All is grace: Now that I’m born again, I can and want to believe and repent. What a logical logos I serve!

What is the relationship between repentance and faith. Charles Stanley writes:

“When Peter preached the truth about Jesus Christ in Acts chapter two, he left thousands of listeners wondering what they should do next. 

The apostle’s response in verse 38 is simple. He says, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” As a result, 3,000 people were added to their numbers that day.

Is this the message of most churches today? Does it seem strange that Peter said “repent” instead of “believe”? Actually, Scripture often uses these concepts together. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Both are essential for salvation and each is dependent upon the other.

But, in terms of salvation, you can’t separate faith and repentance. To be saved, you must place faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That decision requires a change of mind, or repentance, about your way of life. Both happen at the same time.

Yet, many people mistakenly believe they must repent before they can make a faith decision for Jesus. Repentance doesn’t mean we must completely change our ways and “clean ourselves up” so we can then receive Christ as Lord. There should actually be no delay or separation between repentance and faith.

If you’re holding off on a decision for Christ until you think you’re “ready” or “worthy,” then you’re waiting in vain. Jesus is ready to receive you right now. Only as a child of God will you find the power – His power – to truly become the person He created you to be.” Excerpted from “A Right View of Repentance.”  

Stanley has shown that repentance and faith occur simultaneously – chronologically together. What, though, is the logical sequence of repentance and faith? I examine that question.

 I heard this in a recent Arminian sermon:

There are three stages in the life of someone who really wants to experience coming to Jesus. Repent, next step believe the gospel. That’s what Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel.”

Jesus is not talking about which comes first (logically or chronologically) but that those are the two things you need to do. The order of the words (syntax) which Jesus uses is “repent and (plus) believe” it does not follow that he means “repent, then believe.” Jesus can’t mean that for this reason:

The preacher’s “the first step” can only mean that he thinks “repent” logically must come before “believe.” But how can you repent unless you first believe? Believe what? That you are sinner who is under the wrath of God and need to repent. The biblical (logical) sequence is believe → repent. Believe and repent occur at the same time. When Jesus said repent and believe instead of the logical sequence believe and repent, he did not mean believe then repent, because as I explained above that wold be cockeyed. Think of mommy saying to Jimmy in the bathroom, “wash your face and brush your teeth.” When Jimmy comes out of the bathroom, Mommy is not going to ask “Did you do what I said in the order in which I said it.” Unless she’s Nanny McPhee.

If we add grace and regeneration (born again) to the logical order of how we become a Christian, the Calvinist’s logical order is (effectual) grace –> regeneration (born again) –> belief –> repentance. They all occur simultaneously. The Arminian order is (prevenient) grace –> repent –> believe –> born again. Some Arminians may disagree with the preacher and agree with the Calvinist that believe comes logically before repent. When it comes to regeneration, however, the reason why the Arminian places regeneration (being raised from spiritual death) at the end of the process is because it is he who decides (with his “free will”) whether he wants to accept God’s offer to be born again. But surely, a person who goes through the first three stages (accepts God’s grace → believes → repents) cannot be spiritually dead, because unless God first regenerates him (raises him from spiritual death, from hatred of or indifference to God), he won’t be able or want to believe and repent. “Oh you Calvinists with your logic!” Yes. What a logical logos we serve. “In the beginning was the logos.” (John 1:1). And in the end.

John 1

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon writes:

“Surely the cross is that wonder-working rod which can bring water out of a rock. If you
understand the full meaning of the divine sacrifice of Jesus, you must repent of ever
having been opposed to One who is so full of love. It is written, “They shall look upon him
whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son,
and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Repentance
will not make you see Christ; but to see Christ will give you repentance. You may not make
a Christ out of your repentance, but you must look for repentance to Christ. The Holy
Ghost, by turning us to Christ, turns us from sin. Look away, then, from the effect to the
cause, from your own repenting to the Lord Jesus, who is exalted on high to give
repentance.”

(All is grace, Spurgeon Archive)

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16 thoughts on “All is grace: Now that I’m born again, I can and want to believe and repent. What a logical logos I serve!

  1. Hey, you did a whole blog post on the logical order of repentance and faith. I like you!

    However, I must disagree with you on several points. You already know my first disagreement. You said, “To be saved, you must place faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That decision requires….” I would say this is total nonsense. When a man is saved, he does not place anything anywhere, and he does not make a decision. The language you’ve used here, “placing one’s faith in Christ”, “making a decision for Christ” is not Biblical. Men are saved through faith, which is given in the new birth, not through making a decision.

    Secondly, the new birth is not offered. You spoke of, “God’s offer to be born again”. God offers people faith. He doesn’t offer them the new birth. The reason men don’t believe is that they haven’t been born anew. They remain dead in offences and sins. That is, its not in their nature to want to obey. When Jesus said, “Except any one be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God” He was not commanding Nicodemus to be born anew. He was simply telling him that to enter the Kingdom the new birth is required. Likewise, where He said, “Do not wonder that I said to thee, It is needful that *ye* should be born anew” (note the *ye* has emphasis in the Greek) Jesus was telling Nicodemus that *he* needed to be born anew, since *he* was dead in offences and sins. But again, nowhere do we read in scripture any reference to Peter or Paul or James or Jesus or God the Father ever commanding or offering new birth. The command is to believe. The reason men don’t believe is that they don’t want to, being dead in offences and sins; they have not been born anew.

    Why is it important that the new birth is not commanded/offered? Look at the contrast with faith. To believe is something people can choose if they want to. In the day that men hear God’s voice, they have a choice as to whether to harden their hearts or not. For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two edged sword, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Look at those Pharisees who heard Stephen proclaim to them the word of God. Scripture says they were cut to the heart. The sword of the spirit cut them. They could either accept and embrace what they heard, or they could reject it. It was their choice. Now, the second point here is this: God is not unrighteous. He doesn’t command men to do things that are impossible for them to do *even if they sincerely wanted to*. When we say that men are unable to obey, we mean it is not ‘in’ them to want to, it is not in their nature. Here, then, is the reason God does not command new birth. Faith people can choose if they want to. Nobody wants to because of indwelling sin. But that’s neither here nor there. The new birth is a miracle. Its something that you couldn’t choose even if you wanted to. God does not require us to perform miracles, only to choose the right thing (in this case, to choose faith; to accept and embrace His word and His Son).

    Note: I do not say that faith is ‘accepting’ or ’embracing’ – here I simply say that *in order to have faith*, one must accept and embrace it. Here the accepting and embracing I speak of is the *choice* to have faith. In salvation, scripture does not say people choose faith. Scripture makes it plain that God gives it them without them choosing it. But here I’m speaking about the moral imperative/command to choose faith. Men *should* choose faith. Nobody does. So God gives new life to His people and they believe. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.

    Now about the order of faith and repentance, I’ve changed my mind (I’ve repented). But not the way you said. From thinking more about this, I now believe that repentance precedes faith logically. I know that Calvin took the position you take (faith logically precedes repentance) but I think you (and probably Calvin) are defining repentance wrongly. Lets take your statement (made in your comment to me on your About page) “to repent implies you know you are a sinner”. Does it?

    Repentance is simply a change of mind (/attitude/heart). When you say, “know you are a sinner” I take it you mean this in the saving sense, of realising the extent of one’s sin, total inability and need of a saviour (as opposed to the off-hand comment type of thing, where people say “we’re all sinners”). So, repentance is really that change from not knowing you’re a sinner, to knowing it. You could say that repentance is the realization that you are a sinner and that you’re in desperate need of a saviour. Its the change in your attitude towards your sin. So if this is the case, repentance does not imply you know you are a sinner. In fact, repentance implies you don’t know you’re a sinner. To have a change of mind from not knowing you’re a sinner, to knowing it, requires you to not know it. Someone who knows it can’t repent. To believe is to have a conviction of God’s truth, and to have that you need to stop *not* having that conviction. Thus repentance logically precedes faith. Calvin was wrong. Pink was right.

    I googled repentance and the first site I saw was some Arminian site, which said, “Repentance is that thing when you come before God and see yourself as you are, and see Him as he is, and say with Isaiah ‘Woe is me, for I am unclean!'”

    All very moving. After all, the words, “Woe is me, for I am unclean!” are very true. It touches the soul. However, the sentence above is all wrong. Repentance is *not* a case of seeing yourself as you are, or knowing that you are a sinner; and its certainly not a case of saying anything. Repentance is the word we use to describe the *change* FROM blindness TO seeing yourself as you are. Its not the latter and its not the former. Its the change from one to another. An instantaneous change. Once you’ve repented, you see yourself as you are. But as you’re surveying the state of your sinful nature, you’re not continuing to repent; by this point, repentance is over.

    Now, you flipped around the words “repent and believe in the gospel” to “believe and repent”. However, I would say that while you could interpret the “and” this way, its a bit of a theological bodge job. I would rather not downplay the order of words in Holy Scripture.

    Now going back to “accept”. I don’t want to drag this out too much. I’ve already stated that I don’t know where scripture says faith is acceptance, and that even if acceptance is part of what faith means, that’s not all it means, and so I’d rather not define it like that if I’m speaking in the context of a technical definition. But, since you mentioned “come” and “receive” I wanted to make some comments on these words.

    “receive” – remember, receive doesn’t imply choose. At the beginning of John it says, “All things received being through him, and without him not one [thing] received being which has received being.” Did all things *choose* to receive being through the divine Word? No. Yet they all received their being through the divine Word. There are ‘present’ type gifts and ‘creation’ type gifts. If I give a birthday present to Bob, then Bob has to choose to receive it. But if I’m a carpenter, and I make a little wooden figurine and call it Bob, then I can give it hands and a head and such, and it has received these all from me, but there is no choice involved.

    “come” – I’ve already outlined that God’s people come because they’re drawn (as you say, dragged). The context in John 6 where it speaks about coming, has nothing to do with choosing. But in John 6 when Jesus spoke of people coming, He said, “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him….” But there’s another point about the John 6 passage to mention. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” If we take “hunger and thirst” to be a common expression, and a metaphor where both stand for the same thing, then this would mean that coming and believing (which are the parallel) also mean the same thing. To come to Jesus *is* to believe on Jesus.

    So, “accept” – I don’t know. I still don’t like it. It sounds to me too much like a mental action rather than a mental state. Rather than a conviction of God’s truth, it sounds like something that we do. I guess to me I’m just wary that it sounds a bit like “choose”. I can understand how, “acceptance” is something that one possesses, as opposed to something that one *does*, but “to accept”? I don’t know. I’m sticking with, “conviction” which is the word scripture uses to define faith. “Faith is the undergirding of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

    • My little note, didn’t make much sense. I said:

      I said, “Note…*in order to have faith*, one must accept and embrace it. Here the accepting and embracing I speak of is the *choice* to have faith.” In this quote I meant that the only way to get faith WITHOUT the new birth, is to choose faith. Obviously, nobody chooses it.

      Also, I said, “In salvation, scripture does not say people choose faith. Scripture makes it plain that God gives it them without them choosing it. But here I’m speaking about the moral imperative/command to choose faith. Men *should* choose faith.” The word, “here” in the sentence above refers back to what I was talking about before, not to the two sentences immediately preceding it.

      There doesn’t appear to be any Edit button after you’ve hit Post Comment. A lesson for me to learn: to be slower to speak.
      Sorry for the confusion.

    • Faith always follows regeneration. When one is regenerated the will is unchained and receives/takes (you don’t like “accept”) faith with joy. The process is irresistible (you want it with all your heart).

      I can’t see that a person can repent (turn around from sin – what else?) without realizing that the sin proceeds from himself; in other words, that he is a sinner. The realization that he is a sinner is based on what do you think?

      • Firstly on faith:

        Faith follows regeneration logically, I accept this. But not chronologically. If I take a cup to my lips (I know I already said this) then it comes to my lips to moment I lift it. There is no time difference. What is born in the new birth is a new man of righteousness. To be righteous, you need faith. What is born is a believer.

        I totally reject what you’re saying about the will being involved in obtaining faith. Remember, your own mind changes all the time without you willing it. Please try to think about a situation when you’ve found yourself convinced of an argument, or something like that. Did you WILL it? Please don’t be so attached to the idea that for things to happen in your life—for you to think something or believe something or want something or be convinced or convicted about something—it requires you to will it. It doesn’t. When a person finds themselves convicted about the gospel, they didn’t will it. You say, “When one is regenerated the will is unchained and takes faith.” No. From the moment one is born anew (regenerated), one both believes and wills to believe (these being separate) the gospel. Both faith and the will/desire to continue to have faith are miraculously put into God’s people by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t create the will and then let the will receive faith.

        And of course people don’t will to be born anew either. The old will was taken out. The new will put in. Think old heart of stone, new heart of flesh.

        On Repentance:

        You said that repentance means, “turn around from sin”—I don’t know what you mean here. The terminology is ambiguous. To repent is to have a change of mind. It sounds like you think repentance is again an action of the will or something like that.

        Repentance is just a change of mind. So you spoke of a man realizing that sin proceeds from himself, and that this is needed for repentance (repentance logically following said realisation). I totally disagree. The realisation that sin proceeds from himself IS repentance. That change from not knowing it, to knowing it (i.e. that realisation), IS repentance.

        Check this page. Interestingly, you defined repentance exactly as the Arminians do. On this (Calvinistic) website, they define it properly, as scripture does, and also as the Puritans did: http://www.gotquestions.org/repentance.html

        • Clarification: “to want something” definitely DOES require you to will it. But what I meant was that the will does not have to precede wanting it.

            • Not the middle one you mentioned. Just willing to will it followed by willing it.

              My point is that the will is not used in obtaining the will to continue in the faith.

              My other point is that when one is regenerated, one is given faith without any action of the will. Its true that God gives a person BOTH faith AND the will to continue in the faith, in regeneration. But the will is in no way used to obtain faith or the will to continue in the faith, in regeneration.

              I hope you understood all that. You studied Philosophy right? So you should be more at ease than most with this kind of talk.

              Going back to scripture, we know that it says, “So then [it is] not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shews mercy.”

              • In Reformed theology, “free will” refers to a neutral faculty that can autonomously choose between good and evil. This faculty is absent in (fallen) man. 0nce Christ raises a sinner from death he plants faith in him. The redeemed sinner experiences the freedom to receive this faith with joy. He does not feel that he is a robot because he isn’t. He is liberated from slavery and comes to Christ, and feels “free indeed.” He is now both free AND freed.

                See my https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/grant-me-to-turn-to-you-the-jewish-and-christian-reformed-view-of-the-human-will-in-salvation/

                • I was not talking about free will or whether it was free or not. I was talking about the will (i.e. desire) to “receive” faith. I would say, with the Bible, that you don’t need any will to receive faith.

                  All things received being through Christ. Did they choose to? No. Because this kind of gift is a CREATION gift, not a present type gift. In salvation, God does not hold out faith for you to receive it if you will. He just gives you it, without you willing anything. Don’t get me wrong: God holds out faith all right, for anyone to receive it IF they will. BUT NOBODY WILL!

                  So, IN SALVATION God does not hold it out for people to receive it if they will. Rather, He gives them faith (and the will to continue to keep the faith) without them choosing or willing anything.

                  That doesn’t make them robots. It does, however, make them babies; new born believers. They could have chosen to receive faith, had they willed to do so. Ergo, they can’t be robots. Robots cannot choose anything. Robots have no desires or will at all!

                  However, these people (not robots) were very bad people, and they didn’t want to receive the gift of faith when God presented it to them. So, in God’s elect, He gave them new life, and as part of that new life was faith. They didn’t will it. They didn’t choose it. They received it without either willing or choosing anything. “So then [it is] not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shews mercy.”

                  On a separate point, since you mentioned “free will”, which, so far, I have had nothing to say about, when I talk about free will, I’m usually talking about the notion that man is the ultimate cause of his choices.

                  I’d say that choices are different to free will. I believe in choices. I just don’t believe that our choices are ultimately caused by us. I believe they’re ultimately caused by the Ultimate Cause of all things, namely God.

                  I’d say that every thought, every feeling, all our considerations, desires, meditations, decisions, all our wants (which lead to our decisions) are ultimately caused by God.

                  Someone once said “But it seems like we have free will.” You know, they used to say that the earth is still and that the Sun revolves around the earth. They said that it seemed as though the sun moved round the earth. And they were right. If the earth was still and the sun moved around the earth, it would seem like it does. But if you think about it, what would it seem like, if the earth was moving on its axis, and the sun was still? As a matter of fact, it does seem like the earth is moving on its axis and the Sun is still, because this is what it seems like when the earth is moving on its axis and the sun is still. It seems exactly as we experience it. What else would it seem like? The penny hasn’t dropped in their minds. I’d say the same thing about those who deny that God is the ultimate cause of all our choices. They say it seems like we have free will (by which I mean, the notion that man is the ultimate cause of his choices). I ask, what would it seem like if God was the ultimate cause? It would seem exactly the same.

                  Free will, as you know, is defined in different ways in different contexts. Reformed theology, I find, is usually a bit muddy on this, as they don’t often take the time to define what they mean by “free will” first. Nevertheless, I do believe that both definitions, the philosophical one I’m working with, and the theological one you mentioned, are related, as those who believe in one form of free will, often believe the other. Therefore they can be both rejected and contradicted at the same time. If you look up Jonathan Edwards, you will see that he certainly spoke of free will in the philosophical sense. I get the impression from reading Calvin that he did also. Even Luther at times did that.

                  If you don’t mind me saying (and you might), you, like many Jews, religious or secular, don’t seem to be able to shake the idea that almost all our thoughts, feelings, choices and desires come from some kind of ethereal ‘will’ in the mind of man.

                  Just think about it. Your current thought – what you’re thinking right now – did you choose to think it? Did you will to think it? No. It came out of nowhere. It just appeared in your mind as you read this comment. This is ultimately the case with all our thoughts, and, all our desires. Yes, we can choose to think about things, but, our choices are themselves not ultimately caused by us.

                  God is the cause of everything. We are just like ROBOTS, and trees, and the sky, and the stars, and the lions, and plastic boxes, and everything else that is not divine, in that we are caused. Only a divine being can be uncaused.

                  John

                  • I agree with you.

                    Re your “I’d say that choices are different to free will. I believe in choices. I just don’t believe that our choices are ultimately caused by us. I believe they’re ultimately caused by the Ultimate Cause of all things, namely God. I’d say that every thought, every feeling, all our considerations, desires, meditations, decisions, all our wants (which lead to our decisions) are ultimately caused by God.”

                    Yes ultimately caused by God, which is compatible with human choice (causes):
                    “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Acts 2:23.

    • I commented, then refreshed to see my comment, but it wasn’t there. So I commented again, only to find that now I’d commented twice, both of which explained about how I had commented two times above. So now I have two comments explaining two comments, and this comment to explain them all.

      • Oh, Anon is John. Re two comments explaining two comments, who said you can’t be born again again, in other words, lose your salvation and fnd it again, as Arminians, the consistent ones – freely in, freely out, freely in…. – say.

        • Yes, Anon is John. I just don’t put my e-mail in the box every time. Did you read my original comment on this post? I’d like to know what you think of my proposition on the logical order of regeneration and faith.

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