By L. A. Abilar
You have probably heard people shouting or preaching the words “Repent!” and “Believe in the LORD Jesus Christ!” Or probably a shoutout or post in the digital realm. There are an awful lot of posts on social media of the same appeals. But you were not attracted by their plea nor their “threats” about rotting in hell. Or were you? But where did it all start? Why ask people to repent and believe?
Bad News and Good News
God made man in His Image and provided everything prior to his creation and appointment as overseer of everything that God had created and put on earth. However, man chose to disobey and sin corrupted man causing him to be separated from God. The bad news is that we are all guilty as the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.“1 What’s the punishment of the guilty? Death. Sin has caused the death of the only creature that bears the image of the One True God.
Unfathomably, in spite of the sin of man, God showed us mercy by providing the Cure - the forgiveness. Once and for all, one last shedding of the blood – the only Man who walked on this planet, blameless, sinless, and lived in total obedience to God was the perfect lamb offering – JESUS. He died by the most excruciating and shameful act of punishment. He was crucified; He died carrying the sins of the world: past, present, and future. He conquered death by resurrecting on the third day, and ascended to heaven in the presence of more than 500 witnesses! And now is seated at the right hand of God that “whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”.2 For “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”3 This is the Gospel—the good news.
Believe and Repent!
One who hears the gospel can respond in either belief or unbelief. When a person hears the Word of God and his heart is pierced because he realized conclusively that he is a sinner in need of a Savior, inevitably, he will repent and put his faith in Jesus Christ. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson wrote in one of his articles, “In one instance (repentance), the person is viewed in relation to sin; in the other (faith), the person is viewed in relation to the Lord Jesus. But the individual who trusts in Christ simultaneously turns away from sin. In believing he repents and in repenting, believes.”4
Believe in what? The better question is “Believe in who?” The book of John which purposefully showed who Jesus is, concluded this way “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”5 The gospel requires us—I cannot stress this enough—to rely on Jesus as the Redeemer and believe in the efficacy of His blood.
If one believes in Christ, he is drawn to repentance. When a person puts his faith in Jesus, it does not mean that he will live a sinless life, but he sins less and less. A believer’s heart is regenerated by being conformed to the likeness of Christ. J.I. Packer explained “Regeneration, or new birth, is an inner re-creating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8)”6 A person who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit will not be free from sin, but when he recognizes that sin, he confesses it. Sin will cause sorrow to that person’s heart and shall result in repentance. A regenerated man asks forgiveness once sin is recognized, and believes what God says about him is true.
Justification and Sanctification
Condemning is pronouncing guilty while justifying is pronouncing not guilty but righteous. So how can one be justified? The Apostle Paul says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”7 and “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.”8 In 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” R.C. Sproul explained in his book Pleasing God, “God gives forgiveness freely to the repentant…God’s promises are faithful…When God forgives a person, that person is forgiven whether he or she feels the forgiveness or not.”9 Justification is by faith alone.
But what about good works? Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”10 Does this mean Paul was saying that good works are not important? Certainly not! Yes, I just said that justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, a regenerated man’s life will result in fruition. What kind of fruit? The apostle Paul specified it in Galatians 5:22-23 “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” In response to the questions about good works: one’s salvation will result in good works for the glory of God alone.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
Soli Deo Gloria.