions, you have words being used in the noun form and the verbal form.
Well, what’s the original meaning of this word “repent?” The Greek verb translated “repent” is metanoeō. The Greek word repentance in the noun form translated repentance is metanoeō so metanoeō verb, metanoia—noun. What does that word actually mean? Well, it’s what you would call a compound word. A compound word is basically two words that are combined into a single word. So the word repentance is made up of two different words combined into one. The first one is meta and the second one is noeō.
And if you understand what those words mean you won’t be confused about repentance because a lot of times as Christians we’re throwing out the word repentance to unbelievers and they don’t even know what you’re talking about. To them repentance means something totally different than the way we use it many times, and because we don’t take the time to explain it we end up preaching a gospel to them that’s very confusing, and can actually be a works oriented gospel which God will not accept.
So meta is the first of those words; now you recognize the word meta; meta means to change. From the word meta you get all kinds of different words that you’re familiar with, like metabolism, or the food has entered your mouth and stomach and it’s changing, it’s digesting. I think some of that is going on right now actually, actually after that fine meal we had, particularly that cheesecake, very good by the way. So metabolism—change. You recognize the word metamorphosis as in change, something morphs, morph means form, changes from one form to another, like water can be changed to ice through freezing or steam through boiling it. And then this is always a scary word to get from your doctor, metastasize, that’s never good when you doctor says that, that means your cancer has metastasized, it’s changed from one part of your body to another. So meta just means change.
Now the other compound word is noeō, from which we get the word notion. Notions are ideas and where do ideas come from? They come from the mind. So noeō means mind. So putting those two words together into a single word, metanoeō, repentance, the only thing it really means is change of mind. So when the Bible is using the word repentance, particularly when it’s being used with reference to what unbelievers are supposed to do, be right with God, the Bible is basically telling unbelievers to change their minds. That’s literally what the word repentance means when you understand its etymology.
And don’t take my word for it, let me quote a few Greek lexicons. By the way, you’ll notice Jim McGowan’s picture up there and that’s because he put together a very good power point presentation back in 2003 on the whole concept of repentance so I just went into his ppts and stole most of his slides there because he did such a good job. Why reinvent the wheel. And if you ask Jim very nicely he might send you that Power Point presentation. I don’t know if I’m out of line by saying that but….
So this is what Dr. McGowan writes, he says: “The key question,” he’s talking about repentance, “must be addressed. Is the word repentance, to repent, correctly defined as a turning from sin.” And see, when you toss out the word repentance to an unbeliever they don’t understand anything about Greek, and when they hear the word repentance what they think it means is to become a Christian I’ve got to give up a bunch of things. So they think it means don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls who do kind of thing. In other words, three steps to Jesus. And if that’s true that contradicts the 200 passages which reveal that salvation is by faith alone.
So he writes, “A brief look at two of the most authoritative Greek resources indicate that indeed this is not the case.” In other words, repentance does not mean turn from sin. And here he’s quoting BAGD, those letters, BAGD, they’re authors, Greek scholars, Bower, Arndt, Gingrich,” no correlation to the politician, Newt Gingrich, another guy, “Gingrich and Danker.” That’s what those mean. So BAGD is just a very well accepted Greek Lexicon. So he’s quoting from this lexicon. He says:
“A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD) indicates that the Greek word “μετανοέω” that’s our word, “is used to translate the English verb “repent” and means “to change the mind.”’ And he gives a page number. [(see BAGD, s.v. “μετανοέω,” 513.).] “Moreover, this is a compound verb made up of the preposition μετα, “after”, [BAGD pg. 636] and the verb, νοέω, meaning “to grasp or comprehend something on the basis of careful thought, to perceive, think” [BAGD pg. 674]. Thus, repentance means ‘to perceive afterwards,’ or ‘to change the mind.’” [Dr. Jim McGowan – Dispensationalism and the Nature of the Church: Are Repentance and Confession “Requirements” for Salvation?] So I’m not making things up, this is what the key lexicon of the day says about the word repentance.
Here’s another key lexical work, it’s called the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, he’s quoting from this. “In pre-biblical and extra-biblical usage μετανοέω and μετάνοια are not firmly related to any specific concepts. At the first stage they bear the intellectual sense of ‘subsequent knowledge.’ With further development both verb and noun then come to mean “change of mind.”’ Which is exactly what I’ve been trying to argue. “…The change of opinion or decision, the alteration in mood or feeling, which finds expression in the terms, is not in any sense ethical. It may be for the bad as well as for the good… “ [Dr. Jim McGowan – Dispensationalism and the Nature of the Church: Are Repentance and Confession “Requirements” for Salvation?] You can change your mind about something bad, change your mind about something good.
“For the Greeks μετάνοια never,” continuing with the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, “For the Greeks μετάνοια never suggests an alteration in the total moral attitude, a profound change in life’s direction, a conversion which affects the whole content…” (bold mine) “That the Greek word “μετανοέω” means “to change the mind” is the consistent judgment of all lexicographers.” [Johannes Behm and E. Würthwein, “μετανοέω, μετάνοια” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 979. Dr. Jim McGowan – Dispensationalism and the Nature of the Church: Are Repentance and Confession “Requirements” for Salvation?]
So when you throw the word “repentance” out you have to understand the word biblically. The word simply means to change one’s mind. What do you change your mind about as an unbeliever? You change your mind about whatever was inhibiting you from trusting in Christ alone. So, for example, I heard the gospel clearly when I was 16 years of age. Prior to that point in time if you asked me why I should go to heaven I always gave this pat answer: Well, I’m a good person, look at all the things I’ve done, look at how I went to Sunday School and I had a perfect attendance, look at how I was an acolyte, which is another way of saying an altar boy, in the Episcopalian Church. And I’ve tried hard to give a good life. That was my answer.
And then, by God’s providence, I came to a Bible study when I was 16 years of age, I heard the gospel at that Bible study and I heard that salvation is a free gift based on what Jesus has done for me. And at that point I trusted in Christ and at that point I changed my mind, simultaneously. I repented, I was no longer trusting in myself, my good works, my religiosity, my mind was changed, my confidence was shifted away from myself and it was shifted exclusively to Jesus Christ.
So the unbeliever needs to change their mind about whatever it is that’s inhibiting them from trusting Christ. So for the atheist they need to change their mind about the fact that there is no God, to shift their confidence in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. To the, going back to Acts 2:38, Peter tells this audience of Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost, to repent. What is he asking them to do? He’s asking them to change their mind, and what he’s saying is change your mind about who Jesus is; stop being a Christ-rejecting Jew siding with what the nation of Israel just did in rejecting Christ, and change your mind away from the message of unbelieving Israel to my message, Peter says, where Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.
So that’s what you change your mind about. And when understood in this way repentance becomes, not an antonym for faith but a synonym for faith. So now we’ve got to go back into 8th grade English, we’ve got to remember what a synonym is and what an antonym is. Well, an antonym is a different word, opposite meaning. And that’s how your typical unbeliever looks at the word “repentance” when they have no training in the subject, they think I’ve got to believe in Jesus but do something, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do, give up my tattoo, I can’t pierce my ears any more, pierce my nose or belly-button. And you throw that word “repentance” at an unbeliever and that’s what they think the gospel is. And that’s not the gospel; the gospel is trust in Christ alone.
So repentance, if you understand it as a change of mind is not an antonym for faith, it’s a synonym for faith. What is a synonym? It’s a different word, same meaning. So when you believe you automatically repent and when you repent you automatically believe. Because your mind has been changed regarding what you are trusting in. Do you see that? So that is what repentance means.
And I like to put up these quotes because a lot of people, when I talk this way, they think I’m talking foreign language and I’m just making things up but I put up these quotes to show you that this is a very traditional teaching that I’m giving here. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Seminary, says this: “[A] serious Arminian error” now don’t worry about the word “Arminian” right now, we’ll be going over that later on in the course, “[A] serious Arminian error respecting this doctrine occurs when repentance is added to faith or believing as a condition of salvation.” Chafer says, “It is true that repentance can very well be required as a condition of salvation, but then only because the change of mind which…has been involved when turning from every other confidence to the one needful trust in Christ. Such turning about, of course, cannot be achieved without a change of mind. This vital newness of mind is a part of believing,” see that, it’s a synonym for believe. “after all, and therefore it may be and is used as a synonym for believing” see, I’ve got synonym underlined, “at times” and he goes through many different Scriptures that use the word repentance with respect to unbelievers and what he’s saying is it’s a synonym for believing. [ (cf. Acts 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9).]
Then he says, “ Repentance nevertheless cannot be added to believing as a condition of salvation, because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only” [ (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 7, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 265-66] The moment you start to understand the word repentance as something different than faith, added to faith, that’s the moment you’ve taught the wrong gospel. And that’s the moment you have contradicted close to 200 passages that teach the opposite.
Now look at what he says here: “Similarly, the Gospel by John, which was written that men might believe and believing have life through Christ’s name” let me stop right there. Look, just for a minute at John 20, the Gospel of John 20:30-31. John comes out and he gives you his purpose statement in writing his gospel. And in the process he says something that no book in the New Testament says. And notice what John says, John 20, the last two verses of the chapter. He says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John’s Gospel is the only New Testament book that we have which was written to the unsaved. Romans wasn’t; Romans was written to the church at Rome. Philippians wasn’t, Philippians was written to the church at Philippi. And you can go right on through the other 26 New Testament books and you’ll see they’re all written to believers, to help them grow. John is different; John is written to the unsaved. How do I know that? Because he wants people to understand who Christ is; that means they must not know who Christ is. So John demonstrates who Christ is by a record of Christ’s signs; John’s Gospel highlights about seven signs. The first is changing the water to wine in John 2, the last sign would be the resuscitation of Lazarus from the dead.
But you put all those signs together, there’s about seven of them, and John carefully records these signs so that the unbeliever might know who Jesus is. And after reading this record of the seven signs they would say wow, Jesus is the Christ.
Now “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, you don’t refer to Him as Mr. Christ. “Christ” means the messiah. So John catalogues these seven signs so that the reader, who doesn’t know anything about Jesus, would conclude Jesus is the Messiah but He’s also the Son of God. And then John says don’t fold up your Bible and go home, this is not a theology lesson just for the sake of theology, now you as an unbeliever need to go one step further and believe in Christ, trust in Him. And when you do you’ll consequently experience the gift of life. That means this book was written to people that hadn’t believed in Christ yet, or this statement here makes no sense. And they had not received the gift of life yet.
So John’s Gospel, you have to understand that every book of the Bible is given for a particular purpose: John is given to evangelize the lost. And the reason that’s so significant is in your life as a Christian you’re going to find people who are going to say to you, you know, I’m not a Christian but I’m interested, what book of the Bible shall I start with? Where do you send them? Leviticus? You’ll kill them in Leviticus. I’m not arguing that people can’t get saved through Leviticus, God uses all sorts of ways to get people saved. What I’m trying to say is this book is unique or special, it’s designed by God for a purpose, to reach the lost. If someone asks you that question you send them to John. That’s why John was set up. So John’s Gospel is evangelistic, it’s different than the other books of the New Testament canon.
So back to the quote: “Similarly, the Gospel by John, which was written that men might believe and by believing have life through Christ’s name” what’s he quoting there? The purpose statement that we just read? This gospel, watch this, “does not once use the word repentance.” And I have people telling me all the time, you’d better use the word “repentance” when you share the gospel. Well, let me ask you a question: if the word “repentance” is so critical as everybody makes it out to be, why is it that the only evangelistic book of the Bible that we have uses the word “believe” 99 times, but it never once uses the word “repentance.” I would say this, when you’re interacting with an unbeliever I would focus on the word “believe” properly defined as trust.
I personally, when I’m with unbelievers I don’t even bring up the word repentance. And the reason I don’t bring it up is because I know if use the word they’re going to interpret it differently. And unless I have time to explain to them what repentance is I don’t even use the word. So my advice to you in your evangelism is to not even use the word “repentance” unless you have time to explain its meaning, metanoeō as a synonym for faith. If you don’t have time, because a lot of times evangelism is fast and it depends on the circumstances, there is absolutely no shame in dropping the word out entirely. If you want to bring it up, that’s fine too, but make sure you explain to people what it is exactly you’re talking about.
So Chafer says, “Similarly, the Gospel by John, which was written that men might believe and believing have life through Christ’s name, does not once use the word repentance. In like manner, the Epistle to the Romans, written to formulate the complete statement of salvation by grace alone, does not use the term repentance” now the word does show up in different places but not “in relation to salvation.”
So what are we trying to say, exactly? Jim McGowan writes this: “In contrast to the teachings of Lordship Theology” now I’ll be explaining that, not tonight but probably next week, what Lordship theology is. Lordship theology is the idea that you don’t just believe in Christ to get saved; you have to submit to His Lordship to be saved. So you don’t just do one thing to be saved, you do two things. And I’ll try to explain to you next time why we don’t feel that that is a proper understanding. There’s a lot of confusion about this.
But he writes, “In contrast to the teachings of Lordship theology, that ‘repentance and belief’ are separate acts, it must be recognized that when the words ‘believe and repent’ are found together, they are never used in a manner that would suggest two separate requirements for salvation. On the contrary, when salvation from eternal condemnation is in view, repent (a change of mind) and believe are in essence used as synonyms.” [Dr. Jim McGowan – Dispensationalism and the Nature of the Church: Are Repentance and Confession “Requirements” for Salvation?] That captures the point that we’re trying to make here, regarding repentance.
Chafer again says, “… it is as dogmatically stated as language can declare, that repentance is essential to salvation and that no one can be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and cannot be separated from it.” [Lewis Sperry Chafer, Vital Theological Issues, Roy B. Zuck, General Editor, Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1994, p. 1.] Why is that? Because when you’re believing in the Biblical sense you’re repenting because your mind is changing about who Jesus is.
Back to Chafer for a minute, you’re shifting in your mind (towards the end of that quote,) away “from every other confidence” that you may have had, self, denomination, whatever, and you’re shifting that confidence away from those things exclusively into Christ. You are believing or trusting in Christ and consequently you are simultaneously, not separately, simultaneously repenting or changing your mind. Hopefully I’m being somewhat clear.
This PowerPoint goes on and it says: “A few examples where repentance is equivalent to belief in the person and work of Christ,” here he uses “Luke 5:32 – Jesus declares, ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’ Here repentance is evidently a synonym for faith (or salvation through faith). The whole tenor of Jesus’ ministry was to call men to faith in the gospel, thus He says, ‘Repent,” Mark 1:15, “and believe in the gospel.’” Not looking at those as separate things but simultaneous things. [Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Mark 1:15, “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”]
Two hundred times the Bible says “believe.” I think about 30-35 times the Bible says “repent.” But those are not separate actions, those are synonyms when you understand that repentance means change of mind or change of confidence. Acts 11:18, the apostle declared God has also granted to Gentiles repentance to life. It is clear from the context that repentance to life refers to Gentile’s faith in Christ, because when you study some of those verses he’s got there in parenthesis, Acts 10:43, Acts 11:17, what you’ll see is in the surrounding context it’s belief that leads to life; it’s belief that leads to forgiveness of sins. [Acts 11:17, “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 10:43, “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”]
And then this verse comes in and says it’s repentance that leads to life, it’s repentance that leads to forgiveness of sins. And there is no contradiction there whatsoever if you understand that sometimes the Bible uses repentance synonymously for faith. No contradiction there at all. Now if you don’t understand that it looks like you’ve got to do two different things; it looks like they are antonyms but they are not antonyms, these are synonyms.
Consider also Acts 10:43 with Acts 11:17-18, Acts 13:38-39 with Acts 2:38, I mean, you’ll see this over and over again in the Bible. Some verses say believe and be forgiven, other verses say repent and be forgiven, believe and receive the Holy Spirit, repent and receive the Holy Spirit— no contradiction whatsoever if you understand that the two words are used synonymously, different word, same meaning.
[Acts 13:38-39, “Therefore lit it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,  and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”]
Take a look at 2 Peter 3:9, it says there, “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Now if you don’t have any background in the word repentance you’re going to think well, what does that mean? Sorrow? Emotion? No, when he says the Lord wants all to be saved and “come to repentance” the only thing he’s saying here is God wants the world to change its mind about Jesus and to trust in Jesus, which is a synonym for faith. These verses actually get pretty easy to understand if you have just this little tiny background under your belt. If you don’t have the background under your belt you’re left somewhat bewildered and confused.
So that is what repentance means, metanoeō, meta means change, noeō means mind, repentance means change of mind. You change your mind about whatever it is preventing you from trusting in Christ, and if understood that way repentance becomes a synonym for faith.
Now, we went over what repentance means, someone wrote an article, I like this article, it says: We Need to Repent of How We Use Repentance, and I like that title.
What does repentance not mean? We talked about what it means, what does it not mean. Repentance does not mean feel sorry or feel guilty. You see on TV, the Billy Graham Crusades, you’ve got all these people coming forward to become Christians and the TV cameras focus on all the tears people are shedding. Some people are crying a river, they’re emoting. And people see enough of that and they say wow, to become a Christian there must be some kind of emotional response on my part that I have to give to God. Well, let me ask you this: If you give to God an emotional response to be saved then your salvation is based on not just faith but a work you created. God, as we saw in our prior session together, will not accept good works. That’s why the gospel has to be kept crystal clear. The moment you insert a single work in it is the moment it’s no longer the gospel. That’s why I’m going through this very slowly and very methodically. And this is a big deal because the souls of people to a very large extent hang on how we share the gospel with them. Are we giving them God’s message or a garbled and confused message.
Now when you get saved is it wrong to cry? No! Cry all you want, emote, and weep and a lot of people come to Christ weeping; that’s not wrong at all. But that weeping is not a requirement, see? There’s only one requirement which is faith by itself.
Now how do I know this? Because in the Greek language for emotion, such as sorrow or weeping or feelings of guilt there is a totally different word that’s used. It’s not metanoeō, it’s a totally different word, called metamelomai, metamelomai refers to emotion. You recognize the word melo? Hey buddy, you’d better mellow out, in other words, you need to relax your emotions. See, we get emotionally oriented words from metamelomai and the Bible never says metanoeō and metamelomai. It simply says metanoeō, so if emotion were required for a lost person to be saved a totally different word would have been supplied, other than metanoeō.
Now let me give you some verses that show, I think pretty clearly, that repentance is not always the same thing as emotion. You know, there’s a lot of criminals that are very emotional. Why are they emotional? Because they got caught, but they’re not repentant. You can show a lot of emotion without ever actually changing your mind about something. So Hebrews 12:17, this deals with Jacob and Esau, remember Esau was cheated out of the birthright and then when he figured out what he lost, in the book of Genesis, he got very emotional about it. And this is what it says: “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected,” now look at this, “for he found no place for repentance,” metanoeō, he was unrepentant, “though he sought for it with tears.” So this guy cried, this guy emoted, and yet Hebrews 12:17 says even though he cried and remoted he was unrepentant, his mind was never changed.
So the two ideas of being emotionally upset and repenting, we conflate these ideas with English, the English language, but that’s not how Greek functions. Emotion is a completely different word in the Greek language. So don’t confuse repentance with emotion.
Remember one of the disciples, Judas; did he feel bad about what he did? Judas sold out for thirty pieces of silver, you remember. And he felt bad about it. Matthew 27:3 says, ““Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that he had been condemned, he felt remorse…” now that’s metamelomai, “and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.” Judas cried, Judas felt bad, but did Judas ever repent? No he did not. How do I know that? I know that because of the end of John 6. John 6:64, there Jesus speaking, “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” “Now He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” [John 6:71]
So this very clearly says the one that betrays Me, Judas, would never believe. Judas never believed! That’s why Jesus says of Judas it would be better for him if he had never been born. [Matthew 26:24, “…but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”] So he was unrepentant, he never changed his mind about Christ. And yet, back to Matthew 27:3, he had a lot of metamelomai, he had a lot of emotion. So you should not confuse emotion with bona fide repentance or changing your mind about who Christ is.
Another example, take a look at Acts2:38, you might go back to Acts 2:37, Jim in his Power Point writes this: The first example of apostolic preaching of repentance is Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2:38. That’s where Peter told folks that were unbelievers to repent, change your mind about who Christ is; go from a Christ-rejecting Jew to a Christ-accepting Jew, which is a synonym for faith. [Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’”]
The first example of apostolic preaching of repentance is Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2:38, there he responded to the crowd’s question, ”‘What shall we do?” with the word “repent,” and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”]
Now go back to verse 37, notice that the text, verse 37, the immediately preceding verse describes the emotional state of the people. What does that text say? It says they were “cut to the heart,” that’s the Greek verb katanyssomai. So they heard the message, they were “cut to the heart,” what does that word mean? It connotes a sharp pain connected with remorse or anxiety. This is a description of their deepest, innermost feelings.
So Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and he talked about how the nation of Israel had betrayed Jesus Christ and killed innocent blood. And there were 3,000 Jews sitting there, hearing that message, and they felt really bad about it. They felt guilty. But Peter was not content to let them simply feel guilty because feeling guilty, in and of itself, doesn’t save anybody. What he communicated to them is to allow that guilt, that they were experiencing to manifest itself and to propel them to changing their minds about Jesus Christ. So he went on and he actually told them to repent.
Peter’s admonition to repent, therefore, must certainly address another kind of response besides emotional grief. See, if emotional grief is repentance then Peter could have just left them as they were in verse 37, and dropped out what he told them to do in verse 38. Peter’s admonition to repent, therefore, must certainly address another kind of response besides emotional grief. Clearly the people were compelled by feelings of remorse to seek an avenue of change and it was for this reason that Peter says “repent,” or in other words, change your mind and attitude about Jesus Christ.
But how were these devout Jewish men brought to this point. THIS is the crucial question. There are clues in the context about the focus of their repentance. First of all, Peter addresses the specific sin of Israel’s crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. In the context, then, verse 37, reveals the source of their remorse was the mistake of crucifying the Messiah. Now they must repent or change their minds about who He is and change their disposition towards Him.
Charles Talbot, a scholar, comments: “The condemnation of Christ had been done in ignorance but in raising Jesus, God showed the Jews that they had made a mistake: they had crucified the Christ”. [Acts 2:36]. “Now, however, the Jews are given a chance to change their minds, or to repent (2:38; 3:19; 5:31). [Charles Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad Books, 1982)]
If emotion was enough Peter would have just said you guys have already repented, you feel bad. But obviously emotion is not bona fide repentance because he moved them from emotion to pushing them towards an actual change of mind. He’s trying to demonstrate here that sorrow and repentance are two different things. That’s my point.
Dwight Pentecost agrees and writes: “They had already come to regret their sin, now Peter urges them on to a change of mind about Christ. Of course, repentance to the exclusively Jewish addressees had special significance in that they had to change their attitude about their own righteousness in contrast to God’s provided in the Messiah. [Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68.]
Notice that the progression in Acts 2:37-38 is expressed by 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces salvation.” See how sorrow and repentance are different words. I think I misspoke there, “For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation. From their sorrow the Jews were led to the point of repentance, and being repentant they believe in Christ. [Acts 2:2:44, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”]. Their remorse over the sin of crucifying Christ moved them toward a true repentance which focused on their thinking about Christ. Simply put, Peter challenged these heartbroken Jews to change their minds and attitudes (repent) about Messiah, a change that if real, would then lead to their outward identification with Christ through baptism, the natural result of their new spiritual birth.”
So what is the bottom line here? BLT, Bottom Line Time. Repentance means change of mind, which is synonym for faith. Repentance does not mean emotion. A repentant person many times experiences emotion but emotion in and of itself does not constitute the biblical definition of repentance. Comprehenda so far?
One more and we’re done here. Repentance also does not mean turning from sin. What are we telling unbelievers? Are we telling them clean yourself up and come to Jesus? Give up sins A, B and C and come to Jesus? Is that our gospel to the unbelievers? May God help us if that’s what we’re preaching to them for the simple reason that we just preached works to them. And by using sloppy language they’ve interpreted our message as a works-oriented message.
Repentance does not mean turn from sin. The gospel is not clean yourself up and come to Christ. The gospel is come to Christ by way of faith and then guess what enters you? The Holy Spirit! And guess what He starts to work on after you’re saved? Sinful tendencies, sinful problems. But you see, because we’re so untaught on the subject we’ve got the cart before the horse many times.
And we’re well intentioned but we just preached a wrong message. See?
Now I’m going to bring up John MacArthur, when I do this people pick up stones to stone me to death; let me say this, I like John MacArthur, we hear him on the radio and other things, he says a lot of good things, but on the doctrine of salvation we have a vast area of disagreement with him. It’s not that the man hasn’t done good things in other areas, but his gospel presentation and doctrine of salvation is very, very confused, and I’ll be saying a lot more about that next time.
John MacArthur writes, in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, he says in The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur initially agrees for the basic meaning of change of mind for repentance, but then later says biblically its meaning does not stop there. He’s about to load up the word repentance with a bunch of other stuff. Echoing this sentiment Mark Mueller declares: repentance is far more than a change of mind about who Christ is. We would disagree with that. We think repentance is a change of mind about who Christ is, period! The basic tenant for both Reformed theologians and Lordship advocates, those terms we’ll be defining later on in the course, according to this view one is saved by repenting which always means a turning from sin.
Ken Gentry puts it this way: The necessary element in salvatory repentance is a true recognition of one’s evil state and a decided resolve to forsake sin and thrust oneself at Christ’s mercy” (emphasis mine). [Ken Gentry, “The Great Option,” Baptist Reformation Review 5:60.] Look at all that baggage he just dumped into the word “repentance.” It’s not just a change of confidence as we’ve tried to argue, which is a synonym for faith, it’s a resolve to forsake sin and thrust one’s self at Christ for mercy. It’s a recognition of one’s evil state.
This gentleman, Mark Mueller, goes on “Repentance is related to the issue of sin, which also includes unbelief in Christ” [Marc Mueller, “The Lordship Syllabus, 21] The primary New Testament word, metanoeō always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin.” [John MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, 178] See, I’m quoting the guys we don’t agree with, just to show you what’s out there and what you’re hearing and reading in Christian literature. John MacArthur made that statement.
Some illustrative quotes from the Lordship camp. Here’s A. W. Pink. Look at all the baggage he just throws into the word repentance. “Repentance is a supernatural and inward revelation from God, giving a deep consciousness of what I am in His sight, which causes me to loathe and condemn myself,” how do you know if you’ve loathed or condemned yourself enough? How much loathing do you have to do to get saved? My goodness. “…which causes me to loathe and condemn myself, resulting in a bitter sorrow for sin, a holy horror and hatred for sin, and a turning away from or forsaking of sin.” [A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 58.]
I don’t deny that God does this in people, but it’s after the Spirit comes into them. To get the Spirit into them in the first place they have to come to Christ on Christ’s terms, which is believe only. “As stated, these definitions make turning away from sin an essential and necessary component of repentance and ultimately of salvation.”
Richard Trench, a lot of scholarship here today, I’m sorry about, I’m getting very near to wrapping up by the way, if I don’t wrap up fast I will repent for going to long. Richard Trench deals a fatal blow to this idea of a “greater meaning” demonstrating that these added concepts have been “forced upon the text.” You see, what is happening is people are reading their theology into the text rather than getting their theology what? From the text. That’s the basic difference here. That’s why I started with what a basic lexical definition of what repentance means.
So Richard Trench says, “It is only after μετάνοια has been taken up into the uses of Scripture…that it comes predominantly to mean a change of mind, (with the added idea of) taking a wiser view of the past, …a regret for the ill done in the past, and out of all this a change of life for the better; …
Richard Trench says, “This,” all of these meanings people are bringing to the word repentance, “is all imported into, and does not etymologically nor yet by primary usage lie in, the word itself. [Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, pg. 242] Did you get that? This so-called “greater meaning” for metanoeō came into the picture only after certain theologians added to its legitimate and received definition as demonstrated by all the lexical sources we quoted a little earlier.
A closing verse here, John 4, the woman at the well. Was this woman messed up, the woman at the well? What do you think? Pretty messed up; look at John 4:10, an unsaved woman, a Samaritan. “Jesus answered her and said, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’” Jesus tells her receive the living water that I want to give to you, which would be the Holy Spirit, by way of faith. I want you to see how morally messed up this lady was.
Verse 17-19, “The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband;  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you are currently with, he is not your husband; this you have said correctly.” Go get your husband. I don’t have a husband. Jesus said you just answered correctly because you have not one but five, and your current, for lack of a better expression, bed-buddy, you’re not even married to. And then you have this tremendous statement that she makes in verse 19, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” Good answer.
What I’m trying to say is you cannot get a more morally messed up person than the woman at the well in John 4. Look at what Charles Ryrie says in his Study Bible. Charles Ryrie, as we said in prayer time, passed away this week. He writes this: “In John 4:10 – New life through the Spirit…Salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah. Notice that Christ asked the woman to receive Him and His gift without any prerequisite change in her life.” He never told her you need to quit sleeping around and receive the Holy Spirit You need to stop being sexually immoral and receive the Holy Spirit. What He simply said is you need water to come into you that will quench this desire that you have for meaning, that is being misdirected by you into all of these promiscuous experiences.
But if the gospel is clean yourself up and come to Jesus, if there ever was an opportunity for Jesus to preach that, this is it. You can’t get a more morally confused person than this woman, but you’ll notice, as Ryrie said, that Jesus asked the woman to receive Him and His gift without any prerequisite change in her life. He didn’t tell her to alter her behavior at all. What he said is you need to receive Me and My resources by faith.
Now guess what happens when the resources of God come into you, what happens to your behavior? It typically starts to change, some slower than others, but there’s usually some kind of change that manifests itself. Ryrie says, “After she believed, and because she believed, her way of living would be changed .” And was it ever. She went out and became a tremendous evangelist for Christ when you get to the end of John 4. That’s because something greater than herself entered her. Do you see that? And Jesus as He evangelizes her is not getting the cart before the horse; the change of behavior comes on the other side, once you have received the gospel by way of faith.
Conclusion: Is repentance a condition for receiving eternal life? Yes, if it is repentance or changing one’s mind about Jesus Christ. No, if it means to be sorry for sin or to resolve to turn away from sin, for these things will not save. Conclusion: Is repentance a condition to faith? No, though a sense of sin and the desire to turn away from it may be used by the Holy Spirit to direct someone to the Savior and His salvation. Repentance may prepare the way for faith but it is faith that saves, not repentance unless repentance is understood as a synonym for faith or changing one’s mind.
So hopefully I haven’t confused everybody. I taught you how to harmonize repentance with faith alone. Next week we look at how to harmonize the teachings of following Christ as Lord with faith alone. So we’ll stop now and we’ll let folks pick up their kids.