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Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine’

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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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Church history is full of people who refused to compromise doctrinal integrity.  A monk in Germany who stood at the Diet of Worms and was ordered to recant his beliefs, refused to.[1]  His name is Martin Luther.  Hence, we can learn much from church history when it comes to God being awesome and man being infinitesimal.  Martin Luther was a clear example of a man who saw God being awesome and man being infinitesimal.  His love for God led him to hate false doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church.  He responded by nailing the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  And when he was held on trail in the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther boldly said before the secular dignitaries and powerful Roman Catholic clergy with this,

Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments, I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the Word of God: I can not and will not recant anything, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience.”[2]

Luther continued and ended his bold statement by saying:

Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen.”[3]

Other examples would be Hugh Katimer and Nicholas Ridley who are two Christian reformers that were burned at the stake because of their biblical faith in Christ.[4]  In the face of persecution and death, these men did not sell out for their faith.  Too many people today are willing to sell out not primarily on the account of physical persecution, but also verbal persecution.[5]

In chapter two of of Pastor John MacArthur’s book called, The Power of Integrity: Building a Life Without Compromise, Pastor MacArthur presented some pertinent points in order to help Christians not to compromise when it comes to doctrinal integrity.  Here are some of the points that Pastor MacArthur addressed: “the price of compromise, unity and doctrinal integrity, guardians of the truth, how to safeguard the truth, the essence of proclamation, loyalty in leadership, and living the truth.” [6]

In the first major section from chapter two, which is from “the price of compromise,” here are some vital excerpts:

  • People say they believe the Bible, yet attend churches where the Bible isn’t taught.
  • People agree that sin must be punished, but not if those sins are committed by their children.
  • People oppose dishonesty and corruption until they must confront their bosses and risk losing their jobs.
  • People maintain high moral standards until their lusts are kindled by unscriptural relationships.
  • People are honest until a little dishonesty will save them money.
  • People hold a conviction until it is challenged by someone they admire or fear.

These are all thought provoking excerpts from the book and are all excerpts that should be taken heed to because we are call to watch our doctrine and life closely (1 Timothy 4:16).  As I am thinking about the dangers Dr. MacArthur mentions in this chapter, I can’t help, but to think about a current study I am doing regarding the plague of modern rationalism that is being implemented into many churches and seminaries today.  Currently, I am studying how modern rationalism has affected the book of Daniel.  I find out that modern rationalism’s attacks against the Book of Daniel can be traced back to the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry in the third century, who devoted much time in his polemic, Against the Christians.[7]  It had a rationalist’s explanation of the book of Daniel. Porphyry believed that the book was pen by an unknown author who lived during the days of the Maccabean patriots.[8]  Jerome who was an opponent to Porphyry’s rationalism said that Porphyry concluded, that the person who wrote under the name of Daniel lied for the sake of reviving the hope of the Israelites who were under the yoke of Antiochus Epiphanes.[9]  Porphyry clearly believed in the impossibility of predictive prophecy.  This man rejected the idea that God can prophesy to Daniel (who he considers a sixth-century man) what was going to happen through the centuries to come.[10] He and many other modern rationalists today see that revealed prediction by a supernatural God, is completely out of the question.   For them all successful predictions had to be explained as vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the event).  Sadly, many seminaries and churches are implementing Porphyry’s rationalism. Clearly you can see that there is a big attack on the supernatural elements in Scripture.  To say that prophecies were written after the event is to say what God said, cannot be true, because through the lens of rationalism, the supernatural belongs in the realm of the impossible.  Clearly modern rationalists have a presupposition that is rooted in anti-supernaturalism.  At the end of the day, it is clearly an attack against the inerrancy of Scripture.  For Christians, we believe what God says about predictive prophecy, is true.

The compromises, Dr. MacArthur speaks about are not limited to twentieth-century Christians only, but can be traced back to Scripture that showed some very choice servants who compromised and paid a price.[11]  Here are some examples:

  • Adam compromised God’s law, followed his wife’s sin, and lost paradise (Gen 3:6, 22-24).
  • Abraham compromised the truth, lied about Sarah’s relationship to him, and nearly lost his wife (Gen 12:10-12).
  • Sarah compromised God’s Word and sent Abraham to Hagar, who bore Ishmael and destroyed peace in the Middle East (Gen 16:1-4, 11-12)
  • Moses compromised God’s command and lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land (Num 20:7-12).
  • Samson compromised his devotion as a Nazarite and lost his strength, his eyesight, and his life (Judg 16:4-6, 16-31).
  • Israel compromised the commands of the Lord, lived in sin, and, when fighting the Philistines, lost the Ark of God (1 Sam 4:11).  She also compromised the law of God with sin and idolatry and lost her homeland (2 Chron 36:14-17).
  • Saul compromised God’s divine word by not slaying the animals of his enemy and lost his kingdom (1 Sam 15:3, 20-28).
  • David compromised God’s standard, committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and lost his infant son (2 Sam 11:1-12:23).
  • Solomon compromised his convictions, married foreign wives, and lost the united kingdom (1 Kings 11:1-8).
  • Judas compromised his supposed devotion for Christ for thirty pieces of silver and was separated from Christ eternally (Matt 26:20-25, 47-49; 27:1-5; cf. John 17:12).
  • Peter compromised his conviction about Christ, denied Him, and lost his joy (Mark 14:66-72).  Later he compromised the truth in order to gain acceptance by the Judaizers and lost his liberty (Gal 2:11-14).
  • Ananias and Sapphira compromised their word about their giving, lied to the Holy Spirit, and lost their lives (Acts 5:1-11).

Please stay tune for the next installment regarding “Doctrinal Integrity.”


[1] John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Power of Integrity: Building a Life Without Compromise (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1997), 27.

[2] Charles R. Biggs, “The Story of Martin Luther: The Reformation and the Life of Martin Luther Until the Diet of Worms (1521),” Monergism, http://www.monergism.com/Reformation.Church.History.Martin.Luther.pdf (accessed March 17, 2012), 130.

[3] Ibid, 130.

[4] John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Power of Integrity: Building a Life Without Compromise (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1997), 27.

[5] Ibid, 27.

[6] Ibid, 27-38.

[7] Gleason Leonard Archer Jr., “Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136, no. 542 (April 1, 1979): 129.

[8] Ibid, 129.

[9] Ibid, 129.

[10] Ibid, 129.

[11] John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Power of Integrity: Building a Life Without Compromise (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1997), 28.

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