Acts 13:38-39; Romans1:17; 3:31- 5:21; 2 Corinthians 5:13-21; Galatians 2:15- 5:1; Philippians 3:4-14; 1 John 1:9
"Repent and be saved!" This is a phrase we hear so often, but, have you considered its origins? Is this in the Bible? Surprise…NO, it is not! We may say it with genuine good intentions as both ends of this phrase are very Biblical and essential. We need to repent, and we need to be saved. But, this phrase is actually backwards! It should read, "Be saved and then repent!"
Why is that? Repentance is the result of the acknowledgment of what Christ has done for us, and not the cause of Christ giving grace to us. That is, we do not have anything to do with our salvation other than to accept it and live it by faith. We do not initiate or cause it, or just perchance receive it in some way (Eph. 2:8-9). That would mean that we had worked for our salvation; and, if that were possible, the cross of Christ would have been unnecessary (Ephesians 1:3‑14; 1 Corinthians 1:18‑2:16; 15:1‑8)! Something else happened to cause it, and that is what Christ did on our behalf on the cross. His righteousness transfers to us, and then we receive His salvation-we are "saved;" The proof of that receiving is our repentance; we "repent." Our receipt for His purchase of our souls is in our repentance. Repentance does not save us; it is the proof that we have been saved and reconciled. Only Christ saves us (Romans 10:14‑17; 2 Corinthians 5:16‑6:2).
Repentance, in Scripture (Psalm 51: Jer. 23:22; 25:4-5; Zech. 1:3-6; Mark 6:12; Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:1-8; 3:8; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 26:20; Rev. 2: 5-22), means to undergo a complete and great change-a 180 degree turn-that changes our hearts and minds. We turn from sin to Christ. Grace is the gift He gives by His choosing (Election), because God is pure and His decisions are just, far beyond our understanding. Most Christians misunderstand this and say, because I have repented and prayed a special prayer, I am saved. Maybe they are, maybe not; it is God who judges. However, this quick prayer is "cheap grace" and is not found in Scripture. (This was actually started by an evangelist named Finey in the late 19th century, who had good intentions but very bad theology.) Yes, repentance is necessary for salvation, and will entail full confession, restitution, and the will to turn and not burn! But, again, repentance does not cause our salvation! If it did, you would have worked and earned it, nullifying Christ's work on the cross and His grace! Understand that people do respond to evangelism with prayer and with repentance which is genuine. But, remember, it is not of our doing, or our repentance, or even of prayer; it is of Him! Christ alone by faith alone!
In Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical Theology, faith comes to a person by what is called "Justification by Faith Alone." This was the rallying cry of the Reformation. This was the main point that caused Luther and Calvin to challenge the Catholic Church and its teachings. This is also the cornerstone of protestant theology that Christ, through His work, gave us a "pardon." This pardon is from the penalty of death because of sin, and there is nothing we could ever do to earn this pardon. It is purely by His acceptance of us that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing that we can add to it, such as good works or clean living. Justification means that, much like a blanket, God's righteousness is covering us from His wrath and punishment! It is like getting a speeding ticket, going to court, and having the judge declare you innocent, even though you were speeding. To God, you are clean, covered by "Atonement," which is Christ's righteous covering over our sinful being; this is what Christ has done for you. This creates our reconciliation to God; as we were in perfect relationship to Him before the Fall, we now are, again, in harmony.
God has a righteous basis for our justification, through the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. Grace was not cheap for God. Christ paid a great debt by pleasing God's wrath, both in metaphysical pain and the human pain of the crucifixion (Lev. 16; Psalm 103:12). Our independence is a slap in His face, and He can do nothing in us until it is removed (John 3:5)! Let us pray to be cleansed by the atoning death of our Savior, who bore our punishment and lived out the Law on our behalf.
Some Jews take issue with this, saying it is unbiblical-that God cannot overrule His own Law, sighting Deuteronomy 25:1 and Prov. 17:15. However, they do not realize that Jesus Himself is the righteous One and He lived a perfect life in our place, as a designated hitter in baseball.
The Catholic Church taught that justification was a process, achieved through the Sacraments and Church, and that faith, as well as works, contributed to it. The Reformers said this act was done at once at our acceptance of His gift of Grace. The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation was even "selling indulgences," granting people a spot in Heaven for money, regardless of faith or even the Church. They did this to pay for the cathedrals they were building-and you thought bingo was bad! Although Catholic apologists say this was never an "official act" of the church, nevertheless, history clearly states this was a wide problem.
The Word is cross-cultural and cuts though all languages, people groups and time; it does not need us to make things up or bend it out of shape. It does not need to be diluted or watered down to make it palatable. All you have to do is explain it, in love, with the above precepts of passion, conviction, compassion, clarity, and Truth. The Word is the peg that goes into both the round and the square hole! You do not need to reshape the peg of His Truth. You are to know the culture of others and be relevant, but love that is real, along with the Gospel, needs no modifying. Essential doctrine is crucial because we are proclaiming God, and God is a God of Truth! We are His ambassadors; we are never to misrepresent Him!
We are to do our best to witness, pray, evangelize, do missions, and put forth every effort we can to expedite His Word. And, as a Christian saved by His grace, we have to remember that we still need to repent, even though He paid it all, because we love Him and want to obey His decree.
©2004 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/