REPENTANCE AND FAITH
I. REPENTANCE CONSIDERED ALONE
1. ORIGINAL WORDS
These two words are "metanoeo" (corresponding noun form being "metanoia") and "metamelomai"(the noun form of which does not occur in the New Testament). Only the former word is associated with salvation. The latter word is used in Matt. 21:29 (in the case of the son that first refused to obey his father's command to work in the vineyard, but "afterward ... repented himself and went ); Matt. 21:32; 27:3 (in the case of Judas); Rom. 11:29; 2 Cor. 7:8,10; and Heb. 7:21.
Concerning these two words, Thayer says: "That 'metanoeo' is the fuller and nobler term, expressive of moral action and issues, is indicated not only by its derivation, but by the greater frequency of its use . . ."
2. TWO KINDS OF REPENTANCE
There is an evangelical repentance and there is also a legal repentance. Legal repentance comes about wholly through fear of the consequences of sin. This is the kind Judas experienced. Evangelical repentance is accompanied by godly sorrow and is wrought in the heart by the regenerating Spirit of God. It is evangelical repentance that we are considering in this chapter.
(1) Sin Admitted-Conviction
Man must see himself as unlike God and in rebellion against God. He must see the opposition between his condition and the holiness of God. He must see that God abhors his condition and state. The recognition of sin that enters into repentance unto salvation is concerned primarily, not with the fact that sin brings punishment, but with the fact that sin offends God. There is, of course, a fear of the eternal consequences of sin; but this is not the primary thing.
This recognition of sin is conviction, and it constitutes the intellectual element in repentance.
(2) Sin Abhorred-Contrition.
(3) Sin Abandoned-Conversion.
Repentance is not complete until there is an inward abandoning of sin which leads to an outward change of conduct. This is the voluntary or volitional element in repentance. Thus repentance concerns the whole inner nature: intellect, emotion, and will.
4. REPENTANCE IS INWARD
While true repentance always manifests itself outwardly; yet repentance of itself is inward, according to the meaning of the original. The Scripture distinguishes between repentance and "fruits worthy of repentance (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20).
The Roman Catholic translation of the Bible (Douay Version) substitutes "penance" for "repentance" as a translation of "metanoeo." Thus we read from the Douay Version: "Do penance; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2); "Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5); and "Testifying both to Jews and Gentiles penance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). And of penance, the comment in the Douay Version on Matt. 3:2 says: "Which word, according to the use of the scriptures, and the holy fathers, does not only signify repentance and amendment of life, but also punishing past sins by lasting, and such like penitential exercises." Three things may be said concerning this comment:
(1) It is absolutely false in saying that the "punishing of past sins by fasting, and such like penitential exercises" is a part of the meaning of the Greek word.
As already noted, the Greek word signifies an inward change. "True repentance consists of mental and spiritual emotions, and not of outward self-imposed chastisements. Even the pious life and devotion to God which follows are described not as repentance, but as fruits meet for repentance" (Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, p. 384). "Metanoeo" is made of "meta," meaning "after," and "noeo," meaning to perceive, to understand, to think upon, heed, ponder, consider.
(2) It denies the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction for our sins, in plain contradiction of the Scripture (Cf. Rom. 4:7, 8; 10:4; Heb. 10:14; 1 John 1:7).
Since Christ made a full satisfaction for our sins, there is no punishment for us to endure, except the natural consequences of sin. God chastens the believer when he sins, but He never punishes him either in this life or the life to come. Punishment is retributive, and is based on "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Chastisement is corrective, and is based on fatherly love. Christ left us nothing to pay, and we can truthfully sing:
"Jesus paid it all;
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain;
He washed it white as snow."
(3) It implies that the temporal acts of the creature can atone for sin. The Bible knows nothing of such a teaching. It teaches that Christ alone could make an atonement. Even in eternity the souls in Hell will never be able to atone for sin; for that reason there is no end to their punishment. Surely, then, the song speaks the truth when it says:
"Could my tears forever flow;
Could my zeal no respite know;
These for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and thou alone."
6. REPENTANCE IS A GIFT OF GOD
The three following passages prove this:
"And when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life" (Acts ll:18).
"The Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 2:24,25).
II. FAITH CONSIDERED ALONE
1. SAVING FAITH DEFINED
Saving faith is trust in and reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ as one's personal Saviour and sin-bearer. And, since salvation includes sanctification as well as justification, saving faith brings about a commitment of self to Christ.
2. SAVING FAITH DISTINGUISHED FROM ITS COUNTERFEITS
This is mere belief in the facts of revelation as matters of history, including belief in the existence of God and that there was a man called Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God. It can be readily seen that such belief has no saving value.
(2) Intellectual Assent.
This goes a step farther, bringing mental acceptance of the things revealed of God and Jesus Christ. Thus one who believes in the existence of God comes to believe Him to be such a being as the Bible reveals Him to be, and one who believes that such a person as Jesus lived comes to believe that He was the Son of God and that He died as a sacrifice for sin. This is a step toward saving faith, but it is not such faith.
Campbellism teaches that saving faith is nothing more than the foregoing. It relies on such passages as 1 John 4:15 and 5:1. But these passages must be understood in the light of all other Scripture, and other Scripture certainly forbids that the belief spoken of in these passages should be understood as being mere intellectual assent to the deity of Christ. Saving faith is not merely of the mind (intellect), but of the heart (emotions). See Rom. 10:9,10. The belief spoken of in the above passages is such as is produced in the heart by an experimental knowledge of Christ's power.
Then two facts as to the circumstances under which these expressions were uttered throw light upon them.
B. Christianity presented such a contrast to Judaism and Paganism that none would believe in the deity of Christ without true faith in Him. Those who had not this faith would regard Him as an imposter.
3. FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD
This is proved by the passages already quoted that designate repentance as a gift of God; for as we shall see, repentance and faith are inseparable graces. Each one, when appearing alone in the Scriptures, embraces the other; for, if this were not true, the passages which mention only the one or the other would teach that one may be saved without both repentance and faith.
This is proved by passages which teach that our coming to Christ and believing on Him are the result of the working of God's power. See John 6:37, 65; Eph. 1:19, 20. This is further proved by the fact that faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
4. FAITH HAS NO MERIT IN ITSELF
Faith is merely the channel through which God's justifying and sanctifying grace flows into the soul. Faith is no more meritorious than the act of receiving a gift is meritorious. Faith in no way is a substitute for our obedience to the law, nor does it bring about a lowering of the law so that we can meet its demands. Faith is once referred to as work in the Scripture (John 6:29), not that it is of the law, but only that man is actively engaged in its exercise. "As a gift of God and as the mere taking of undeserved mercy, it is expressly excluded from the category of works on the basis of which man may claim salvation (Rom. 3:28; 4:4, 5, 16). It is not the act of the full soul bestowing, but the act of the empty soul receiving. Although this reception is prompted by a drawing of the heart toward God, inwrought by the Holy Spirit, this drawing of the heart is not yet a conscious and developed love: such love is the result of faith (Gal. 5:6)" (A. H. Strong Systematic Theology, pp. 469,470).
5. FAITH IS NECESSARILY EXPRESSES ITSELF IN WORKS
Faith is a dynamic principle. It gives rise to love; and, therefore, works (Gal. 5:6). Faith that does not express itself in works is a dead faith, which is just another way of saying that it is spurious or unreal (Jas. 2:17).
6. FAITH IS DISTINGUISHABLE FROM HOPE
Faith and hope are very much akin; but the two terms are not synonymous. Faith and hope differ in the following ways:
(1) Faith is trust; hope is expectation.
The difference here is narrow, but is such a difference as is common between various somewhat similar terms. Both faith and hope involve "the idea of trust, but with the use of different prepositions (Boyce). We "trust In" as an act of faith. We "trust for" in hope.
(3) Christ is the object of faith; while salvation, freedom from sin, glorification, and Heaven are the objects of hope.
(4) Hope results from faith, and, therefore, cannot be faith. See Rom. 5:2-6; 15:4-13; Gal. 5:5; Heb. 11:1.
7. THE GROUND OF FAITH
Christ, objectively revealed to the mind and heart is the ground of faith. This is implied throughout the Bible, and it is unmistakably taught in Rom. 10:11-17. We read there that "faith cometh by hearing," and we find also there the question (implying an impossibility): "How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard." The Bible knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about a so-called secret faith that can exist apart from knowledge of Christ, such as some Hardshells teach.
In the Old Testament Christ was revealed, not only through types and shadows, but through prophets, such as Isaiah. And we are told plainly that the gospel was preached to Abraham and to Israel (Gal. 3:8; Heb. 4:2).
III. REPENTANCE AND FAITH CONSIDERED TOGETHER
Repentance and faith are inseparable synchronous graces. We have reference here, of course, to that repentance (signified by "metanoeo" and "metnaoia") which is unto salvation, and not to the kind (signified by "metamelomai") that Judas experienced.
That repentance and faith are synchronous or simultaneous is evident from the fact that when a man is quickened into life there can be no lapse of time before he repents, nor can there be any before he believes. Otherwise we would have the new nature in rebellion against God and in unbelief. Thus there can be no chronological order in repentance and faith.
Another thing which shows the inseparableness of repentance and faith is the fact that the Scripture often mentions only one of them as the means of salvation. Because of this fact we must think of each one, when used alone, as comprehending the other.
In repentance and faith, as we have already pointed out in another chapter, the will is brought to choose righteousness as an ultimate end.