Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Repentance is Necessary

One of the hardest things for men and women to do is to repent of their sins. Repentance is a direct challenge to man’s will power. It demands that he humble himself before God, and give up everything that is contrary to His will. God’s demands of repentance have kept many of the high minded out of the kingdom of God.

Repentance is a duty imposed upon all mankind. It is a plain command of God, and no man can refuse to repent without bearing the responsibility that must come upon him. When Jesus gave the world-wide commission, He said, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations . . .” (Luke 24:47). Paul said “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts  17:30). Can anyone read these scriptures and conclude that he can be saved without repentance? I would hope not!

Let us clear away some of the misunderstanding about repentance by learning what it is NOT. In the first place, repentance is not simply being afraid. Paul convicted Felix of his sins, Felix trembled with fear but he did not repent and turn (Acts 24:25). There are many people today who are afraid when they think of their sinfulness, but they, like Felix, refuse to repent, and die without hope.

In the second place, repentance is not simply being sorry that one has sinned. The murderers of Jesus sorrowed on Pentecost at Peter’s preaching. They were pierced in their hearts by godly sorrow. Yet they were told to repent (Acts 2:38). In the third place, repentance is not simply and solely a reformation of life, A man may quit sin and yet not repent toward God. He may quit because that particular sin renders him unpopular in his business or among his associates. Thus, he may reform his life for selfish reasons, but such reformation is not repentance. Simply stated, repentance is a change of mind, or will, based upon godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and resulting in a manner of life directed by Christ (Acts 26:20).

Our Lord gave us an example of repentance which we can all understand. He said, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went” (Matthew 21-28-29). This boy began to reflect on what he had done, and he realized that he had disobeyed his father, He became conscious of the fact that he sinned against his father, who was responsible for his very existence, and when he came to himself, he acknowledge that wrong, and then corrected it. He changed HIS MIND (repented) and did that which he said he would not do. Jesus said that was repentance.

Christ said to the Pharisees that, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Jesus here says that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas. The Bible says: “God saw their works and that they turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). The preaching of the prophet of God changed the mind of the Ninevites, and this change led them to turn from their evil way. This change of mind was repentance.

The Lord has given men two motives as the means of bringing them to repentance. The first motive is fear. The Bible writers say, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). This statement, and all the warnings in the Bible are intended to move us to repent of our sins.

The second motive God uses to bring about repentance is love. The Bible says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)? The goodness of God is revealed in the life and death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. As we study the life of our Lord, and see the beauty of holiness manifested through His earthly pilgrimage, then follow Him to Calvary and watch Him suffer there, dying for our sins, making it possible for sinners to be saved, and to become children of God, we ask why all this flow of love, why all this display of goodness? The answer comes back to us in the Bible, “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We Are Not Saved By Faith Only

The doctrine most commonly taught in the world is that a person is saved at the very moment that they believe in Jesus Christ, without any further acts of obedience. However, the Bible says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). In addition to this, there is a general misunderstanding of the essentiality of good works to salvation. People often confuse the good works of the gospel of Christ, which the Bible defines as essential, with the works of the law of Moses, or the meritorious works of men in an effort to earn salvation. 

The Bible does not teach that people are saved by works of the Old Testament law of Moses. In Romans 3:20, it says “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” In Colossians 2:14 it says, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” We know that the only hope for salvation for everyone today is through the gospel of Christ. We are not saved by the works of the law, but through the works of faith, through love, in obedience to Christ.

While the Bible says: "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified,” it also says in James 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” These works that James is talking about are not the works of the law of Moses, but the works of faith revealed in the gospel of Christ. The law of Moses is dead and its works mean nothing today, but the works of the gospel mean everything!

A person is saved by the blood of Christ, through the grace of God. One is not saved by faith alone, but through obedience to the commandments of Christ. Jesus “....became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). This does not mean that the obedient soul earns, merits, or deserves salvation, but that he qualifies for the mercy and the grace of the Lord, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Bible makes it clear in that same passage that while we are being saved through the washing of regeneration (or baptism) and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, that it is not by works done in righteousness which we have done ourselves. But if we do not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God in obedience to his word, we cannot be saved.

There are many Bible passages that show that faith is essential and that we are saved by faith and justified by it. Every one of these passages is to be believed and accepted. But there is one similar thing about all these passages on faith and that is that not one single passage ever says we are saved by faith only. There is no such passage in the Bible.

Here is a point that we need to remember: Never in any age or dispensation in human history has God saved man by faith alone. God has always required faith and obedience. No other formula for salvation has ever worked. None ever will. Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). It must be faith plus obedience. This is the embodiment of the principle under which God has always worked in saving man. It is foolish to expect God to make an exception to the rule now and to save anyone by faith only and without obedience to His word. May we all have a soft and understanding heart that will motivate us to ensure that we are striving to please our heavenly Father in all things so that we can look forward to a home with Him forever.