You Need to Listen to This. Seriously.

Albert N MartinTHIS message by Albert N. Martin should be required listening for every fundamentalist, whether in full-time ministry or not. It’s a message our movement desperately needs to hear. Its topic? Repentance. And many fundamentalists are weak on repentance. Consider how rarely repentance is preached as part of the Gospel. Consider how rarely it appears in tracts and Gospel literature. Consider conversations you’ve had or messages you’ve heard in which repentance is assigned to sanctification rather than justification. Our failure to preach repentance is shocking.

Friends, we’re talking about the content of the Gospel; if we get anything right, it had better be this. Pastor Martin’s excellent message (which is actually the first of 4 in a series entitled “Repent or Perish”) is a great place to start. Give it a listen.

1. The only gospel authorized by Jesus Christ contains a clarion call to repentance.

2. The only gospel preached by the Apostles contains a clarion call to repentance.

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11 Responses

  1. Agreed 100%

    John the Baptist:Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2)
    Jesus:Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17)
    Great Commission: “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations…” (Luke 24:45-47)
    Peter at Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    Of course, even Christians who acknowledge that repentance is part of the salvation message disagree about repentence means (beyond its etymology, at least): Is it change of mind and nothing else? Must it include a change of life (and how soon after salvation should this change be visible, and does requiring a change of life conflict with the biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith without works)? Or should repentance be understood as a change of mind with along with an intent to change one’s life?

    IMO, repentance can be understood as making someone else in charge. Before salvation, I was the one who made the final decision about what to think, how to behave, etc. Now God has that role. I might not always bend to his authority after salvation as I should, but I first acknowledged it at conversion and have begun the process of learning what impact his authority over my life will have.

  2. I like Al Martin.

  3. I suggest that this is another word for which etymology is of very little help…and perhaps even harmful.

  4. Yes, an etymology can provide an accurate meaning for a word (as it does in this case, at least), but it rarely provides the complete sense(s) that a word carries in its various contexts.

  5. My question, Ted, is whether the idea of “a change of mind” actually can get in the way of our understanding the word from its frequent use in Scripture. I fear that we get satisfied with a pat, clean definition that doesn’t represent the concept well or entirely, and in that sense, the etymology can be downright harmful.

    I was reading D.A. Carson’s chapter “Word-Study Fallacies” in Exegetical Fallacies and wondered if our treatment of metanoia would fit under his “root fallacy.” He argues that determining a Greek word’s meaning by studying the meaning of its component parts (especially if it is a compound word) is about as helpful and accurate as determining the meaning of the English word “butterfly” by defining “butter” and “fly” individually (p. 28-33). Might that be true with metanoia?

    The OT concept of repentance is turning and forsaking (e.g. Isaiah 55:7). The NT has this same emphasis, whether it’s describing repentance from sin or repentance from false religion. It certainly incorporates the will and emotions in addition to the mind. In fact, one may very well change his mind about sin without repenting of it, right?

  6. Chris, I have not read Carson, but what I have heard of it makes me think he presses his points a little too far. Yes, etymology is not usage, but used with care it can give a word picture that assists with understanding meaning at times. It also helps to try to figure out how the etymological meaning came to be what the usage meaning is. Quite often there is an illuminating connection. I guess you know all this.

    On repentance, I don’t have BDAG, but Louw-Nida incorporates the change of mind this way: “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness”. That sums it up. I suppose one can give intellectual assent to the notion of the sinfulness of sin without turning from it, but that is not metanoia.

    In preaching this, we need to be careful to give the long answers though. Same with words like justification (not ‘just as if I never sinned’ but ‘declared righteous’). The pat answers are memorable, but insufficient.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. Agreed. The meaning of a word is rarely exhausted by the meaning that its etymology provides, even when that meaning is (partially) accurate. In the case of “repentance,” anyone who settles for “change of mind” as the complete definition of the biblical concept of repentance has either missed or ignored the complete biblical use of the word.

    However, it is important to remember that although biblical repentance is more than just a change of mind, that a change of mind certainly must occur and can be viewed as the basis for what is occuring at a person’s conversion.

    Everyone who comes to salvation will have to change his mind about something, although from what I can tell, not every convert will have to change his mind about the same things. (We probably all arrive at the moment of conversion with different sets of wrong ideas). Some people think that God will give them a pass no matter what they do. Some think that their good works will pave their way into heaven. Some think that they will go to hell no matter what and that there is no hope for them. Some think that there is no God and that this life is all there is.

    A convert would need to change his mind about any/all of these wrong ideas. Thus, although repentence is more than a change of mind, it’s certainly worthwhile to discuss in what ways repentence will include a change of mind. Repentance is certainly more than a change of mind, but likewise it is not less.

  8. Okay, Ted. I agree with that, especially the last statement.

    You mentioned repenting of wrong ideas, the sort of “turning to God from idols (of one sort or another)” that is mentioned in I Thes. 1:9. I think II Timothy 2:25 and Hebrews 6:1 address turning to God from false religion/error, as well.

    However, the more common use of the word is repenting of sin: turning from sin and to God (as indicated very clearly in Isaiah 55:7). So I’d say we repent of sin and of false religion. Is that making too fine a distinction?

    And Don, I agree with you that our pat definitions do little to promote clear understanding of deep biblical concepts. Though you won’t like this, you sound like Bixby!

  9. BTW, Pastor Martin went jogging with me this morning, so I got to take in message #3. It’s good, though #1 is still my favorite. The seriousness and fervency with which he addresses such a sobering topic (and the implication that many who have professed Christ but not repented are lost) is exemplary for those privileged to preach the Truth.

    In #3, he puts forward his belief that both faith and repentance follow regeneration. While I have a deep conviction that God initiates both, I’m not comfortable with that Ordo Salutis. I definitely hold to a reformed soteriology…just not that reformed. I say that not to start a debate on the topic here (it’s probably a topic on which I will take a beating in another thread), but to clarify that my strong endorsement of the series of messages does not indicate absolute agreement, at least not with that particular point.

  10. Chris, I agree, but now we get to the big problem (IMO). How does God (and how do we) encourage turning from sin without adding works? If the turning that God requires at conversion is internal (“heart attitude,” “intention”, whatever you want to call it), then “change of mind” begins to sound like a very sufficient definition for repentance.

    If we require external turning that we can observe at conversion…well, I think we know where that path leads…

    How do you handle this? Any specific examples from your ministry where professions were made without later evidence of repentance? How long do you wait for fruit? (I know that God is the ultimate judge…he sees faith–we can see only the fruits of that faith).

  11. Well, as for the idea of “turning” being works, I’m not meaning to suggest that one must reform to be saved. But repentance does have the idea of a spiritual turn: a rejection of one thing for another. I think that’s the point of conversion: one turning “to God” (faith) necessitates his turning “from sin” (repentance). So the two, though distinct, are inseparable. I use the picture from Is. 55:7. All of us are determined to go our own rebellious way (Is. 53:6). I might even demonstrate that by walking in one direction as I describe that. Salvation requires that we forsake that way & turn to the Lord. Any offer of salvation that allows one to continue in his own way and still have Christ is a false gospel…and I think that’s preached often. I’d put it this way: Scripture requires a turn from our sin & unbelief and to God. Does it require steps? Sure, but only as evidence that the turn has taken place–fruit demonstrating repentance. And the NT mentions this a number of times, as well.

    How much fruit demonstrates repentance? I think the biblical answer is “some.” Maybe 30-fold rather than 100-fold, but some. When? “Sometime.” (How do you like my precision?) We have a fella growing like a weed who didn’t show great progress for a good year. So I think we should be cautious in writing someone off as not having repented because we don’t see fruit…much of which will be internal, I imagine (conviction, etc.).

    Even more importantly, though, we should be careful about telling people they are saved based on a profession. Leave “assurance” to the Holy Spirit. When someone prays to trust Christ, I certainly won’t say: “Great! Now you’re saved! Never doubt it! Let’s write the date in your Bible!” Instead, I’ll say something like this: “You’ve stated that your turing from sin and trusting in Christ as your only hope of salvation. I hope that is the case. But the fact that you said the words is not what saves: their must be an internal reality behind those words, or they are bogus.”

    Speaking of praying a prayer, have you ever considered that one of the great examples of repentance in Scripture is that of Cornelius and his household? Several crucial points about repentance are evident in the event in Acts 10 & the retelling of it in Acts 11:

    * Peter is preaching of Christ & calling men to faith (10:43). Yet, eventually the believers in Jerusalem rejoice that the Gentiles repented (11:18). This is one of many passages which makes the two inseparable and almost (though not technically) synonymous.

    * Saving repentance was granted as a gift of God (11:18). Fit that one in your theological system. :)

    * The repentance is called “repentance unto life” (11:18).

    * Most notably for this discussion on dealing with those who need to repent & trust Christ or who have professed to have done so: the Baptsim of the Spirit which miraculously indicated the conversion of these people came in the middle of Peter’s sermon! In other words, there was no invitiation, no raising of hands, no walking an aisle…no praying a sinner’s prayer! There was in an internal repentance of sin and faith in Christ, and they were saved!

    The implications that conversion happened without an external act or prop are important for our ministries, I believe. I’m not saying that I won’t encourage people to pray & express their repentance & faith, but we must be sure–and the sinner must be sure–that the prayer or hand-raising or aisle-walking is not what saves. And I think we’re sloppy on that point. Call it a Finney “hangover.”

    One last thing: since all of this must be a work of God, I think we need to learn patience. How much damage has been done by an evangelist (speaking of an individual believer) so desiring a “decision” that he has pushed ahead where there was no conviction, no hatred of sin, no repentance. So a sinner prays a prayer, an evangelist chalks up another decision, and the sinner is inoculated against the real gospel whenever he hears it. I think we–meaning fundamentalists–have been very guilty of this error, and it is a damning one.

    Consider Christ’s dealings with the rich young ruler. Why did Christ allow him to go away? Because though he wanted eternal life, he was not willing to repent. He wanted God’s way AND his own. So he went away, and so Christ let him. But at least he went away “sorrowful.” At least he KNEW he wasn’t right with God. Too many of us would have sent him away joyfully lost with a bogus profession rather than sorrowfully lost. We need to wait for an overwhelming conviction of sin, the kind evident in Acts 2:37.

    Sorry if this is jumbled.

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