Repentance and Faith Inseparable

Tim Brister —  May 9, 2007 — 6 Comments

Let me first say this is not my “reflection” post from TCC, but it is related to it.  Let me explain.  While having lunch with pastor Jeff Noblit Saturday, he shared with me that there was a pastor who began preaching through his church’s confessional statement (which was the New Hampshire Confession of Faith), and as he came to the section dealing with conversion, he expounded on conversion as repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  A matriarch in the church rose up to declare that such a teaching was not what she believed.  Instead, one only needed to believe in Jesus to be saved.  Controversy arose, and the pastor’s job immediately was on the line.  Noblit later shared this with those attending the conference while describing the state of so many ministers who was facing opposition and difficulty in developing healthy, biblical churches. 

Over the past month, I have been reading how James P. Boyce and Charles H. Spurgeon treated the doctrine of conversion, and in particular saving faith.  Regarding Spurgeon, I have been looking at the nature of faith (notitia, assensus, fiducia), justification by faith, the warrant of faith, the object of saving faith, regeneration and faith, the obedience of faith, and repentance and faith.  Last night, I was reading a sermon by Spurgeon entitled “Regeneration and Faith Inseparable” which made me think of our dear brother who is facing opposition for preaching repentance and faith.  Here is a portion of Spurgeon’s sermon I found quite relevant to this matter (emphasis mine):

Now, the repentance that sinks a man low as hell is of no use except there is faith also that lifts him as high as heaven, and the two are perfectly consistent one with the other. A man may loathe and detest himself, and all the while he may know that Christ is able to save, and has saved him. In fact, this is how true Christians live; they repent as bitterly as for sin as if they knew they should be damned for it; but they rejoice as much in Christ as if sin were nothing at all. Oh, how blessed it is to know where these two lines meet, the stripping of repentance, and the clothing of faith! The repentance that ejects sin as an evil tenant, and the faith which admits Christ to be the sole master of the heart; the repentance which purges the soul from dead works, and the faith that fills the soul with living works; the repentance which pulls down, and the faith which builds up; the repentance that scatters stones, and the faith which puts stones together; the repentance which ordains a time to weep, and the faith that gives a time to dance— these two things together make up the work of grace within, whereby men’s souls are saved. Be it, then laid down as a great truth, most plainly written in our text, that the repentance we ought to preach is one connected with faith, and thus we may preach repentance and faith together without any difficulty whatever.

Is this not a beautiful reality?  Two reasons that immediately come to my mind that lead me to think people do not think that repentance and faith go together as constitutive of our response to God in conversion.  First, as I was taught growing up, repentance is my part while faith refers to God’s part.  A common idea is that repentance and faith are not gifts or graces given by God but derivative of the resources inherent in man (synergistic paradigm of decisional regeneration).  Second, repentance is separated today because of the idea that you can receive Jesus as Savior but not as Lord.  The no-Lordship approach, chiefly promoted by Charles Ryrie (dispensationalism) and Zane Hodges (“free grace”), has found its way into popular thinking in recent years as well.  Spurgeon would have nothing to do with either of them, and neither should we. 

To read the entire message by Spurgeon go here

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  • Jim Pemberton

    The only way to repent is that one has faith. Where repentance could be any change in behavior it is always contingent on the fact that positively one believes that the change in action will produce some desired result or negatively that failure to make a change will fail to produce some desired result. Typical for Christian faith is that we repent negatively without assurance but the repentance itself generates assurance. At what point in this process is our salvation secured? James teaches us that faith without repentance is faithless belief. So faith MUST produce repentance in order to be understood as faith. it may be years before assurance is realized. I would argue that ignorance on the part of the believer as to his own salvation (teachings on assurance from I John and Romans 8) will not prevent one from being saved. Also I would add as one who holds a reformed view of theology that faith and repentance do not result in salvation, but rather saving grace always results in faith and repentance.

  • Amen, brother.

    It is highly unfortunate that the pastor Noblit mentioned is being resisted in his church on such an issue. I remember when my pastor in college went over this with us, and even churches in our surrounding community rose up against him, labeling him “legalistic” that he would expect such repentance and that he insisted Jesus must be Lord as well as Savior.

    Even a cursory reading of the gospels and the book of Acts alone would teach what you have written above. It’s a shame that churches can bypass scripture in favor of the ideas of men.

  • Jim Pemberton

    Interesting – that smiley with the shades was created with the combination of an “8” and a “)”.

  • Thanks for the comments guys. A while back I had drafted an article dealing with repentance as a gift, and I will try to retrieve it for a future post. I was amazed to read how often Scriptures spoke that God had “granted them repentance.” It’s amazing how much your theology changes when you read the Bible.

    I am always down for some snazzy new emoticon. Thanks for the heads up. 8)

  • Hello,does being UNDER GRACE,give AS the RIGHT to KEEP on SINNING against God’ ETERNAL LAW(Ten-Commandments)? God forbid,but it is through GODLY-REPENTANCE and SORROW,that WE are MADE in the IMAGE of God,by FAITH in his son JESUS.Which is GROWING in the PERFECTION of HOLINESS,there by WE CEASE to TRANSGRESS God’s ETERNAL HOLY LAW.For SIN is the TRANSGRESSION of God ‘s law,1John3:4………How could WE who are DEAD to SIN,KEEP on LIVING in SIN(or TRANSGRESSING God’s LAW)…………Does the LAW of God,NULLIFY the DEATH and CROSS of CHRIST.NO?……For it is when the SPIRIT of CHRIST comes into our HEART that WE KEEP and OBEY the LAW(Ten-Commandments) of God,by his HOLY SPIRIT.and NOT by the WORKS(Flesh) of the LAW.By which no ONE will be DECLARED RIGHT with God………Do WE than make VOID the (LAW) through FAITH?(Believe in the DEATH and RESURRECTION of CHRIST) God FORBID,yea,we ESTABLISH(Keep and OBEY) the LAW.

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