We’re in the middle of a series analyzing John MacArthur’s ministry’s article on Lordship Salvation. Starting in Pt. 8, we have been digging into the first of 9 items listed as the theological distinctives of Lordship Salvation. Here is distinctive 1:
First, Scripture teaches that the gospel calls sinners to faith joined in oneness with repentance (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance is a turning from sin (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47) that consists not of a human work but of a divinely bestowed grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). It is a change of heart, but genuine repentance will effect a change of behavior as well (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:18-20). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that repentance is simply a synonym for faith and that no turning from sin is required for salvation.
“Repentance is a turning from sin”. If you would like to look at a discussion of repentance under grace, look here: http://thereforenow.com/2011/05/repentance-under-grace-2/. I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with turning from sin; sin is destructive and bad. It may not be a biblical understanding of the idea of repentance, but I don’t think there is too much wrong with defining repentance as turning from sin; it is forgivable. What is heinous is that this is all tied into salvation. We are talking about “Lordship Salvation”. I think we should be careful about redefining salvation in a way that the scriptures don’t support. Our Lordship friends have listed some verses that are supposed to prove that repentance means turning from sin; let’s have a look!
We’ll start with Acts 3:19:
12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Acts 3:12-21 (ESV)
It is almost eerie how consistently in the book of Acts these verses end up being about a repentance of belief about Jesus and not about works. I honestly thought this was going to be harder. It isn’t harder, because the actual truth is easy. Their sin was that they denied Jesus; read it again and tell me if I’m wrong. The solution is faith. Repentance means, obviously, stop your disbelief and receive the message of Jesus with faith. Because of the resurrection, unbelievably, they have a second chance to turn back and do this! Their sin was their rejection of Christ, and their repentance is their reception of Christ. In the true context of this verse taking the obvious and clear meaning, this is what it means. So once again, the Lordship people have taken this out of context and have twisted it to their own ends.
Next let’s look at Luke 24:47:
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Luke 24:44-49 (ESV)
This is the very end of the book of Luke, after the resurrection, when He appeared to the disciples while they were discussing the amazing things that had been happening. Notice that when He looks at the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, He is not looking at them to press a moral lesson. He is looking at everything that is written in them about Him, that He would suffer and rise from the dead. Once again repentance is meant to be a repentance of belief concerning these things, because that is what He is actually talking about, and unbelief was the primary sin of the nation which had rejected Him. He directly links this repentance of belief to forgiveness of sins, including this sin of rejection. What else could it possibly mean?
This is all a garish and extreme example of someone letting their own pet doctrine (like an alligator on a leash) dictate the meaning of scripture instead of allowing the clear meaning and context of scripture speak for itself. However, what is the takeaway for us?
What a joy to know that repentance is a repentance of belief, and that the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is so powerful that simply knowing it and believing it (1 John 3:16) completely transforms us and creates the community and love which the law demands. What do you need to do? What must you do to be saved? Believe in Jesus! Believe His blood is enough to forgive every last one of your sins, forever and ever! Believe that He means it – He has handed you eternal life on a silver platter, free for the taking! He has granted you all things concerning life and godliness through His divine power by His precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1:3-4). Through mere belief, naked and unadorned, through no claim of works or merits of your own at all, you have been granted the keys to the kingdom. You are the beloved bride of Christ, and you are so greatly beloved and cherished that He went to the cross to make sure that nothing could ever separate you from His love! The fact that Lordship Salvation is so unbiblical and wrong is the very greatest of news! It means that as a believer, you really are saved! Believe it brother! Believe it sister! It is true! Amen!
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.