Thoughts: Repentance and Grace…

This is just a quick rebuttal to a website that I read yesterday.  I can’t go in to depth on this just yet but I would like to bring out a few glaring issues with the conclusions that Escape to Reality posted, “Why I Don’t Preach on Repentance.”

1.Religious people often complain that we grace preachers don’t emphasize repentance sufficiently. It’s true. I hardly emphasize it at all. But then neither did the Apostle John. You’d think if salvation hinged on our repentance then it would be in the gospels but John says nothing about it. Not one word. Neither does he mention repentance in any of his three letters. I guess John must’ve been a grace preacher.

This logic statement is flawed in its conception.  The author, Paul Ellis, is stating that John never mentioned sin or judgment in his preaching.  Is he insinuating that John only spoke about the Messiah and how great Israel is going to be once He is here, and that if you believe in Him great things will happen for you and your family?  Let’s look at Matthew 3:6-10

  • Mat 3:6 And they were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
  • Mat 3:7 But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
  • Mat 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance;
  • Mat 3:9 and do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
  • Mat 3:10 And now also, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.

What wrath could John be talking about?  What are the Fruits worthy of Repentance?  In verse 12 John states that, “…He (Jesus) will burn up the chaff with an unquenchable fire.”  Does that sound like a “Grace” preacher to you?  Also why were those getting baptized “confessing their sins”?  How did they know what their sins were?  Did they guess?  So we just innately know what sin is and all of our transgressions against God, or is it all perception and interpretation? Is it different for different people?

In this passage John both preached repentance of sin and the reality of God’s impending wrath and judgment of those who don’t bring fruits worth of repentance.  What are these fruits?  Let’s look at I John 1:8-10

  • 1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
  • 1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.

I have given you just two examples of the message of repentance by the Apostle John, yet Mr. Ellis doesn’t see to give any credence to this scriptures.  John places a contingency upon the forgiveness of sins; simply confess to your wrong doing and all of our unrighteousness is washed away.  How amazing it that?  All our unrighteousness is gone, just by us telling God we are sorry.

No matter how much I preach on grace, some people just can’t see the cross for their sins. They write to tell me I’m under-selling repentance. What they really mean is, “Paul you’re not telling people to turn from their sin.” In many churches this is exactly the message you will hear. “God is holy and He won’t accept you unless you turn from sin.” It’s sold as a “message of repentance” and it appeals to our sense of right and wrong but it’s utterly false. It’s a lie from the pit of hell designed to promote the flesh and keep you from coming to Jesus. The truth is God is holy and He won’t accept you no matter what you do. His acceptance and favor come by grace alone. Got a sin-problem? Then come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace. His grace is your only hope.

My Question is How?  How to I come to the Throne of God boldly to receive Grace and Mercy if I don’t bring “Fruit Worthy of Repentance”?  The Greatest Grace Preacher (According to Mr. Ellis) the Apostle John say in  1Jn 1:9, “If we confess our sinsHe is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We can’t engage God acting like we have never sinned, or that our sin doesn’t bear a consequence.  Rom 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ”

I feel that the sin-rejection theology is misrepresented in the article.  What the author seems to be imply by sin-rejection is actually penance.  It is the heavy, unbearable yoke of PENANCE and not the simple act of confession that magnifies and gives sin great power over it’s slave.  Penance is trying to do more good deeds than bad.  It is a maddening and unattainable act.  People spend their lives trying to deserve forgiveness for a certain sin or misdeed and never accept the closure of Jesus wiping our slate clean, “…cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  This is an issue of intimacy with Christ not with the message of salvation.

The message of salvation is so simple: We are bad, Jesus is Good. We are going to go to Hell for our bad.  Jesus died for our bad, we confess to him that we are sorry for our actions.  We enter into a personal, intimate relationship with Him and no longer give over to the lust and indulgences of sin and we get His Good:

  • Eph 2:5 (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),
  • Eph 2:6 and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,

But you don’t get to be in a relationship with him by virtue of His death without confessing your guilty of the sins that crucified Him.  There would be no need for a salvific redeemer if all we needed was to acknowledge his existence or the existence of sin.  It was my sin that He was tortured for, not His…it was my sin.  I need to own up to that and confess my actions that led to His death. I all ready know that forgiveness is waiting, so there is no issue of Penance after faith-filled repentance.

2. It Puts People Under the Law:If you preach “turn from sin or you’re not saved” you are preaching pure law. You are prescribing sin-rejection as a means for salvation. This false gospel actually leaves sinners worse off because it empowers the sin that enslaves them while scorning the grace of God that might otherwise save them (1 Cor 15:56, Rm 11:6). The righteousness that God offers is not conditional on your ability to perform. Neither your good works nor your bad works enter the equation. The gospel of grace reveals the gift of righteousness that is received by faith from first to last (Rom 1:17).

Wow, I don’t really know how to respond to that except to say that a study of Romans 7 needs to be instituted here.

  • Rom 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin worked in our members through the law to bring forth fruit to death. 
  • Rom 7:6 But now we having been set free from the Law, having died to that in which we were held, so that we serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
  • Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Let it not be said! But I did not know sin except through the law. For also I did not know lust except the law said, You shall not lust.
  • Rom 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of lust. For apart from law sin was dead.
  • Rom 7:9 For I was alive without the law once. But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
  • Rom 7:10 And the commandment, which was to life, was found to be death to me.
  • Rom 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
  • Rom 7:12 So indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
  • Rom 7:13 Then has that which is good become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be sin, working death in me by that which is good; in order that sin might become exceedingly sinful by the commandment.

The Apostle Paul says that he didn’t know what sin was until the Law showed him what was sin.  He also says that the Law is Holy, just, and Good.  That is exactly the opposite of what Mr. Ellis says,”You are prescribing sin-rejection as a means for salvation. This false gospel actually leaves sinners worse off because it empowers the sin that enslaves them while scorning the grace of God that might otherwise save them ”  Yet Paul says that it exposed his sin, without the Law our sin can never be exposed.  If our sin is never examined by the Law then how can it ever be exposed?  And how then can we confess our sins if we don’t even know what they are?  It is like a someone riddled with cancer saying, “I’m cured” just because they know about a Great Urologist.  They know they are sick but they are not sure in what part of their body or even how to treat it.  They are simply having faith that they are healthy based on knowledge; “…faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14-26)   You need a CT scan, surgery, and Chemo Therapy and/or Radiation.  It is only once the tumors have been exposed and treated that person can say truly “I’m cured!”  Even if you have had the CT scans and have seen the Urologist you have to treat the tumors; untreated tumors will kill you.  You have to undergo the treatment.

Jesus is the Urologist, the Law is the CT scan, and the Blood of Christ is the treatment.

I don’t have time to go any further for now, but I want to leave you with this thought.  The Law and 10 commandments are not a set of legal Do’s and Don’ts.  That kind of thinking leads us to a watered-down Grace messages and lessens the real Life-Changing power of the Blood of Jesus to wash our sins away, forever.  What we are facing is a group of people trying to be saved in their sins instead of from their sins.  Mat 3:10 says, “And now also, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.”  It is worth revisiting your perception of repentance.

The 10 Commandments are a snapshot of God’s nature:  He is truth, he doesn’t lie.  He is Faithful, He doesn’t fornicate or indulge in lusts.  He is Peace and Love, he doesn’t hate, envy, or covet.  These attributes are not His character, as character is or can be built over time, He is innately these things.  We are none of these things and do all of the actions listed above.  Our fleshly nature has a propensity or bias toward sin.  We don’t measure up to a Holy God.  We fall short and that is what sin is, “missing the mark.”

Sin is not inconsequential, it bears a heavy fine, “the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23)  But this is only the first half of the Good News.

The Second half of The Good News is that you don’t have to bear the consequence of your sin, Jesus bore that punishment upon his flesh.  He took your place.  He was beaten, bruised and killed for your sinful actions; He did nothing to deserve such brutal punishment, but we did.  In the same way, we did nothing to deserve Grace.  It is through the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus that it CAN be offered to the world.  But you can’t just assume that your forgiven or that your sins are remitted just because your sins can be remitted.  You have to confess your sins and confess your faith in Christ.  The Apostle John says in 1Jn 4:15, “Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God.”

It is sobriety that is at the heart of Repentance; 2Co 7:9, “Now I rejoice, not that you were grieved, but that you grieved to repentance. For you were grieved according to God, so that you might suffer loss by nothing in us.”  2Co 7:10, “For the grief according to God works repentance to salvation, not to be regretted, but the grief of the world works out death.” Salvation is going to cost you the guilt of your sins, you have to fess up to your actions.

We can’t do anything to deserve salvation, and I think that is at the core of what Mr. Ellis is propagating but the only way to have forgiveness of sins is by confession, not by omission.  Hell is not reserved for those who don’t know Christ, but for those who have broken the Law without a propitiation for their sins.  Those that have come to God though the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are redeemed and have such a mitigating mediator:

  • 1Ti 2:5 For God is one, and there is one Mediator of God and of men, the Man Christ Jesus,
  • 1Ti 2:6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

You can’t just Believe in the existence and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you must put on Christ through the act of repentance and have complete faith that his sacrifice will suffice for your sin.

We don’t deserve Grace but God extends it to us by virtue of His Son’s death; through His death we can have life, but we must go through His death, there is no other way.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts: Repentance and Grace…

  1. Sheesh Wes, you are a piece of work. You put words in my mouth, criticize those words, then speculate about some deep wounding on my part! I don’t normally respond to stone-throwers but as this was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time, I had to say “Thanks for the laugh!”

    • I admit it was a knee-jerk reaction piece but don’t know what words I put in your mouth. If I misinterpreted or misconstrued your point I apologize. Could you let me know, seriously where I spoke out of turn and where I was out of line and I will be happy to write a retraction piece.

      I did speculated that there may be some deep wounding because it is not uncommon for wounded ministers or leaders to filter the gospel through their hurt to try and protect others from what they are feeling or have felt. I apologize for that comment and have taken it out of my post. It was personalized to reflect you and it was really meant to be a general comment not specific to you, but in the haste of time I misrepresented you. I don’t know you and can’t possibly know if my statement was true. After reading it again I would have been defensive on that one as well. I apologize again.

      (I also edited out the comments about your congregation and visitors, that was unfounded and uncalled for.)

      And I am not a stone-thrower, I am simply responding to your column from what I read. I am challenging your premise and your filter by which you interpret the Bible; meaning I found your reasoning for rejecting sin-rejection salvation not very well supported. I don’t see how you can say that requiring repentance for salvation is a lie from Hell. I know there is more than they evidence you gave in your post. I would love to dialogue about it. I am not the kind of guy you does a blog-by. I disagree and would like to talk this out, not debate but have a Christian dialogue about this.

      So I would really like a critique on my response from a scriptural basis, especially if I said things that are untrue. I am challenging what you are saying on a scriptural basis but not the personal stuff. Things get said in haste and trying to get a post up during lunch that don’t always get edited correctly. Again it was only meant to be a critique on your argument, not on your character. I am not truly as outlandish as you may thank I am, or as my post may have portrayed me.

  2. Okay Wes, you sound like your heart’s in the right place and I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to respond. I actually started to make a list of the things you misquoted but it felt yecchy. I realized it would only stir up strife. It’s not a good way for a friendship to start. Evidently reading my words has not revealed my heart. So know that I want nothing less than God’s very best for you and yours.

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