Exegesis of Texts Cited in “Proposition One Response from Phil”, Part 2

by Jay Guin

Repentance

Phil writes,

Repentance is always a qualifier. Those who repent of moral sin can find forgiveness, and those who repent of doctrinal error can also find forgiveness. Time plays a part in this. 2 Peter 3:15 reminds us to regard the patience of the Lord as salvation. God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance, and this included those who were caught up in falsehoods in 2 Peter 2. …

I do believe in patience with people, giving them time to grow and learn. Peter notes that we should regard the patience of the Lord as salvation (2 Pet. 3:15).

Patience, however, is granted so that people will come to repentance and not perish (3:9). Some who were untaught and unstable were distorting the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (3:16). Peter said, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (3:17-18).

2 Pet 3:15 is not speaking of patience with those in doctrinal error, but God’s patience as to his return.

(2 Pet 3:3-4,9-15)  First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” …

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.

Verses 9 and 15 certainly seem to be saying that God is delaying Judgment Day in hopes that all will repent — not that God’s patience with all doctrinal error is limited. And the “repentance” mentioned in v. 9 isn’t speaking to repentance from all doctrinal error but the repentance that leads to salvation (v. 15) — and all Christians have repented, or else they never could have become Christians (Acts 2:38).

In his commentary on 2 Peter 3:9, Coffman writes,

A viewpoint on this verse (including v. 12) which is ancient, reaching all the way back to Ecumenius, was quoted by Macknight thus: “The time of the end is deferred, that the number of them that are saved may be filled up.”

Phil writes,

God desires all to repent. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Again, the meaning of the verse is found in the meaning of “truth.” “Truth” is what allows people to escape the snare of the devil. “Truth” is what opponents of the Lord’s servant need to know. “Truth” is the gospel.

Phil writes,

Grace teaches correction (Titus 2:11-14); one may not continue in moral or doctrinal error. How can the misled, deceived, sprinkled infant say he has faithfully repented in later years, if he does not correct the situation with an immersion?

Here’s the text he is referring to —

(Titus 2:11-14)  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Yes, without a doubt, Christians are called to live righteously. But it is the gift of Jesus that redeems us from all wickedness and purifies us. Notice the irony:  grace teaches us to be godly, but it’s grace that makes us fully godly. We can’t complete the work ourselves.

(Titus 3:4-7)  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Should we strive for righteousness? Absolutely. Will we ever achieve it? No. God’s grace teaches us to be godly people — to deepen and further the repentance with which we began — but it does not impose on us the burden of either doctrinal or moral perfection.

Phil writes,

Should a person repent of error, God grants forgiveness.

There’s no verse cited. Let me suggest one: Acts 2:38.

(Acts 2:38)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Notice what “repent” means in context. He’s not saying “stop all sin and doctrinal error.” Rather, he’s saying “turn from your old ways to the way of Jesus.” And notice how the word is used in Acts –

(Acts 3:19-20)  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.

(Acts 5:31)  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

(Acts 11:18)  When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

(Acts 13:24)  Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.

(Acts 17:30)  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

(Acts 19:4)  Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

(Acts 20:21)  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

(Acts 26:20)  First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

In each case, “repentance” is speaking of a change in the direction of one’s life, not eliminating all sin from one’s life, or even some particular sin, with one exception —

(Acts 8:22)  Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

In this case, Peter is imploring Simon Magi to repent of wanting to make a profit on the Holy Spirit. Obviously enough, if my life is turned toward God and I’ve submitted to Jesus as my Lord, when I become aware that I’m guilty of sin (such as when an apostle tells me to my face), if I’m penitent, I’ll work to repent of the sin, now that I’m aware of it. (Of course, some sins are easier to repent of than others – some require time to overcome.) That hardly means that I’m required to repent of error that I’m not even aware of as a condition to remaining saved.

I’ve just read every verse in the New Testament mentioning “repent” or “repentance.” I don’t see a one that says only those sins repented of by no longer sinning are forgiven.

The factious man

Phil writes,

Paul said that we should “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Tit. 3:10-11).

Absolutely.

“Factious man” is from the Greek hairetikos, meaning  a divider. The King James says “heretic,” which isn’t a translation but a transliteration. In modern English, “heretic” means a false teacher, but the original meaning is someone who divides. Thus, modern translations use “divisive person” (NIV), “factious man” (NASB), or “person who stirs up division” (ESV), for example.

Many among us equate “factious” with “in error,” but it’s a false equation. I can be wrong and not divide. I can be right and divide. If my brother is in error on the fate of the saved between death and the Judgment, and if I treat him as damned, I’m the divider because I’ve divided a saved person from the body of Christ.

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5 Comments on “Exegesis of Texts Cited in “Proposition One Response from Phil”, Part 2”


  1. Does the fact that the “new law” is one written on the heart apply to this study? I believe God desires those who come to him to come with a changed heart. When we accept “the truth” the blood of Jesus sin payment will cover our sin regardless of our knowledge level. The Scriptures themselves call those who are new in the faith “babes”. This would imply an imperfect understanding of all matters religious. Thanks for the time and effort of all involved in this study.

  2. nick gill Says:

    Flavius Josephus (Life of Flavius Josephus, 110) makes it pretty clear that ‘metanoia’ does not refer to a cessation of particular behaviors, but rather a change of allegiance, i.e. defection.

    When Josephus tells the rebel to “Repent and believe in me” (In Greek “metanoesein kai pistos emoi genesesthai” cf. Mk 1:15) what Josephus wants this man to do was to save himself from obvious peril by switching sides as Josephus himself has done.

    Will defection from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God require a change of behavior? Absolutely, a far greater change even than defection from Zealotry to Roman service.

    But even when John tells the crowds, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” and when James says, “Faith without works is dead,” what they are *not* saying is that “true repentance” and “precisely perfect performance” are equal.

  3. Charles McLean Says:

    Jay said: “Many among us equate “factious” with “in error,” but it’s a false equation. I can be wrong and not divide. I can be right and divide. If my brother is in error on the fate of the saved between death and the Judgment, and if I treat him as damned, I’m the divider because I’ve divided a saved person from the body of Christ.”

    Thanks, Jay. We need this pointed out, that mere doctrinal correctness does not put us in the right. Too often we take being convinced on a doctrinal point as carte blanche to beat our detractors about head and ears with the old Thompson Chain Reference like Jesus thrashing the moneychangers. Brothers, it should not be so. As a wise brother once told me in my more-contentious youth, “Well, son, you’re right. You’re also left.”


  4. […] verse and showed that not a single one stands for what he said it stands for. Not one. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Phil never […]


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