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Archive for June 22nd, 2013

st-paul-conversion

Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” The Gospel/General Call and Effective Calling

Conversion is an important term and the exact naming convention does not always appear in other translations of the Bible.  In the OT, it is directly related to the Hebrew sub, which is a frequently used verb that conveys the idea of turning back, to go back, come back, or to return.  It is also related with the Hebrew niham, which means that a person is sorry or has regret.  In the NT, there are two principle words that must be considered.  The two key words or terms are: epistrepho (“to turn” ).  The other word is metaneo.   The cognate of metaneo indicates a change of mind, a renewal of mind, heart, and a heartfelt repentance.

The word conversion can be defined as the willingness of a sinner to respond to the gospel call, in which he genuinely repents of his sins and places faith in Christ for salvation.

Examples of conversion can be found in various passages of Scripture (see Acts 15:3; 1 Thess. 1:9).  One particular passage that needs some attention is Luke 15:11-32 (Prodigal Son).  In that passage, there is an awareness of sin, a lost condition, a confession of sin, and an acknowledgement or unworthiness of oneself, and a desire to return home to his father.  That is how sinners should respond.  The prodigal son is a good example of what conversion looks like.  This is a great story to share when evangelizing or counseling a professing Christian.

Faith and repentance must be addressed too because they are often confused.  Before we get into the details concerning the relationship of faith and repentance, let us first cover the definition of repentance.  Repentance is the negative aspect of salvation because it refers to one hating, despising, and abandoning his or her once enslavement relationship to sin.

In the OT, the verb repent (niham) that occurs about thirty-five times is usually used to signify a contemplated change in God’s dealings with men for good or bad according to his judgment (1 Sam. 15:11, 35; Jonah 3:9-10); and it also is used to signify that God will not swerve from his announced purpose (1 Sam. 15:15:29; Ps. 110:4; Jer. 4:28).  In the NT, the word for repentance is metanoia which means “a change of mind.”  That word metanoia appears around twenty-three times in the NT.  What is unique about the word metanoia is that it goes beyond the meaning of having an inner change, but it also involves a turn in direction in one’s life.  In other words, it involves a 360-turn in one’s life.  You turn because your mind has turned.  Grudem defines repentance as follows, “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ” (Systematic Theology, 713).  In other words, genuine repentance will result in a changed life.

What also must be understood what repentance is not.  Repentance is not just feeling bad or sorrowful for the sin one commits, but a sorrow that is according to the will of God that leads to repentance.  In other words, when one understands that his sin is against God, he will repent.  But one who has the sorrow of the world may feel bad for the mistakes he made in life, but he will not feel bad that he sinned against a holy God.  And a person who has the sorrow according to the will of God does not regret the sin he has left.  A person who has regret about leaving his sin, shows that the reigning idol in his heart is pleasure.  The idol to exalt one’s pleasure and to satisfy one’s pleasure has prevented many from repenting from his or her sins.  If a person sees God as his greatest joy, he will have godly sorrow and will truly repent.  Please see 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 for more details concerning sorrow of the world and the godly sorrow that is according to God’s will that leads to repentance.

What must be noted; and may be self-explanatory to you, is whether repentance is part of saving faith.  Scripture puts repentance and faith together as different aspects of the one act of coming to Christ for salvation or what some call: two sides of the same coin.  In other words, the two sides are different, but belong to the same coin and same act.  So it is not about whether one person repents then turns in faith to God, but repentance and faith occur at the same time.  So when a person turns to Christ for salvation, he is simultaneously repenting and placing his faith in God.  In other words, he is turning from his or her sin and is turning to Christ for the forgiveness of sins because the sinner trusts that God will forgive.  Scripture gives abundant proof concerning repentance.

John the Baptist preached repentance (Matt. 3:2; 4:17), Jesus came to call sinners to repent from their sins (Luke 5:32), and God commands sinners to repent (Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30; Acts 26:20).  Also for scriptural proof of repentance and faith being used simultaneously, please see these following passages: 1 Thess. 1:9 (turning to God is faith and turning away from idols is repentance); Mark 1:15 (“repent and believe the good news”), etc.

Moreover, repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18; Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25).  Let us now move briefly through the topic of faith.  We already have a good understanding that faith and repentance occur simultaneously when one comes to God for salvation.

Faith is defined as the positive aspect of conversion in which one believes and trusts in the promises of God and the work of Christ.

In terms of the language of faith, there are two key terms that must be understood: pistis and pisteuo.  Let’s first deal with the verbal usage of pistis and pisteuo.  Pistis means “faith,” “trust,” and “belief.”  Pisteuo means to “believe in” and to “have faith in,” and “entrust.”  As for the noun pistis and the verb pisteuo are used around 240 times in the New Testament.  If we are to summarize faith, we could see it in three elements.  Just like repentance, faith too, affects the intellect, emotion, and will.  It must also be mentioned that faith does rest in blind faith, but involves the belief in something true and also includes the idea of personal trust.  We place faith in truth (Hebrews 11:1).  The atheist, on the other hand, who says we believe in blind faith, is contradicting himself because he is the one that has blind faith.  What he believes in is a figure of his imagination.  In his world, he tries to deny God which is impossible (Psalm 14:1).  His denial of God is as if he was denying the law of gravity.  He has no proof to deny God’s existence.  The methods of his attack could be compared to as a vapor.  Going back to the three elements that faith affects – I will just piggy-back off of that and also give you the reformer’s terminology of faith: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.  Nottia signifies an awareness of the facts of the Gospel; assensus signifies the belief that the facts were true; and fiducia signifies a personal confidence and trust.  The first two conveys the idea of facts being true and the last term emphasizes faith in God personally.  Also, just like repentance, faith is also a gift (Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 1:14; Heb. 12:2).

Also we must address the the non-lordship camp that believes: to include repentance in the Gospel message, is adding works.  This issue is not something new and was advocated men like Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie.  In response to their claim that including repentance is adding works, we must go to Scripture (Matt. 7:21; 21:29ff.; Luke 6:46).  Doing the will of God is a result of repentance.  They also need to go to the passage concerning the Rich Young Ruler.  Jesus used the concept of repentance by indicating that he needs to have a willingness to lay aside what he loves much that stands in the way of his relationship with Christ.  I would love to discuss this topic in more detail, but I will reserve that for our future post.

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