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A Little Ocean Ambiance
Key Terms in Soteriology
Salvation, Repentance, Faith
Pastor Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
Key Terms In Soteriology
The Biblical doctrine of soteriology is facing opposition on many fronts today. Terms such as "born again" are being used to describe religious experiences which in no way conform to the teachings of Scripture. New belief systems are being developed which redefine salvation; such as Liberation Theology which states:
I emphasize that the work of building the earth is not a preceding stage, not a stepping stone, but already the work of salvation. The creation of a just and fraternal society is the salvation of human beings, if by salvation we mean the passage from the less human to the more human. Salvation, therefore, is not purely "religious"... If we understand salvation as something with merely "religious" or "spiritual" value for my soul, then it would not have much to contribute to concrete human life. But if salvation is understood as passing from less human conditions to more human conditions, it means that messianism brings about the freedom of captives and,the oppressed, and liberates human beings from slavery (Hennelly 71--73).
Unfortunately, not all of the attacks are coming from the liberal end of the theological spectrum. Evangelicals, and even those claiming the title of fundamentalists, are being tossed about by different winds of doctrine concerning this most vital area. Baptist churches are plagued by "easy believism", which results in a huge number of "decisions", but no discipleship, church growth, or fruit. Some have responded by practically demanding reformation before salvation can take place. On the one hand you can "say this prayer and go to Heaven"; on the other you must agree to stop smoking, drinking and swearing before you can be saved. Debates rage, and meanwhile souls hang in the balance.
In light of these questions and attacks, fundamental Baptists must leave their opinions and return to the Word of God for answers. It is only there that an individual can truly understand what all is involved in the miracle of regeneration. Tt is the purpose of this paper to explain the doctrine of soteriology through an analysis of the key Biblical terms which are used in connection with it. Three key words will be discussed: Salvation, Repentance, and Faith.
The first term which will be addressed is the word Salvation. The Greek verb form for salvation is sozo. In the Septuagint, sozo is used as the translation for no less than fifteen different Hebrew words. Of these, the most frequently used are yasa and malat. The root idea of yasa is to "make wide" or "make sufficient." (Harris 1:414). The idea here is that when a situation was widened, it allowed freedom for the
individual to move about and pursue h bjectives. This widening was generally accomplished by someone working from the outside. John Hartley expands this idea in this fashion:
Generally in the Old Testament the word has a strong religious meaning, for it was Yahweh who wrought the deliverance. Thus He is known as the "God of our salvation" (Psalm 68:19). Although salvation could come through a human agent. it was only because God empowered the agent. In the New Testament the idea salvation primarily means forgivenes of sin, deliverance from its power, and defeat of Satan. Although the Old Testament begins to point in this direction, the majority of references to salvation speak of Yahweh granting deliverance from real enemies and out of real catastrophes. (Harris 1:414).
Malat is most prominently defined as "deliverance or escape from the threat of death, either at the hands of a personal enemy, or a national enemy, or by sickness. The usual emphasis is on the roll of Yahweh in deliverance." (Harris 1:507).
It is clear from this usage that in the Old Testament mind God was still the Author of salvation. Though much of the deliverance discussed was temporal or national, yet there were instances when eternity was in view. In Ezekiel 37:23, God says "I will save (yasa) then out of all their dwelling places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." In Psalm 51:14, David cries out, "Deliver me from blood guiltiness, 0 God, thou God of
my salvation." Both of these passages deal with a salvation from sin, and a restoring to a right relationship with God. This is the core idea of salvation which is developed in the New Testament.
Thayer defines the Greek word sozo as "to save, to keep
safe and sound, to rescue from danger and destruction." (610). Though the word is used occasionally in reference to physical dangers (Acts 27:20.31), the majority usage in the New Testament is that of eternal salvation. In Acts 4:12, Peter preaches to the assembled multitude that "neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved." Paul preached to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31). He writes in his great doctrinal epistle to the Romans, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it it the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Romans 1:16). The author of Hebrews states that "He (Christ) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him" (Hebrew 7:25). Thus, this term "salvation" has reference to the spiritual and the eternal.
Several questions must be answered in order to fully understand the doctrine of salvation. The first of these is, what is a man being saved from? The idea of being saved or rescued carries the necessary implication that the individual is in a dire situation that he needs to be saved out of. The basic definition of sozo speaks of a rescue "from danger and
destruction". Danger and destruction is an excellent picture of
the plight of the unsaved man. He is in danger of the eternal fire of Hell. Jesus said that He had come "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). A man who is lost is unable to find his way to Heaven. He is filled with 5in, and his entire existence is in rebellion against God. II Corinthians 4:3 describes the lost in this fashion: "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." He is blinded to the truth, and thus is headed for a Christ-less eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Not only is he in danger of eternal destruction, he is in danger of temporal destruction as well. In Christ's teaching on the good shepherd, He contrasts that with the thief, whose goal is to "steal and to kill, and to destroy." Christ's goal, on the other hand, was that men would "have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The Devil's desire is not only to condemn a man's soul for eternity, but also to ruin his life while here on earth. If he can cause a man to waste his life in pursuit of that which does not matter, and can aid him in raising his family in such a way that they will bring him grief and heartache, and can encourage him to abuse his body and mind in riotous living so that he is physically or mentally limited in his latter years, then the Devil has done his job well. In Revelation 9:11, the king of the bottomless pit is called Apollyon. This Greek transliteration simply means that his name is Destroyer. Satan is the destroyer of life, and of the after-life. He is the destroyer of time, and of eternity.
The sad fact is that the Bible teaches that this Destroyer is the father of all who are born into this world. Christ told the unsaved Pharisees and Jews, "Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (John 8:44). Romans chapter three clearly spells out the ungodly situation of all humanity born with a sin nature:
As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre ...
whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction
and misery are in their ways: and the way of
peace they have not known: there is no fear of
God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18).
It is from this awful situation that a man must be saved. He is
drowning in sin, and can never escape on his own merit, for he
has "come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
The second question which must be answered is this: how can a man be saved from this predicament? This is undoubtedly the question that Nicodemus had on his heart when he came to Christ at night. Jesus' answer was very simple: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). This is the doctrine of regeneration. The Bible teaches that unsaved man is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Paul
writes that "if one (Christ) died for all, then were all dead" (II Corinthians 5:14). Because man is born spiritually dead, he is heading for eternal death. Revelation 20:14-15 teaches that to be cast into the Lake of Fire is the "second death." Thus, in order to have eternal life, a man must pass "from death unto life" (John 5:24) by being "born again". McCune defines regeneration as "the instantaneous, supernatural impartation of spiritual life to the spiritually dead" (McLachlan 4). It is completely transforming. An individual goes from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive.
Several different aspects of regeneration should be noted. First of all, regeneration is an instantaneous occurrence. There is no teaching in the Scriptures of a gradual improving or reforming until finally the new birth is achieved. Just as the birth of a human baby is a punctiliar action, so too the birth of a Christian is a single action. The Greek forms used in I Peter 1:3 show this fact. There it is written, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The word anagennesas is the aorist tense, which indicates a point of action. Secondly, it should be noted that the "new birth" is indeed new; there is none of it which is part of the first birth. Chafer comments:
It is not reordering or revising of the birth by the flesh. It is new in the sense that it is complete by itself and no product of the flesh.
Of this distinction Christ said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).(3:241).
This is why so many changes occur at salvation. The spiritually dead is quickened (Ephesians 2:1). In other words, that which had no life before now possesses life. In addition, man becomes a new creature. The Greek word translated "creature" in II Corinthians 5:17, is ktisis, which literally means "the act of founding, establishing, building, the act of creating, [or] the thing being created" (Thayer 363). Thus man becomes totally new. He has a new outlook on life, and new priorities and goals. His behavior and speech change, as does his relationship both to the world and to his new brothers and sisters in Christ. Ephesians 2:10 states that believers are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." The unregenerate man is a slave to sin, but following conversion he is ab le to do right by the grace of God because he has been set free.
A third dramatic change takes place in a believer following salvation. He goes from being a child of the Devil to being a son of God (John 1:12). As a son of God he now has the privilege to call God his Father, and go to Him in prayer. He can experience the chastening hand of God which will lovingly correct him when he has gone the wrong way. He has a fellowship with God that none other can experience, for God is now his "Abba, Father." He is an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, and is no longer bound to serve his former master,for he has been adopted into the family of God.
A fourth changewhich occurs is that he now has the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide him into truth (John 16:13), help him understand the Scriptures (I Corinthians 2:10), comfort (John 14:26), guide (Acts 16:7), and convict (John 16:8) him. The indwelling presence of God will surely change a man's response to the Scriptures, his situations, and his service unto the Lord. James Packer puts it this way:
The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and his new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with Him out of the reach of condemnation and raised with Him into a new life of rightousness (Baker's Dictionary 440).
The third question which must be answered is this: By what means can this regeneration take place? First and foremost, it must be noted that salvation is a direct result of the working and grace of God. Having established that those who receive Christ become sons of God, John explains the agency by which this miracle occurred when he writes, "which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). Man cannot save himself, nor can he regenerate himself any more than a baby can cause itself to be born. God Himself is the Author of salvation, with the Holy Spirit being the agent, and Christ providing the atonement. Salvation is "by grace, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is the unmerited favor of God. God in His great love, saw a sin-cursed world heading for an eternity in Hell, and offered
His Son as the propitiation for the sins of man. He graciously offers salvation to all who will come to Him in repentance and faith. So while salvation is all of grace, man does have the responsibility to respond to that "grace of God which bringeth salvation"(Titus 2:11). It has appeared to all, and is sufficient for all. Christ is called "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Timothy 4:10). In other words, all men are welcome to be regenerated, and to take part in God's salvation plan. Yet the only ones who will be saved are those who respond to God's offer by believing.
The second term which should be examined is Repentance. In this generation there seems to be much discussion as to the roll of repentance in salvation, and even some question as to whether repentance is necessary for salvation. Some have claimed that simple belief in Christ is sufficient for regeneration, while others call for a complete surrender of all to the Lord before salvation can occur. Thus an understanding of the concept of repentance is crucial if Fundamentalists are to fulfill the Great Commission and evangelize the world.
The word "repent" in its various forms occurs over one hundred times in the English Bible. Several different Hebrew and Greek roots are used. The first Hebrew word used is Naham, which occurs over thirty times in the Old Testament. The majority of the occurrences refer to the repentance of God, but some do refer to repentance in man, such as Job 42:6 where Job states; "wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
According to Harris, "The origin of the root seems to reflect the idea of 'breathing deeply', hence the physical display of ones feelings, usually sorrow, compassion, or comfort." (2:570). The indication here is that after Job was rebuked and questioned by God in the previous chapter he had an outward exhibition of his humility before God.
The Hebrew word shub is by far the most widely used term for the concept of repentance in the Old Testament. Though translated "repent" only three times, the word appears over 1050 times, most often carrying the idea of "turning" or "returning". In Jeremiah 3:14, God commands "Turn O backsliding children." Ezekiel 14:6 uses the root word shub three times when God says to Israel, "Repent (shub) and turn (shub) yourselves from your idols; and turn (shub) away your faces from all your abominations." Both the ideas of repenting and turning are shown in this verse. This points out the real concept behind the word "repent". It is not:, in the Hebrew mind, simply a sorrow for sin, but is rather a turning away from sin. In addition, repentance carries the idea of turning from sin unto the Lord. Malachi 3:7 reads, "Return (shub) unto me and I will return unto you saith the Lord of hosts." Thus, the Hebrew word shub clearly shows that true repentance is marked by a turning away from ungodliness coupled with a turning towards God. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says concerning shub, "it makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter
into fellowship with God" (4:2558). Hastings adds these thoughts on shub:
Though the change in the direction of the will is here in the foreground, a change in inner disposition is always presupposed. The turning from sin is emphatically a matter of conduct, but it is also a matter of the heart (Joel 2:12), and it has as its elements enlightenment (Jeremiah 31:19), contrition (Psalm 51:3ff), longing for God's forgiveness, and trust in God (Hosea 14:2), (4:225).
It is within the New Testament that the majority of the teaching concerning repentance is found. The key word used in the Greek is metanoeo which is defined by Arndt as being "to change one's mind" (513). In his discussion of the noun form metanoia, Thayer defines it as
The change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin, and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds (406).
Acts 3:19 commands men to "repent ye therefore, and be converted." Christ came to "call sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13). He taught that "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Thus, it would seem that a vital part of the gospel message centered around a changing of ones
mind, and ultimately a changing of ones activity, towards sin. Augustus Strong adds these thoughts:
The idea of metanoia is abandonment of sin rather than sorrow for sin - an act of the will rather than a state of the sensibility. Repentance is participation in Christ's revulsion from sin and suffering on account of it. It is repentance from sin, not of sin or for sin (833).
The word metamelomai is also used in speaking of repentance. It truly shows forth this idea of changing the mind in Matthew 21:28-29. There Christ teaches:
A certain 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 repented, (metamelomai), and went.
Christ uses this parable to illustrate the place of repentance in salvation. In verse 32 of the same chapter, Jesus says, "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness And ye believed him not: but the publicans and harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented (metamelomai) not afterward, that ye might believe him." James Strong defines this as "to care after, regret" (47). It seems clear that these two Greek words for "repent" do not have identical meanings, for Matthew 27:3 records that Judas "repented" (metamelomai). but this does not result in his salvation. II Corinthians 7:8-10 also shows this distinction. There Paul writes:
For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do
not repent (metamelomai)... Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance (metanoia)... For Godly sorrow worketh to repentance (metanoia) not to be repented of (metamelo).
These passages would seem to indicate that metamelomai has more of an emotional, grieving aspect as opposed to a life changing repentance in metanoia. However Thayer responds in this fashion:
The distinctions so often laid down between these words, to the effect that the former expresses a mere emotional change, while the latter a change of choice; the former has reference to particulars, the latter to the entire life; the former signifies nothing but regret even though amounting to remorse, the latter that reversal of moral purpose known as repentance - seem hardly to be sustained by usage (405).
One final Greek word should be mentioned in this
presentation. The word epistrepho is used in I Thes. 1:9 which states, "how ye turned to God from idols." This is of course the basic idea of repentance - turning from sin to the Saviour. Acts 3:19 relates the two words clearly when Peter preaches "repent (metanoeo) ye therefore. and be converted (epistrepho)". Colin Brown adds these thoughts in his discussion of epistrepho:
When men are called in the New Testament to conversion, it means a fundamentally new turning
of the human will to God, a return home from blindness and error to the Saviour of all (Acts 26:18, I Peter 2:25). The use of epistrepho suggests that we are not concerned primarily with turning from the old life, but that the stress is on the turning to Christ and through Him to God (John 14:1,6), and so to a new life. Conversion involves a change of lords.
The one who until then has been under the lordship of Satan (Ephesians 2:1 ff) comes under the Lordship of God and comes out of darkness into light (Acts 26:18, Ephesians 5:8) (1:355).
The linguistic study of Hebrew and Greek words shows the concept of repentance. It is not simply emotional. It is not simply sorrow. Concerning sorrow and remorse. Kingsley has written:
[Sorrow] will save no man's soul alive. Repentance will save any and every soul alive, then and there, but remorse will not. Remorse will only kill him. Kill his body, by making him, as many a poor creature has done, put an end to himself in sheer despair (as did Judas - author); and kill his soul at least by making him say in his heart: "well, if bad I am, bad I must be. I hate myself, and God hates me also. All I can do is, to forget my unhappiness if I can, in business, in pleasure, in drink, and drive remorse out of my head;" and often a man succeeds in so doing (2-3).
It should be noted that a proper, Biblical sorrow does play a role in repentance. II Corinthians 7:8-10 has been cited earlier in this discussion. There Paul teaches that "Godly sorrow worketh to repentance." This sorrow is not a selfish sorrow over being caught, or because of an impending judgement. Rather it is a heartfelt grief over committing actions that offend a holy God. Barnes notes three implications of this expression:
So while sorrow is insufficient as a substitute for repentance, Godly sorrow will lead a man to the point of repentance. Emotion and sorrow do play a roll. But the fundamental idea of repentance is volitional. A man must change his mind concerning sin, and in so doing turn away from that sin towards the Saviour. If willful change has not taken place, then repentance has not occurred.
Christ told those following Him twice in Luke 13, "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." It is clear from this passage that repentance is essential to salvation. Those who might deny this are preaching another gospel and condemning their followers to an eternity in Hell. Harry Ironside describes this situation as follows:
Grace is God's unmerited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. Repentance is the sinner's recognition of and acknowledgement of his lost estate and, thus, of his need of grace. Yet there are not wanting professed preachers of grace who, like the antinomians of old, decry the necessity of repentance lest it seem to invalidate the freedom of grace. As well might one object to a man's acknowledgement of illness
when seeking help and healing from a physician, on the ground that all he needed was a doctor's prescription. Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man's sinfulness and guilt ... results in shallow conversions; and so we have myriads of glibtongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatsoever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives (11).
Until a person is willing to admit that he is lost, he does not need to be found. Christ came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Christ told the Pharisees in Matthew 9:12, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." This is part of repentance - a willingness to admit that the individual is sinful, separated from God and totally unable to save himself. In Matthew 19 the rich young ruler comes to Jesus seeking to obtain salvation through his good works (vs 16). Christ challenges him on his obedience to the law of God, and the young man proudly responds as to his perfection. Jesus then shows him, by telling him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, that he is in fact a sinner and guilty of being covetous. At that point, the young man turns from the Messiah and goes his own way, Why does this happen? Because the young man was unwilling to change his mind and heart concerning his sinful condition. He wanted to come to Jesus in his own goodness, yet Christ required that he come repentant of his sinfulness.
In James 4:6, it is said that "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." This is illustrated by Christ's story of the publican and the Pharisee praying in the temple in Luke 18. In verses 11 and 12 the Pharisee in his pride extols his virtues to God: "I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." The publican, in his humbled state says simply, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Christ: concludes by teaching, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted," (vs 14). Until a man sees himself as he truly is, and is willing to humble himself and come before an Almighty God, he will never find forgiveness of sins and justification before a Righteous and Holy God.
It should be noted here that "repentance" and "penance" are not the same thing. McLachlan defines penance broadly as "a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church involving three steps: 1. Confession to a priest, 2. Absolution of one's sins by a priest,3 Erogation by the penitent sinners as assigned by the priest."(12). John Miller defines it outside the context of Roman Catholicism and calls it the counterfeit to repentance. He describes it as "a religious attitude deeply rooted in the human heart which prompts men to attempt to pay for their own sins by their good works, and sufferings." (19). He lists four problems with penance:
It is clear that repentance is the turning to God of a humble sinner, whereas penance is the turning toward self of a proud man. He feels that no matter what his sin is, he can do something to justify himself. This is offensive to a Sovereign, Holy God, and can never be accepted as a shallow substitute for Biblical repentance.
Repentance and reformation are not synonymous either. Ironside writes:
To turn over a new leaf, to attempt to supplant bad habits with good ones, to try to live well instead of evilly, may not be the outcome of repentance at all, and should never be confounded with it. Reformation is merely an outward change.
Repentance is the work of God in the soul. (14).
Reformation poses the same problem as penance does. Reformation says that a man can clean up his own life and become acceptable to God in his own goodness. Yet Isaiah 64:6 teaches that "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Christ showed the Pharisees the problem of reformation and external cleansing without internal conversion
when he stated:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23: 25-27).
External conformity can never replace internal conviction. A man can do his best to clean up his life before God, but this will not avail. Only a turning from what man can do to what Christ has done is sufficient for salvation.
Having defined the term "repentance" from both a
linguistical and theological perspective, it would be profitable to see its use in Scripture and determine its practical applications. Acts 3:19 serves as a primary illustration. Here Peter commands his listeners to "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." The context here is noteworthy. Peter and John have been used of God to heal a lame man. The Jews are amazed by this, and question the source of their power. Peter preaches to them that this power came from Jehovah God, who sent His son Jesus. He then shows that they killed Christ, and God raised Him from the dead. He
teaches that the lame man was healed by God because of his faith in Jesus as God's Son, but that the Jews in their ignorance had rejected God through their rejection of Christ. Having shown Christ's deity, and the Jew's error, Peter tells them that they therefore need to repent. They need to change their minds about Who Christ is. They need to change their minds about His death, burial, and resurrection. They need to change their minds about their own wicked condition, and realize that in their sinful blindness they had crucified the One Who had been sent to them by God. They need to realize that God the Father glorified Jesus, and that to deny the Christ is to deny the Father, and therefore they need to repent of that denial.
Having repented, Peter tells them that they can be converted. A change of mind concerning themselves and the Saviour will allow them to turn from faith in their own selfrighteousness to saving faith in Christ. This indicates that faith in Christ can not occur until repentance has taken place. The old belief must be abandoned before a new belief can be adopted. This two step process will result in the individual's sins being blotted out, so that he can stand before God justified through the imputed righteousness of Christ. David wrote in Psalm 32:1, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." A man can not be converted until he has repented, and changed his mind, about sin, self, and the Saviour. Thus, it is clear why Christ said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Repentance is a necessary part of salvation, and one who refuses to repent cannever be born again.
The third theological term which will be discussed is the word Faith. While repentance is a necessary forerunner to faith, so faith is the necessary conclusion of repentance. Turning from sin to something is not sufficient. Changing of the mind involves not only changing from error, but also changing to truth. This then is faith.
Once again it is appropriate to study the Hebrew and Greek words which define this concept. Two Hebrew verbs are used to convey the idea. These are the terms aman and batah. According to Colin Brown, aman means "to be true, reliable, faithful" (1:596). He states that it can be applied either to men (Numbers 12:7), or to God (Deuteronomy 7:9). Douglas McLachlan indicates that aman carries the idea of an intellectual assent to truth, whereas batah is more of a volitional trust (8). Brown indicates that the idea contained in batah is "to trust in, or rely upon" (1:589). Oehler summarizes the Old Testament concept of faith this way:
What then is this faith? Negatively speaking, it is a ceasing from all natural confidence in one's own strength and power, a renunciation of all trust in human support and assistance (Jeremiah 17:5). Positively, it is a fastening or leaning; for this is the proper meaning of aman, namely, a fastening [staying] of the heart upon the Divine word of promise, a leaning upon the power and faithfulness of God, by reason of which He can
and will effect what He chooses in spite of all earthly obstacles, and therefore resting upon the "rock of my heart" (Psalm 73:26) (459).
The New Testament has one primary word for faith. This is the word pistis. Thayer defines the verb form pisteuo as follows: "To believe, to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in." In a moral reference he defines faith as "the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul." Concerning saving faith, Thayer defines pisteuo as:
a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah - the divinely appointed Author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ ... to have a faith directed unto, believing [or] in faith to give ones self to Jesus (5-11).
Vine adds these thoughts.
The main elements in faith in its relation to the invisible God ... are especially brought out in the use of this noun (pistis) and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are 1. A firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth, e.g. II Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2. a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; 3. a conduct inspired by such surrender, II Corinthians 5:7. Prominence is given to one or the other of these elements
according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good faith without necessary reference to its proof.
The object of Abraham's faith was not God's promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his faith rested on God Himself. (71).
Within the one word pistis, both the intellectual and volitional aspects previously noted can be observed. The intellectual area is seen clearly in James 2:14-26. Here, James is discussing a dead faith that produces no works in the life. He asks this question: "What doth it profit, brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him?" He is attempting to drive home the point that simple mental assent to the historical facts of Scripture is insufficient for salvation. Thus he uses pistis in an intellectual context. However, in the same chapter, he speaks of the fact that "Abraham believed God." This clearly was not simply academic on the part of Abraham, but a life-changing trust.
It should be obvious that both the intellectual and the volitional are necessary components of saving faith. A person can have an intellectual knowledge of Biblical data, but that alone is insufficient to save his soul. Likewise, a person may put his trust in Jesus Christ as his Saviour, but if he does not understand Who Jesus is, then he too is lacking salvation. Both sides of this argument should be examined. First of all, as has been stated previously, simple acceptance of Biblical facts is
insufficient for salvation. Again James 2 is the focal point for this discussion. He writes:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea a man may say, thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know O vain man, that faith without works is dead? ... you see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:17-20,24).
One of the great problems which exists in Baptist churches today is that a large number of people who have made "professions of faith," are living godless, spiritually anemic lives. They may show up for the Sunday service, but that's about it. They have no meaningful devotional life, and don't care to. They participate in the same worldly amusements as their unsaved associates. They are anchored to the material and temporal and apathetic towards the spiritual and eternal. Many times pastors look at these people and ask, "How can a person make a profession of faith and live a life that is so contrary to all that the Bible teaches?" The simple answer is that in many of these instances. the individual in question has heard the facts of Scripture and given mental assent to the historical Jesus. He is willing to admit that he has done wrong things. He is willing to admit the existence of Hell. He will admit that
Jesus came, died and rose again. He says a prayer affirming all those truths, shakes the pastor's hand, and goes straight back to the hog trough of sin because, while he has accepted facts about the Saviour, he has never accepted the Saviour. He is lacking volitional trust. This is why James pops the intellectual balloon of the Jews by saying "the devils believe." No Jew expected to see the demons of Hell in the courts of Heaven. James is instructing them that a statement of belief is not enough. If their faith was not sufficient to change their lives, it was not sufficient to save their souls.
By the same token, a man is logically unable to place his volitional trust in someone whom he does not know or understand. Baker's Dictionary of Theology discusses this situation.
Faith in God involves right belief about God. The word faith in ordinary speech covers both credence of propositions (beliefs) and confidence in persons or things, In the latter case, some belief about the object trusted is the logical and psychological presupposition of the act of trust itself, for trust in a thing reflects a positive expectation about -ts behavior, and rational expectation is impossible if the thing's capacities for behavior are wholly unknown. Throughout the Bible. trust in God is made to rest on belief of what He has revealed concerning His character and purposes. In the New Testament, where faith in God is defined as trust in Christ,
the acknowledgement of Jesus as the expected Messiah and the incarnate Son of God is regarded as basic to it (209).
Several scripture passages penned by John show this to be true. I John 2:22-23 states:
Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father ...
The same warning is given in II John 7-9
For many deceivers are entered into the world who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist ... whosoever transgresseth, and.abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God.
John is explaining that a person can place their trust in Christ, but if that "christ" in whom they are trusting is not the Christ of the Bible, they are not saved. This is not to say that an individual must be an expert in Christology in order to be converted. It does mean, however, that the individual must accept Christ's claim as to Who He is. When the Ethiopian eunuch desired to be baptized, Philip told him, "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest." Having been taught about Jesus from the Scriptures by Philip, the eunuch's response was this declaration: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:35-37). If Jesus is not divine, then He is incapable of providing salvation. If He is not the God/Man, He
is incapable of providing salvation. It is not enough to believe that Christ was simply a good man, or a prophet, or a martyr to whom men should look. He is either the Christ, or He is a liar. Thus, He must either be accepted as God in the flesh, or He cannot be accepted at all.
The Bible teaches that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Thus, saving faith
must be rooted in the hearing of the Bible. James I. Packer
Faith rests upon divine testimony. Beliefs, as such, are convictions held on grounds, not of self-evidence, but of testimony. Whether particular beliefs should be treated as known certainties or doubtful opinions will depend on the testimony on which they are based. The Bible views faith's convictions as certainties and equates them with knowledge (I John 3:2,5:18-20), not because they spring from supposedly selfauthenticating mystical experience, but because they rest on the testimony of a God who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2) and is therefore utterly trustworthy. The testimony of Christ to Heavenly things (John 3:11,31), and of the prophets and apostles to Christ (Acts 10:39-43), is the testimony of God Himself (I John 5:9ff); this God-inspired witness is God's own witness (cf. I Corinthians 2:10-13; I Thessalonians
2:13), in such a sense that to receive it is to certify that God is true (John 3:33), and to reject it is to make God a liar (I John 5:10).
Christian faith rests on the recognition of apostolic and Biblical testimony as God's own testimony to His Son (Harrison 209-210).
Thus it is seen that the Word of God is necessary for faith because it is only through the Scriptures that a knowledge of the Saviour can be acquired. The Bible is a revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the written Word exposing to man the Living Word. Christ is called truth (John 14:6); the Bible is called the truth (John 17:17). Since the Bible reveals Christ, and since the Bible is necessary for faith, it must be concluded that knowledge of the revealed Christ is necessary before acceptance of Him can occur.
Faith could be described then as a conviction of truth based on testimony. Yet the Bible teaches in Hebrews 11:1 that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hodge puts these together by this statement: "Faith means the belief of things not seen, on the ground of testimony." (3:63). He lists three proofs of this definition.
Thus, even though no man has seen God, and no living individual today has heard or seen the risen Christ; though no man fully understands how the eternal God could make Himself of no reputation and humble Himself; yet man is able to accept that which he has not physically seen, and handle substantively that which he has never materially experienced, because of the testimony of God as contained in the Scriptures. This, then, is faith.
What is the object of this faith? Acts 16:31 states, "Believe (pisteuo) on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." A man must decide to trust that Christ is Who He claimed to be, and that His substitutionary death on the cross, coupled with His burial and resurrection, is sufficient to save a soul. Belief in Christ's deity alone is not enough, for "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin" (Hebrews 9:22). Many today would give lip service to Christ as being the Son of God, but they still believe that they can get to Heaven by their own merits. This person has not believed,
for Christ Himself said "No man cometh unto the Father but by me (John 14:6). He clearly taught that His purpose on earth was to die on Calvary's cross, for He told His disciples that He had come "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Thus, to reject Christ's atonement is to reject Christ's teachings, and in so doing to reject Christ. John 1:12 reads, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." While the word pisteuo does not appear in this verse, the concept of faith surely does. "Receive" is the Greek word lambano, which Strong defines as "to take" or "to get hold of" (45). Thayer expand@ this definition to "to take with the hand, lay hold of." He further gives definitions such as "to claim, to procure for one's self; to get possession of, obtain; to appropriate to one's self" (370). What a tremendous picture of saving faith! The individual in need of regeneration must be willing to grasp Christ, as if by the hand, appropriate His atoning blood to himself, and take possession of the only begotten Son of God. By faith in the testimony of the Scriptures he believes that Jesus is God's Son. By faith he trusts that the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse him from all sin. By faith he believes that whoso cometh to Him, He will in no wise cast out. By faith he is saved.
It is interesting to notice how repentance and faith fit together. Both have been shown to be necessary for salvation. Yet in fact they are simply two sides to the same coin. Biblical repentance will always lead to Biblical faith, and
Biblical faith will never be produced apart from Biblical repentance. Chafer puts it this way:
Repentance is essential to salvation, and none can be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and could not be separated from it ... No individual can turn to Christ from some other confidence without a change of mind ... to believe on Christ is one act, regardless of the manifold results which it secures. It is not turning from something to something; but rather turning to something from something ... The Apostle stresses this distinction in accurate terms when he says to the Thessalonians, "Ye, turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (I Thessalonians 1:9) (3:374).
If a man truly has Biblical repentance, this means that he has seen himself as he truly is, and has seen his methodology for salvation for the folly that it is. He then changes his mind, and determines that he will no longer go his own way. The end result of that turning must be faith in Christ, for rejection of all self and systems leaves only Jesus. If a man is not coming to Christ, he has not truly changed his mind about sin, self, and the Saviour. Likewise, a man will never exercise saving faith in Christ if he still holds to his natural notion that he can somehow make it to Heaven on his own terms. Faith is a complete abandonment to the Christ of the Bible, but the act of abandoning requires first of all a change of mind concerning the
individual's current state. A man standing at the window of a burning building must change his mind concerning his ability to survive in that position before he will jump to the firemen who wait to rescue him. So to the sinner must abandon his old way before he can surrender to the grace of God. Faith in Christ does not exist unless all other faith has been renounced. All other faiths will not be renounced until the truth of the Bible is received. So, while repentance and faith appear to be different, they are for all intents and purposes one and the same thing. Biblical salvation requires both, yet one will never truly exist without the other.
The doctrine of soteriology will always be a theological battleground, for the Devil desires to confuse people in this most crucial area. However, acceptance of the straight teaching of Scripture concerning salvation, repentance, and faith will remove much of the discussion. Salvation is a gift of God, taking place when a lost, dead soul is regenerated by the grace of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in response to the Word of God.
It is an instantaneous act, with continuing, life changing effects. It is accomplished when a sinner believes in Christ, and accepts His substitutionary atonement. This takes place in an individual through repentance and faith. The sinner sees his sin and his inability, changes his mind about it, and turns towards the Saviour in faith and receives Him. He simply takes God at His Word, and, forsaking all other belief and practice, commits himself completely to the Biblical message of
The pulpits of America must return to this message. For far too long men's ideas have taken the place of Biblical theology. People must be shown their lost condition. They must be shown that their own works and religion are utterly worthless. They must be shown who Jesus is. They must see that He is the only way to Heaven. They must see that simple mental assent to a historical fact is not enough. They must see that saying a prayer is not enough. They must see that a volitional trust is required to save their souls. And they must see that if their lives give no evidence of change, then there has been no salvation. Until this message is delivered, pews will be filled with folks who fail to live the victorious Christian life because they have never been born into the Christian life; wicked men will proclaim that they "said a prayer", and continue blindly down the road to Hell; and pastors will be frustrated by the condition of their churches. The need of the hour is to return to a Biblical message of man's need, Christ's sacrifice, and God's grace.
Arndt, William and Wilbur Gingrich.
A Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Notes on the Old and New Testaments. Vol 22,
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry.
Systematic TheologyVol. 3. Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke.
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.
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Baker's Dictionary of Theology.
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960.
Hastings, James, ed.
A Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 4.
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Hennelly, Alfred, ed.
Liberation Theology: A Documentary
History. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1990.
Systematic Theoloqv. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids:
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Except Ye Repent. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1937
True Repentance. New York: H. M. Caldwell Co., 1897.
Rediscovering Our Doctrinal Foundations. Dunbar: Northland Baptist Bible College, 1993.
Miller, John C.
Repentance and 20th Centurv Man. Fort
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Theology of the Old Testament. Minneapolis:
Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1978.
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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 Vols. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956.
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Testament Words. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1981.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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