Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. (Elvina M. Hall, 1865)
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Redemption and salvation come through Jesus Christ. His sacrifice upon the cross paid the price required by God’s righteousness and justice. He is our High Priest.
So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
We are not born again simply because Jesus died upon the cross and rose from the dead. We are not filled with the Holy Spirit merely because we have entered into the dispensation of God’s grace. The fact that Jesus has paid it all and opened the door for us is God’s part of our salvation. In this message I want to briefly talk about our part.
So…What is our part of Salvation?
If you ask that question to 10 people on the sidewalk or even 10 people within the church there is a high probability that you may receive 10 differing answers. Many people are confused on what the Bible has to say is necessary to receive salvation. Everyone wants to go to heaven but the Bible teaches us there is only one way to get there and His name is Jesus.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
For many of us (me included) someone shared the message of Jesus with us and then asked us to repeat after them and pray what we came to find out later is called “The Sinner’s Prayer”. Let’s take a look at the first salvation message preached after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:38-40)
Simply stated, we must receive and apply what God has provided in and through Jesus Christ. Our salvation is realized at the intersection of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The foundational steps of salvation are:
Repentance from dead works
Faith towards God
Repentance from Dead Works
The first principle of the Doctrine of Christ is repentance from dead works (Hebrews 6:1-2). This is the first of Jesus teaching and in the 6th Chapter of Hebrews it is spoken of as a foundation of our faith. In many Christian churches the doctrine of repentance is something that is rarely spoken of even though it is a very important part of our faith. For most people in the twenty-first century “repentance” is a confusing word that doesn’t mean a whole lot to them.
If we have the wrong concept concerning repentance it is highly likely that we also have an incorrect concept of sin. If we have an incorrect concept of sin it is probably because we have an incorrect concept of the nature and character of God who is righteous, holy and loving. Many modern messages concerning salvation are preached without repentance. Preaching salvation by grace through faith without preaching repentance from sin definitely cheapens the biblical doctrine of grace and does not allow for people to truly experience biblical regeneration.
William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) said, “The chief dangers which confront the present century are religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.”
Repentance is an import part of the Christian faith. It was God’s message in the Old Testament; it was Jesus’ message as well as the message of the Apostles.
- The Old Testament prophets preached repentance to the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 14:6; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Jeremiah 8:4-6; Matthew 12:41)
- John the Baptist’s first message and word was a call to repentance; his baptism was one unto repentance (Matthew 3:1-8; Acts 19:4)
- The first message Jesus preached was repentance (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 11:20-24)
- The apostles preached the message of repentance (Mark 6:7-13)
- The first message of Peter at Pentecost was a call to repentance (Acts 2:37-38; Acts 3:19)
- Paul preached the message of repentance to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 26:20-21)
- Prior to ascending into heaven Jesus commanded His disciples to preach repentance to every nation; starting in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49)
- Repentance is a command that is given to everyone. If we are unwilling to repent we will not receive God’s gift of salvation (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 13:3)
What Repentance Isn’t
Let’s take a look at what repentance isn’t before we take a look at what repentance is.
- Repentance is not conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin prior to repentance but not everyone who is convicted of sin chooses to repent. (Genesis 6:3; Mark 6:16-20; Acts 24:24-25)
- Repentance is not being sorry for your sin. The Bible speaks of worldly sorrow concerning sin and godly sorrow concerning sin. Worldly sorrow is a sorrow for the consequences of sin, not for the sin itself. Esau (Hebrews 12:17) and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3-5) are excellent examples of worldly sorrow.
- Repentance is not self-reformation. Self-reformation is the proverbial, “turning over a new leaf”. Many people through a multitude of disciplines and even pagan religions reform their lives without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 64:6)
- Repentance is not religious behavior. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were very religious yet Jesus called them hypocrites. They did not repent and they even crucified Jesus their Messiah (Matthew 5:30; Matthew 23:1-25).
- Repentance is not mental faith. Mental faith is merely mental assent and acceptance of a creed or historical facts about Jesus without a corresponding change in life. This type of faith is dead. James 2:19-20 say that the demons have this type of faith.
What Repentance Is
The Bible’s teaching on repentance involves two major areas. There is the “root” of repentance and the “fruit” of repentance.
The Root of Repentance
The Standard Dictionary defines repentance as: “ A sincere and thorough changing of the mind and disposition in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and helplessness, apprehension of God’s mercy, a strong desire to escape, or be saved from sin, and voluntary abandonment of it.”
There are three elements involved in the nature of true repentance,
The Intellectual Element. Before the fall, man’s mind and heart was toward God. The fall of man or the entrance of sin caused the mind of man to rebel against God and His law; causing man to put his own thoughts and desires ahead of God’s. The mind of man since in the entrance of sin in the Garden of Eden is clearly illustrated in these scriptures:
This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. (Colossians 1:21)
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (Ephesians 2:3)
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
Repentance is a work brought about by the Holy Spirit. It is a changing of our mind that involves facing and turning towards God. It is recognizing the truth of the Gospel, not just mentally assenting to a set of historical or doctrinal facts concerning Jesus. Repentance begins with the acknowledgement that you are on the wrong path; separated from God. This knowledge is brought about by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the hearing of the Word of God.
Repentance is a change of mind towards God, sin and self. The intellectual element of repentance deals with the knowledge of sin, that we are guilty before God who is Holy and Righteous and that we are lost without His saving grace.
The Emotional Element. Repentance produces a change in the way we feel; specifically that there is a genuine sorrow for the sins we have committed against a holy God. This part of repentance takes place as we realize how far we have wandered away from God. When we repent we are truly sorry for the sins we have committed, not only for their consequences.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done. (Psalm 38:18)
The Volitional Element. Repentance involves a change of our will and purpose. When we repent we turn away from sin and turn towards God. It is an about face or a total 180 degree turn. We get off the wrong path and we get onto the correct path and begin seeking God. When we repent we surrender our will and our lives to Jesus Christ; completely accepting His saving power. Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son best illustrates true repentance.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:17-24)
When we repent it involves a change in the way we think, feel and act. When the Gospel is preached the Holy Spirit moves upon the hearts of men; enlightening their intellects, stirring their emotions and moving their will away from self and sin towards God and His righteousness.
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4)
The Fruit of Repentance
John the Baptist said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (Matthew 3:8). A tree’s fruit reveals the true nature of the tree. In the same way the fruit of our repentance reveals the nature of our repentance. If we have the genuine root of repentance we will also bear the genuine fruits of repentance.
Here are some Biblical examples of the fruits or works that indicate that we have truly repented:
- Godly sorrow for sin (2 Corinthians 7:10; Psalm 38:18)
- Confession of Sin (Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51: 1-4; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9; Luke 18:9-14; James 5:16)
- Turning to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Acts 26:18)
- Forsaking Sin (Isaiah 55:6-7; Ezekiel 18:20-32). Forsaking of sin is specifically pertains to the works of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5:19.
- Turning from dead works (Hebrews 6:1-2; Hebrews 9:14). This specifically refers to the religious works of people who do not know Jesus. The religious works we did prior to coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in an effort to earn salvation or to please God are dead works. When we were dead in our trespasses and sins the works we produced were dead works regardless of how religious we may have been. (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 1:21)
- A Sincere Desire for Forgiveness (Psalm 25:11; Psalm 51:1-12; Luke 18:13)
- Making Restitution for Sins Committed Where Possible (Luke 19:8; Luke 3:1-14)
How is Repentance Produced?
Repentance involves both God and man. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, of righteous and of our need for God. It is us, man, who must respond to and accept the truth of the Gospel and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus Christ.
God takes the initiative in repentance. Repentance does not originate with us. We cannot or do not repent as a result of our own will. It is the grace of God that leads us to repentance. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us and brings us to a state of repentance. Our part is to respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. God has commanded all men to repent (Acts 17:30). He has commanded it and He has also enabled and empowered us to respond.
Biblical Examples of Repentance
- Joseph’s brothers repented of their mistreatment of him; selling him into slavery (Genesis 42-45)
- The city of Nineveh repented at the preaching of the prophet Jonah (Jonah 3L5-10; Matthew 12:41)
- The prodigal son exemplified true repentance (Luke 15:11-32)
- Jesus called upon the seven churches of Asia to repent (Revelation1-3)
- There are many examples of repentance in the Bible: David (Psalm 51); Daniel (Daniel 9:3-19); Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11-13); Peter (Matthew 26:75); Saul (Acts 9:6-11); the publican (Luke 18:13) and the dying thief (Luke 23:39-43).
The Results of Repentance
- We as sinners are granted saving faith. Saving faith cannot be received without genuine repentance (Ephesians 2:5-8).
- We as sinners receive forgiveness of our sins. (Isaiah 55:7; Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3)
- When we as sinners repent and are converted we bring great joy to the angels in heaven (Luke 15:7,10)
Faith Towards God
The second word of the Gospel is “believe”.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21)
The principles of the doctrine of Christ as listed in Hebrews 6 are “repentance from dead works” and then “faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1-2). When we repent we turn from sin. Faith is turning toward God. Repentance and faith are like two sides of the same coin; they go together in the Bible and therefore they should go together in our lives as well.
There is a lot of teaching on faith, both inside and outside of the church. Let’s take a look at scripture and find out what it has to say about faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith must begin with the fact that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. We cannot know or receive from God unless we first believe that God is.
What Faith Isn’t
Just as we did with repentance let’s take a look at what faith is not and then we will take a look at what the Bible says faith is.
Faith is not Mental Assent. There is definitely an intellectual element to both faith and repentance but godly, biblical faith should not be confused or mistaken for mere mental assent. Mental assent means to simply agree to a set of historical or doctrinal facts about Jesus, God and the Bible. It could be called, “Head-Faith” and cannot be equated to “Heart-Faith”. Mental assent by itself is dead faith. It is the same faith that James 2:17-20 tells us that the demons have. There are millions of religious people who “believe” in the Bible, God and Jesus but if it is merely mental assent to facts without any real heart faith in Jesus their lives remain unchanged.
Faith is not Presumption. Presumption means to take for granted or to suppose to be true without any positive proof. Presumption is arrogant, insolent and often over-confident. Presumption is frequently mistaken for faith because it is a very close imitation. Presumption is to imitate the faith-actions of others without personally having faith in your heart.
Faith is not Natural Faith. Natural faith is frequently mistaken for spiritual faith. Natural faith trusts in experience, our natural senses and the experiences and word of other people. Natural faith is not the same as biblical, saving faith. Paul said, “All men do not have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). There are millions of people who exercise faith in the natural world that do not have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith in Yourself. The biblical principle we are discussing is “Faith toward God” not faith in yourself. There is a lot of teaching and preaching today about having faith in yourself and your abilities. This type of faith move man into the position to become his own savior and eventually his own god. True faith is in God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Faith Is
Faith is the foundation which upholds our lives as believers in Christ. Faith is the assurance and confidence that we have in God’s Word. Faith is the evidence and inner conviction of the reality of the eternal things we cannot see.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
The Source of Faith
There is only one biblical and true source of faith, the Word of God. If faith is not built upon the Bible it can never withstand the storms and tests of life (Matthew 7:24-27).
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
When we truly hear the Word we hear the Lord Jesus Christ speaking within our heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). The true source of faith is both Christ, the living Word, and the Bible, the written Word. The written Word must become the living Word to create real faith. When we study the “heroes of faith” listed in Hebrews 11 we discover that each person received faith by a word from God and they were then able to be and do all that they did.
Just as we looked at three elements of repentance we will also look at the three elements of faith.
The Intellectual Element. It is impossible to have faith without knowledge, though it is entirely possible to have knowledge without faith. When we hear the word of faith we receive knowledge of God, Christ, salvation and redemption. This knowledge creates faith, not merely mental assent. (James 2:19; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:17).
The Emotional Element. Our hearts respond in faith to the truth of the Gospel. Feelings are not and cannot be equated to faith but faith does involve our feelings and emotions. The biblical order is facts, faith and then feeling, never the reverse. The Christian life should not be led by feelings but by faith; but our lives are also filled with feelings. Our faith must be solidly founded on the fact of the Gospel not our feelings about the Gospel. Our feelings should follow our faith. (Matthew 13:20-21)
The Volitional Element. The Gospel brings enlightenment to our understanding. It creates faith and joy in our hearts and moves our will to acceptance. The volitional element of faith is very similar to the volitional element of repentance where our heart and will are surrendered to the Lord. Faith involves committing ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation; it is an act of our will.
Just as there were diving and human aspects of repentance there are also divine and human aspects of faith. God gives faith as a gift to those who repentant and those of us who repent respond to God’s gift of grace by believing and receiving.
God has given us everything that we will ever need both for our present life and for eternity.
Our sins have separated us from God. Religious behavior, charitable donations and random acts of kindness will never be able to erase the debt of sin from the balance of God’s justice. We are all guilty and deserving of the consequences of our sin.
God, in love, sacrificed Himself on the cross in payment for our sins so that we would not have to receive the consequences that we are due. To receive His gift He commands that we repent and believe the gospel.
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:20-26)