A Progressive Position: Faith and Repentance

by Jay Guin

Faith

It’s hard to imagine a premise more solidly established by the scriptures than the necessity of faith in Jesus as a requirement for salvation. Indeed, as we in the Churches of Christ have taught, going back to Walter Scott, the “plan of salvation” requires that the convert hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. We hear and confess what we are to believe: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that Jesus is Lord. As all Christians must have heard, believed, and confessed this, this doctrine (teaching) is universal in the church.

Those who deny this doctrine fall away.

(1 John 4:2-3) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

In particular, John requires an understanding that Jesus came in the flesh. You see, to believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), you must have some understanding of who Jesus is, and one requirement is an understanding that Jesus came in the flesh.

There are other verses insisting that faith in Jesus is a necessity to be (and continue to be) saved. For example  —

(John 3:18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Repentance

(Heb 10:26-27) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

This is a climactic passage in Hebrews. Notice who it is that falls away. It’s not all who keep on sinning after baptism. If that were the rule, we’d all fall away. It’s not all who’ve deliberately sinned. Again, we doubt that anyone has managed to never commit a deliberate sin after baptism. Rather, the writer is clear that the ones who fall away are those who “deliberately keep on sinning”  — that is, it’s those who reject the repentance that first qualified them for salvation. These are those who are in rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus.

We take “repent” and “submit to Jesus as Lord” as essentially synonymous in most contexts. For convenience, we’ll generally speak in terms of penitence or repentance.

Back to the Plan of Salvation

Notice that the two types of apostasy detailed so far  — loss of faith, loss of repentance  — both contradict steps in the Plan of Salvation. If we lose our faith in Jesus, we surrender what we heard, what we believed, and what we confessed. If we lose our repentance, then obviously enough, we surrender the “repent” step.

Moreover, both kinds of apostasy cut to the heart of our baptism. Baptism is a declaration of faith in Jesus and a submission to Jesus as Lord.

And the conclusion should be obvious: if you surrender those things that were essential to your salvation in the first place, you are no longer saved.

Christ-centered salvation

It’s helpful, we think, to state the same principles in Christ-centered ways. When we come to faith, we accept that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. When we repent, we accept him as our Lord.

When we lose our faith or repentance, we reject the Sonship or Lordship of Jesus.

Now, it’s impossible to completely separate these concepts. Jesus is Lord because he is Messiah (Christ) or Son of God. “Son of God” is a term used in the Old Testament for Messiah, who would be Lord. The two concepts are truly two sides of the same coin.

Of course, it’s quite possible for someone to be inconsistent. Someone may well intellectually accept the idea that Jesus is Son of God and yet refuse to submit to Jesus as Lord. Such a person would, of course, not serve Jesus as Lord. As we’ll explain in the next post, a faith that doesn’t submit to Jesus as Lord is not faith at all.

What does “repent” mean?

We in the Churches of Christ use “repent” in a double sense. Sometimes we mean “stop committing that particular sin.” Other times we mean “turn away from your old life and submit to Jesus as Lord.”

When we in the Churches of Christ speak of the Plan of Salvation, we mean repent in the second sense. Of course, we expect a convert to work toward the elimination of all sin in his life, but we understand that this is a task that won’t be completed by anyone until the resurrection. This doesn’t mean that we may therefore sin willy nilly. Rather, it means that we submit to Jesus as Lord by honoring his commands as well as we can manage, and although none of us will manage perfect obedience, all of us can certainly manage to be penitent.

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19 Comments on “A Progressive Position: Faith and Repentance”

  1. laymond Says:

    Repentance
    Jay said; Notice who it is that falls away. It’s not all who keep on sinning after baptism –. ———–It’s not all who’ve deliberately sinned.
    ————————-. These are those who are in rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus.
    ( notice: I edited Jays words to save space only)

    Heb :10:26: For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
    (how many sins does it take to make a sinner? Is Heb 10:26 saying we only get one bite at the apple? )

    Jn: 15:22: If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
    ( in other words ignorance is no excuse)

    Heb :10:12: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
    Heb :10:14: For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

    Which is it 10:14, Grace only or 10:26 works along with grace ?
    Once again, it seems our actions do have a bearing on our salvation.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I believe the Bible says are saved for good works.

    Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

    Our good works that show change has occurred in us are evidence we are saved.

  3. Alan Scott Says:

    Laymond,

    I don’t think it is a matter of actions having a bearing or not. It is a matter of whether our actions save us or are they reflective of the faith that has saved us. IOW, do we trust Jesus or do we trust our actions?

    Blessings.

  4. ACOC Says:

    Works should be the fruit of salvation – the by-product, not the cause.

    Philippians 2:12: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This proposition will not be properly construed unless it is viewed in relation to the clause which follows, “God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure”(Philippians 2:13). A whole theology hangs on the way you relate these two propositions. If you make the second clause the result of the first, then God’s action in sanctification is contingent upon our working. If you make the second clause the ground of the first, then our efforts toward holiness are initiated by God, and possible only because God is already at work in us. Paul leaves no room for doubt when he joins the two clauses by the conjunction “gar” or “because.” God’s work in us is the ground and enabling of our working.


  5. It’s that partnership with God (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1) that we miss when talking about our works; it is not a question of what we’re doing, but what God is working in and through us (1 Corinthians 12:6; Philippians 2:13). Once given over to Christ, it is He who lives in us (Galatians 2:20); we no longer live to be able to work; self has been crucified with Christ.

    They’re not our works; they’re His – and He should receive the glory for them.

  6. laymond Says:

    Keith lets look at the very words of Jesus, according to John 17.

    Jn:17:3: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
    4: I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

    This not only clarifies justification by work, given us by God, but also clarifies just who Jesus declared “the only true God”. Did you notice the “AND” Jesus Christ, (your servant) whom thou hast sent.

  7. Dusty Chris Says:

    I think repentance is ongoing in a Christian’s life, not just to come to faith. Being saved requires continual repentance (daily in most cases) as we try to conform to the image of the cross.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Romans 4:2-4 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”

    Abraham who was a great man of God can’t boast before God to be justified by works.


  9. I did notice!

    And I would have to agree that Jesus in the flesh completed all the work that the only true God sent Him (from where? John 8:23; John 6:41; 1 Corinthians 15:47-49; John 1:15-18) to complete. In that second passage, John describes the Word become Flesh as “God the one and only who is at the Father’s side”. He came from heaven; He went back to heaven. He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to continue His work through us (1 Peter 1:12; Luke 12:12; John 14:26, 16:5-15; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Timothy 1:12).


  10. […] A Progressive Position: Faith and Repentance […]

  11. Jr Says:

    There is only salvation when God decides who to send His Spirit on and when He decides to do it. See Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus. We have absolutely no control over when our salvation happens. It is not some intellectual decision. It is by grace we have been saved; not by grace+my superior mind to that of a non-believer.

    Secondly; if one “falls away” they were never born-again to begin with. Jesus died for the sins of those He came do die for. It is impossible for this to be reversed. Either He died for someone’s sins or He didn’t. If you claim one can be saved, then not be saved, you would have to say that the Cross was ineffectual. Jesus failed to keep that which the Father had given Him and someone was able to pluck themselves out of the Hand of Jesus and God; which is contrary to Scripture.

  12. Jay Guin Says:

    Jr. and others,

    This site is a conversation between the conservative and progressive elements within the Churches of Christ, and neither side is Calvinistic or accepts once saved, always saved.

    If anyone wants to discuss the merits of the Calvinistic interpretation of salvation, I invite them to my blog to do so. A good place to chat would be at the third of these three posts —

    Once Saved, Always Saved, Part 1

    Once Saved, Always Saved, Part 2

    Once Saved, Always Saved, Part 3

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Just to respond to the Calvinistic comment. A person doesn’t have to be Calvinistic to believe eternal salvation. A person can read the Bible and see what Jesus said about it.

    John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

  14. Jr Says:

    I am a member of the churches of Christ. The problem with both sides of the argument is the very fact of not believing in eternal salvation. We would do well to not think we can play hokey-pokey with the blood of Jesus. My question is: is there a sin that Christ did not die for for one who is truly a believer? If so, how truly effectual was His death in the first place?

  15. randall Says:

    Anonymous, of course you are correct. You seem to be describing the doctine of Eternal Security rather than the doctrine of the Perseverance of the saints. The latter is the “P” in TULIP and should be recognized as being connected to Calvinism in a way that the doctrine of eternal security is not. Both teach that a person is saved forever if they were ever saved, but in Perseverance of the saints the emphasis is on God enabling the person to persevere to the end and in eternal security it seems that it is possible for a person to NOT persevere and still be saved anyway. The latter should not be confused with Calvinism even though it is taught in some Baptists churches. Historically, the Baptists were Calvinists but many say it is no no longer so. In fact many say the Baptists have forsaken the faith of their fathers and have traded Perseverence of the saints for the doctrine of eternal security.
    Peace,
    Randall


  16. I agree with the article and the comments made prior to JR’s. Hebrews 10:26 and Matthew 13:21 show that Calvinism is a lie. In both these examples the one falling away has believed (faith alone) but, because of some testing, loses their faith.

    If one cannot fall away then what is the point of “watch and pray”, “be not deceived”, or “be sober and vigilant”. None of these seem applicable to a sheep who has nothing to worry about. We must keep the faith, as Jay says in the article. We must endure until the end. Yes, God is the one who works in us the will and power to do these things. But, Matthew 13:58 and Romans 11:20-21 clearly tell us we can indeed lose the power of God and be broken off the vine, who is Christ, our only hope.


  17. Many Baptists churches were, for a long time, largely non-Calvinist and anti-creedal.Those who were Arminian and sympathetic to ana-baptists, such as the German Brethren, were called General Baptists and the Calvinists were known as Particular Baptists. Only recently has Calvinist theology seen a resurgence in the Baptist denomination.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    It truly amazes me how any Christians could call themselves anything other than a Christian. To say “I am an “Arminian” or they are a “Calvinist” instead of I am a Christian and they are a Christian. When I see this my thought is, who do they put their faith in men or God?


  19. […] A Progressive Position: Faith and Repentance, by Jay Guin […]


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